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Best of Barney Vinson

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The Outrigger

20 December 2004

Here I was in Vegas, dealing at the Mint Hotel, doing a disc jockey show on weekends, and having the time of my life. I was living good, eating good, making friends, making money, walking around the casino like I owned the place. "There he is," I'd hear a change girl say to one of her friends. "He's the one on the radio." Things were finally going my way, and just in time.

You see, my roommate Diane and I weren't getting along that well. I hardly ever saw her anymore for one thing, and when I did we didn't have that much to talk about. She was still shilling her life away at the Pioneer, and I didn't want to hear anything about that dump.

I didn't want to tell her too much about the Mint, either, because what could I say? That I was getting free food and making tokes? So I didn't say anything, and she didn't say anything. We just seemed to be going through the motions. Sleeping in the same bed, waking up in the same room, going our separate ways all day, then coming home and doing it all over again. Sort of like being married, you might say.

So the next Monday, with two gorgeous days off staring me in the face, I went out looking for my own apartment. This was back when the Sands Hotel was the number one casino in Vegas, with Sinatra and his pals packing the place every night. Behind the Sands was a little shopping center and a jumbled neighborhood of apartment buildings, each name more exotic than the last. Outrigger, Egyptian, Play Pen. A lot of dealers and cocktail waitresses lived in these apartments, and for someone like me it was like being in Beverly Hills.

I settled on the Outrigger. All the apartment houses looked pretty much the same, except the Outrigger had a canoe or something hanging over the entrance, and there were a few straggly palm trees sticking out of the sand. It gave off the appearance of being in the tropics. For a guy from Podunk, Texas, it was paradise.

The manager showed me a studio apartment up on the second floor. The apartment wasn't that great, about the size of an Oreo, but it had a great view: the top of the Sands through one window and the swimming pool through the other. Yeah, that's right, I said swimming pool. The place had a private swimming pool, if you can believe it.

The only time I'd ever been in a swimming pool was when I was a kid, and that's only because my hometown had a summer program where you played baseball and went swimming every day. There were always about 14,000 kids in the water, with one stinking lifeguard to make sure no one drowned. It's a wonder no one ever did.

Fortunately, I knew how to swim. When I was growing up, there was a canal that ran along one side of our house. On a hot day there was nothing like a dip in that canal. We'd swim and horse around, ducking each other's heads under the water, doing cannonballs off the canal bank. I must've spent half my life in that damn canal. Then one day the city decided to widen the street, and they drained the canal. With all the water gone, it looked like Afghanistan. There were broken bottles, rusty tin cans with jagged edges sticking straight up, dead fish the size of mako sharks. How I survived to adulthood, with all my limbs intact, I'll never know.

I paid a month's rent and a cleaning deposit I knew I'd never get back, then went to the power company and the phone company. Miracle of miracles, I still had some money left, so I stopped at a grocery store and practically bought the place out. Not for me, but for Diane. I bought her Windex, paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, fresh fruit, canned fruit, sandwich meat, steaks, bread, sweet rolls, cereal, peanut butter, a case of Dr Pepper, a carton of Kools. It set me back something like $160, back when that was real money.

I got to Diane's place, piling paper sacks full of stuff in the refrigerator, on the kitchen counter, inside the sink, on top of the bed. Then I lugged all my things out to the Mustang and started up the car. I sat there for a moment, the engine running, then I turned the ignition off and went inside the apartment one last time, hauling back the big black and white TV. She could have it. She deserved it. Then I left, with nothing but some old dusty memories banging around in the back of my head.

It was sad in a way, because I genuinely liked Diane. She was probably the nicest human being I'd ever met, and maybe I should've kept living with her, whether I loved her or not. But that was the thing. I didn't love her, not like it's supposed to happen, and if I stayed with her I would ruin her life, and mine, too. If I could go back in time, I would've done it right. I would wait until she got home, then try to explain to her what I've tried to explain to you. That's the problem, though. You can't go back. You can't say, "Hey, I made a mistake. I want to start over again."

Boy, can life kick you in the ass, or what?

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