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A Face to my Bad Luck Magnet
After six months of studying and practicing I was ready. I had the basic strategy memorized – I knew when to stand, double down, and split. I knew how to respond to every possible combination and to never buy the insurance. I was ready to make a killing. Hit me!
My wife and I flew from Boston to Las Vegas and rented a car for the five minute drive to the Bellagio Hotel. I waited in line as the valets competed for the Bentleys, Jaguars, and Mercedes Benz’s carrying the beautiful people in front of me. I think they were hoping I’d drive my Hyundai Sonata to the parking garage myself.
We exited the car with our luggage and walked into the lobby of the hotel. A plethora of gigantic metal flowers of different shapes and colors covered the ceiling. I stood in awe in the cavernous foyer until the sensation of ‘Hit Me’ started ringing in my mind like the jingle from the neighborhood ice cream truck. The tables called for me.
My wife pulled me over to the check-in area and seconds later we were pointed to the guest elevators. We walked down a corridor, turned a corner and there it was: The Bellagio casino. I had never been in a casino before. Thousands of slot machines with bells, whistles, and flashing lights greeted us as far as the eye could see. Slots of all sizes, each with its own enticing prize amount ready for that lucky person to line up three 7’s to win. Beyond the colors and ding- ding-ding of the slots were the gaming tables: craps, roulette, poker, baccarat, a multitude of Asian games, and my calling – blackjack. I can’t tell you how many times I watched the movies 21, Ocean’s Eleven, and The Hangover in anticipation of standing in front of a blackjack table. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming smell of smoke. Cigars and cigarettes were as abundant as the alcohol. It was like walking into an ashtray. I wasn’t used to that. If someone wanted to smoke in Massachusetts, they had to drive to New Hampshire.
We settled into our room with a view to the highway, BFD, and then made our way back to the casino. My table called, but wifey wanted to see the fountain show first, so we swept through the casino and walked a mile to view the fountains dancing to “Fly Me to the Moon.” It was nice, but we didn’t expect the temperatures to be in the low sixties with a wind-chill in the fifties. In Vegas? Yes, the previous week the temps exceeded 100 degrees, but our vacation started with record breaking low temps. It didn’t bother my wife and me as much as it bothered everyone else. We had just left the sixties behind in Boston, but the Vegas population was feeling it. Nipples were pushing out against all the tight dresses. In fact, the whole town was one giant hard nipple.
I convinced my wife that the fountains would look better at night so we strolled back into the casino. She had no interest in card games, so we decided to split up; she would conquer the slots while I beat the blackjack table. We each started with $100. I left her at the Wheel of Fortune slot machine. Goodbye $100.
I started my approach to a table that had a six deck shoe and a $10 minimum.
Tommy Benton guided his rental car over to the sandy bank of the single lane road, shut off the engine, opened the car door, and was besieged by a blast of tropical heat.
“Typical Florida weather,” he muttered. “Hot and humid.”
His sneakers crunched against the pavement of broken seashells and sand, as he walked around to the other side of the car. From there, he looked out into a cove of gentle, turquoise water, and admired the tranquility of the area as he had six years earlier. The water still looked warm, but the palm trees were taller, the bushes fuller, and the heat hotter.
The only sounds he could hear were the small waves lapping the shore, and the ticking sound of the car engine making a futile attempt to cool down. Although this was apparently the calm before the storm, it still provided him with a sense of serenity. He wanted to inhale it, he wanted the gentleness to heal him. This was the true beauty of Florida.
The air lay heavy around him like a wet sponge waiting to be squeezed. He took off his tee shirt, already soaked in perspiration. The sun was losing control of the day. He surveyed the horizon to the south and saw the ominous clouds thickening as if getting ready for battle.
The hurricane was moving inland, spinning, and certainly temperamental, but destined for shore.
In Search of Ricardo Montalban
Cut from the dense tropical forest, the Boeing jet descended toward a small and seemingly short airstrip. The landing was so abrupt that I expected some arresting gear to grab the plane’s tail hook, like on an aircraft carrier, in order to keep us from over-shooting the runway.
The jet came to a stop on the tarmac where my fellow passengers and I disembarked from the plane. I immediately searched the area for Tattoo, hoping to hear him announce to Mr. Roarke that da plane had arrived, but I had no luck. Our luggage followed on a pushcart as we made our way through the scorching heat of midday to the only building located on the Cancun International airfield.
Once I cleared customs, I was on a bus to Club Med. On the way, it was apparent the bell had rung for siesta because I saw many of the locals asleep by the side of the road. Welcome to the third world. On the other hand, maybe they had all been shot dead by banditos. Who knows? We were driving past them too fast.
The bus arrived to a cheering group of guests and staff at Club Med Cancun resort. Quite the welcome. I checked in and handed over my valuables to be stored in the resort security office, bought a string of colored drink beads for the bar, and followed my Club Med staffer, known as a GO (Gracious Organizer) to my bungalow.
Waves crashing ashore.
Danny Greens reluctantly opened one eye to the light and heat of a new day. Lifting his eyelid hurt. He could feel his hair growing and his tongue felt like a steel-toed boot kicking around in his mouth. Slowly his senses began checking in.
He realized he was on the beach, or close to it. Lifting his head slightly, his blurry vision captured an object beyond the grainy, white landscape. Two houses overlapping. He blinked and focused again. This time the two houses became one, sprouting up from between the dunes and sea grass. His boot tongue escaped his mouth to comfort his parched lips, but found only a cake of sand. He spit it out.
Slowly, he dragged a hand up to his face and scraped away the barnacles of sand and seaweed. In his other hand, he clutched a cylinder shaped object. He rocked his aching body from side to side until he had enough momentum to roll over onto his back. The sun blinded him. He brought his free hand up to shade his face and felt the sweat beads forming on his brow.