Like most of my friends, this recession (or is it a depression?) has done a number on me. Number as in 0, the amount of dollars I currently make. So, I make adjustments. Moving out of New York City. Eating hamburger instead of steak. Drinking wine from a box instead of a bottle.
One area that I refused to make compromises in was travel. After all, why sit still when you don't have a stupid job holding you back? But, after a few trips to Europe and across America, I'm pretty much broke. So, I have to say bon voyage to travel plans for a while, which is a really really big sacrifice.
Yes, the easy solution would be to a get a job, sell my book, make it big with a play. And I'm trying. But until that day comes, if I can't go visit any far off places anytime soon, I'm going to revisit them here.
So, starting in no particular order, let's go to Las Vegas, Nevada. And yes, I'm breaking the rule of "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" because I'm not a frat boy nor did I go there for a bachelor party. Actually, the first time I was supposed to go to Vegas it was for a bachelorette party in the winter of 2005, and I was the token male tagalong. We never made it there, due to complications with flights, etc., and ended up spending a weekend in Philadelphia, instead. Oh, well. At least I got a cheesesteak (minus the cheese) out of the deal.
In November of the same year, I tried my luck with Vegas again, this time joining my friends, Diandra and Vinai. I liked the city okay, I thought it was pretty tame as compared to what I've seen in the movies. Then again, I didn't visit with any hookers or snort any coke. And my skin got really dry. But, aside from that, I loved the tackiness of all the hotels, and my favorites were the Luxor, Venice, and the Bellagio (especially the fountain--how can a person not get a little choked up while watching water dance to Andrea Bocelli's Time to Say Goodbye? Yep, that was me. Until a homeless lady burped in my face.
The worst casino was The Flamingo because:
1) It was filled with birds, and I didn't like they eyed me.
2) That's where I lost my camera.
It must have fallen off my shoulder while I was running for a free shot. And when I realized what had happened, I was far from calm about it. So, I flagged down a security guard, who wasn't much help at first. "Sir, if a black woman stole your camera, there's not much we can do about it. She's probably out on the strip trying to hock it for drug money," he told me. I had to stop and scratch my head for a second. I never said someone stole my camera, nor did I mention anything about a black woman. I was ready to give up, but the racist security guard agreed to take me to the lost and found and--miracle of miracles-someone had turned in my camera! What are the odds?
Other than this moment, I din't gamble much, but I found myself addicted to the penny slots, especially the ones modeled after famous gameshows from the 70's, like The Match Game. When Charles Nelson Riley announced that I'd hit the jackpot, I nearly died with joy. Even though the jackpot was a mere $34.78, I was happy to be a winner.
We didn't see any of the shows, but we did go and visit Old Town, and that was really fun, especially hanging with the geriatric showgirls. And the buffets were ridiculous, but my favorite dining experience was Sunday morning at Denny's. It had to be the most hopping I've ever seen a Denny's, and people had actually come from church, dressed to the nines in their Sunday best, even. I had to ask someone. "They really have churches in Vegas?" And the guy said, "Yeah, people be begging the Lord to let them win all the time. And you know what, it get old."
"I imagine so," I replied. Because if there was a god, I'm sure he/she/it has better things to do than help people win at blackjack.
My last hours in Vegas were capped off by a visit to Hawk's Gym. I won't go so far as to tell you what happened once I got inside. But here's a hint: it wasn't actually a gym. And, JACKPOT!
Mark Jason Williams
I find trouble wherever I go