The characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.
Their experiences are mine to share.
My name is Edward Cullen and I'm legally blind. As long as I keep paying my annual dues I will be able to keep that title. If I ever become illegally blind they could take my cane away and then I'd really be screwed. But seriously folks, I don't need a cane (if I wear my glasses) although I have mistaken laundry for the cat twice already this morning.
As I share my stories with you, I will include all the crazy coincidences and haphazard happenstances that have made my life so unpredictable and through it all I hope to maintain a sense of wise-ass wonder.
I will eventually get to stories about my summers spent at the School for the Blind and how we played basketball with the deaf kids from another state school (spoiler alert, they won) but for now I will gamble with stories about Sin City.
Vegas Was A Blur
Las Vegas, Nevada, A.K.A. The Tit Farm. When the opportunity presented itself to visit there, I didn't even want to go. But everyone else in my family planned to spend their vacations there so I went along. I was pretty sure that I would find the city bright, noisy and annoying.
As you can imagine, gambling is one of the hardest things for a blind guy to do, (except for truck driving, lumber jacking, playing Halo, playing dodge ball, cutting hair, performing any kind of surgery, pursuing professional photography, bedazzling denim jackets, getting a good look at jewelry in the display case, studying proctology, hang-gliding, working as a trapeze artist, face-painting, watching TV from the love-seat on the other side of the living room, agate hunting, winning any carnival game, reading sign language, bird watching, finding the remote, appreciating the art of mime, spotting Volkswagen Beetles before anyone else on car trips, reading phone books, playing golf, and checking the arrivals and departures board at the airport) but I found a few games that even I could enjoy.
There were a lot of us on the voyage and that meant a lot of gridlock until we separated into smaller more manageable groups.
The first day was spent getting to know the games in the MGM Grand Casino. I spent the whole first hour trying to wrap my mind around the fact that there were 5005 hotel rooms above me, the most in one hotel in the world at that time. That meant 5005 toilets, bibles, and tiny useless round tables by the window. I remember being really blown away by that number.
The Rain Forrest Cafe was also in the MGM Grand and we ate our first meal in sight of a lioness and several exotic birds. (The birds may have been robots).
Roulette is easy; all you have to do is put your chip on a square and wait for the mean lady take it away.
Blackjack is easy too; all you have to do is sit next to complete buffoons who complain that you are somehow taking their cards. (If I want to hit a 16, I can hit a 16). I've gotten a few fours and fives that resulted in miffed tablemates who never took me up on my offers help them find their missing pills.
Slots are the easiest of them all. You don't even have to understand what's happening to be a winner, but damn if those things don't seem to know right when you walk away. I would hear machines I had been playing going crazy with lights and whistles only moments after I'd given up on them.
I recently discovered that slot machines were invented in part to keep people busy in taverns during prohibition and the different fruits on the spinning wheels represented flavors of gum one would win.
I found a game that really worked for me. It's called 'Let It Ride' and it's a stud poker game, which means no discards. Five cards, that's it and no playing against anybody else either, it's just you versus Lady Luck.
Play starts with each player making three equal bets. I usually play the minimum of three $5 bets and an Eisenhower silver dollar as a bonus. (Silver dollar bonus is optional and not available in all casinos).
You will know a 'Let It Ride' table by the three circles you put your bets in and if they have the silver dollar circle it will light up red. (I like my games to have some production value).
The dealer gives every player three cards, and then lays down two community cards face down.
After seeing their first three cards, each player has the choice to take one of their three bets back or to "let it ride" and leave it out. Then the dealer turns over one of the two community cards. Each player then has the option to pull out another bet or "let it ride."
Finally the second community card is flipped and the players are paid pretty good odds unless they have no hand, in which case their bets are collected.
So, let's play a game together. We put out three $5 chips and a silver dollar. Yikes! We got a Four of Clubs, a Nine of Diamonds and a Jack of Spades, nada. I think we'll take $5 back and save it for another hand.
Then the dealer turns over a Jack of Diamonds. Oh hey, well, now we know that we're breaking even no matter what so let's just let it ride. If the other card is another Jack we'll a get 3 to 1 payout. If it's a Four or a Nine we'll get 2 to 1.
Rats...it's an Ace of Hearts.
The dealer will push our remaining chips back to us, but will keep the silver dollar. They always keep the silver dollar unless you actually win.
So that's 'Let It Ride' but let's play again. I'm feeling lucky.
