By Royal Hopper
For the man fishing for consumable carcinogens in Sin City a trash cab Friday, somehow managing to look like he is on a shopping trip at Macy’s making a difficult choice of which item to purchase – simple and cheap is good. Having something, anything is enough.
Mario is a Cuban refugee who doesn’t mind expensive food or hotel rooms because he has something to spend his money, something not so certain in his native Cuba. Mario does however sometimes get nostalgic for the USA he first arrived in when he escaped Fidel Castro’s Island empire. I spoke to Mario briefly last September while he was enjoying the sun and a dose of nicotine at a Sin City swimming pool.
“Sodas cost 5 cents and they gave you 2 cents back when you turned the bottle in,” Mario said remember the cost of things when he arrived in the United States 40 some odd years ago.
For another Sin City visitor lets call him Earl (because I never thought to ask his name) visiting the City of Sin From LA the old days were indeed better. There was, a kind of balance in Sin City Earl and I agreed
You could take the bus to Vegas spend your money and still have enough for the 50 cent breakfast or $2 lunch. Spending money on some things was good if everything else was cheap. There was we both agreed a balance of sorts.
“It’s just not like that anymore,” he mused as the decently dressed middle class man waited for the bus going to downtown Vegas. His hair was matted his clothes torn and you could see madness in the eyes ( or it could have been Jack Daniels) and you didn’t need to talk to the homeless man shopping for smokes in a convenient trash receptacle to know he wouldn’t mind limited choices if the things he needed were easier to get.
World War was raging across the globe in 1942 when Mario ( we wont use his last name) was born on the Sunny shores of his native Cuba. Food was cheaper, life was simpler and things usually made more sense in a plain desperate kind of way.
Mario is from Cuba originally and from California lately and his dual socialization, gives him a unique insight into differences in economies now and in the past. He fled Fidel’s Cuba with few regrets despite the orderly way of life offered by the Castro regime.
You could walk up to the corner and see the buses lined up,” Mario explains about his native Cuba. Not only does the bus service in his home city of Los Angles just stink gasoline prices are through the roof so driving is expensive but that is okay he said restating his position of few regrets about leaving his island home.
Earl as a frequent visitor to the City of Sin over a 30-year time frame and I as an off and on again resident of Sin City since 1989 reminisced about the day when you could break your last five before pay day and eat all day starting with the 49 cents breakfast buffet at Westward Ho. Life was cheap and money went a long way if you were careful.
“Ahh well we agreed things are just not that way,” we agreed.
The gentleman shopping ion the trash cans actually managed to look like he was in the middle of a difficult shopping decision as he grabbed several empty beer cans and one that was half full before holding several items of personal hygiene in his hand for several seconds deciding that using a discarded toothbrush was even to much for his pragmatic standards of survival. He crushed the beer cans drank the remaining beer in one and crushed it to for easier carrying to the recycling center for cash and continued his shopping trip.
The world was a very different place “in the old days,” Mario said on a Sunday on last September between sessions of the convention he had come to attend. Things were cheaper back then in Cuba and here in the States he said., the busses ran on time.
Money doesn’t buy as much these days not Cuba or in the US, his adopted country not nearly as much not even close.
Mario doesn’t let that fact phase him because this country, the US, in spite of all its problems is a land plenty.
“We,” Mario said, including himself in that inclusiveness, “are still a wealthy nation,” and there is still plenty to spend what money you have on.
The man shopping in the trash can finished looking and moved on obviously disappointed in this week’s bargains brushing his greasy dirty hair back with a greasy dirty hand as he walked away.
Earl’s arrived and he bid a pleasant farewell as lost in thought as he hopped on the bus in his black business suit.
As he finished his cigarette Mario finished his verbal essay on the effect of modern prices on every day life. This is still a wealthy nation he repeated and you can get what you need if you can somehow find the money.
This was not always the case in his native Cuba. Money bought very little in Cuba then or now because despite low prices there was nothing to buy.
“You can’t eat money,” Mario said appearing to be lost in some memory he would rather forget.