This weekend we headed out to wonderful Mesquite, Nevada to meet up with one of Danna's friends. Mesquite, like most Nevada towns, is centered around gambling. We discovered that there are three criteria to becoming a permanent resident of Mesquite: mental instability, bad teeth, and a love for bingo bordering on obsession.
I arrived in Mesquite somewhat late and it was long past the drinking hour when I met Danna. I was starving, and Danna was kind enough to leave her machine to the watchful eye of a local elderly lady. Off we headed to "The Tumbleweed" for some late night grub. The Tumbleweed has typical diner fare: breakfast, served anytime and an array of burgers and sandwiches. The food here wasn't bad, but I got a serious case of sticker shock. Dinner for four, including tip, came to a whopping seventeen dollars. I couldn't have bought the ingredients and cooked it myself for that little. Even at this early introduction two rules became apparent:
- Butter makes everything better. No food comes without butter.
- Be wary of vegetables.
The next morning we headed to another coffee shop for some bacon. Vegetables, as I previously mentioned, are not encouraged, but meat is in top demand. Pig for breakfast, cow for all other meals. Here we encountered our first local. She was a short woman in her mid fifties, missing most of the upper left side of her teeth. She was showing us the lovely Jell-O treasure she just found at the buffet. Laughing wildly, she asked if what our parents would think if we ate Jell-O for breakfast. For breakfast! We skipped the Jell-O.
The one thing I will not forget is the three foot long electric bug light mounted prominently on the wall of the restaurant.
Bingo Kicks Ass
Danna explained to me that I must experience Free Bingo. Free Bingo happens at 9:00, 2:00 and 5:00 and it is serious business. Do not make jokes about Free Bingo. Do not jump for joy if, when playing Free Bingo, you get a Bingo. Poking fun at Free Bingo or taking it any less seriously as, say, a mugging in the parking lot is taboo and grounds for severe retaliation from the Elderly Elite.
To truly understand Free Bingo you have to get inside the mind of the Bingo player. The True Bingo Player is a woman in her late fifties to early nineties. She has a haircut like Elvis when he was fat and bloated, complete with side burns. She has a small mustache, and wears glasses. Due to the extreme sun in Mesquite, she also has "bug fly" sunglass flip-ups clipped to her glasses, and flipped up to her forehead for maximum Bingo vision. She carries multiple Bingo "daubers" for marking her cards, and carries them proudly in a small, custom fitted dauber case that she has carefully embroidered with the letters B, I, N, G and O. For luck, she lays out her assortment of troll dolls all around her Bingo cards. She is heads down, full of concentration, and seated for prime visibility of the caller. She has the skill and stamina of a trained athlete, and can cover fifteen bingo cards at once without so much as spilling the ash from her ever-lit cigarette. Do not taunt the Bingo player.
Danna and I experienced one of the afternoon sessions. It was a heated competition among fifty or more of these athletes, and we were outsiders. We avoided the hostility by sitting next to a couple from England who were quite polite. We played Bingo, Double Bingo, Little Squares, Crazy Railroad Tracks, and other funtastic Bingo-type games. We learned that to be considered a Bingo aficionado you must yell "Toot Toot" when playing Crazy Railroad Tracks and the number 22 is rolled. Oddly enough, while talking is strictly prohibited, coughing like you just swallowed a dozen cats is completely acceptable. Neither Danna or I won any of the Bingo matches, but we did come away with a deep understanding of the game and a new found respect for those athletes who have chosen to make their sacrifice.
South, To Vegas
Vegas is a living Elvis. The embodiment of cheesiness is contained in the hearts and souls of those people who live their lives in the City of Sin. The city has a way of changing people. The longer you remain within its boundaries the more haggard and withdrawn you become. Within weeks, once beautiful faces change. Skin becomes leathery, make-up is applied in hasty and heavy globs, and stylish clothing is exchanged for ten for a dollar tee-shirts and spandex shorts.
Luckily for most, Vegas has an automatic safeguard against saying too long: money. It is impossible to spend too much time in the city because of the high cost of admission. Those that feel the seductive touch of the gambling tables either leave broke, or leave broken. Those that stay to become one of Vegas' locals become hollow shells of their former selves; zombies in a land that transcends time.
We've been to Vegas many times, but it is always a spectacle to me. It's a sensory overload of greed, glut, and odd people with an abundant desire for both. We stayed at the ever-popular Tropicana and had a wonderful view of the trash compactor outside our window. The Tropicana, in its day, was a first rate hotel. Today it looks and feels dated, but thanks to the new hotels that have sprung up around it the Tropicana still can charge $145.00 for a room.
I took many pictures of the lions living in the glass cage within the MGM, and we had a great time in the new Aladdin hotel, which is the newest hotel on the strip. I think the most amazing thing about Las Vegas is the carpeting within the hotels. Someday I hope to have a photographic treatise entitled, "The Carpets of Las Vegas". This time, however, I concentrated on gambling. Danna won almost $150.00. This nearly balanced out the $200 I lost. For those that don't know me, I am the single most unlucky person ever to step foot within the city limits of Las Vegas. I can pump hundreds into a slot machine and it will never pay off once. At the tables, the dealers feel sorry for me. Cocktail waitresses give me tips. Given enough time in the city I think I could become a young Rodney Daingerfield; trampled by all, loved by no one.