Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lyndsey and the Fortune Cookie Slot Machine

I was getting ready to take a boy’s trip with a couple of the tribe members, but before I went I wanted to spend a little extra time with my girls. We were running around and decided to end our day by going out to dinner. It was their day so where we eat was up to them. I asked them where they wanted to eat and, if you have girls, you know what kind of answers I got, “I don’t care”, “Whatever.” You also know if you have girls that this couldn’t be further from the truth. I proceeded with my usual, “Ok, Waffle House it is then!” The immediate chorus of “Yuck, gross, never” rang out and I said, “If you don’t want to eat somewhere gross then speak up.” They decided that P.F. Chang's China Bistro would be good and not “gross”.

We had a very nice meal and, again, if you don’t have girls I will define “meal”: they each ordered an item off the appetizer menu and finished about half of it before they were full. The joke in our house suggests meals of that size are “fun size.” If you try feeding Big Papa something that small and call it a meal, he will be frustrated- just like those stupid “fun size” candy bars. There is nothing fun about a candy bar that is the size of a pencil eraser! The girls, however, like that size. I suspect because they are all fun size also; even my big girls are small except for their attitude and ambition. They were opening their fortune cookies when my oldest Lyndsey says, “Hey, I accidentally got your fortune cookie by mistake,” as she handed me the white slip with red type declaring:

"Soon you will be part of a profitable transaction"

She told me to keep that with me for luck, and I thought it was sweet of her so I slipped into the window slot of my wallet in front of my driver’s license. I am really not too much on the luck thing as far as a trip to Las Vegas goes. It is akin to asking God for something, and I really don’t think God has time to worry about whether or not I hit a number is a casino. I also don’t gamble much. Now, before you laugh, poker is a game of skill that has a luck component which is entirely defeated over time by proper play and reading skills. I always say that I don’t gamble, “Now those people that are playing poker with me, those folks are gambling!” All the luck I ever needed was already given to me in the form of my wonderful girls. Add all the great friends I have that are like real brothers to me, and, of course, my Lucy. Put that together with all of the wonderful things that have happened for me so far in life. Well, luck and I are more than even, but it was neat that Sissy was ready to give her lucky ticket to me. See what I mean about the luck thing?

We finished up our meal and headed home; I needed to pack. Honestly, this was a little more than just a boy’s weekend to me, and I wasn’t really letting anyone know but I was scared. I have a lot of history of heart disease in my family and my dad died from a bypass procedure. I take medication for high blood pressure and try to work out and stay healthy, but when I hit 45 I decided that I would go and get a heart image scan, just to make sure.

I went to the Colorado Heart Center because of my risk factors a couple of months ago, and paid them out of my own pocket to have a calcium heart scan done. This is an MRI type of deal that does an x-ray like scan of your heart and arteries to show the plaque that has built up in your arteries. This is where the road got rough. They showed me the scan of my heart and one of my arteries showed a 90% build up for my age. The paper said risk for massive coronary episode was high (the highest number they had), and told me to go see my doctor today. I asked the tech, “You are talking like I might do down in the parking lot,” and laughed. She didn’t laugh, “Go see your doctor.”

I went to see my doctor. She immediately set me up with a heart specialist and he said that I need to have a nuclear stress test. The scan showed the whole descending aorta covered in plaque. How thick it was, we couldn’t know without a test. The next option was angioplasty, and then heart bypass, depending on the blockage. I told myself I would just soldier through all this crap and I was sure I would be fine, but if God wanted me he would take me and there was nothing I could do about. There was a risk that I was going to get my ticket punched if this kept going the wrong way.

I know this sounds a little morbid but I really wanted to roll in Vegas just one more time “Just in Case.” Now, I really did know that things were probably going to be fine, no matter what I needed to do, but, being honest, I have to tell you that is where some of my thinking was. I was happy to just go and have fun and then deal with it when I got back. I was pretty successful in putting all that on the back burner, too. I mean, it was going to be whatever it was, so, “Let’s go play some cards!”

I met John Galt at the airport. I offered to pick him up but he is more stubborn than a mule at the edge of the canyon, so I gave up on the car pool idea. We met Coldiron there and raged war in the poker room. We played in the big 10/20 game at the Bellagio and I have several great stories posted about those games, with more to come, but this isn’t really a story about poker. What I will say is that after two nights, I was up large.

As I said before, I don’t make it a practice to gamble much in the casino, but hey, when you are in Vegas, you ride some of the rides. I am really a hit and go type guy. I will put some money in a machine while we are waiting for dinner or play a little roulette just for fun. I just don’t like to spend hours grinding away at things when I know I don’t have the best of it. I know that it’s a gamble and I am not expecting to make any money; I just want to have fun.

