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Best of Barney Vinson

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The Blues

15 July 2005

I had been in Las Vegas for two years, bouncing from job to job like a Mexican jumping bean. Pioneer Club: two weeks. Weekend radio gig: three months. Mint Hotel: year and a half. Landmark: one week. Don't ask me why, but I'd left the comforts and confines of the Mint to go to work at the brand new Landmark. Well, the Mint was downtown and the Landmark was practically on the Strip, which is where I'd wanted to work ever since I hit town. Big mistake. It turned out to be the worst place I'd ever worked, including a cotton gin back in Texas.

I walked up to some pit boss I'd never seen before, handed him my apron and badge, and walked out the front door like a free man. It felt good for about 45 minutes. That's when a sick realization came over me. I was unemployed! My friends back in Texas were making millions, working for their parents, buying and selling real estate, going to exotic places on their vacations. And here I was, voted Best All Around Boy of the sophomore class, riding around in a Ford Mustang that was on its last legs, no job, no future, and almost busted. Thank God my dad couldn't see me now.

Then again, maybe he could. Maybe he was up in Heaven right now looking down on me, still trying to protect me, still trying to take care of me. Because that afternoon when I got back to my apartment (rent due in another week), there was an official-looking envelope in my mailbox from the U.S. Treasury Department. I was a little nervous at first, because I still hadn't gotten around to filing my tax return which was due like three months ago. But what were they going to do? Kill me and eat me? They wouldn't get any money out of me, that's for sure.

Instead of a threat it was a check, a check made out to me for $5,000! Scratching my head, I studied it carefully. Nope, nothing on it. Just "Pay to the order of" and "Five thousand and no/100ths." Then it dawned on me. Years ago my dad said he'd put some money away for my brother and me out of his government pension. Oh Jesus, it was my dad's life insurance money.

I wasn't a religious person. I don't think there's some ethereal being with a halo over his head sitting up in the clouds and making things happen. If anything, maybe there's some kind of force in the universe that spins the planets and gives us life, but to actually pin it all on one person just didn't make sense. Maybe the Chinese were right. Maybe you do come right back as someone better. Anything rather than just dying and ceasing to exist.

Here's the thing, though, that got me to rethinking the whole proposition. My dad died, and he wasn't around anymore. He was just . . .gone. Now here I was, out of work, almost penniless except for my savings account, and on the same day I quit my job at the Landmark I got a check for $5,000. From my dad! Was that heavy, or what?

One casino I hadn't hit for a job was the Dunes Hotel, down on the south end of the Vegas Strip. I'd never even been inside before. Too many horror stories. According to buddies of mine, it was owned by the mob. According to the paper, it was owned by the mob. According to everyone else, same thing. Mob. I wasn't quite ready to spend the rest of my life at Sing Sing, so I just steered clear of the place. I mean, I didn't have anything against the mob. Any way you can make a living, I always say. But if I were working for the mob, and I did something wrong, I wouldn't just get fired. I'd really get terminated.

But I was up against it. Everyone I knew was working. All my friends were working. My roommate was working. According to the TV, the unemployment rate in Las Vegas was at an all-time low of four percent. That could only mean one thing. I made up four percent of the city's population.

(To be continued)

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson