stories from the road
stories from the road
stories from the road
talk to me...I'm WIRED!
talk to me...I'm WIRED!
photos along the way
photos along the way
the 5 minute city...just the highlights
the 5 minute city
post a note
post a note
are you game? a pop quiz
are you game? a pop quiz
Elaine, the Road Sage

Weekend in Las Vegas

"Why are you going there?" my friends all ask. It's as if Las Vegas was a dirty word. Two words, to be exact. I've lived in San Francisco for seventeen years and have never made it to the desert Babylon. And it's only an hour's plane ride away. A $40 plane ride at that. I don't gamble, so maybe that's why I'm still among the uninitiated. But something tells me there's a lot more going on in Las Vegas than gambling, and I have a hunch it's all pretty amusing. I call my gal pal Lucia in Texas to see if she'd like to join me for a weekend in Las Vegas. We both share the same sense of humor: silly. I think Las Vegas is for us.

The plane ride over gives me the first clue that Las Vegas is just a wee bit different than what I'm used to. The fortyish couple to my right is extremely serious. They hardly say a word to each other throughout the flight. I can't decide if they've just had a big fight or are psyching themselves up for gambling. Across the aisle to my left is another middle-aged couple. The woman is wearing a lot of gold jewelry. I also notice she has a white purse. A large, white leather purse. I haven't seen a white purse in years. She touches up her lipstick and perfumes herself. She perfumes the whole plane in the process. Behind me is a multigenerational Asian family. Among the group is an elderly woman who looks very intense. She also has a white leather purse. Hers has those little gray bumps on it that start to appear on a white purse which has been overused. Dirt bumps. The white purses I had as a kid always developed dirt bumps. As the plane lands, I hear the flight attendant say "thank you for flying United -- and good luck!"

Stepping outside is a shock to my system. It's hot here. Dry, dusty heat. Skinny, well-tanned young ladies wait for a cab alongside me. One of them has a tiny silver backpack perched daintily between her shoulderblades. I think it's empty, since real backpacks tend to fall down to your waist. The cab line inches along and I finally get some air-conditioned relief. My cabbie zigzags down some side streets and we finally make it onto the Strip. It has to be the Strip, because the buildings are colossal in size. A line of people snakes around the front of the hotel. They're obviously spectators waiting for the oft-repeated pirate battle which has become the Treasure Island's hallmark. It could be Disneyland.

I enter the lobby of the hotel and find myself unprepared for the bigness of it all. The lobby is huge. Although it's not really the lobby, it's more like the casino. The casino hits you in the face the minute you step inside. I guess that's the idea. People are everywhere. Kids are running around amid the ringing, clanging, clinking and plunking. Everything is so colorful -- the machines, the walls, even the carpets. Blinking lights and gleaming globes shine overhead. They are dripping with faux jewels. At the Treasure Island, the theme is pirates and captured booty. I get the distinct impression they're eager to capture all of mine. I make my way over to the small registration desk and check in.

Our room is on the 28th floor and has an excellent view of the Strip. Directly next door to us is the Mirage hotel, a sister property to the Treasure Island. Its golden-glass facade sparkles in the sunlight. The Mirage may not have a pirate battle, but it does have its own volcano, which erupts every fifteen minutes or so during the afternoon and evening hours. It does not pop off during my initial watch. Lucia has arrived ahead of me and left a note saying she's at the spa. I proceed to my first order of business: how to get that Vegas glam look. It hadn't been important until my encounter with the long-legged vixens in the cab line. I suddenly want to look stunning, or at least sexy. Unfortunately, I didn't pack for this. The only item in my suitcase that's even close is a short-sleeved top made of a sparkly, stretchy fabric. I pair it with a short denim skirt and deem it acceptable. If I can do something with my hair, this just might work. I gather some of my long brown hair and pull it to the top of my head. I seem to have created my own personal hair volcano. At the very same moment, Lucia walks in the door and catches me preening.

