Leaving Las Vegas

5 02 2010

We didn’t eat well in Vegas.

I had begun to notice Jim didn’t have much of an appetite. He did, however, like clockwork down a full glass of milk each night. He always ordered it warm. Sometimes Jim would get pissed when the waitress failed to follow his special directions of bringing the milk after dinner.

This happened inside the Sahara’s first floor restaurant. It was a pretty shitty restaurant by Vegas standards. Horrible decor. The only cool thing about the place were these huge photos of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin plastered across the walls. Dining, as it turned out, was one thing Jim didn’t do first-class in Vegas.

The waitress working the Sahara diner was a shapely number, but she didn’t get our order exactly correct. In her defense, she was not an American. I noticed her accent and features and quickly popped the question.

“Are you Russian?,” I asked.

“No,” she firmly replied. “Romanian.”

So the Romanian took our order but did not stick around for any ideal chit-chat. She seemed way more concerned with cleaning off the nearby tables.

There was a decent amount of people in the restaurant. Some families, a lot of old people and booth full of hipsters laughing and having a good time over pancakes and scrambled eggs. One guy and two girls. All dressed just cute as a button and suddenly I felt jealous. Youth can do that you.

It was during our dinner that night that Jim revealed to me his brush with death some years ago. I can’t remember the exact details, but the condition landed Jim in the hospital and was severe enough for funeral plans to be made.

I had heard a version of this story before. Not from Jim, but from his close friend Holley. Holley is the mother of my ex-lover Warren. She was always there for her friends and, to this day, still is.

“Holley was there at the hospital the whole time,” Jim said.

As we ate, I couldn’t help but glance at the hipster table from time to time. I wondered what they thought. Were they laughing at me? So many times during this trip, I had been mistaken for Jim’s grandson. Jim, however, always made the correction which usually produced a puzzled reaction from the inquisitor. I’m sure he took it as an insult. Bill, the bellman, never asked. He knew this routine all too well.

When we finished our meal, Jim downed his glass of milk and we made our way to the cash register where an older black woman was ringing up the tickets. Unlike our imported waitress, this employee had a name tag on. Oddly enough, I can’t remember her name, but I do recall her home state of Arkansas, which was also displayed on the name tag.

Jim, also an Arkansas native, struck up a friendly chat with the woman, who, like Bill, remembered him from his annual visits. She was very polite and smiled at me. When we left, Jim made a crack about her wig.

“Bless her heart,” he said. “Got that wig on.”

I guess Jim could make that crack and not feel guilty. Takes one to know one.

“That’s why I keep coming back,” he said, turning serious again. “They make you feel like family here. You really get to know these people.”

That was the case as Bill came up to the room the next morning to help us to the car. We really didn’t need Bill’s help, but Jim wanted it. I was more than capable of pushing the cart down, but instead, Jim insisted on letting Bill do it.

So, together we loaded our bags onto the cart and Bill pushed it through the hall to the elevator and down through the lobby to our car. Once we were loaded up, Jim and Bill hugged and said their goodbyes. Bill seemed happy with the tip and he turned and shook my hand.

“Hope to see you again next year young fellow,” he said.

“Me too,” I replied.

The Author, Bill and Jim

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