This is Vegas: Working up the courage to take in the most gawk-worthy spectacle on earth.

I bought my wife a gift, that’s what happened. Huge, momentous story, right? This is the Willie world: I don’t go to your church. If you want twelve dead bodies a page, with the bad guys flossing their teeth with their victims’ veins, you bought the wrong book. I’m interested in real people and the things they really do. Real people shop. Me, too – and no one is more astounded by that fact than I am.By: Lyn Gateley

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

Las Vegas, Nevada – July 31, 2013

Can I just be a tourist for a while? Is that okay?

I am in awe of this town, to say the awful truth. I strive to be sage and sagacious, but for most of my time in Sin City, this trip and every trip, I am simply agog. I go where no one goes. I see what no one sees – the things no one in the Sucker-milking business wants you to see. But I go where everyone else goes, too – the Arias, the Wynns, the Belagios – but even then I think I see everything no one else even seems to be looking for.

That’s why I get paid the big bucks. For sure. And I will quarry for the corresponding smug attitude, should I ever actually make any big bucks. Until then I am like you, slogging through endless miles of man-made commercial desert questing after a bottle of spring water that costs less than an hour’s wages.

I take pictures, too, just like you. I have tons of back-of-the-house shots from all over town, along with many of those scenes no one wants for you to see from outside of ‘The Resort Corridor.’ I have tourist pictures, too, especially of remarkable works of art and decor. But my favorite tourist pictures are simply pictures of tourists. You’re setting up the shot of the kids with a living model of Super Mario who needs to get his costume to the dry-cleaner and I’m setting up a shot of you taking the photo.

The most iconic image of Las Vegas (more…)

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Who really put the paradise in Las Vegas? Don’t ask…

CityCenter is the perfection of Paradise, and the Aria is the perfection of perfection, everything that any casino hotel resort could be if it were conceived by a genius and built to his exacting demands — price no object.

CityCenter is the perfection of Paradise, and the Aria is the perfection of perfection, everything that any casino hotel resort could be if it were conceived by a genius and built to his exacting demands — price no object.Extracted from the Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie book Losing Slowly, available at Amazon.com. I have great ideas. You have money. We should trade.

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

Paradise, Nevada – July 10, 2013
The old man looked at the other end of the bench where I was sitting, then at me. “You mind?”

That’s the kind of question I ask, as a rule, but this is Las Vegas, where the sheep come to the shearers. I said, “To. The. Contrary.” I said it just that way, each word surrounded by a roomy pause.

He was old, and I mean really old, and I have just come from Sun City, the land of near-infinite geriatricism. But unlike too many older folks, he was vital like a cowboy. He looked like a cowboy, too, his body long and lean, his face swarthy and gnarled from a lifetime’s concerns. He had a good claim to a full head of hair, though, and his teeth looked like a billion bucks. He was wearing a blindingly white linen shirt, collar open, well-worn blue jeans and those incredibly slipper-like men’s loafers that look thinner, top to bottom, than any foot could ever possibly be. In short, he looked like a California Whale.

We were sitting in one of the vast atria of the Aria Resort and Casino in CityCenter Las Vegas, a wannabe virtual town in the biggest wannabe town ever dreamed up, the town you think of as Sin City but whose actual name, if the men who built it had ever let it have a name, is… wait for it… Paradise.

No kidding. You may have been Downtown a time or two, and the locals casinos are always a hoot – with the hoot being that the people leaving their money behind are locals, when in fact they are simply Georges – regular, reliable donors to any Carney cause. But the (more…)

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Liar’s Poker: You can’t win in Vegas – or anywhere – until you know what you’re playing for.