"It's my homage to the Mirage," I say, pointing to the sprout on the top of my head. Surprisingly, I decide to go with this look. It seems to make sense in Las Vegas.

Lucia has done some homework before my arrival and has several suggestions on activities for the evening. I quickly browse through some of the "what-to-do-in-Las-Vegas" booklets that Lucia has picked up and find that gambling is a very popular activity. One place in particular catches my eye.

"There's a place here called Casino Filipino," I tell Lucia. "Can you believe they have a casino especially for Filipinos?" Lucia takes the booklet from my hands and upon further inspection realizes that this is an ad for a casino in the Phillipines.

"I bet that you could find a casino here for Filipinos, though," Lucia adds.

"What are the chances they'd let us in?" Without realizing it, Lucia and I have started to speak in a sort of gambling shorthand. Our sentences are punctuated with things like "I'll betcha" and "what are the odds." The gambling mood is infectious in Las Vegas, whether you're gambling or not.

We decide to check out our casino first and go from there. It doesn't take us long to sit down at a couple of slot machines. I haven't played a slot machine in a very long time. Lucia looks much more comfortable. We gather up our quarters and get to work. This may be play, but it feels like serious work. I look at my machine and the little chart that shows the various winning combinations. It looks complicated. It appears as if a symbol called "ANY BAR" is involved in most of the winning combinations. I play my quarters and keep hoping that ANY BAR will come up. No luck. I finally turn to Lucia and say "I can't get this ANY BAR to pop up."

"What bar?" she asks.

"You know -- ANY BAR. It seems you need it for most of these winning combinations."

She comes over to my machine to take a look. "There is no ANY BAR. They mean any bar, as in any one of the bars." I realize it's a good thing that I'm only at the quarter slots. We both decide to get change and play $10 in quarters. Our quarters are gone in less than five minutes. We walk around the rest of the casino and observe people playing roulette, craps and blackjack. Craps looks pretty complicated. Lucia has some knowledge of craps, which was given to her by an old college boyfriend. She tries to clue me in but I remain clueless.

Losing money seems to bring on hunger, at least for Lucia and me. We try to have dinner at the hotel buffet, but the line seems to go on forever. We settle for the Lookout Cafe, a pleasant enough spot. Our table is next to a large keno board. I don't know how to play keno and decide not to learn, opting instead for the chicken dinner. Lucia follows suit. Duly fortified, we head out in search of the casino's Sports Book. I've read up on casino Race and Sports Books, and know that this is where all the sports betting takes place.

The Sports Book at the Treasure Island looks like a small movie theater. Or a classroom. A dark classroom. There are rows and rows of chairs with small desks attached. Some have TV screens. On the walls are a series of large boards which list a slew of horse races plus just about every major league sports team. You can bet on the horse races of the day or the final standing of your favorite sports teams next year. I ask a fellow at a desk about the odds on the Dream Team.

"It's Argentina and fifty-one," he tells me about the evening's game.

"You mean if I pick Argentina I'm getting fifty-one points? The Dream Team has to win by fifty-two?"

"That's right," he tells me. I'm not ready to make a bet, but I would certainly take Argentina if I were. I had heard that in England people bet on just about anything, like the odds on the sun shining tomorrow or whether Charles will marry Camilla. I guess I'm looking for something fun to bet on, but the Sports Book isn't delivering.

We work our way through the rest of the casino and wind up in a shopping arcade. A crowd of people sweeps us up an escalator and we find ourselves waiting to board a tram to the Mirage. At the Mirage, we are greeted by a huge atrium replete with palm trees, waterfalls and footbridges. We walk through the atrium and land in the casino. It's not that different from the one at the Treasure Island. The casino is bright and incredibly big. Everything is shiny and sparkly. The clinking, clanking and clanging is constant. There are signs every few feet which remind kids under 21 to find some other place to hang out.

