Music Credit: Steely Dan – (‘Blackjack’) Do It Again
Video Edit Credit: Eduardo Montenegro
Bastardized Title Credit: Lance Marcom
So about six in the evening we walked down to the El Cortez. Shonnie goes in and I hang back a few. Smoke a Marlboro on the street then head on in. Making my way through the slot machine triple canopy jungle I head to the back, the bar, and the blackjack tables while looking for Shonnie.
I spot her all alone at a two-dollar-minimum table decently close to the bar. She was sitting next to ‘Third Base’ on her left, and five empty seats to her right, just as I had instructed.
“Good Girl,” I thought, “Now, let’s see what you can do.”
‘Blond Bombshell Blackjack Babe’s Back
I sat down at the bar, lit a cigarette and ordered a gin and tonic while watching Shonnie. She placed a two-dollar bet then defiantly tossed her hair back. I cannot prove this, but she must have sensed my stare and was showing out for my benefit. Glancing about the casino, I observed it to be a mite slow.
Almost dead, in fact.
From my look-out perch I could spot only one or two others playing blackjack. Sitting at the closest table to me was an old geezer with long gray hair and a long brown cigar. He had a modest stack of red chips in front of him. He didn’t appear to be drunk, just a little ‘un-steady’. There were some bored dealers manning the other, mostly empty tables, struggling to stay awake, would be my ‘astute’ observation.
Dead or not, the casino noises are forever a constant. Most of the sound emanates from the banks and banks and banks of slot machines.
Slot machines never shut up, busy or not.
The slot machine cacophonous chorus resembles that cicada sound, but the cicada sound comes once every seventeen years. The slot sound is ubiquitous, loud and intrusive, even somewhat abusive.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the ‘Casino Sounds’–When I have money–Hate them when I don’t. But with or without funding the earworms are always there, unavoidable as a matter of fact and as a matter of course. No escaping ‘them’. I can still hear their noise as I type these words, and it has been more than some few years since I have been treated to a ‘live’ performance.
Yep, they’re the only ‘Ear Worms’ that don’t fuck around. Once they bore deep inside of you, you’re done.
Deal (pun intended) with it.
True Casino Junkies must live with them forever. One gets used to it though. There are definitely worse afflictions to be had.
I could see a few banks of slots from my bar stool as well. In modern era casinos slots are dominating and they are everywhere. Some joints even have them in the head.
Allow me to go even further: you cannot throw a dead cat across a casino floor without hitting a slot machine.
(Never actually try this Y’all; just take my word.)
But I used to have this fantasy whereby I was allowed to try—for science, of course. This fantasy only appeared if I had lost my stake and was forced to go home to my ship, empty-pocketed, empty-headed, physically and emotionally spent and depressed.
There is nothing on Earth more disconsolate than finding oneself in a lively casino with no money.
A few blue-haired ladies were feeding the beasts. There is something rather charming, heart-warming and endearing about ‘Grandma’ gleefully tossing away the social security or the pension or ‘Daddy’s’ money. Not their ‘Actual Daddy’, but their husband, if they happen to be from Dallas, or Fort Worth, or Waco, or Atlanta, or Little Rock or Baton Rouge or… Y’all catching my drift here?
The ‘Erstwhile Southern Belles’ are always a delight to hear and to watch.
As much as I love to ‘Casino-People-Watch’, I could not indulge. Had to keep my attention on Shonnie and wait for her to light a cigarette in her left hand.
Never thought I would be waiting for that girl to fire up a smoke.
Sometimes life is just weird.
The barren emptiness of the El Cortez would not last long. It was a Saturday Evening, soon to be a Saturday Night and the place would fill up soon enough.
Allow me a word or two about the El Cortez. It has been my experience that this particular joint has always been frequented more by the locals than by the tourists, at least in the modern era. The place has a long and rich history. First constructed in 1941, remodeled many times, but still manages to maintain what I like to call ‘The Cheers Effect’.
‘Where everybody knows your name.’
Not quite, but it is a pleasant fiction.
