I haven’t been quite as active this week as I’d hoped…had buddies randomly show up in NYC the last two nights and unfortunately didn’t break my recent string of acting like an idiot. The one good thing is that I think I’ll be pretty calm for Vegas tomorrow, since I feel like absolute dogshit right now….although that will prob change for the worse on Saturday when xmashangover shows up…
Anyhoo, even though I’m working on another “Matters of Grave Concern” piece, I figured since I will arrive in Vegas at noon thirty Friday I should relate my first ever Vegas story. I made my first ever trip to LV back in 1997, in the nascent stages of my gambling love (also referred to as the Chilly Seventeen Endowment for Underprivileged Suquamish Millionares). I was making the trip with some college buddies: Totalgreen, Majalah, and Longback. It was MLK weekend and I for some unknown reason had a rare patch of time off, so I got in on Thursday night, a day before my buddies, and even optimistically brought my golf clubs (not a huge pain in the ass or anything).
Given my love of drinking and gaming, one might think that me arriving a day early was a decision fraught with danger. Not so, my friends, not so. See, I had a system. I had $1,000 to gamble for the entire trip, so what I was gonna do was just chill at a low limit blackjack table that Thursday night, have a few beers and then get some shut eye so that I’d be ready to rock when everyone else showed early Friday evening. Foolproof.
I got to the MGM Grand at like 9:00 PM and was down at the tables shortly thereafter. This is important, because I had zero cash while traveling and pulled out $500 when I got there (please note that that is later than midnight eastern and that $500 was my max amount for daily ATM withdrawal). What a wonderful place!I was astonished that you could order specific brands of beer in bottles, all complimentary. I sat down at a $10 blackjack table and immediately went on a soul-crushing downward spiral where I lost like 73 hands in a row. Cut losses and retreat? Never.
A thinking man plans for negative contingencies, and so I had packed my checkbook. I raced through that first $500 in approximately 32 minutes – but I had five Bud Lights in that time frame, so it wasn’t all bad. The kind proprietors in Vegas are very cool about cashing checks, even for complete strangers. Up to a limit of course, that limit at the time being $500 for newasses such as myself. No problem, all I needed to do was quickly double up and then I’m back to even and can get some fucking chicken fingers and call it a night.
Lady Luck was not my friend on that Thursday night – I continued to get spanked like Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary. I amped up the drinking to ease the pain, mixing in some of the hard stuff on an empty stomach. By 10:45 I was down $1k, which was my limit for the weekend. Fuck it, limits are made to be temporarily exceeded, right? Unfortunately, I had maxed out my bank account and my check cashing privileges at the MGM Grand. No problem, there are like 45 casinos, I’ll just go across to New York, New York and cash another five hundy. Except those cagey casino fuckers are all interconnected; the word was out: Chilly was maxed out as far as LV was concerned. Fuck. Time to angrily stumble to bed.
I woke up on Friday at 11:00 AM rocking a horrific hangover and the slow realization that my cash flow problems weren’t going away soon. I couldn’t hit the ATM until 9:00 PM and my reinforcements didn’t arrive until that evening. I was starving and had only $5 to my name. Somehow I couldn’t even order room service until Longback showed up with his credit card (there were some “hiccups” with my credit back in the day). Fuck. Being a resourceful degenerate, I did what any rational thinker would do in that situation. I decided to find a check cashing establishment.
These places are great; sure, they charge usurious rates and trap poor people into a vicious cycle, but they also represent a precious commodity to those in dire straits. That commodity? Hope. I figured there were tons of these places in Vegas, so I just set off on foot, procuring a cheeseburger at the Shell station with my last remaining $5 (not a good choice, by the way). Even in January, Vegas can get kind of warm. I walked past a college campus (UNLV?), numerous construction sites, and all manner of seedy storefronts. No check cashing joints to be seen. At about two hours in, I was sweating approximately as much as Shaq in a bikram spin class. At two and a half hours, I passed a casino that I swear was exactly the same as the off-strip place Chevy Chase goes to in Vegas Vacation. At three hours, I started seeing literal mirages, not the hotel/casino kind of mirages.
And then, through the shimmering haze, in a strip mall so similar to all the other strip malls, I saw it. CHECKS CASHED. Thank God – I was very near to going fetal right on the griddle-temperature sidewalk. The kind gentleman only charged me $75 to cash a $500 check (after doing a background investigation that took roughly the same amount of time as your average senate confirmation hearing). Covered in sweat, exhausted and possibly suffering from E. Coli poisoning, I have never been happier to pay a 15% fee for a check that he was 100% positive would not bounce since he spoke to my bank for like an hour.
So happy to have some cash, I decided that I’d swing back by that Vacation casino, win $200 and then take a cab back to MGM where I’d eat a gourmet meal featuring the finest fried offerings. The plan was foolproof. Inside, the casino was as bizarre as its exterior suggested: War and I think Uno were prominent table games. Minimum bets were $0.25. I sidled up to a $1 high roller blackjack table and pulled out $200, determined to double up and then leave.
And, shockingly, I could not lose at that fucked up Vacation casino. After about an hour, I was up $1300. At the first sign of a setback, I got my ass into a cab and went back to MGM, up $300 for the trip. Honestly, I’m not sure it even really existed as given my state of dehyrdation, exhaustion and desperation, hallucinations were definitely not out of the question. Whatever, I was suddenly flush, hallucinations or no. My buddies arrived later to see a possible crime scene (an extended family of chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks had met their unfortunate and grisly demise). I finally did make it to the fetal position, and I slept like a newborn baby. Everything worked out just as planned; I was fully funded heading into the group portion of the weekend. Sweet – things were about to get interesting.
Chilly17, optimistically planning to finish this on the plane but glad I’m not dragging fucking golf clubs