Las Vegas – Where The Gambling Is No Good

The Zola System On the Road

A New York visit from the Old Man guaranteed three things: many dinners at various hip new restaurants, several Broadway shows and a visit or three to Atlantic City.  Not that Dad liked AC – to the contrary – he loathed the town.  Not because of the decaying infrastructure, or the aging casinos with few amenities.  Even the classless inbred South Jersey mobster wanna-bes with gold teeth, black leather and their net worth in jewelry on their person at all times seemed to amuse not rile him.

No, the Old Man disliked AC for a simple reason: “the gambling was no good.”

I asked him what that meant the first time he made the declaration during our first trip to Atlantic City in 1982.  “It means the gambling’s no good,” he said. I asked him again in 1990 when he took me to the newly opened Taj Mahal.  The Old Man grabbed my forearm “it means the gambling is no good,” he said.

Whatever that phrase actually meant is something Aronchick took to his grave.  I always thought the general Trump flavor of town turned him off, that and the lack of Poker rooms until the mid 1990’s.  However, the past two days have given me the answer to the meaning of this Aron Zola-ism I thought just a statement to be used to confound, much like the Eisenhower statement “I will go to Korea.”  And the answer was found not among the Tom Waits ruins of Atlantic City and its boardwalk but in Las Vegas along the fabled ‘Strip’.

Various Open Salon bloggers invited me to a small conference of sorts – an eating, drinking, networking, play plugging and very little gambling couple of days in America’s playground.  The invite was last minute and I was fortunate to find a room at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino for $50 for two days.  A great deal for a joint right in the middle of the Strip – of everything.

I should have known something would be amiss when the Valet was overmatched by the three cars he had to get into the parking structure as I pulled in and waited for 10 minutes with an angry large pick up truck and a horn blowing addict behind me.  But, after a quick check in and a jaunt to Frankie’s Tiki Room on Charleston Street and some Kobe beef with the gang at Michael Mina’s all was rosy in Lost Wages.

The gang went to bed at 12:30am and I went to find poker table in the Imperial.  After a 20-minute wait, I made my way to the 2-4 Limit table where I promptly won three hands and lost two to a group of middle aged black hat wearing cowboys, tattooed toothless ‘college’ students (or so they claimed) drinking bottled water thus missing the memo on fluoridation of tap water in the US and the benefits thereof and their women in tight fitted dresses shuffling their feet in 5 inch heels denying me the audio pleasure of the low click of high heels on the marble floor.

What passed for table conversation revolved around how each hand would be bet on ESPN.  I moved on to a Pai Gow Poker table after those five hands.  Intellectualizing a game of pure nerve based on sports television convinced me I needed a game where thought was paired down to the bear minimum.

Once seated, I heard about the dealers family reunion, how she never made enough in tips and she kept calling me baby but not in the Johnny Fever fellow babies sense.  Two drunk Japanese tourists placed bets and got up to leave before their hands were dealt and three Canadian couples kept asking how I was doing, money wise, at the tables.  Obviously Kenny Rogers didn’t make to the Great White North and my cash made it into the Imperial Palace coffers.

And now I know what the Old Man meant by the gambling is no good.  Welcome to the corporate white noise hustle to get what’s left of the Republic’s ever increasing in volume but decreasing in value supply of Dollars.  Somewhere Meyer Lansky is laughing.

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