1941: THE EL CORTEZ IS BORN
John Kell Houssels partnered with John Grayson from California, and Marion Hicks, a Los Angeles Architect and developer, to build and operate the El Cortez Hotel-Casino on East Fremont Street. Constructed for $245,000, it was Downtown Las Vegas’ first major resort with 59 rooms and designed in a Spanish Ranch theme.
© 2021 EL CORTEZ HOTEL & CASINO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
I love the El Cortez.
But I hoped we would not be here long and we would be long gone before the crowds arrived.
As recounted in a previous chapter of this series, for Craps, the louder and rowdier, and crazier the better.
None of that is needed, nor even desired for Blackjack. In truth, better off without it.
Shonnie had learned the basic count pretty quickly, but I did not think she would be able to sustain if there were a table full of other players and thus many more cards to count and many more distractions to distract.
If she could pull it off with just herself and the dealer, well that was good enough. We had already made a good score with the Craps game the night before and I really wasn’t looking to get rich. I just wanted to (truthfully) impress her with my ‘Gangsta’ ways.
Merely To Prove a Point, as it were. Whatever ‘Point’ I was trying to ‘prove’ escapes me now.
She was playing a double-deck game (again per my instruction), and I noted that the dealer dealt deep into the decks (a very good thing).
Between reshuffles, I could see Shonnie chatting it up just a little with the dealer, a very young, diminutive ‘Ornamental’ Girl wearing a bright perma-smile: Pretty much the ‘Norm’ in Vegas at that time. Chinese or Korean, best guess. Definitely not Southeast Asian; her face was too flat. The lovelier S.E. Asian girls mostly worked The Strip.
And yes, ladies and perhaps even some of you gents may be tempted to chastise me roundly for being a male sexist pig, but damn it! I am a Sailor!
It is genetic in me, like the salt water that runs through my veins. Nothing to be done. Believe me, many women have tried.
I was on my second gin and tonic and my third Marlboro when some schmuck waltzed over and sat down to Shonnie’s left–Proper Third Base–My Seat!
He looked about fortyish and was wearing a fake cowboy hat, ruffled shirt à la George Strait, red, yes, red! cowboy boots, and a stupid face.
He began chatting her up. Now, I had not really planned on this, but I did realize a good-looker such as Shonnie, sitting all alone at a BJ table, would be bound to draw some varmints. I only hoped this asshole did not distract too much from her count.
We had practiced ‘distractions’ in the hotel room. As I played dealer and dealt way too fast, I would ask her questions and play with the remote on the TV.
She did just fine.
(She is sharp, this one. Very sharp. Sharp of mind, and being the faithful reader that you are, you also know she is sharp of wit and tongue and temper as well.)
Shonnie played through three reshuffles and was winning. I even saw her double-down a few times and in fact she was increasing her bets. ‘What the fuck?!’ I’m thinking. ‘How long does it take a double-deck to go hot?’
‘George’ remained and was beginning to piss me off. Obviously he was distracting her from her count. I ordered up another gin and tonic, lit a cigarette and stewed in my own juices some.
My drink arrived just as I saw Shonnie pull a cigarette out of her pack, hold it in her left hand and wait for George-The-Sycophant to light it. He ignited his lighter and Shonnie seductively put her hand on his and guided it to her cigarette!!
I WOULD be bringing THIS up with HER later in the evening.
Anyway, Game on! Blackjack Game. The ‘George Game / Situation’ would have to wait.
I gathered my drink and my pack of Marlboros and sauntered over to the table. Sat down at first base, threw out (drunkenly, for show), a few crumpled up hundred dollar bills. The dealer smoothed them out on the table for ‘The Eye in the Sky’ to peruse, then announced over her shoulder toward the Pit Boss, “Changing six hundred.”
She passed me some big stacks of red and some lesser stacks of green chips. I noted that Shonnie had slid two stacks of five chips just slightly to the right of her stack. If she was spot on, this meant the count had gone to ‘plus ten!’ I had coached her to constantly count and fiddle with her chips, as if she were nervous or bored, so that this act would not draw any undue attention.
