(Las Vegas, Nevada)–I’d just accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to eat for another ten hours when the pilot said Las Vegas temperatures were registering at 100 degrees. I was already steaming because the frail young steward wanted to charge me $3 for a bag of chips. What I didn’t say–but wanted to–was “You know, I paid $25 for a cheeseburger in Monte Carlo. But, I’m not about to give you $3 for a bag of Lay’s.”
It didn’t make sense to me, either. I’d been up for too long after sleeping too little.
One hundred degrees feels different in a 25 mph wind. It dries out your eyes and nostrils in about 30 seconds. By the time you make it into the cab with the Ukrainian taxi driver, the smell of air conditioned body odor is almost welcome.
“Rio,” I said.
“How are you?” the driver said, his accent as thick as his moustache.
“Working,” he said, like he was Atlas and the world had just borne another billion.
“I’m here to work, too,” I said, hoping my empathy would ease whatever pressure he was feeling.
“There is a difference,” he said. And then, almost to himself, “Pussies come out for a meeting…”
The Rio is purple, garnet, and blue, set against the Nevada mountains. The haze of scorched air and smog makes it look like a desert mirage. From the back seat of a 90 mph cab, it looks like the only thing on the horizon. And for me, it really is.
This place is the same as it ever was. The waitresses still know what we want to drink. The food in the diner is still the same. The view of the Gold Coast next door is only slightly lower, a product of ending up on the fourth floor instead of somewhere higher.
I didn’t bother explaining to the cabbie that, regardless of whether I was a pussy, that I wasn’t here for a meeting. I was here for the World Series of Poker.
And that’s how things being here…a Ukrainian guy calling me a pussy and me trying to find a way to prove him wrong. I’ve been awake for 21 hours now, after sleeping for just a few.
I feel, oddly, at peace with my assignment and the prospects of the next few months.
That, friends, is how I jinx myself.