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Saturday, June 15, 2024

The World's Largest Ken

Day 7 Monday June 3, 2024 

Another day in Vegas, and I was hoping to find some more luck as I had yesterday.

The morning was a repeat of what I've been doing this trip - get up, make coffee, eat emergency nuts (which ran out), and write the blog.

Feeling hungry, around 7:30 I went to the coffee shop for a proper breakfast.

I never noticed this before.

I ordered my usual two over hard with sausage, hash browns, and wheat toast. 

I suppose I could even re-use the same photo of breakfast over and over each day, it's always the same order.

After breakfast, I sat down at Pinchy and played quarter Jacks, as I figured I'd have the best chance at playing long enough to maybe hit a Royal, which is what I really needed at this point.

The Royal proved elusive, and in a little less than an hour, I was down $100. Was it going to be that kind of day again?

It seemed prudent to go on walkabout as I had a few stops to make. I hadn't been to El Cortez yet this trip, and I wanted to cash my Keno ticket in at the D. And I wanted to stock up on emergency nuts for morning snacking, and the trip home. And maybe, if things were going badly, I'd hit the ATM. Maybe.

So off I went.

They finally, finally made this stretch of street between Fremont and the Downtown Grand look like it's part of the Fremont Street Experience. It's 20 years overdue.

One of the big attractions at the D is the World's Largest Ken.

Barbie must be thrilled.

I went up the outside escalator and cashed in my Keno winnings. $16. This time I just kept the money.

At El Cortez, I reacted with dismay and disappointment. The stripification of the ElCo is complete. Gone are the 'colorful characters', in other words, the drugged out, homeless and desperate, or as I put it in the Gambling Games Slot Decathlon part 1 the silver miners, chippies, drop down artists, heads, sterno freaks, relief grunts, ‘mary jane’ huffers, hopped up joy poppers, swinging octogenarians, marshmallow goofball wave riders, power hitting moonshine mamas, six-way yellow lighters and red-eyed snaffle dapping zip snifflers. In is the heavy scent. Gone is the live Keno lounge and most of the Keno machines. Gone are the coin droppers. The alcove that had coin dropper full pay Bonus Poker and Double Double machines that the Quad Queen and I loved so dearly are gone and the area is now a high limit area. Gone is the $5 blackjack. Minimums were $15 on a Monday morning.

Relics from another era. A better era, if you ask me.

I dropped a bunch of money playing video Keno and won nothing.

Keep it classy, El Cortez!

I walked through the place and when I got to the area at the north end, the one that you go down a few steps to? The one that used to have rows and rows and rows of busy coin-dropper VP machines like those Deuces machines that paid 2000 for Deuces? Gone. All gone. It's airy and open and empty and sprinkled lightly with the lastest annoying video slots that return 86%.

I don't feel that I will ever bother going to the El Cortez again. Nothing of what made it special to me remains. It's just another fleece joint filled with penny slots and automated craps installations yelling "PUSH THE BUTTON" at me.

Walgreens provided an assortment of packages of emergency nuts, so that was done.

I decided to tough it out and not go to the ATM. I'd rethink the decision 100 times in the coming hours, weighing experiences I could have versus money I would likely lose.

Next stop was Plaza, where I planned to use the 9x points I'd generated the other day for slot play. And I'd feed a few twenties into White Orchid and probably win a boatload.

I did get a bonus or two and ran the machine up to $110 after feeding it $60. I blew it all back looking for more. A quick flip on full pay Boner Deluxe yielded nothing. Have I completely lost my video poker mojo???

I left, forgetting to use up my points.

A break in the room ensued, and when it was brunch time, I headed over to Main Street Station to use my meal book for a buffet again.

At the Cal, only one of the three elevators is working. It was like that for my entire stay and I never saw anyone working on the broken ones. It gave me lots of time to look out the window at the temperature atop Binions.

Find the pool!

At the buffet cashier, it was Nope, five dollars extra this time. I was confused. No, it's just on weekends, I was told. Otherwise you pay extra with your meal book coupons.

Oddly, the signs posted back at the Cal, and at the buffet don't mention this. Maybe they just put out the signs when they feel like it?

I paid, and this time the buffet was very meh. The things I sampled were just not very good. Some pulled pork was okay enough to fill the gap.


For gambling, I still had some money left from my video Keno wins the day before, but if things continued to go badly I didn't think it would be enough to keep the action going. So I continued the mental skirmish - do I make another trip to the ATM or not? Did I really want to be stuck on my last night in Vegas with nothing to do?

I played another $100 around Main Street and hit absolutely nothing. I had $100 in reserve for the evening, and that was it.

I went to my room and wasted time. For hours. Time went on and I finally decided to drink the last of my duty free vodka and then go get some grub. It was pushing eight o'clock, eleven on my body clock, which was still on Eastern time pretty much.

At the Cal coffee shop, there was a sign up saying they were closing at eight for cleaning. It was 7:45. I talked my way in, promising to eat quickly.

My order was the chicken fingers. They were super salty but still pretty tasty.

After eating, I found myself outside Redwood. It was time to take care of the 1000th gut-wrenching heart-aching task of the last 2 years. There were only a couple of people left to talk to who knew Karen and I as a couple. One of them was Grace, but I hadn't seen her around. Other than Grace, there was only Hilario left to tell the sad news to.

I went in to talk to Hilario, the waiter that had always taken care of the Quad Queen and I. He probably served us 15 or 20 times over the years, and we had so many wonderful meals there. It was always such an enjoyable bright spot of our trips together.

Steeling myself, because I knew how difficult this was going to be, I asked for Hilario. Yes, he was working, yes he'd be right over.

And then all of a sudden, there was Beatriz, a server I've known since the Pasta Pirate days. I hadn't seen her since the start of the pandemic and thought she'd moved on. So Beatriz gave me a huge hug and claimed gut-wrenching task number 1000.

Hilario appeared and, well, I'll let you read between the lines. I choked out what had happened as best I could. He was gracious, and caring, and very emotional. He really understood how difficult it was. Task 1001 done.

I tried to pull myself together as I left the restaurant and immediately ran into task 1002, the last gut-wrenching task recipient. Grace was right there.

She asked where Karen was and by the look on my face knew immediately that it was bad, really bad news.

What lovely souls we've been so blessed to meet in our times in Las Vegas.

Feeling wrung out, I headed for the bar and consumed a couple of large Maker's rocks, getting me officially drunk.

There's actually more emo-blogging I could do about a woman at the bar who ended up having a conversation with me about everything, but... this is enough.

These experiences are incredibly difficult, but cathartic and part of the grieving process. And they are all taken care of now. The next time I come to the Cal, I won't have any more rickety emotional bridges to cross, and hopefully will have just fond memories of Karen and I living it up, laughing it up, and being treated like Kings and Queens.

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