"I'll betcha there are even slot machines in the bathroom," I say to Lucia.

"How much?"

"Oh, a buck. Betcha a dollar."

Lucia ponders my proposition. "You know, I'll bet there aren't, because there are too many kids around here."

"You're probably right." We check it out and in fact there are no slot machines in the bathroom. However, the ladies room is filled with women all of ages touching up their best glam looks. I feel a bit underdressed but I reapply my lipstick anyway and make the best of it.

Back in the casino, we stroll around to see what's going on at the Mirage. We notice a large crowd of onlookers at one of the pai gow tables. I've heard of pai gow but have no idea how it's played. Neither does Lucia. We sidle up next to a young couple intently watching the action. I ask the man what's going on.

"These guys are losing a lot of money," he tells me. There are several players at the table and they are all Asian men. The dealer is Asian, and they are all speaking Chinese or something similar. The game is played with shiny black dominoes. The players get a few dominoes, move them around and then something happens. Everyone at the table looks deadly serious. One of the players seated near me motions over to a petite Asian woman. She unzips her small gold backpack, pulls out a wad of neat bills and hands it to the man. No words are exchanged. I notice she has handed him a wad of hundred dollar bills. They are brand new in that flat, skinny sort of way. The wad is about an inch thick. I look at the fellow standing next to me and we stare at each other in disbelief. I whisper to Lucia what I've just seen and we try to figure out how much money was in the pack of bills. I wonder how much more money is in the little gold backpack.

The Mirage is more than a casino, or at least they'd like you to think so. There are signs pointing you to various other activities, among them restaurants, a shopping arcade, dolphin habitat, the Siegfried & Roy Theatre and, of course, the famous white tigers. The ones that belong to Siegfried & Roy. We decide to take a look at the dolphins, since there seems to be less of a crowd headed in that direction. The dolphin habitat turns out to be near the pool, and when we finally get there, a sign tells us that it's closed for the evening. We head back inside and in no time at all are standing on a people mover which deposits us in the Forum Shops, an indoor shopping mall that is part of Caesar's Palace.

The Forum Shops are no ordinary shopping mall. I had heard that the ceiling in the mall was an ever-changing sky and true enough, it's a bright blue hue dotted with puffs of white during our 11 PM visit. I had also heard that there were talking statues, although none of the statues is speaking as we stroll through.

The casino at Caesar's looks very different from the ones at the Treasure Island and the Mirage. What look like scaffolds are scattered throughout the room, stretching nearly to the ceiling. The ceiling is painted black. Slots and gaming tables are sprinkled throughout the room, although not as many of them as in the other casinos. Lucia and I can't figure out if the place is under construction or if they're trying to achieve a techno-punk look. The gamblers at Caesar's look to be right out of the New York/New Jersey corridor, all sprayed-stiff hair and diamond rings. That's the men. These fellows are with women who look like they answer to "doll" on a regular basis.

As I look around for the exit, a waitress strolls by. She is wearing a short white dress which is supposed to resemble a mini-toga. The Roman motif is clearly evident at Caesar's Palace. On top of the waitress' head is the Caesar's version of a hair volcano -- a braided cone sits smack on top of her head, and one long braid comes out of the center of the cone. This obvious hairpiece is colored to match the waitress' hair. As I observe her hairstyle and compare it to my humbler interpretation, a second waitress waltzes by. Her hair color is nothing if not unique, a pinkish-brown tone which I've never seen before. Her hair volcano is the very same color. I try to figure out if she matched her hair color to the volcano or vice versa.

Lucia and I work our way back to the Forum Shops and figure that if we can retrace our steps we'll eventually wind up at the Treasure Island. It's 11:30 PM and all the shops are still open. I ask a teenager at the door to the Warner Brothers store when the shops close.

"Usually by now, but not till midnight tonight," he tells me.

"I can't believe there are still so many people here," I add.

"Yeah...and I just saw Dennis Rodman."

