In the end it was the noise that had been most memorable. Sure, there was 'Muzac' in the background, but it was just that - background. The foreground hubbub was dominated by the incessant electronic beeping noise of the 'slots'. To this out-of-town guy, having never experienced anything like this before, I found it mind-numbing in intensity!
I didn't understand the games of cards or dice, so my friend had wisely advised me, "Stay clear, buddy. You have to be sharp and know the odds, as well as being able to follow the game. Otherwise, it's a quick route to the cleaners." So I had been content to be a watcher, and so had watched him lose an inordinate amount of money at a speed that beggared belief. I found it frightening.
Wandering deeper into the noise and flashing lights, I found a couple of tables and watched discreetly with a few others. It was then the old truism surfaced in my mind:- 'if you have to ask the stakes, you can't afford it!' The guys were betting, then winning or losing, more than I earned in a year, in one single throw of a dice. Unbelievable!
I laughed inwardly at how the other half lived, then broke open another roll of nickels and went back to playing at my level. Such was my introduction to Las Vegas, City of bright lights, loud music, big shows, flashy cars and fast women.
Oh, yes - I forgot to mention the 'fast women'! Incredible women that hung onto their consorts every word and every move, laughing at their every quip, following at every turn. Their dresses were at least a size too small, the tops three sizes so. For some reason, they didn't seem to be interested in a 'hick' with his roll of nickels - can't think why. Discrimination probably.
Such was Vegas. Did I lose a lot? No - to tell the truth, I broke about even, if I'd been counting, but that wouldn't have mattered; the fifty or sixty bucks I spent was cheap for the entertainment of the place, being part of the fizz, the excitement, the buzz. It was easy to get caught up in that atmosphere.
We drove on out of Nevada and into a different adventure the next day. That afternoon was a buzz of a different kind, driving over the Golden Gate, then stopping to look back and take in 'Frisco Bay, Alcatraz and the City itself in the far distance. You read about it and see it in pictures and in films, but when you actually drive up Highway one, underneath the multi-coloured hang-gliders, then round the corner and suddenly there's the bridge - nothing quite prepares you for that.
A few days later we crossed back into Nevada and then headed on towards Utah. Highway 50 with its passes and valleys is mesmerising in its way. We stopped off for a night in... Well, it doesn't much matter; the small towns were all much the same. It was a good, comfortable but plain motel - no frills, just homey. Oh, and it had slots; this was still Nevada, after all.
We checked in, then went and had a look at the place. If you held your breath as you entered the city limits, you could drive out the other side on the same breath. At one gaudy building we did a double- take, and laughed to see a brothel in a town this size. My buddy said it was something to do with the miners in this part of the state. I laughed and said, "I believe you - honest!" As we watched, a 'painted lady' went in, I presume for the start of her 'shift'. We decided that we would have had to have been in the mines for a long time and consumed a lot of alcohol before an interest would have been declared. Then, a little shamefaced for being so chauvinistic, we went back to our hotel.
My buddy decided that he would have just a quick go on a slot, so we settled down on a pair of adjacent machines. An attractive woman, a little more understated than most, came out from behind the bar and ambled across, offering to get us a beer - so we bought one. Then, out of the blue, my buddy dropped a small jackpot; you know the sort. Bells and whistles, but no money - they give you that in notes after resetting the machine.
Beer lady ambled across and congratulated us on our... hell, HIS luck. That was when the line to end all lines came out. We asked her to do a reset for us, so she sort of wiggled her way between the two heavy chairs and said, "I'll just slip between you two, give it a jerk, and we'll just see what happens!"
We looked at each other and creased. I know he had tears of mirth running down his face; I guess I did as well. She looked at us as if we had two heads and then, realising what she had just said, went scarlet. Without a word she unlocked and reset the machine. Feeling put out, she playfully thumped my arm, then, shaking her head, said, "Men!" She smiled and went away.
We slowly regained control of ourselves and played on for a short time. Having won the price of the rooms for the night, we decided to quit. As we cashed in our winnings, she laughed and told us, "You men are all the same - all mouth and trousers." We joined her laughter and went towards our room. Halfway there I wondered what time the small swimming pool closed, so I went back to ask. She told me that it didn't really close, but that she would have to wait until I was done, if I wanted to use it - but, no, she didn't mind.
So I went and changed, grabbed a towel, and went outside to go for my swim. She followed me out a few seconds later.
"I won't turn on the lights, if you don't mind," she said, "this time of the evening it brings the bugs out; you wouldn't want that." I was happy to agree. She kicked her shoes off and sat down on the edge, dangling her feet in the water. "I have to stay with you," she said, "House rules, for guests' safety. Hope you don't mind?"
I laughed. "Well," I said, "if you think I'm going to go skinny dipping for you, you're going to be disappointed."
.... There is more of this story ...