“No Darlin’, gimme a few black,” I half-slurred to the dealer, pushing away the red chips. She took them back and pushed out three black chips to go with my twelve green. I placed two bets (two hands—one may play multiple hands if the table is basically empty) of one hundred dollars each.
Shonnie dropped a green chip (I had told her nothing fancy dammit!) George dropped a red and seemed more interested in Shonnie than his game as whispered something in her ear.
“All bets placed,” ‘Ornamental Dealer Girl’ said as she began the deal. I estimated only one-third of the two decks had been dealt, so this bode well for me.
A plus ten count!
I caught a pair of eights on my first hand and a hard eighteen on my second. Shonnie caught a natural blackjack and sent me a smug sideways glance.
George caught a ‘dead man’s hand,’ a thirteen. Which seemed appropriate to me.
The dealer had her hole card concealed, but a five showing. Surely she would bust on that weak ass shit. She would have to take a hit, no matter what and with the decks so rich in face cards, she was bound to bust.
Of course I split my eights. (‘Always split Aces and Eights’—Never forget this ‘red-bird-cardinal rule’) Caught a three on the first eight and doubled down (now two hundred on that hand) Caught a jack!
Caught a deuce on the second eight, doubled down again. Caught a king! Twenty on that hand.
Another two hundred. I am now five hundred into this deal. I stood pat on my other hand, the eighteen.
Shonnie had already been paid for her natural blackjack, so it was up to George. He hit his thirteen! (A stupid, stupid, should-be-illegal stupid rookie move: He should have stood on his thirteen against a dealer showing a five up card. Idiot!)
He caught another face and busted. A face card meant for ‘Miss Ornamental’. Again: Idiot! I have seen players get their ass kicked for being so stupid and screwing up a play such as George had just performed.
But it all worked out… Lucky for him.
Still, he had pissed away a face card!
The dealer flipped her hole card, revealing a ten, making her a fifteen. She hit the fifteen (as required), caught a nine and busted.
The deck was still hot (plus to the plus) so I played another three hands and won eight or nine hundred or a grand more. Shonnie won another fifty or sixty or so. George lost another ten, or twenty. The dealer started to reshuffle. I was done here.
I pushed all my chips toward the dealer and said, “Color me up Darlin’ and keep this one,” as I tossed her a green. I saw Shonnie throw me yet another sideways glance, rolling her eyes.
I gave her and wink and a discreet nod in ‘George’s direction in an effort to make her understand I wanted her to leave earlier than we had originally planned. “Leave in ten, instead of twenty” was my silent communique. Not sure if the transmission arrived in-tact and un-garbled.
Shonnie ignored me and turned her attention back to her drink and her Marlboro.
George tried to whisper some more bullshit into her ear. She pulled away, but not quickly, nor forcefully enough to suppress the ‘Green-Eyed-Monster’ inside me.
The Green-Eyed-Monster who Torments Me Is Always Female, Feline-Like, and Redheaded.
Yours May Be Different.
“O beware my lord of jealousy.“
“It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.“
–Iago (From ‘Othello’)
Sugarloaf – Green Eyed Lady
Cred for Vid: musicvideoswhd
I had to leave before I blew my cover by goin’ up-side this asshole’s head.
I gathered my chips and headed over to the cashier. Got my money and split back to the Union Plaza to wait for Shonnie.
And wait some more.
“Shonnie The Biker’s Wife Part XI: Un-Graceful Exit”
Update: Now Published Below
If you are new here, or a long-lost returning Pilgrim, you may want to begin your Shonnie Journey Below
And then simply “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” i.e., The Lancelot Links:
Below You Will Find Most Of The Original Posts. Once / If You Arrive At Thirteen There Are Links To The Final Few Chapters. Please keep in mind however, that each and every one of them is in the process of being rewritten: first to last. This will probably take at least two or three weeks.
But if you can’t wait… Here ya go!
Commentary Section from Original Post.
For continuity, please read from the bottom up.
LAMarcom July 18, 2014 at 18:25 Edit
Yeah ‘George’ pissed me off too.
And thanks for visiting.
Teela Hart July 18, 2014 at 10:15 Edit
I’m with Mark.
