Genetically speaking, I didn't get my mom's beautiful looks or size 4 frame that can eat all day and not gain a pound, nor did I get my dad's brilliant mind or ability to solve problems in seconds. My brother got all of that - he's my older brother, and I'm going with the theory that the best and the strongest of the chromosomes that were at the head of the class went to him. I got, what I like to call, the leftovers. I got my dad's family's battle of the bulge - you know, where it takes 5 weeks to lose 5 pounds, and 5 minutes to gain it back. I also got his fiery temper and his tendency to grind his teeth at night. From my mom's side, I was left out of the artist's world that my other cousins were blessed with (one is a brilliant engraver, one a calligraphist, one a filmmaker, one a beautiful aspiring tv personality), no I got the ability to draw stick figures, sew buttons on clothes on an emergency basis, and the penmanship of a chimpanzee. My mom's side has the fair skin, the blue eyes, and the skinny 'jeans.' Sometimes I think I might have been adopted or switched at birth - except for the one little gene that I got from both sides. The pure, true, joyous and outrageous love for gambling.
When I was a kid, I remember packing my little Holly Hobby suitcase to go for a three night stay at my Yia Yia and Papou's house (Greek for grandmother and grandfather). My parents were off on a mini trip to a place called Las Vegas. My mom would pack beautiful gowns and jewelry, my dad would pack his most stylish suits and heavy starched button downs. As a young girl, I was intrigued. What is this magical place...I must go there...it sounds heavenly.
|This is the Vegas my parents were used to.|
My parents would come back with tales of winning and losing, card games and slot machines, bright lights, beautiful people and spectacular food. I would look at their photos in awe of how beautiful my parents were, dressed up and glowing - such a break from the norm of our daily routine. They always brought something back for us - usually a tshirt with rhinestones and flowers or a hat or stuffed animal - something fun, but never enough to satisfy my curiosity for this mecca they spoke of.
As I got older, my mom would take an occasional trip with my dad or her best friend to Vegas, and I noticed things were changing. Instead of the dolled up glamour shots they used to take, now they were in jeans and sweatshirts, casual clothes and hats. It was odd how things were changing, but their excitement and glow was still the same.
My godmother/aunt, who I worshipped and adored because she was the only woman in our family who didn't follow the Greek mold and marry and have children, was a jeweler. She was one of the most brilliant jewelers in the US. She worked at a posh jewelry store in a big Vegas casino for some time, so she had some bedtime stories for me when she would come to town. Once she told me about a man, who sat at a slot machine for 5 hours playing. His wife came to find him and he told her to sit at the machine while he went to take a leak. His specific instructions were for her to sit, not touch, not play, not do anything - just keep his seat warm. He walked to the bathroom. She couldn't help herself. She played his machine - only she didn't put the max bet in - instead, she played the minimum bet. She hit the Progressive - the million dollar Progressive...but they got nothing - nothing - because she didn't bet the max. He beat the shit out of her when he came back. Security had to pull him off of her - they took him away in handcuffs and her away in an ambulance. This is just one of the bedtime stories she told me...obviously, with the lesson, that gambling is dangerous. I remember being absolutely horrified, as she hoped I would be, at the seriousness of a disease much like alcoholism. I think she was an addict too, and she didn't want me to think it was glamorous. I took two things from that story - that it brought out the evil in people and that you could become a millionaire if the timing was right. I was awe-struck.
|Not true, if we're being honest about it.|
At 21 years old, I took my first trip to Vegas. There is no way anyone can describe the feeling you first get when you fly into that airport and see all of those incredible hotels one after the other, the sky so blue, the hope in the eyes of everyone, shining so brightly. The airplane was full of 'kefi' (not sure how to translate, but it's like that excitement that fills the air when people are charged up in a good way..it's like a mood, like a really, really, fun mood), people were happy, excited, rushed. People couldn't wait to get off the plane - me included, I was ready to burst.
