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Sunday, July 3, 2016

All it Takes Is A Dollar

Day 5 - Part 2

The slot tournaments were one per day. So I still had two more shots at winning some money. Time to go down there and do some bidness!

I did some savvy slot sleuthing and asked the Registration Sheilas about how the machines had run the day before. I used my least creepy smile and did a double eyebrow raise.

"So... what kind of score would have been a good score to get in the money yesterday, Sheila?"

The Registration Sheila stabbed the air with her pen.

"Over there."

She'd pointed at a huge bulletin board which contained all the list of all the participants, their scores, where they placed, and how much they'd won.

OK, so now I had an idea of what I was shooting for. Critical information, because if I was on a good session, I could adjust my strategy to, for example, try to hit the button 9,007 times per minute instead of 9,003 times per minute.

One extra button push in the last millisecond of the round could make a difference in these things.

I flashed my entry ticket and slot club card and was granted the choice of a machine from those available. Again, the 50,000 lumens LEDs circling the place where you put your slot card beckoned, and the large writing on the screens enticed me to "INSERT YOUR CARD TO BEGIN".

There was a fine-looking young filly on the end of the row, her slot nostrils flared, her video hoofs pawing the ground to begin. She was ready to run!

So I shoved my card in, got the countdown, and started pounding. From the getgo I could see that I had chosen well, and the points were rolling up. After a couple of minutes (out of five total) I calculated that I was on pace to get in the money!

That's when some ploppy from a backwater state they haven't yet discovered sat down next to me. She stared at the machine. She poked at a few buttons. She looked around. She looked at me. She looked around again.

In my peripheral vision I could see the 50,000 lumens LEDs surrounding The Place Where You Insert Your Card To Begin reflecting of her pale skin, which had the same sick sheen as freshly wetted potters clay.

For fuck's sake, the last thing I needed was a distraction from trying to pound the button 9,007 times a minute.

"Hey. Hey you!... How do I - " she started to say to me and I gave her the 18 milliseconds of attention from me she was ever going to get.


Did she really think I was going to take time to stop playing my round?

Well, yes, apparently she did.

I kept pounding with all my might. I was still racking up the big wins from time to time - it looked like I was in the money, with an outside chance at real money.

Meanwhile Ploppy spent a couple more minutes staring at the machine, wondering what the flashing lights surrounding a slot the size of her slot card (just like the slots that exist on every machine where she puts a slot card every time she plays one) gaped, practically begging her to shove her stupid card into it. And for crying out loud, had she not played the day before??

It took almost four minutes, but God love her, she figured it out.

"Oh!!!!! This goes in here!" she said. Followed by the requisite, to me, "Hey. Now whaddo-I do?...."

I kept my pace up until the very end. No breakthrough, but I'd managed a respectable score. 59,040. I went back and checked the scores from the day before and that would have been good enough for 14th place. The prize was $50 for 11th through 20th, so I figured I had it in the bag! A $50 boost to the budget would be great! Hell, with a little luck, I might even make 6th through 10th for $100.

Up in the room, I prepared to go out. It looked like another nice day of 100 plus heat.

I texted Funkhouser, checked my gear, made sure I had the keys, and retrieved the Poon Stang from the garage.

A few trips ago, when driving around, I'd passed an old motel sign, which had to be the standard bearer for kitcshy bad pun motel naming the world over. The Par-A-Dice Motel. I'd grabbed a quick shot of the sign out the window (the motel was dozed into rubble long before) and went on my way.

In preparation for this trip, I hunted around google street view to find the sign, so that I could go and take a decent picture of it.

And this turned into an idea for a photo essay for Royal Flusher World.

Hunting around, I started to uncover a pattern.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Americans saw their country by car. It was an amazing time, and a very different time. The design elements that signal post-modern car culture found their way into all kinds of things, including advertising.

And, in the days before mega-corporations owned Las Vegas, family owned and run business could thrive and flourish, feeding off the magnetic draw that the larger hotels possessed. Motels and restaurant cropped up in the margins of the strip. Many of these are well known (like the Glass Pool Inn) and some still stand today, particularly in the north strip area.

But the Las Vegas Strip wasn't the only fertile ground for these interesting little motels.