"Really? What color was his hair?"

"I don't know. He had a floppy hat on. He just walked away three, four minutes ago." The kid is leaning on a large plastic baseball bat and rocking his feet back and forth. He looks delighted to be here.

We continue walking through the mall and notice a large crowd in front of the Louis Vuitton store. Lucia and I look at each other.

"Must be Dennis Rodman," we say in unison.

Sure enough, the colorful one is browsing the suitcase selection. The store has been locked down for his visit, presumably to keep the crush of onlookers away from their hero. We stand among the masses for a good ten minutes observing Dennis' antics. We finally return to reality and continue to work our way home.

Near the exit to the Forum Shops another crowd has gathered around a large grouping of statues. What looks like a plaster cast of a toga-clad, olive-wreathed man, presumably Roman, is the center of attention. It appears some sort of statue show is about to begin. We stick around to see what the fuss is all about. Once the show begins, we quickly conclude that it is unbelievably bad, but stay till the end in the hopes that it will get better. It doesn't. It's almost midnight so we decide to call it a day. We zip through the Mirage and return to the Treasure Island. Both casinos are even more crowded than before. Lucia and I are surprised we stayed up till midnight, unusual for both of us. In Las Vegas, it was effortless.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I wake Lucia up to discuss the possibilities for our second day in Las Vegas.

"Well, we have one full day left. I'd definitely like to take a gambling class. Most of the casinos offer gambling classes. Maybe the Ethel M Chocolate Factory tour. There's even a place where we can go ice skating and bowling 24 hours a day. And I'd like to check out the spa if we have time."

Lucia graciously lets me settle on the agenda of my choice. I decide on a three o'clock craps class at the Las Vegas Hilton and massages back at our hotel at five. We make our way down to the hotel buffet and find the line much shorter for breakfast. The buffet is everything we expected and then some.

After looking at a map, we determine that the Liberace Museum is an easy walk away and that by strolling down the Strip, we can get a better look at some of the hotels and casinos along the way. Sure enough, there are a lot of tall buildings to look at, most of which are beautifully landscaped. Lucia and I, however, quickly start to wilt in the noonday sun. We make it to the MGM Grand Hotel and dart inside for some air-conditioned comfort.

The MGM is another one of the Strip's mega-resorts. It bills itself as the largest hotel in the world, with over five thousand rooms. It certainly feels like the largest hotel in the world. The front of the lobby is done in a "Wizard of Oz" motif. Directly behind it is...the casino. Yet another huge, brightly lit room filled with people, color, noise and money. We work our way through this maze of activity and lose our extra coins to the slot machines along the way. Lucia puts her last four quarters in a dollar slot machine and then realizes she should have used a dollar coin. We report this minor infraction to a woman at a nearby change booth and she sends over a serious-looking man who won't even look us in the eye. He opens up the machine and retrieves Lucia's four quarters, which are returned to her as a dollar coin. She promptly loses it. We head for the exit, no small feat in this hotel. Once outside, we look at our map and suddenly realize that it's not according to scale. There is no way we can walk to the museum, especially in this heat, so we hail a cab and get there in short order.

The exterior of the Liberace Museum looks like a small strip mall. There are three separate, low-rise white buildings grouped around a parking lot. Not much else seems to be in the immediate area. There are no signs pointing to the entrance so we choose a building at random. It turns out we are starting in the building housing Liberace's costumes, jewelry and other personal effects. We walk in and pay the admission fee. I ask the cashier when and how Liberace died.

"He died in 1987. He had a heart attack...he smoked two packs a day, you know..." She rattles off a couple of other ailments and then says in a near-whisper "...and the HIV virus." She moves on to the next person, signalling that our brief Q & A is over.

The main room of building #1 is filled with colorful costumes. In the center of the room is a revolving glass case filled with Liberace's signature jewelry. Most of the pieces are rings. A portly gentleman is telling a few assembled gawkers about the legend's collection.

