By Royal Hopper
The Good Old Days of the City of Sin
My father is 76-years-old, has a bad back, is bald as onion (sorry Dad but you know its true) and walks with a cane because of his injured back. He came to Las Vegas this week to visit his oldest son and test his new system for winning at slots.
Shortly after his arrival here in the City of Sin my old man was going about his City of Sin vacation business; ( I hate commas colons and exclamation points) ( names and places have been changed to protect the innocent not really but I always wanted to say that) perhaps headed toward one of the local casinos to test his system, when he saw what he described as an unsavory character stalking him perhaps thinking he was vulnerable, perhaps thinking he was an easy mark for asking for money. Wrong!!!!
What do you think my 76-year-old father did he saw an strange looking man approach him in a suspicious manner on a sidewalk near a local Vegas casino ?
There was something about this man that didn’t look right he said to me later as he was relating the tale. There was something that didn’t look right he thought as the man walked past him and then doubled back making a beeline straight for this helpless old man. (snicker inserted)
So what did my cane using 76-year-old father do when he saw this not looking right man walking toward him with a nefarious purpose in mind?
Did he call for help?? Did he scream for security from the nearby casino to help him??? Did he plead for his safety?? No don’t hurt me????”
If you answered any of the above you don’t know Dad very well. My 76-year-old Dad turned looked the man directly in the eye and asked
A bad photo of my Dad—Photo by Royal
“How do you think you would look with this cane shoved up your ass?”
The man reportedly turned on his heel and walked away perhaps looking for easier less aggressive prey or perhaps deciding not to ask the grouchy old Texan where the nearest 7/11 was or perhaps making a mental note not to panhandle from 76-year-old Texans who fly out to Vegas alone to test his latest system for beating the slots in the City of Sin.
The Old Days.
Somehow seeing my father arriving back in the City of Sin and walking around the two of the City of Sin’s Grand Old gambling houses Bugsy’s baby The Flamingo and the Imperial Palace brought back memories of my initial arrival in the City of Sin in 1989.
Las Vegas was a very different back then and I was a very different person sort of. I was thinner, younger 30 pounds lighter and ex GI with no real experience outside of Port Neches, Texas.
While we were talking he bought me a $5 cup of coffee an $8 banana split and we talked about mundane things like $5 cups of coffee, $8 banana splits, his missing cat, the greedy idiot doctors who are treating his bad back and Vegas in the good old days when he first vacationed in the city of Sin in 1985 or so and the coffee was bad but cost less than piece of bubble gum. Actually he said 1983 but he also said it was when I was in the army which I joined 1985.
Old meets new in the City of Sin suburbs _ Photo by Royal
On roads like Smoke Ranch that used to be the edge of town and I once in late 1989 (when I first arrived in the City of Sin) had to sit in may car and wait for a group of coyotes to cross the street before doubling back to the turn off I had missed.
Food was so cheap in the city that I once bought $20 worth of Tejano style food from a local restaurant called Naugles and spent the next four days burping and farting like a factory after consuming the four bags of tacos, burritos, and assorted beans, tortillas and salsa. A three bedroom apartment could be had for $365 a month and you could drive across town in 40 minutes.
By comparison the City of Sin today is a crowded, expensive brightly colored mess. . There are houses and people everywhere.
The Mirage was still an unfinished tower of gold and white, there were still half dollar breakfast buffets and free foot long hotdogs for out of towners, room comps still flowed like free beer and the ghost of Elvis and the Rat Pack still hung over the dry desert landscape like a cheap two for one lounge act with a four drink minimum and a waiter that knows every working girl named after a farm animal for three blocks. Children were seldom seen on The Strip. There was curfew for minors.
Today: Groups of Segways raced past one of a half dozen remaining Rat Pack casinos. There are kids everywhere, cartoon characters on the sidewalk, joggers holding $5 cups of coffee and flavored water spiked with caffeine raced down the street in $500 neon Pink shoes, made in Taiwan, Bejing or some corporate sweat shop hell hole. ( I identify as an independent but it might be obvious by now I wouldn’t get an invite to an RNC meeting if I owned the building it was held in.)
Back then: You had to be practically deceased not to get job here. People routinely showed up for job interviews at banks in sweat shirts and gym shorts and were hired on the spot because money was falling out of the trees and employees were in short supply.
Half the city was open desert and you could drive across Las Vegas in 40 minutes. New casinos were being built by the dozen and old ones, the ones where Sammy Davis and Dean Martin and what’s his name Frank something and that Elvis guy rocked the house for decades were literally blown up to the cheers of on looking crowds.
At the Mirage’s second week in business or so a man won a jackpot and ran off with cocktail waitress leaving his wife in the hotel room taking the plane tickets and the luggage.
Convenience stores are manned by people who used to where suits and the homeless who populate the city are some of the hardest working most innovative people in the City of Sin. Billion dollar casino that look like modern art projects sit half finished, desolate, rusting and dusty, a bust that stands as tribute to the hubris that created the boom and eventually caused the bust and a contradiction of the idea that Alpha Dog optimism and will power can change the facts or the economic lay of the land which it can’t.
Food was cheap, rooms were cheap casinos were gaudy, smoky neon palaces where you dressed up to go to.
Today: Casinos have run out of themes and decided it is okay to look like office buildings and that themes are silly and childish and you can see burlesque clips on huge digital billboards.
Then: I was younger overawed by the City of Sin and the sights you would never see in Port Neches and likely never will. Well dressed working girls and soccer moms who look like sluts.
This week as I drove to work I spied a woman walking down an empty City of Sin street early in the morning dressed in a black evening dress that was designed to show off her tan, lean body. Appearing tired, world weary and unimpressed by the sights of the city as she walked down the empty street waiting patiently for the lights to change mentally armored against what she saw and like felt.
Was she a high class escort looking for end of the night escapade ??? A cocktail waitress at an exclusive club on her way home, a shift worker at x-rated night club headed home to honey and the kids. Who knows??
Down the road strode three women, younger much paler, not so well dressed, tidbits of baby fat still clinging to their young frames laughing as they made their way down the street clearly impressed with the neon sights and lights, strutting the strut of the innocent and young and headed toward adventures they will likely talk about for decades.
Some things do not change.
Such is life in the City of Sin
Til next week
Jogger report: The joggers were fewer and farther between this week perhaps driven off by the usual desert heat and the unusual desert humidity but back packs were more prevalent than usual. Thusly I have come up with a name for Sin City backpackers that keep popping up these days. Urban hikers. It seems like the perfect label for those who backpack around city streets carrying their water and lunch with them jumping onto to busses when the desert heat gets to be too much.
My father is also an animal lover now… later when he saw a man who in his words hadn’t missed many meals was asking for handouts with two starving dogs by his side he decided to do something.
My father went inside the nearby casino bough a hotdog broke it into and tossed it to the starving dogs.