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America, May 24, 2004

Give Me Six the Hard Way

Dawn to dusk, I be making bank in Vegas!

Pyramid Power Activate!
The Sphinx never sweats
yeah, I'm that thin too!
Take my wealth
bling, bling, baby
Gimme da bling, bling!
I am the center
I can handle it!
6:18am Pacific Time

It's early here, just past sun-up, and I'm headed out for a run because even though I'm in Vegas, I'm still in triathlon training. As I pass through the Hotel San Remo's casino, I see the same guys gambling at the same tables from my midnight check-in the night before. I wonder what they are training for?

From the looks of them, inhaling deeply on stubby cigars and foreign cigarettes, drinking dark liquor and little shots, its not gonna be for a sub-7 minute mile. They're at those tables for the long haul, all-night gamblers in their own Vegas marathon.

Out on the Strip, as I sweat past the pyramid of the Luxor and sprint across the entrance of Excalibur I notice that I'm not alone here, either. Around me, passing me, and pacing me are other runners, East Coast runners, who are not gonna let a three-hour time change or a vacation in Vegas to throw off their own training.

We huff and puff past a neon McDonald's, a mini New York City, a oversized golden lion, and oddest of all, a giant lake. A giant lake in the middle of the desert. Not just any lake either, but a giant lake with giant fountains, saluting what I can only feel is the wealth and waste of America.

On we run, past more extravagant constructions that attempt ancient Rome and modern Venice. And 'attempt' is the apt word too, for a close look and a quick knock reveals paint for sky, plastic for marble, and imitation for reality.

My own reality comes back to me as I pass the four-mile mark. Its time to turn for home and trade my East Coast triathlon training for a more local race; Vegas marathon gambling.

Noon Pacific Time

Quarters, quarters, quarters! What's happened to all my quarters? I sat down at this slot machine just a few minutes ago and now all I have to show for my hard-earned coin is a little number 23 staring back at me.

A little number 23 that shrinks every time I pull the big lever on the side of the machine. Woops! Now its 22! 21! 20! Agh! How fast my money gones in this one-armed bandit. Now I know why they are called such. Never have I wanted to bad to see a seven, or a 'Wild Cherry.' 19! 18! 17!

Yes! Finally I am rewarded, I get my big payout, I win! Or so I hope, as I hear 'bing, bing, bing' and I see my number growing. 18, 19, 20, 21.. 27! Wait, only 27? But I got seven and two bars. I wanna win here, and not a measly $5, but the big bucks, what I see on the mega-bucks board: $3,426 and counting.

Oh these slots are a tease! So many pulls, so few wins, so much drama. And all for $10 with drinks coming free and fast.

8:47pm Pacific Time

I'm feeling lucky now! For the third time today the free drinks are kicking in and all is good. Good for I left the one-armed bandits and I'm over at the craps table.

Slots, while all-American in their instant gratification, are not me. I can't sit there like so many others I see, feeding quarters to three machines simultaneously, in a mind-numbing fury. Not savoring a win, not bitching a loss, but feeding. Feeding for what? The sounds? The lights? The sights? The drinks?

No, give me craps, where I have control of the dice, not just a lever. Give me craps, where I can shout out the goal and others concur. Give me craps, where blowing on dice can change a hand.

Give me craps and let me come out with a 7 or 11 every time!

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Go for black jack. It's always been kind to me.

I'm not sure I could handle Las Vegas without an eclectic reading list -- you might search for redemption in a copy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's
Nest or (perhaps) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Then again, I'm not sure I could handle Vegas under any circumstances.

Take care,

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