"He had houses in Palm Springs, Las Vegas, 18 pianos, 24 cars...and I think one cat."

I walk over to the jewelry collection and notice that the rings are quite large. Not just the stones, but the actual ring size.

"Do you happen to know what his ring size was?" I ask.

"Nine and a half," he tells me.

"How about his height and weight?"

"Five-eleven and a half, 185 pounds. But he worked out a lot, so he looked in really good shape. Ask me any question." My new friend seems to be enjoying this. I ask him about the apparent lack of security in a room filled with expensive baubles.

"This room alone is worth ten million dollars. Believe me, the security is here."

Lucia and I ogle the various fur capes and rhinestone-studded costumes and conclude that one would indeed have to have been in very good shape to wear these costumes. They look like they weigh a ton. The next room houses a recreation of the master bedroom in Liberace's Palm Springs estate. A small sign near the door refers to the room as a "beautifully decorated bedroom." The two twin beds remind me of the ones my sister and I slept on as kids, although we didn't have mink comforters.

Building #2 is the home of Liberace's substantial collection of china. Of greater interest to Lucia and me is the memorabilia hanging on the walls. I learn that he grew up in Wisconsin and was a child prodigy. He was the highest-paid entertainer of his generation, the first big star to play Las Vegas and a man who played for kings and queens, among others. Most of the folks in the room seem to be true-blue fans of the pianist. A heavy-set, silver-haired woman standing behind me asks the cashier in this room about Liberace's sister. The woman and the cashier engage in a lively conversation about Liberace's various family members. I nudge Lucia and clue her in to the source of my amusement.

As we step outside and head to the last building, the heavy-set woman and her friend are walking ahead of us. I notice that the friend is carrying a white leather purse, and can't resist pointing this out to Lucia.

"What are the odds these ladies saw Liberace in concert?" I ask Lucia.

"I'd say pretty high. If only because of the white purse. I think there's a direct cause-and-effect relationship here." I walk ahead and ask the heavy-set woman if she ever saw Liberace perform.

"You bet," she tells me. "In San Francisco at the Circle Star Theatre about fifteen years ago. It was one of the greatest shows I've ever seen." She recounts the show for me in vivid detail. I start to wonder what I missed.

The last building houses Liberace's piano and car collections. The pianos are stunning. A small TV screen is set into a wall and is running what appears to be a camp TV special with Liberace and some of his friends. Lucia is watching intently.

"That's Lola Falana, and Sandy Dennis," she tells me.

"How can you remember them?" I ask. I'm puzzled as to why Sandy Dennis would have done a TV special with Liberace. I thought she was a serious actress and vaguely remember her in a movie with Sidney Poitier. Then it dawns on me -- it's not Sandy Dennis, it's Sandy Duncan. That seems to make much more sense. The program is a hoot, and Liberace seems to be having a grand old time. He comes across as an awfully good guy, someone who knew a lot of the world was probably laughing at him and chose to laugh right along.

A cab pulls up just as we're leaving so we grab it and head over to the Las Vegas Hilton. We arrive about five minutes late for our craps class. A group of tables in the center of the casino are marked "Learning Center," but no one is there. We head for the craps tables and ask a table steward about our class.

"You two are here for the class?" he asks.

"Yep," I reply. He points us to a table a few rows behind him.

"What are the odds we'll learn to play craps?" I ask as I walk away.

"Three thousand to one," he mutters under his breath as Lucia and I head for our lesson. We both manage to hear his assessment of our chances and huff at this indignity.

Our craps class is already under way when we arrive at the table. The teacher is a tuxedo-clad gent straight out of New Jersey, a "dese, dem and dose" kind of guy whose rapid-fire patter is sailing right over my head. He appears to be explaining the various types of bets that can be made in craps. I don't even understand the table, so I ask for an explanation.

"I'm sorry, what's the come-out roll?"

"That's the first roll of the game."