Fremont Street, east of downtown, was dotted with them, convenient places for vacationers on a budget to stay, near the action of Glitter Gulch, but not quite part of it.

Since the 1970s or so, this part of town has declined into decay. It has become a no-mans land. To the west is the Fremont Street Experience, which has successfully lifted downtown back into growth.

Further to the east, some motels still thrive, and various businesses alternate with open spaces. Keep going, onto the Boulder Highway, and a change to suburbia happens, and prosperity is apparent.

But in the blocks of East Fremont, the vacationers have gone, replaced with the downtrodden, those that scrape by, existing on the margins of Las Vegas society.

It's the kind of place that people warn you not to go after dark. And you might not want to walk there at all, anytime.

So what has happened to all those Mom and Pop motels that enticed youngsters with signs exclaiming 'Pool!' and 'Color TV!'?

Many of them, most of them, are gone. As in physically gone. Some are boarded up, waiting for the wrecking ball. And for many of them, just wonderful, tacky, post-modern, whimsical signs remain.

That's what I was after. To grab photos of these places and explore and imagine what used to be half a century ago.

And so, I, a pasty lily-white tourist, with a camera and a ball cap, and a flashy, sliver, rented Mustang, headed into the throat of it, to stand in the blazing sun taking pictures.

First stop, actually, was to pick up Funkhouser at the Downtown Grand - he was moving back to Harrah's and I'd offered him a lift. I zipped him down to his destination, we said 'so long', and I turned back north, hitting the east end of Fremont

Back downtown, I drove west on Fremont and did a little recconoiter. There were all kinds of old motels. Wonderful, weatherbeaten signs. Some still in business. The Western seemed to be the last outpost of downtown, now owned by the Downtown Project folks.

I went east until I got to Boulder Station, wanting to see how far the East Fremont strip had run. Too far.

One place that was still in business has a wonderful sign. Good place to get my feet wet. I pulled over and took some shots of the Lucky Cuss, to kind of see how it would go.

I fired off a shot.
OK. Not bad.

I think closer would be better. I took another.
Get closer.

Not bad. I'd have to watch what was around the signs, or face a lot of editing later. Holding the camera level seemed to be an integral part of good picture-taking.

I got back in the Poon Stang and drove west.

It was time to face the facts. I was quite nervous about what I was up to, and the people that inhabited this part of the world. I found a motel I wanted to get and did a pass by it. Looked good, but there was a guy hanging around.

I turned right and went up a block, another right, and another, and circled back. He was moving on.

There wasn't really a place to stop so I just sucked it up and parked in the bus lane. I didn't plan to take long. I grabbed the camera, and got out into the heat, locking the doors behind me.

My first target was a place that caught my eye right off the bat - what was once known as The Gables. The motel sign was once jaunty, and the motel buildings still stand, each room with a little gable over it. Charming, once.

Snap. Snap. Snap. Got the sign. Look around - nobody around. Got the motel. Still nobody around. No buses honking. Snap. Snap. Thinking about the composition a bit, more motel pictures. Still nobody around. Go to the other side of the sign. Snap. Snap.

Got it.

Back into the car and off.

One down.
It hit 106 by the time I was done.
Down the street was another target. Ferguson's. It looked like it had recently closed, surrounded by chain link fence.

I drove slowly by and noticed a guy, up against the fence. Sitting. Out of it. I'd come back later. I turned right at the next street, then right again, and drove east, doing a long lap. I'd cover this side of the street end to end, then do the other side later. I drove through a neighborhood where, well, let's just say the Poon Stang didn't really fit in.

Six or eight blocks up I looped back onto Fremont again, heading west again. I took my time, driving slowly so I could pull over when I saw a target.

A black woman, bare midriff, short shorts, and that bony face that says she had big trouble stood outside a motel and gave me a big gappy smile, waving jauntily at me as I slowly drove by. I flashed a peace sign at her as I went by. Not today, sugar.

A block later, a white woman, another motel, another big wave.

Christ, what was I doing? A bleached white tourist in a rental Poon Stang, looping slowly around the block on East Fremont? Any cop seeing me could and would give me the up, down, left, right and sideways. It looked exactly like I was shopping for a whore.

Back at Ferguson's, the coast was clear. I pulled onto a side street and got busy. Success.

