Monday, December 15, 2008

The House Always Wins

When someone asks where I went for the holidays and how it was seeing relatives, this year my aswer could be a little unexpected. We gambled.

After my flight from France, reading Barthes S/Z again and reflecting on how he uses the French language vs. how I do (no comparison there!?!!), realizing again that language's worth tends to have outstripped that of all other things for me, carrying more weight and meaning perhaps than it should, I landed in Salt Lake City only to board my connecting flight with cowboys heading for the last days of a 12-day, 60million-dollar-generating giant rodeo event in Vegas. As a family bonding experience, this was a new one. Gambling was a kind of uniting thing, staying here at the Mandaly Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas--a stylish hotel with lovely, lavish decorations for the Christmas season. We also danced, drank, ate and were merry (or married as was the case for Adam and Dee, pictured at the left, in Mandalay's Wedding chapel with a gorgeous reception at the Four Seasons' Mesquite Room down a series of vast corridors and walkways uniting the two hotels, & followed by a raucous dance moment at Eye Candy (as Dee demonstrates with her bridesmaids in the picture below at the left). We also celebrated birthdays, as in Steve's forthcoming 4-0, with Italian and then more Italian food, and snow that fell at a level not seen in 30 years on Steve's exact birthday.

What is that old adage, "the family who gambles together...." Kidding. But it has been a wild few days. Tonight, back again in Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino here in Las Vegas (I say "back" as I'd checked out early this morning after less than 2 hours sleep, had a quick breakfast at Excalibur casino and hotel in the Sherwood forest cafe--gotta dig the themes--with my mother who then won a little moolah on the slot machines, gave her a lift to the airport, napped, dined with Steve and family and now I was back in the casino with them all) as my cousin Steve, aunt Jan and her husband and brother, Frank and Emil, pooled funds to try for the state-wide megabucks slot machine jackpot (worth over $14 million) together.

No, we are not heading home with new cars, bundles of cash or glitzy designer whatnot purchased with our group winnings, though Adam--with his wife Dee--did hit a bit of a newlywed lucky streak making 700 at blackjack yesterday and then 300 on the slot machines at the airport en route to Mexico for their honeymoon(I guess those airport gambling machines do count for something!) But at Mandaly, we went in as a group, 20 bucks each, to watch our winnings go up until our initial 100 passed the 350 mark. We coasted there for a bit, hovering in the post-340 range, then glided back down to dip below 200, shot back up to 300 and down for awhile, playing for many hours, having a riot of a time laughing with each other, ordering (as one does here) too many of the drinks (complimentary, served by scantily-clad waitresses in cherry red mini "dresses"). We were in a bright-lights-of-the-slot-machine daze with the dinging of the bells rining in our ears, a bit of a wobble on the feet of the heavier drinkers in the familial bunch, when in the end we coasted back towards our original investment. Then we decided (as many do, though in our case this was by vote, keeping that democratic system alive) to keep trying for a return to the glory moment of a few hours back.

Blurry eyed with fatigue post 1am after last night's wedding party and the night before's pre-wedding parties, we found ourselves banking out with nada, but many hugs and calls of "safe travels" as might be heard at any other holiday moment when one's relatives take off for home, be that California, Henderson, NV, France or elsewhere. We have empty pockets (or at least pockets which are 20 bucks lighter) yet big grins on our faces. Las Vegas with its fantasyland fun for adults lived up once again to its expectations--and with an Elvis sighting to boot (with me at left!).