“You want to win. I could be more circumspect, but I’m trying to be respectful of your time. You want the win, and this is how Poker tournaments get decided at the end, by chop. If you insist we go on playing, The Ice Princess is going to keep coming at you and I’m going to steal your blinds every orbit and you’re going to go home with twenty percent in third place. I’m offering you twenty percent and first place, and my belief is that I could talk you down to fifteen if I felt like it.”Photo by: slgckgc

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

Las Vegas, Nevada – July 28, 2013

“Since I got here – even before I got here – I’ve been trying to figure out what’s different about me this trip. Older, more prosperous, less comfortable with being uncomfortable, yeah, yeah, yeah. But it’s more than that. I’ve never felt connected to Vegas, but I’ve never felt so disconnected from it until now.” I said that. My hand was in the muck, so I had plenty of time to talk.

“I totally get that,” said Larry. Not his real name, of course. I don’t waste a lot of worry on names. I had started the day thinking of him as Larry the Loveless Lush, but by now we were on friendlier terms.

“Do you ever stop talking?” Captain Queeg demanded – and not for the first time. He was in the hand, and he should have had his mind on the cards, but he had too much to prove.

The Ice Princess drew a finger across her eyebrow. “He wants you off balance.” She said this because she wanted him off balance. She had check-raised him on the turn and Captain Queeg was bitching at me because he wanted to bitch at her.

And, yes, Uncle Willie was playing Poker in Las Vegas. When my friend Doctor Marvin said goodbye to me at the airport, he made me promise I would play at least once, and that obligation has been preying on me even as I console myself with thoughts of blowing (more…)

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RIP #NFL. Meanwhile, on @Netflix: See fathers validating daughters in a #MyKindOfBenedy double-feature.

If Sheldon Cooper and Holden Caulfield ever fought over a girl, Carrie Pilby would be the prize.

Q: Why should an NFL team hire Colin Kaepernick?

A: Because he hasn’t alienated all the fans yet.

Q: Why would NFL players go out of their way to alienate their own fan base?

A: Brain-damaged.

I’d write more jokes, but I might incite cranial-crushing heckling. Meanwhile, as NFL players are likely to discover in abundance today, the job is filling – not emptying – seats.

I care nothing about football: Dumb people getting dumber at every level, for all I can tell. I’m glad Kaepernick and BLM are killing it, and I can’t wait for it to be gone from TV.

I don’t see how snarling racists can kill hockey or golf, but everything else is up for grabs. You set the terms on which I will pay you, and I’m happy to pay someone else. I’m already sold on alternatives to televised sports!

But here’s the story that kills me: Picture a veteran in a wheelchair. His wife stuck it out with him – not always the case – and they scrape up everything they can spare so, once a year, she can shove his wheelchair all the way up into the handicapped nosebleed seats. When some preening millionaire presumes to spit on everything those people have given the best of their lives for – why should they come back?

I’ve been thinking about that guy for months, since this silly business started. I have the character now. His name is Bill Quinn. He’s having fun in Las Vegas right now, but I may give him this story.

Meanwhile, I have a much better use for your Sunday than stewing over seething malcontents: Two #MyKindOfBenedy films about women growing into their adulthood. Accordingly, these are both good for teens and adults, but maybe not for younger kids.

Carrie Pilby is a scared child-genius Cs (affecting Ci in self-defense) who learns in time to trust herself and the people around her – exiting the action as an Sc. That’s a Meg Ryan movie made by Woody Allen, and the film (more…)

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The Desperation Waltz.

Grass Roots Tavern, St. Marks, NYC
“Life isn’t about what you can’t know and can’t do. It’s about what you can know and can do. I couldn’t know my children would be taken from me so young, both at once, but I knew they’d die someday. And the worst of it is, I would have neglected them forever. I was wrong, and I learned my lesson. Exactly one day too late. I don’t want to be absolved for anything. That’s the last thing I want. Pretending your past didn’t happen is just another kind of selflessness, isn’t it?” WanderingtheWorld (www.LostManProject.com) / People Photos / CC BY-NC

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

September 27, 1997

“Hey, Tommy,” Jimmy said without looking up from the newspaper he had spread out on the bar, “what’s Reubenesque mean again?”

“Jeesh! It means ‘fat’. How many times do I have to tell you that?”

“Statuesque?”

“Fat.”

“Weight proportionate?”

“Fat.”

“Full figured?”

“That means really fat. Whaddaya doin’ that for? We got a whole club full of babes here. How do you expect to get next to a girl in the personals?” He thumbed his own chest. “Tommy Klein, he knows better. Tommy Klein is an operator. You just stand back and watch me work.”

This is the truth: I don’t even like bars. I can go for years at a stretch without taking a drink, and the last place I’d be tempted to drink would be a bar. But I had come to a club that is not but ought to be called Desperation to see a singer and songwriter, a chanteuse named Celia Redmond who is making a name for herself.

Desperation is my pet name for the dumpy little country bar stuck right in the heart of the big city. The real name is “Country City” or something equally forgettable. It’s a costume bar, really, as phony in its way as a gay bar or the tap-room at the American Legion Hall. Country transplants and the children of country transplants and would-be country transplants put on clothes they don’t wear all day, speak in an affected diction and dance and drink until the house band strikes up “The Desperation Waltz” at midnight. (more…)

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#MyKindOfBenedy: #RealityHigh is a black-middle-class teen family mean-girls rom-com with everything!

Can nerdy-glam Dani find love?
You’ll want to know – and that’s art’s job.

That’s a joke, of course. “#RealityHigh” on Netflix is short only a slasher to fill out the entire teen-movie dance card.

We start with “Carrie,” which sets up the overarching “Mean Girls” drama, which includes betraying the apparently-unwittingly-gay-BFF but throws in a better romance.

Just more “Cinderella” tripe? It is, but these things are made from mix-’n’-match elements, and the art of it all is in the execution: Do they make me believe them? Do they make me care?

“#RealityHigh” pulls that off swimmingly well: You’ll want this couple to work.

Better yet, “nerdy high schooler Dani” has a great dad, and he comes through admirably.

This is charming family fun. All of you can watch it together, with none of you feeling embarrassed or crowded, and you’ll be closer as a family at the end.

Will you remember it forever? Maybe not. But if you don’t, that will make it fun to watch again sometime.

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How the Rape of the Sabine Women helped me sue for peace and racial harmony.

The Rape of the Sabine Women at Caesars Palace

“Do you get the point of the story? It’s about exogamy — out-marriage. When a black man marries a white woman, or the other way around, two families that may once have hated each other are now united by their grandchildren. Out-marriage puts your own tiny ambassadors in your enemy’s camp — with the result that you can’t be enemies any longer.”

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

July 29, 2013

“Hey, yo!” said The Wannabe Menace. “This is for Trayvon!”

I looked to my left on the Monorail platform to the cadre of black teenage boys I had been making an effort to ignore. Vegas is Vegas, and people get to have fun their own way. When I’m not hectoring strangers, I am quiet and self-contained. Other people are loud and boisterous. Different strokes for different folks. It’s all fun for everyone, so long as we leave each other alone.

But that was not to be. The Wannabe Menace had his right fist raised high, like he was ready to pound me. Half of his friends seemed excited, the other half appalled. I think he was waiting for me to cower, or perhaps to offer up a bribe to save my skin. Instead, I just looked at him, studying him with a blank indifference as though I were looking at an insect safely corralled in a petri dish.

I said. “Interesting. How did you justify your bad behavior last month?”

His friends busted up at that shot, all of them. The Wannabe Menace was still putting on the menacing act, which is not good. I don’t think he was a real thug, but real thugs don’t like to be mocked. It’s their intense discomfort with their self-awareness of their own inferiority – as measured by their own standard of values – that makes them thugs in the first place. A thug is a self-identified loser who prays – and preys – in the vain hope that he will terrorize the world into declaring him a winner instead.

Lucky me, after a couple of beats The Wannabe Menace dropped his arms and started to laugh, too. He (more…)

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