Oh, I'm fine
"I'm Otis," I said.
"Cowboy," the man said through a mouth that maybe didn't have any top teeth. He wore an Appalachian-style leather hillbilly hat and a give-away online poker shirt.
I don't believe many people around here. Unless I'd feel comfortable asking said person to hold a few grand for me, I don't believe a word they say. It's the safest way to survive here without getting conned, hustled, or robbed. So, when this guy told me he was the former bodyguard to one of Vegas' biggest legends, I didn't believe him. Oh, and if you think I'm going to end this story by offering some life-affirming denouement, don't get your hopes up. Affirmation in Las Vegas comes by way of getting out alive.
"People ask me how I can always make decisions so fast," Cowboy said, apropos of nothing. "I tell them it's because the last time I had to make decisions, people could've died."
A Vietnam vet. That's what he said he was. I could believe that part. He seemed about old enough. He was certainly the sterotypical vet persona.
"You haven't made decisions until you have four bullets shot in your ass."
I didn't have much a response to that. Hell, a couple nights later, my only decision was whether to eat two keno crayons for $400. I decided it was a good idea.
Cowboy shuffled off. He followed a group of 20-something nouveau rich poker players. He said he was going to teach them someting about deuce to seven lowball.
Ellix Powers is a real person. I know this because he's been on TV. He also happens to be, as I put it so eloquently to Pauly, "a freeloading dick." A one-time homeless person, Powers turned 15 minutes of poker celebrity (earned by being a complete dick in the first place) into a belief that he can pull the old "Don't you know who I am?" trick when trying to scam free food or other stuff. The other day I saw him screaming at one of the hostess models around here--literally screaming--when she asked him for a $1 charity donation in return for a bag of popcorn.
I really hadn't planned on bringing up these two guys, but they are the ones that stick in my head when the day is done. This is the type of place where integrity escapes into a sick vacuum and 30-something guys like me actually starting worrying about a generation of 20-somethings who apparently have no moral foundation at all.
Anyway, while I sat back absorbing all of this, I missed a couple of phone calls. One was from my friend, T.
"I never read your blog," he said. I could hear the wind whooshing by an I knew he must be on his way home from work. "I never read your blog."
It doesn't surprise me that T doesn't read the blog. Most of what he knows about me (which is just about everything, and then some things I probably don't even know about myself) comes from nights sitting in basement bars, driving around, or sitting on one of our decks pretending we're musicians.
The voicemail continued: "But I read your blog today. And I'm worried about you."
I realized that the few posts I've put up here since I life the confines of home have been rather dire. I realize they made me sound a little crazy. To be fair, there have been times I have been pretty sure I was a little on the nuts side. Since I took a few days off (when was that again?), I've been a little more sane.
Today, I took the afternoon off to play in my only WSOP event of the year. In short, it was short. I didn't play badly, but I didn't play like a superstar, either. I also didn't get lucky and said goodbye to my $1,500.
Now, I sit in my 14th floor room (don't try to find me--I'm staying under an assumed name) and the Vegas sun is breaking through the clouds, bouncing off the glass facade of the hotel, and hurting my eyes. The Wood Brothers (thanks, Pauly) plays on my little laptop speakers.
So, T, if you decide to read this before I get home, I'm fine. I'm a little different than the last time we sat down for beers, but I don't think I'm any worse. I've been on the edge a couple of times, but I'm doing well enough to make it home. And when I get there, I'm staying for a while.
That's the one good thing about going home. When I get there, I plan to believe everything everybody tells me. And even if they lie, at least I'll feel okay about believing in people again.