We put out three $10 chips and our silver dollar. $31 total bet to begin.
We get our three cards dealt to us; a Queen of Clubs, an Eight of Clubs, and a Ten of Clubs.
It's a long shot, but three cards of the same suit might be worth the gamble, let's leave that first chip out shall we?
The dealer turns over a Jack of Hearts.
Well, now our chance of a Flush is gone, but we do have a possible Straight if that last card happens to be a Nine. If it is, we're in the money but even if it's another Queen, Jack or Ten, we would break even. (Another push).
What should we do? Do we leave out a $31 bet or cut it to $21?
Let's leave that second chip.
The dealer turns over a Nine of Clubs! (phew, we got out straight).
We were soooooo close to a Straight Flush! But let's look at the table and see what we got...
Pair (10s or better) Push
Two pair 2 to 1
Three of a kind 3 to 1
Straight 5 to 1
Flush 8 to 1
Full house 11 to 1
Four of a kind 50 to 1
Straight flush 200 to 1
Royal flush 1000 to 1
So, we got 5 to 1 on each of our $10 bets. The dealer will put $50 chips on top of each one!
Now let's look at the bonus table for choosing to include the sliver dollar.
Pair (10's or Better) $0
Two Pair $6
Three of a Kind $9
Full House $200
Four of a Kind $400
Straight Flush $2,500
Royal Flush $25,000
Okay, we won another $25. That's a $175 total on a $31 bet. Good job.
As you can see, getting lucky playing this game means getting wealthy. When I visited Vegas I was comfortable sitting down with $40 or $50 bucks and even if I did poorly, I would last for about an hour and drink three Greyhounds. (Vodka and grapefruit juice, perfect for people who don't want to know that they're drunk until they stand up).
I hit a Full House with $10 chips in two of my circles at 4 in the morning on my first night there but believe it or not, that was not my biggest score.
Bella got me into scrapbooking and I spent the whole time in Sin City collecting napkins, ticket stubs, and drink coasters. I had also collected a few Casino chips which was apparently frowned upon, but honestly I didn't know it at the time. I figured that since they were worth money it was my loss if I wanted to waste cash on a keepsake.
The Casino disagreed. They have colored chips that go with certain tables and games you see, and I was interfering.
I had been playing Roulette at a casino I will leave nameless when I finally got caught. I had thrown about $60 down the tubes and when I left, I put my very last chip into my back pocket. (You have to play three chips minimum anyway so I was done no matter what).
I had moved on to throwing all the extra nickels I had picked up due to sales tax into a video poker machine when I was approached by a security officer who asked me to accompany him back to the Roulette table.
I complied and the lady dealer held out her hand when I approached and demanded the chip.
I knew I was busted but I had one card left to play.
"It's still my money," I informed her. "Can I at least bet it?" Like I said, Roulette normally demanded multiple chip bets to participate but it's not unheard of to take a late comer who throws a $100 bill on Red or Black in a last ditch impulse bet while the wheel was still spinning, so I had a chance that she would let me lose it fair and square.
She huffed but gestured to the table. I put it on 17 Black for no reason other then that it was right in the middle of the board.
I hit it! Swear to God! Payout of 37 to 1.
My eyesight had fooled me into thinking that I had squirreled away another low denomination chip ($5), but it had in fact been a $50 chip! (Rather expensive for a scrap book memento and I surely would have been pissed to have discovered my mistake years later). It was also far too big a bet for me to knowingly put on a single spin of the wheel, but that's what I did.
The dealer was pissed.
She pushed over $1850 worth of cashable chips (that didn't have the casino logo on them) and told me to find another table to play at.
Both my sisters were with me when it happened because they had seen the security guard approach me,but my dad had also been at that table and pretended like he didn't know me. (Especially when I won).
That second night in Vegas, I took everybody to one of those restaurants at the Excaliber Casino where they joust while you eat big turkey legs brought to you by serving wenches.
It was gross.
I'm not much of a drinker, but on the third morning of vacation I was introduced to something called a Champagne Breakfast.
Bella and I stuck together mostly, preferring each other's company above all others and always had quiet breakfasts alone at one of the smaller buffets. On that particular morning we found one with enough crisp bacon to climb up and plant a flag in.
There was also a little Mexican fella standing at the end of the train of buffet tables with a big smile and a bigger round silver tray filled with skinny flutes of Champagne. I took one glass to go with my huge plate of cheesy potatoes, fluffy scrambled eggs, and half cord of stacked bacon.