"And the four through ten numbers -- what do they mean again?"

"I went over that this morning in Craps I. You're in Craps II, here," the teacher informs me. "We go over the whole table in the first class. This one's about betting, okay?"

Lucia nudges me to keep my mouth shut. The other two men in our class seem pleased at the prospect of my silence. They are listening to the teacher intently. There are so many betting strategies that I can't imagine how anyone can ever remember them. The teacher's delivery of this monologue is sprinkled with a Henny Youngman-type of humor. We laugh anyway.

The teacher decides to play a practice game to see if we've learned anything. He asks the two men in the class to be the participants. He then turns to Lucia.

"Okay, you...what's your name?"


"Alright...for purposes of this demonstration, you'll be Lucia Baby," the teacher continues in his heavy East-coast accent. "Lucia Baby, you roll the dice."

The teacher hands Lucia the dice. My role is to watch. Lucia rolls and the game begins. Our classmates' beginning bets are all wrong. The teacher corrects them and Lucia rolls again. The teacher then corrects the two gentlemen for having their chips in the wrong place on the table. Lucia keeps rolling and the teacher keeps instructing the guys on proper betting, smart betting and table etiquette. My classmates seem flustered at their inability to master craps. Lucia Baby is having a ball rolling the dice. I'm just trying to keep up. Lucia Baby finally rolls a seven and the game is over. The teacher advises all of us to "practice, practice. It's the only way to learn." Or to lose.

Lucia and I thank the teacher for his time and patience and say good-bye to our classmates. On our way out, we pass the man who gave us the long odds on learning.

"Three thousand to one, huh?" Lucia reminds him. The man seems to blush and turns away without a word.

We head for the Hilton's Sports Book in search of unique betting possibilities. Along the way we discuss the game of craps and what each number and bet means. We get to the Sports Book and find it much the same as the one at the Treasure Island. I ask a fellow at one of the small desks about the Dream Team vs. Argentina.

"The Dream Team won," he tells me.

"By how much?" I ask.

"Around thirty." I knew that Argentina sounded like a good bet, if only because fifty-one points sounded like a lot of points.

"How about the next game?" I ask.

"I think it's Angola and sixty," he tells me. I'm tempted to bet on Angola, but I'm too intimidated by my surroundings to ask how. I find no interesting side bets here, either, so we head back to the Treasure Island spa for our massages.

Our spa is an oasis in the middle of the desert. Soothing pink and beige tones abound. An attendant provides us with a locker, fluffy white robes and squeaky rubber slippers. Lucia and I take a seat in the cozy seating area along with other waiting-to-be-pampered ladies while attendants zip around offering us fruit juices and smoothies. Most of us discreetly raid the pretzel bowl. We make the most of the spa's amenities -- we get a massage, use the gym and run a circuit between the sauna, steam and whirlpool. The showers are a dream and the dressing room is stocked with every available beauty aid. I feel like I'm in a spa for the ultra-rich in Phoenix or Dallas. If this is the new Las Vegas, I like it.

Lucia reminds me of the fine restaurants at the MGM Grand, among them Wolfgang Puck's and the Coyote Cafe. We decide to have dinner at Emeril's New Orleans Fishhouse, a definite step up from the prior night's chicken dinner. Lucia has been to Emeril's flagship in New Orleans and assures me that I'll be pleased.

We make our way over to the MGM and follow the signs to Emeril's. Although I order pork chops in a fish house, they're still perfect. A family of five is at the table next to ours. Two small girls at the table are fidgeting in their seats and engaged in an animated discussion with their mother. Finally, the maitre`d comes over, speaks to the mother and whisks the little girls away. I must have been staring, because the mother clues me in.

"My daughter is a big fan of Emeril's. She watches his cooking show every week and wants to cook with him. So the girls are getting a tour of the kitchen even though Emeril's not here." The junior fan is maybe seven years old and already seems to have found her calling in life. The little girls return from the kitchen with huge smiles on their faces. They continue to squirm in their chairs and proceed to finish their meals, all the while chatting away.

