The Vegas Derby: By George Peso

It is my honor to have George Peso as a guest writer this week on my blog. George Peso repairs televisions in LA and writes in his spare time. He tries to visit Vegas as often as possible.

I awoke in a special circle of hell known as the MGM signature curled up on a loveseat with a sheet draped over me. What they say about Vegas is true, you receive what you give.  In my case it was a lot of booze amongst of a menagerie of uppers. When you give yourself up, you receive down. I took my time waking up and met my finance guy at the MGM Grand. He was in town for the fight. As I approached him I could see him wearing his usual neon colored button down shirt. His beer belly sticking out of his thin frame and money signs blinking in his eyes in place of his pupils.

The Kentucky Derby was beginning in thirty minutes. In a hurry, we worked our way through MGM’s labyrinth towards the bookies.  I walked up to a bar advertising frozen margaritas and fake frozen colored drinks looking for a beer.  If at first glance you cannot find your poison in Vegas, further investigation will get you what you want.  As long as you have a currency of time and money. There was a line of four people in front of me, flustered because the pina colada machine had broke. It took me ten minutes to order my one tall Tecate Light, it was eight dollars and eighty three cents.

While we were waiting my finance guy propelled into an enthusiastic rant about the Earth being flat.  He showed me pictures of fake oceans and false horizons. Asking me if I had heard him, he scrolled through comments from people that believe in flat Earth on facebook. The majority of comments claiming that they are not crazy.  We walked further into the abyss of the Grand looking for a place to get a slice of pizza.

New York Slice beckoned us, eight people in line, we walked to the end of the line. We began to discuss how in Vegas town, you wait in line after line after line.  You can find any kind of line you want in Vegas. Lines of color, lines of length, lines to nowhere, lines of powder, lines of the hopeless trying to buy hope, lines meant to steal your innocence. When we were asked by a friendly woman if we wanted our slices of pizza for here or to go, we said, “to go.”

She grabbed two entire pizza boxes for our two slices of pizza and I immediately said, “no, no, no.” We left with only a paper plate and tray to hold our slice of pizza and went to sit in a booth. After we finished we had to hurry to the bookie line. The race was about to begin.  A dense fog of excited anticipation coated the hallway as we hurriedly walked to get to our bookie.

The bookie line is where all the magic happens.

At least thirty people deep, we waited for five minutes as the seconds ticked towards the start of the race.  Three:forty PM.  I had never bet on a race before. I only bet on machines but today I wanted to bet on nature. I studied a list of the names of horses. I was drawn to Untrapped. Untrapped is a name I wanted to win.

My odds were fifty six:one. I had a woman who looked like she could have been on the front of a maple syrup bottle gently usher me into a line to bet on horses. I approached the bookie and asked for ten dollars on Untrapped. He looked at me with deft facial muscles and grumbled, “what number?” and I nimbly responded “number four.” Bookies only deal in numbers, no names.

There were fifty one television screens in the room we watched the race in. The carpeting shouted out patterns of dark red and purple liquid looking drops circling what looked like a splotch of blood in the middle. There were rows of seats arranged to face the television screens that resembled church pews.  Men indifferently smoked cigarettes.   It is another day in church for them, yet none of these men look like they are on the brink of enlightenment.  I inquired about my finance guy’s choice. “Irish War Cry,”   he stated with an air of joyful confidence, “I choose horses that look happy.”

As the race started waves of excitement washed over a sea of hundreds of Vegas bodies. Most of these bodies were unfit, too much or too little hair. Anticipation unfurled as the race began. Blood curdling screams erupting from our throats as the horse’s muscles rippled down the track.  Irish War Cry was in third place at one point.  Always Dreaming won the race with a time of two minutes and thirty seconds.  Always Dreaming had been my second choice. Yet,  I feel proud that I gave ten dollars to the dream of Untrapped winning.

And just like that, it is was all over. Back to life after two minutes and thirty seconds of unbridled excitement.

I decided to go to my room for some reprieve. Vegas is a circus of misfits juggling dreams they don’t own. It is the eye candy of the disturbed. A savage exploration of the soul. Every single person in this town has a story to be ashamed of. Every person in this town you encounter will find a way to tell you they are normal, even more reason to be suspect. There is no normalcy to a city that sells capitalism twenty four hours a day seven days a week.

Capitalism wrapped in shiny packages too high to reach. My reprieve is necessary because getting used to this scene is not a good goal to have.

My finance guy and I decided to head to Fremont that evening. Most people going to Vegas stay on the strip. Fremont is the real Las Vegas. Old men in diapers, World War II veterans in wheelchairs holding signs for money, and topless nuns.  There is no rest for the wicked in these parts. Walking into casinos I felt like a hamster on cocaine running frantically on a wheel. You can get nowhere quickly and efficiently in casinos. As one hallway ends another identical looking one appears, going in endless circles.

My finance guy was on another rant. This one was about feminism being cancer and how upset he would be if Marie Le Pen did not win the election. “I will be so devastated,” he said with fiery passion. “We cannot let Islam and sharia law take over our world.” My response to him most of the time is no response.  A thought crosses my mind and I ask,

“Do you think you think this way because you have too much money and too much time?” He paused to think, a thoughtful look on his face as a realization had won the jackpot. Silence substituted as an answer my question.

We ended up in a strip club trying to take advantage of a what is considered a “deal” in Vegas. What a deal means is if you read the tiny print there is no deal. Larger font lies to contradict the smaller font truth on a business card. The night was spent in squalor, stench, and stolen dreams. We left in the morning light.  Confused, I went back to my room to sleep.

Confusion and a deep downward spiral of thoughts consumed me. With all the time and money I had invested,  I had yet to experience the American Dream in Vegas. Where was it?

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