When I went back for more bacon I took another glass, leaving a dollar for the smiley flute steward.
When I went back for some sliced cantaloupe and pineapple, I took another glass and left another dollar.
When I went back just to take two more glasses, the little Mexican fella's smile got even bigger. Now I was going just for the libations.
When I went back for another two, he was holding four, two in each hand between his fingers. He held them up for me and I carried them back to the table with pride.
I may have been getting four at a time but remember that they are little more than three modest sips each, or if you're me, one big gulp.
Bella and I got addicted to the mini cinnamon buns and when I went up to get more of those the little Mexican fella looked disappointed. Of course, I am a terrible interpreter of facial signs unless you are a big yellow smily face so I couldn't be sure but either way, I went right back up to relieve him of another quatro glasses.
Wouldn't you know it, he had prepared a whole tray just for me! Yup, 12 flutes on their very own silver platter and he handed it over with another smile. I handed him $5.
I don't remember very much after that, but Bella tells me that I was quite entertaining and that I made a splendid replica of the Luxor Hotel out of cheese squares, cookies, and slices of kiwi.
Boys dressed up like girls will always fool me.
I'm a big roller coaster fan, a massive freak if I'm being honest. So naturally I rode the famous New York, New York coaster on the first day we were in town but went back on the fourth day to give it another go. For those of you who haven't seen it, let me explain, no time, let me sum up, (Princess Bride reference, take a drink).
The New York, New York Casino in Vegas is one building that has been constructed to look like part of the Manhattan skyline. I'm not kidding, it looks like damn near a dozen different buildings and there is a roller coaster that zips right up and around all of them.
The coaster cars are little Taxi Cabs, that shit cracks me up.
It might not surprise you that I can leave my glasses on for most roller coaster rides. A good coaster is not a jarring ride and the faster it goes, the more likely that my glasses will only cling to my face like a booger on a pencil.
I was seriously worried when I first saw that particular ride but it turned out pretty smooth. Although, it really pushed the sideways G's. Frankly, I was more worried that my head was going to pop off.
It's a steel coaster with at least one loop and pretty thrilling all around but I would wager that the folks in the swimming pool below one section of it don't appreciate the occasional shoe or worse yet, shower of vomit that most certainly comes raining down on occasion.
At least they're in a pool right?
After we rode the coaster a few times, we went sight seeing and I'll tell you this, I could have stood in front of the fountain at the Bellagio Hotel for a whole day.
Plus, we found a THREE STORY Virgin Records store in Caeser's Palace.
I couldn't get over how the strip was like a trip around the world. There was a huge black glass pyramid, a gigantic Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, a twenty-four hour circus and the city of Venice, Italy.
My grandfather was an old fashioned guy and wanted to take us to a show that night so we all (girls too) piled in to a huge auditorium to see what was billed as "A blast from the past with one hell of a cast."
There were some great pyrotechnics, amazing sets, and plenty of boobies but we were way in the back of the room and I had to use my monocular to see anything.
A monocular is a very small telescope. It's much smaller than binoculars and, as the name suggests, is only held to one eye.
Well, some security folks (I was going to end up on a first name basis with several such personnel by the end of the vacation) came over to ask if I was holding a small video camera and filming the show. I showed them my monocular and explained that I was legally blind and just using it to see the goodies.
In a surprising move, they immediately escorted me to the front row (alone) and let me tell you, I was so close then that when I held up my monocular I could only see one boob at a time.
Here's the problem though...when I did pan up to the dancer's faces, they were all scowling at me. Like every single one of them, totally glaring at me. I couldn't imagine that I was imagining it either.
A different security guy eventually came over and inspected my monocular again. He said that the girls were convinced that I was filming them and complaining back stage about the pervert in the front row.
I just put it away. It was greedy to use it when I was that close anyway and I got exactly what I deserved.
Even the airport in Vegas has slot machines, pretty good ones too. We ended our trip with a morning flight and about $400 more than we got there with. I haven't been back since but I have enjoyed a few card games since then.
I like 'Texas Hold 'Em'. It's another stud poker game except that you get two cards for your hand and there are three community cards. Bets are placed as each card is turned over, but in this game you are playing the other players as much as the cards.