Lucia and I wander through the MGM's casino after dinner and continue our discussion on the game of craps. We stop at one of the tables and observe the players. The two men to our left are wearing cowboy hats and trying to look relaxed. It's not working. I notice that everyone has a different way of rolling the dice. One of the cowboys taps the dice on the table twice, blows on them and then rolls. He rolls a lot of sevens. Finally, a fellow at the other end of the table takes over the dice. He blows on them and seems to whisper a little mantra. His rolls aren't much better. The people at this table are losing a lot of money. At least I'm learning at their expense.

Lucia and I decide to get some dessert at the Coyote Cafe. It's almost midnight, but we're still wide awake. The waiter hands us dessert menus. I don't need to read past the first line: "Venezuelan chocolate shortbread with vanilla ice cream." Lucia opts for a glass of wine. The waiter returns and I tell him my selection.

"That's a winner!" he says brightly.

Our final stop of the evening is the brand new Monte Carlo hotel and casino. I had heard that their casino was an exact replica of one in Monte Carlo. I've never been to Monte Carlo, so I wouldn't know. Fortunately for us, it's right across the street from the MGM.

We walk through the front door and step into the brightest, shiniest casino of them all. It's not that the Monte Carlo is exceptionally well-decorated, it's just that there's so much light. Gigantic glass chandeliers cover the ceiling. The craps tables are crowded with players and onlookers. We stop at one of the tables and find a young woman rolling the dice. Her girlfriend is playing, along with about ten other folks. The rolls are good and everyone keeps winning. She finally rolls a seven to end the game. No one seems disappointed. The girlfriend takes over the dice and gets things going. More winning rolls. This table seems more like a pep rally than a craps game. The players are talking, laughing and cheering. I'm sure winning helps. I suddenly wish I could find the two cowboys from the MGM and get them over to this table. It's past 1 AM and Lucia and I decide to head back to our hotel. Tomorrow is another Las Vegas.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"I think I know how to play craps," Lucia announces as she wakes up.

"Oh yeah?"

"I've been thinking about it...I think I know what I'd do and how I'd bet. I think I could do it."

"Sounds great to me," I reply. "Let's see, you're down about twenty dollars for the weekend and you said you had a fifty dollar limit, so you've got thirty to play with. Let's go!" I'm hopeful that one of us will prove the long-odds man wrong.

"We'll see," Lucia continues. "If we have some time this morning, I just might give it a shot."

This morning we opt for the breakfast buffet at the Mirage. It's not much different from the one at the Treasure Island. Lucia and I loll over our assortment of breakfast foods and before we know it, it's almost time for her to head to the airport. We race over to the tram and realize we won't have time for a game of craps after all. I say goodbye to Lucia and thank her for joining me in this little adventure.

"It was great fun, huh?" I tell her. "I'm glad you were game --" We both laugh.

I head back to the casino at the Mirage one last time. The only change I have left is two nickels. I find a nickel slot machine and play them. My second nickel is a winner so I have a few more nickels to play. I continue playing and continue winning, a few nickels at a time. Before I know it, ten minutes have passed and I'm still playing. I decide to get smart and try to walk away a winner. I calculate how many nickels I'd need to buy myself an ice cream cone. It would probably cost $2.50, which translates to fifty nickels. I keep playing. Surprisingly, I hit a winner that gives me fifty nickels. I haven't been this lucky all weekend. I start to wonder if this is the machine that can give me a really big payoff. Then I think about the ice cream cone, and how nice it would be to walk away a winner. I scoop out fifty nickels and place them in a plastic bucket next to the machine. I play the rest of my nickels. And lose them all. I eye my ice cream money, then pick it up and walk away.

Now that's a winner.


© 1996 Elaine Sosa
San Francisco, California
August 19, 1996

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