Jason and I are coming down from our rooms around 4:00 in the afternoon on our third day there. We were heading for the poker room to say hi to our friend Poker Pete and then grab some food. On our way to the poker room we walked by the high limit slot salon and I said, “Hey, let’s go in here!” Jason said, “No Way!” and kept walking. Jason and I have a history in the high limit room. To hear him tell it, he ALWAYS loses and I ALWAYS win. He is not a fan of the high limit slot area. There was a chubby hostess beckoning for us to come in and play and I said what the heck. I’m up, why not?

I was wondering around inside when Jason walked in and was tapping his foot as if to say, “I’m not doing this. If you are, hurry up!” I was looking for a $5.00 triple play video poker machine; playing max credits on three lines was $75.00 a spin. I would play it once and see what happens. You can see what kind of a high roller slot player I am. I found the $5.00 poker machine but it was an odd mix of video poker and a slot spin combination. I didn’t understand it and I was not ready to blow $75.00 on something I didn’t understand, so I turned around and said, “I don’t feel it, let’s get out of here.”

Jason and I were walking out when I turned and pointed to a $25.00 Top Dollar slot machine and said, “That is the one, that machine is ready to pay off!” Jason responded with the usual retort, “Come on, let’s go, you are just retarded!” Ok, now my mental acuity was in question, so there was only one thing to do, something really stupid. I pulled out my roll and peeled off a $100.00 and slipped it in the slot. Ding 4 credits. I looked at the button and it said “Play 2 Credits,” perfect. I have never played a slot machine for $50.00 a pull. I hit the button and it came: cherry, blank, bar. I hit the button a second time and it came: Blank, Bar. I was walking away thinking, what a dumb ass I just wasted a $100 bucks, when the thing when “BONG!” I was ten feet away and turned around to see, I hit the top dollar symbol!

I turned to Jason and said, “This is going to be sweet!” For those of you who are not familiar with this machine, when you hit that symbol you get to play a “let’s make a deal” type game with the machine. There are several stacks of money painted on the front and it goes into this “FIRST OFFER” thing and it lit up two of the $125 stacks of money and one of the $250.00 stacks of money and said, “You have won $500.00!” There are two buttons on the front, one says “Take Offer” and the other one says “Try Again.” I looked at Jason and said “what do you think?” He shot back one of those, I can’t friggin believe we are doing this looks, and said, “Man, there are a lot bigger stacks of money up there, how many tries do we get?” I told him I wasn’t sure but I thought we got four. I decided that I would hit “Try Again” and, depending on the offer, we could call Alain, he would know what to do. I hit “Try Again” and it started in with “SECOND OFFER” Bleep Bloop Bleep. Then, all of the sudden, the thing went CRACK and started playing this really loud music and the light on top was flashing, and that wasn’t the only thing that was flashing! The top amount on the machine was blinking $25,000. There would be no more offers, Jackpot!

Jason and I looked at each other and we were trying to figure out if this whole thing was for real or not, and we were laughing our butts off! I looked over to the chubby slot concierge and said, “Excuse me, Miss?” She shot back immediately, “Just a second Hon.” I was thinking to myself, Hey this is like, kind of important here! Jason and I were doing the little five year old that has to pee dance. Holy crap, this is AWESOME! She finally came over two minutes later, which seemed like hours, and looked at me, then the machine, and said in a pretty matter a fact tone, “Hey, you won 25,000 bucks.” I said, “Really?” and she laughed and said, “Yea, how do you want it?” I said that I wanted $100s and she perked up a little and said, “you want cash?” To which I responded, “Does rose Kennedy have a black dress?”

She ushered me over to the counter and loaded about four inches of bills into the cash counter and started banding them together in $10,000 packages. “May I see your driver’s license?” she asked. I opened my wallet and there it was, my little slip of paper from Sissy:

"Soon you will be part of a profitable transaction"

Boy, that Lyndsey was something else; it was like she knew it all along.

Having her for a daughter was way more important than all this, but man this was pretty fun! I started making phone calls; Lucy thought I was teasing her.

No more than five minutes later we were walking through the Bellagio holding the 25 grand in cash because it wouldn’t fit in my pocket. We walked up to the poker room and Jason said, “Hey bro, let’s go put that in the safe before we do something REALLY stupid!” Later at lunch, I waited for my food as we sat there in shocked silence and I quietly asked God, “Are you giving me the run of my life right before you bring me back home?” He didn’t answer. I only hoped he didn’t need me yet because I really was the luckiest guy in the world, and $25,000 didn’t have anything to do with it. Just then, Jason came out with, “Oh yea, your buying lunch!” We both laughed, we always did.

Long story short regarding my heart was this: I did the nuclear stress test and the MRI Scan when I got home and the aorta was not blocked at all. He said, “Your heart is healthy and strong.” Lucy was by my side when I hit the real jackpot. When I got home from the doctor’s office, I was well and I would get more time with my girls. A very profitable transaction indeed!


Blogger Randy said...

Sweet Story Julius! You truly are a blessed man, especially since you have friends like us who can read.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Romo said...

Great story. Just what I needed to cheer up my day.

1:33 PM  

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