I drove north and in the next block spotted a forlorn old sign that I just had to have a picture of, the Vegas Court. I parked again, and locked up. I got out and got my photos, and as I turned around, I saw a group of three or four youths headed up the block. They were just on the other side of the Poon Stang. Nothing for it but to walk purposefully back to the car like I knew what I was doing.

I got a good eyeballing but gave them a rough, "Hey..." and a nod, as if I was on Official Business.
What's left of the Vegas Court. Not much.
This all sounds pretty lame but I knew I was way out of my element in a very rough part of town. I was really, really nervous, not wanting to become a teaser on the evening news - "Stupid Tourist Shot Over Knock-Off Cameron Camera".

And so the afternoon went. Look around. Look for guys looking at me. Look for cops. Out of the car. Into the car.

I was about to call it quits after photographing the Vegas Motel signs when I noticed, in a huge empty lot, a figure up on top of a pole. I was intrigued and grabbed a couple of pictures. Looked like an angel. It was an angel.

That was enough for me. With the blessings of the angel, I headed back to the Golden Nugget. Something was nagging at me though, and I felt like I'd missed something on this excursion.

Happy to be back in the safety net of the well-off, I stopped in the little store in the Rush Tower lobby to buy something to mix a very stiff vodka into. I noticed they sold cold beer too.

"Hey, can I use comp dollars in the store?"

"Yes, but not to buy beer."

"How much is a beer?" I asked.

"Four eighty-five."

"What???!!! Four eighty-five? Do you know - that I - can get a beer in the casino - for only two hundred dollars????"

The Lobby Store Sheila laughed, and I took my mixer up to the room for a well deserved de-parcher drink.

I re-grouped and thought about the gambling to come. All I needed was a decent hit. All it takes is a dollar in the right place at the right time.

I was kind of nervous, because in a couple of days, I had committed myself to playing $10,000 coin in per day, for two days, at T.I. My budget hadn't exactly been growing. And in the back of my mind, I was thinking about what would happen if I got blown out at T.I.

The only opportunity I had to take a marker was here at the Nugget. I didn't really want to have to do that, as it would kind of ruin the whole premise of the trip - but that was the only safety net I had.

I looked out the window, sipped my cold drink, and thought about it.

More to come...

Here's the link to the photos:

The Lost Vegas Motels of East Fremont - A Photo Essay by Royal Flusher

The $1K Scrounge Trip - June 2016: All Posts

Planning the $1K Scrounge Trip - June 2016

Do you do the 'book?
Like R.F, don't be a shnook!


    1. Flusher- Some might recall The Blue Angel Motel from the movie "Midnight Run". It's where Marvin stashed the Duke and took the picture of him showing the towel in the background. Which was how Serrano's thugs figure out how to get the Duke back. Ah yes, Vegas movie trivia.

    2. Did I mention useless Vegas movie trivia, or does that go without saying?

    3. There is a book about the Blue Angel motel. You should check it out.

    4. "Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Americans saw their country by car." Hum along to See the USA in Your Chevrolet.

    5. Great post Flusher. Some of my favorite days in Vegas have been all about exploring. Keep 'em coming.

    6. While perusing the photos over at I remembered a story that my father loves to tell.

      We moved from Tampa to Long Beach in 1965. It was a long car trip with my 2 1/2 year old self and 5 year old sister. The old man rolled the car into Vegas around 4:00PM and into one of these type motels on the strip. He likes to brag that within a half hour or so he had 2 tickets for whatever the big show at the Trop was at the time, a sitter for us kiddos, an ironing board for Mom and some chow for everybody. We were in the pool by 5:00, to wear us out. We stayed with the lady that ran the motel. Imagine that happening today.

      The other part that really gets him going was that he had tried to get Mom to go to Vegas for a number of years but always got the standard "I'm not going to that place" blow off. He said they got into that big Vegas show and her eyes just lit up. She was a Broadway and musical fan so this was right in her wheelhouse. She was hooked. A show, drinking and smoking and some food.

      It's funny that years later I tried to get my ex to go and always got the same blow off. That is until I scammed a one day Labor Day layover on a return from another vacation. She was hooked too after she shed her preconceived notions.

    7. I drive down East Freemont until it turns into the Boulder Hwy almost every trip. The signs are amazing!


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