We checked into our hotel room and hit the slots. I had no rhyme or reason. I put money into everything and anything - it was like an initiation into a club that everyone kept a secret. I lost my ass the first day I was there - I had to reel it in and regroup. I studied people - I watched people win - I watched people scout out machines - I listened. There is a trick to this gambling thing - and it wasn't just walking around aimlessly dropping twenties like I was a rich girl. I had work to do.
The flight home was quiet. Somber. Sober. No one spoke, no one drank, most people slept. I would assume many were losers, few came out even, and even fewer came back ahead. Hopes were shattered, dreams were broken, bank accounts were tapped and egos were hurt. This is how most leave Vegas...or any other casino for that matter..unless, you got lucky. Really lucky.
|The ride home from Vegas is never a fun one.|
Fast forward several years. Hubs and I took a jaunt on a long holiday weekend to Foxwoods, the biggest casino in the United States, here in beautiful New England. The casino was packed. When the casino is busy like that, it's hard to get a slot machine under $1. Hubs hit the Poker tables, and I was searching for a machine to play. I turned into a shark, circling the aisles, looking for an available machine, hoping someone would give up and walk away - no such luck. People were comfortable, some jerkoffs were even playing two and three machines at a time - with one leg over the seat next to them and their other arm climbing to the other side to put their money in. These people are assholes for the record - taking up three machines at a time when the casino is that busy - I honestly and not so secretly hope that they lose three times as much, three times faster. Those are the real gluttons of gambling.
|Foxwoods in Ledyard, CT - believe it or not it's just minutes from a town called Hopeville. So ironic.|
Anyhow - finally, I see a lady get up from a machine - a Wheel of Fortune machine no less - I head right over and get my ass half way in the seat when this little old Asian lady appears out of no-where and pushes me..literally pushes me out of the seat. 'YOU YOUNG AND PRETTY YOU GO FIND OTHER MACHINE..' I'm like, ohh, did she just call me young and pretty, how sweeeeet. Shake it off - wait a minute, she just took my machine by yelling flattery at me! What the F*ck! I shook my damn head and walked away...I wanted a Wheel of Fortune machine, and I wanted one now. Another half hour passed, and I came back to the little old lady. She was winning. I was fuming. But wait! The crusty old smoker next to her was reaching for his pack of Marlboro Reds and getting up! Woot! I'm going to sit right here next to my little Asian spark plug and we are going to gamble together!
|I have this little peach to thank for me walking away a winner!|
Back up for a second, the thing I didn't tell you about my gambling is what I got from my mom as well - her cheering as she gambles. She likes to cheer people on that are sitting next to her when she gambles. My mom is so sweet that whenever someone gets a Wheel Spin on a slot, she stops what she's doing to cheer them on and yell, "let's go big moneyyyyyy!" It's obnoxious and cute all bundled up into one..and she's so sincere, I love it...so I do it too. I can't help it...it's in the genes.
I start to play my machine, while occasionally stopping to yell "BIG MONEYYYYY" at the firecracker next to me. She's annoyed. She doesn't want me as a cheerleader...but this is payback for her stealing my seat and winning at the machine that I wanted. Tough cookies Grammy, you and I are gonna be best friends tonight! I play and I play and I play.....an easy hour goes by...and then BOOM. I hit the jackpot...$2500 right before my eyes. Hubs is no where to be found - so I hugged the closest person to me...my little angry Asian lady! She punched me in the boob as hard as she could, cashed out, and yelled obscenities at me in Mandarin as she hobbled away. Good times.
A lot of funny shit goes down in casinos - if you haven't been to one, you should, but gambling can quickly get out of control if you don't know what you're doing - so go with someone (like me!) who can show you the ropes. Have fun and win big...and don't drink too much of the free booze, it's free for a reason.
The moral of the story, take whatever genes you were given and have fun with them. Life is too damn short to wish you were someone else. Take a gamble on yourself and be the best you that you can be.
Silliness, I know,