As I said, I don't read facial expressions well so one might assume that in a game of bluffs I would be at a disadvantage. Certainly, it would be nice to see all the ticks of my opponents, but no one who relies solely on trickery will ever win more than a few medium sized pots at best.
In the end, you have to have good cards to win.
Do I bluff? Sometimes, but I don't do it when there is a lot of money on the line. It's mostly a way to get opponents to think that I bluff more often than not.
I am frequently underestimated but, that too, can be an advantage. I can also be very intimidating to men who don't understand why I'm not reacting to visual cues but let's face it, poor eyesight isn't hidden for long.
I look so close at my cards that other players can only assume that my glasses aren't for show or that I get off on sniffing cards. (Bicycle decks all the way baby, that shit's like crack).
I once played 'Texas Hold 'Em' with a bunch of cops and although the game didn't take place in Nevada, it's my last story except to observe that all the beautiful paintings on the ceilings of the Venetian might as well have been magazines stapled to the stucco.
The poker game was at my friend's Super Bowl party. As usual, there were two East Coast teams playing so we didn't really care who won.
My buddy and all his buddies were police officers. They were from the city, county and state agencies, but none were in uniform and most of them were even wearing flip flops which is the definition of non threatening male.
Still, when the chips were down they all turned back into investigators. I had bad luck at first and didn't get into the first few betting rounds but that ultimately worked out for me. There were a lot of interpersonal dynamics at play and I learned quickly who the aggressive players were.
Aggression works well in 'Texas Hold 'Em' you see. If you can scare the chips out of your opponent that just makes the game easier.
My skill was not taking the bait.
I did get off a good joke when the "Big Blind" (a bet that requires the larger of two mandatory antes) came my way.
"Hmm, Big Blind, that's my nickname you know, and I didn't get it playing poker either!"
The cops all chuckled and as a student of momentum, it did not surprise me that I won that hand.
As eight players were whittled down to four, the tension was high and the stakes were higher.
We each paid in a hundred bucks and the winner would get $600 while the runner up who played "Head's Up" poker in the end would get $200.
We each started with 25 thousand dollars in chips, so the pots grew quite high. I was seen as someone who could call a bluff but the truth was that by then I was only playing the good hands and won with cards, not guesses.
Then it all went dry.
I got crap after crap and in a game like 'Texas Hold 'Em' you have to pick a hand and make a move or you will wither and die.
I chose a pair of three's, Hearts and Diamonds.
I went all in, hoping to double my chips with the ante pot alone but a couple of the other guys stayed in, and that meant that if I didn't now win that I was out for good.
The Flop card was another three and I thought I would plotz!
I couldn't bet but the others started a side pot in case I didn't take it all.
Not bloody likely! (I'm hearing a Seinfeld conversation with George and Kramer in my head).
Two other guys had higher pairs in their down cards than I did to begin with and one of them got the Queen he needed to wipe me off the board.
I beat five out of seven cops and left the last two to duke it out.
Oh, and I was the only one not drinking. That helped a lot.
I think life is like a Vegas casino. There are lots of different ways to gamble and lots of different ways to lose but for some reason, everyone seems hopeful and their pockets all jingle with their next big bet.
I bet on people, that they will be good and just and generous and capable. Sometimes I lose my hat but in the case of my family, I hit the jackpot.
I don't really like to gamble with money because it seems like such an empty way to spend it, (when there are so many good DVDs out there waiting to be bought) but I can't deny that there was a rush when I won and the process was quite entertaining either way.
Maybe THAT'S the secret to life, being entertained along the way and paying your ante when it's your turn. Or maybe it's a lesson on knowing when to count your winnings and when to cut your losses. Maybe still, it's about making wise decisions and thoughtful choices.
Knowing the proper metaphor to assign to the enigma that is Las Vegas can be a gamble in and of itself, but I think that we can find life's questions and answers on every street corner and in every single wild carpeted casino.
Now, I know that the secret to life may not be in the city of Las Vegas.
But if it is, I'll bet it's something about tits.
Many thanks to RandomCran and Ishouldn'tbehere for their beta work. It's always as appreciated as much as it is required.
I have been writing a story with my wife and we are four chapters in. It's called EXPOSURE and you can find it in my Favorite Stories folder, or you can find RandomCran's profile page through my Favorite Authors folder.
Also, we are up for Fic of the Week for EXPOSURE on The Lemonade Stand blog. Please vote today or tomorrow for us because it will mean quite a bit of exposure for us. (No pun intended).