My buddy Russ was
working at the Sahara. Even though I wasn't employed at the moment we
still stayed in touch. He was a funny guy. Grew up in some little burg
in Pennsylvania, his folks had a lot of money, and one day he came tooling
into Vegas in a new Cadillac. He loved that car more than life itself,
waxed it so many times it didn't even get wet when it rained.
When we worked at
the Mint we'd take turns driving to work, my Mustang one day, his shiny
Cadillac the next. You couldn't smoke in his car, couldn't even fart
in his car, but it was nice being in it, just the sound of rubber humming
on concrete, whereas the sound in my Mustang was metal rubbing on metal.
If I didn't dump a quart of oil in it every morning, it wouldn't even
I'd pick Russ up,
or he'd pick me up, and off to work we'd go. I was always in a good
mood, itching to get back to the Mint and make some more tokes. Russ,
on the other hand, hated it, hated everything about it. The idea of
manual labor was almost beyond him. He just wanted to watch TV and drink
pop. We called it soda water in Texas but Russ called it pop, and that's
where I picked up that expression. Ask for a pop in Texas, and the waitress
would look at you like you were from another planet.
So we'd be driving
down the street, heading for work, me busting at the seams and ready
for action, Russ hunched over in his seat, his face so solemn and forlorn
it would make a blind man cry. "Man oh man," he would moan.
"What a beautiful frigging day. And we've got to go to frigging
work. Man oh frigging man."
And by the time
we got to the Mint, I was just as depressed as he was. "Man oh
man," I would say to the other guys. "We've got to go to frigging
Russ knew a guy
back in his hometown who'd come to Vegas before he did, and that's what
got Russ out here in the first place. His name was Bill and he was working
at the Dunes, where he was already like an assistant pit boss. He couldn't
actually hire anyone, but he could introduce you to the person who did.
Any way you could get your foot in the door you jumped on it, and Russ
said that he'd introduce me to Bill, who just might introduce me to
the shift boss.
him on the frigging phone," Russ said.
What more could
I frigging ask for?
Well, sure enough,
three days later Russ pulled up to my apartment in his Cadillac, parking
three feet from the curb so he wouldn't bang the door getting out. "Go
in the Dunes tonight and ask for Bill," he said. "He's expecting
you." Then he handed me $250.
for?" I asked.
some frigging money. He's got a frigging gambling problem. He needs
$500 to make his frigging house payment."
I looked at the
money, only $250. Was I missing something here? "Well, hell, you
gotta put $250 with it! You give him the five hundred, he'll get you
the frigging job. Okay?"
"Yeah, I guess
so. If you say so."
"Oh, and one
more thing. When you get on your feet, I want my $250 back."
"Sure, no problem."
"Say, you got
any frigging pop?"
I was getting the
general idea about how things worked on the Strip. No wonder I hadn't
been able to get a job there for two whole years. It wasn't about experience,
or knowledge, or any of that other stuff. It was about money. You wanted
a job, you paid for it. Nothing in life was free.
(To be continued)