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Omaha is a fine American city where I had a fine show last Friday. However, regardless of their quality, Omaha shows distract. When in Omaha, my goal is to get across the Missouri River to Council Bluffs, Iowa, as quickly as possible.
Council Bluffs is not a beautiful place, but a desolate strip of pawn shops, fast-food restaurants, and abandoned businesses nestled beneath Omaha’s sleek skyline. Amongst these urban ruins rests a miniature Las Vegas called the Horseshoe Casino. The Horseshoe Casino offers $1-2 No Limit Texas Hold ’Em all day, all night, 52 weeks a year. As long as the Horseshoe exists and no matter how late an Omaha show runs, I will go there, even if I am not welcomed with open arms.
“Excuse me, sir,” said a security guard. She barred entry to the casino floor and eyed my suspicious laptop bag. “You cannot bring bags on to the casino floor,” she said.
“OK,” I said. It was 2 a.m. I had no stomach for an argument. I have argued with numerous casino employees in a variety of gaming establishments about my right to carry my laptop bag and have never won one of these arguments. “I will check my bag with the valet,” I offered.
“But the valet is across the casino floor,” said the guard. “You are not permitted to cross the casino floor without an escort. How will you reach the valet?”
“Drat!” I exclaimed. “We are caught in a Catch-22. Is there a solution?”
“Indeed,” said the guard. “Sammy, our security guard, can escort you to the valet.”
“Excellent!” I exclaimed. “Have Sammy report to me immediately!”
A few minutes passed, Sammy, a very short man in a grey security uniform, offered his hand.
“I am Sammy,” said Sammy. I shook Sammy’s hand.
“Hello, Sammy,” I said.
“I will escort you across the casino floor to the valet,” Sammy said. Side-by-side, Sammy and I trudged across the enormous, state-sponsored den of iniquity. Numerous Iowans frittered away excess time and money at slot machines, blackjack tables, and other assorted casino amusements. These Iowans were of all races and sexes. As long as one has money, casinos are equal-opportunity. I tried to think of something to say to Sammy. I said nothing. Soon, we reached the valet. This all-powerful valet was a very young man with a lip ring.
“I am the valet,” said the lip-ringed valet.
“Here we are,” said Sammy. “I will leave you now.” True to his word, Sammy left. I checked my bag with the lip-ringed valet and made my way to the poker room and played $1-2 No Limit Texas Hold ’Em for 3.5 hours. Not much happened at the table. I did win a pot from a man on a tight schedule.
“I have to leave here by 5 a.m.,” said the man. “I have to work.” At 5:15 a.m., he was still playing. “Goddammit,” said the man. “I’m late. I have to go.” At 5:30 a.m., this man left. At 6 a.m., I walked back to my car. I watched the sky brightening in the East. I drove through the Council Bluffs ghetto to reach I-480. I-480 whisked me back across the Missouri River into Omaha, where I would sleep for six hours before leaving for tomorrow’s show.
Gambling in Iowa is very depressing, I thought. Perhaps I should not gamble on tour any more. Perhaps I should not gamble at all. Then, I thought of Sammy. Well, the casino does give Sammy a job, I thought. Still, I was not satisfied and became philosophical. Goddammit. I thought. Life is complicated. Driving over the Missouri River, I counted the $83 I had won. Never had such a small amount of money felt like such a fortune.