“George” is pissin’ me off.
Love Steely Dan, takes me back a step.
markbialczak July 7, 2014 at 22:58 Edit
I hope you were not arrested, dude, by anybody, really.
LAMarcom July 7, 2014 at 22:42 Edit
You are correct: The vid did not look right to me either, but I have smoked a lot of shit in my time and … I was in a hurry to get the post ‘posted’, so I probably did not pick the best YouTube.
Point well taken: I shoulda know’d.
I will change it (when I have time)
LAMarcom July 7, 2014 at 22:39 Edit
Thank you for reminding me of that song (one of the best Steely Dan) and it does fit.
Sorry for the tardy response. I was arrested by the NSA.
(Now…that was a joke–kinda)
LAMarcom July 7, 2014 at 22:24 Edit
I alternate between black coffee and whiskey. Keeps the cocktail waitresses on their toes.
Thanks for your comment. I have been in jail for the past few days, so I do apologize for the tardy response.
(I was framed, by the way).
P.S. “All’s Well That Ends Well With The Protagonist Still Alive and Walking About.”
markbialczak July 4, 2014 at 22:29 Edit
It looks like Walter Becker to me, 1971 or so.
Exile on Pain Street July 4, 2014 at 21:39 Edit
WTF is up with that video? That’s not Donald Fagan singing, but that’s his voice. What’s going on there?
Exile on Pain Street July 4, 2014 at 21:32 Edit
I never drink and gamble. There’s a good reason why the casinos want to ply you with free hooch while you’re trying to do the odds math.
Things look good but why do I feel like it’s not going to end well? Where have I heard this song before. Oh, yeah…I’ve sung it myself a time or two.
markbialczak July 4, 2014 at 08:59 Edit
Just like with The Dan, with The Lance and Shonnie, I will wait patiently and enjoy the ride. “Aja, when all my night dancin’ is through, I run to you” … said the song “Deacon Blues.” And that’s the song that your Vegas tale is now reminding me of, Lance. “They got a name for the winners of the world, I want a name when I lose. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon Blues.” So, you see, I fear your winning streak is coming to an end here. Can’t wait to read more. I am already hating “George.”
LAMarcom July 3, 2014 at 18:49 Edit
evil grin *
LVital7019 July 3, 2014 at 18:47 Edit
Well, I’m over 18 so… 😉
LAMarcom July 3, 2014 at 17:09 Edit
I still remember the street address of my house in Fremont California back in ’66, but I can’t remember what I had for supper two nights ago. Go figger. 😉
Thanks very much for your visit and I do hope you will read the entire series. It does get a little racy in parts though.
Cheers to you!
LAMarcom July 3, 2014 at 17:02 Edit
Thanks for the enthusiasm. 🙂
Appreciate your visit as always.
LVital7019 July 3, 2014 at 10:17 Edit
THAT was flipping fascinating! I’m listening to Steely Dan as I type this – cool song; great band! Seriously, you make me wanna sign up and take classes with you! I’ve always been fascinated with films about card-counting heists – they always have savant-like mathematical & memory skill. My only skill is REMEMBERING numbers; like phone numbers from 35 years ago…
Now I have to go back & start from the beginning of your Shonnie-tales. 🙂
Mad Annie, Bronwyn, Ann July 3, 2014 at 08:43 Edit
I am with Sadie and Heathen here…I GOTTA know what happened! LOL
LAMarcom July 2, 2014 at 23:40 Edit
I am gonna end this one soon.
LAMarcom July 2, 2014 at 23:39 Edit
I truly, do, want, to, end this one.
But there is so very much more to tell.
Please be patient.
~ Sadie ~ July 2, 2014 at 23:32 Edit
Damn – your killing me here Lance – can’t wait to see what happens – LOVE me some Steely Dan from way back . . . 😉
happierheathen July 2, 2014 at 23:31 Edit
I hate waiting. Especially on a woman who’s being chatted up by a dude in urban cowboy get-up. Especially with that song playing. Good choice or diversion?
Keep writing, man! I’m ready for the next installment already!