Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Story of the Ghost

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I stayed up very late in Las Vegas as night blended into day and wrote many things that never made the cut on the Tao of Poker, Tao of Pauly, or some of the other places I write. Sometimes they were rambling thoughts that were too long for twitter.

Here are some of those orphaned lines and thoughts in no particular order that faded in and out of my head during the WSOP as I stared out the window of the Gold Coast and glanced over the Las Vegas Strip and the sprawl in the Valley...

* * * * *

There's the beginning and an end. The alpha and the omega. The city sprung up and slowly crawled out to the base of the mountains that surrounded it below. The original blueprint did not resemble the current Google map of the city and suburbs of Las Vegas. Paved over desert with imported water that slowly drying up. Unless it starts raining regularly in Las Vegas, where will they get all the water?

The security guard rushes in to save those who cannot be saved... the poor drunks shriveled up in piss-stained bathroom stalls and the fools slumped over at the end of the bar, their clammy hands clutching onto their souvenir drink cups.

Young girls in black cocktail dresses and high heels glide across the casino floor with heavy rocks on the lanky fingers. Old ladies spitting sunflower seeds as the wheels spin and spin.

Grieving wives walking out of the little white chapels and holding back tears during their shotgun weddings. They know it's the beginning of an era and the end of the rest of their lives as they know it.

Players busted out WSOP events and tip toe through the maze of slot machines and ignore the cries of crushed puppies and other ambient casino sounds like the soused woman shrieking at a blackjack table and the shitfaced frat boy falling down after seven too many Jager Bombs.

Too many games to count as the numbers flashed back and forth. The action was non-stop. Exactas. Parlays. Overs. Humans. Horses. European soccer players. They all are a part of the see-saw action at the sports book, where WWII vets clamped down on cigars so cheap that I wouldn't even split open to roll a blunt.

There's no difference in the age of the octogenarian at the slots and the 20-something online poker prodigy. Their veins burst with excitement just the same. Dragging a monsterpotten or snagging a big score at the penny slots. A win is a win. And the rush? An avalanche of endorphins.

I'm surrounded by people with undesirable qualities, such as the weak ones succumbing to the paralyzing fear of being ordinary. Glasses clinking from the party people, annoying pep talks from life coaches, and angelic movements of adorable Facebook friends replaced by limping working girls. They all haunt me in my waking dreams.

Misunderstood souls wandering down the hallways of the convention center and grimacing. Some where tying to chase down a dream, others were fulfilling their destiny, and still others were running away from their realities.

The wicked dreams of the slot addicts keep their fingers punching away at the machines that gobble up their money. They feed green pieces of paper, their last $33, into the slits hoping to win back 23% of their losses. Sometimes, they play long enough to get a free drink, a free buffet, a free room, maybe even a free show that they have no desire of seeing in the first place.

The unclosed eyes of the zombies destroying little pieces of themselves in the pits. They were the invisible causalities that you chose not to see. The halos from angels has withered in the heat. They have to dart in and out of pedestrian traffic on the Strip trying to scrape the fallen ones off the scorching pavement. The angels assigned to Nevada are the most lonely ones in the universe. Some of them wander into the Rhino and sit in the VIP section for hours on end hoping to have the grittiness of the day wear off with an intense session of grinding from Romanian girls.

A lot of people starve in this world and live in disease-infested conditions. But to starve to feed a curable habit is unbearable. Sometimes I want to play a song by Sly and the Family Stone for them and let them know that they have a chance to pull themselves out of the melancholy. The pursuit of greed and wealth has made many a man and woman screwballs and walking cliches. Shit stains on their shoes. Red wine stains on the shirts.

The once beautiful skylight was purposely blocked out by the architects, who keep you trapped inside a box where it's impossible to escape. Time passes by unceremoniously with the only time stamp of importance? The 24 hour period in between maximum withdrawals at the ATM machines.

Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's oxen. Thou shall not bang a $350/hour working girl. Responsibilities fly out the window of a car speeding down the Strip, and the yellowing of the virgin white pristine souls and sing bittersweet scat like a strung out Billie Holiday preaching to the somber drunks in the audience.

"Overdoses are suicides," debated two off duty cops comparing their daily bad beat stories. Every day, another person kills themselves in Sin City, and another life is conceived after a night of feral sexual intercourse.

One of the last true gamblers freed themselves from every day burdens and they carve out their own path. They take chances and assess risk. What normal society frowns upon gets celebrated in a city of sinners, where even the most religious of folks sip of bottom shelf whiskey to warm up your insides.

Tired bartenders topping off beers for half-way house rejects longing for the unconditional love of a foster mother. There are thousands of bottles of booze, yet my cup remains empty. Some day, I will unscrew the top and pour out a couple of shots in succession to celebrate all of my friends who had their life forces decimated by this town.

Every few seconds, another tourist loses the key to their hotel room. The green light flickers red and they have to shuffle back downstairs to the antiseptic lobby with the late arrivals with stuffed luggage with squeaky wheels.

"This place used to be wonderful," said the bald cabbie in thick Brooklyn accent. "It is from the outside, but on the inside it's disgusting and dingy and full of addicts."

The image of the little girl in the elevator holding a teddy bear as she hugged her father's leg bothered me. I have no idea why they would subject their children to the plight. Just two doors down, the muffled screams of a whiskey tango chick getting tagged team by two drunken sailors kept everyone awake on the hall while the aroma of burnt smoke wafted by. Someone threw a lit cigarette into the trash and the dense and smoky smell masked the faint aromatic flavors of marijuana toked by a gaggle of online poker players multi-tabling in the darkness of their hotel rooms, with days old room service trays scattered about with had eaten pieces of wheat toast, lightly buttered and heavily burned.

The dice dances on the felt like a nimble ballerina leaping through the air, only to fall onto the side of desperation. Superstitious gamblers with disappointment in their eyes light candles pray to false gods in hopes that their bad run will cease. Start playing those lucky numbers you see inside fortune cookies.

Tender conversations with strangers while sitting on a bar stool, miserable and weakened by the impossible to beat video slots, dreaming about white sandy beaches in Mexico. Las Vegas is no place to go to get away from it all. It's the belly of the beast.

After years and years living without any semblance of passion, the ambivalent locals were always thinking about leaving all the time, but unable to pull the trigger. They were trapped in quicksand while their entire lives were being pulled into the void.

"The only way to get clean is to sweat it out," mused an old humble junkie who spoke to a group of a dozen chain-smokers inside the basement of a church. The mainstream media loves to paint a picture of glitzy Vegas, but they should include audio excerpts of testimonials at different AA, NA, and GA meetings. The masses seem to forget about the evil that lurks in the shadows, that disappear when the sun rises over the mountains. What happens in Vegas gets discussed in AA meetings.

This is the city of endless days when it's always day and the night never ends, the seasons all change inside of one continuous day. The ghosts wander the hallways in hopes of running into the most desperate of people, because they will actually talk to them. I saw one. I saw many. But they never answered my questions about human frailty.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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