One of the more memorable moments of the recent past was sitting down to a $30 breakfast (w/tip). I’ll leave it up to you to decide where on the excitement scale this falls. It consisted of two (medium) eggs over easy, three strips of (meaty) bacon, hash browns, (Italian bread) toast, (small) fresh orange juice, (smaller) demitasse, (white) table linen and (cloth) napkin, (impressive) silverware, and a (surly) waitress.
Maybe not exactly a “10” experience, but it was so enjoyable I repeated in the same exact manner the next morning. Except the waitress was warm and welcoming; which explains the definition of gratuity.
When I tell you this occurred in Las Vegas, maybe a groan will follow. Or a raised eyebrow. Explanation:
After much deliberation (because of ongoing physical discomfort), a hesitant decision was made to make a wedding ceremony trek to Las Vegas. As a passenger in a comfortable bucket seat, the challenge didn’t seem to be that daunting what with stops at Victorville, Barstow, Baker and Primm slated if necessary. And one gets awfully depressed attending nothing but funerals.
This marked my first return to Vegas since the ’09 Poston Reunion, a lengthy absence considering how often the trip used to be made in “the good old days.” I first crossed the desert in 1950. That was when Taka Goto (brother of Dr. James and sporting goods owner Clyde) visualized the fledgling resort’s need for landscaping and greenery as well as well-heeled gamblers and Hollywood celebrities. Accompanied by kid brother Ray and friend John Miyawaki, his pioneering spirit proved premature as he couldn’t overcome logistical problems, the weather and only three hotels total.
En route to visit the trio in ’50, I got lost. Which gives you insight into how remote the Nevada border was to reach and my lack of GPS insight. To make matters worse, I had two ladies and a one-year-old baby on board when a piston, or some such nonsense, bent/gave way betwixt Barstow and Baker. Without air conditioning!
Starting in the ’60s when Nisei were spreading their wing$, a much more enticing Las Vegas beckoned with promises of unknown excitement and allure. Camp life, bleak barracks, $16-a-month paychecks and amateur hour shows were forgotten (or remembered) in the glitter and glamour of a Las Vegas that accepted, nay, welcomed gawking adventurers.
They were high-flying businessmen, nouveau riche entrepreneurs and suddenly land-rich farmers who succumbed to the glamorous world of gambling and all its ramifications: Spacious suites, VIP seating at headline shows, signed tabs for food and booze, preferred starting times at private golf courses, first-name basis with slick and shady gentlemen from Detroit and Chicago.
This chapter came to an end. It had to. In some cases tragically. Nobody beats the odds makers. Nobody. But as with all CR2S Nisei, there is positive residue. No matter what you may think of gamblers, their ilk might be (generously) considered pioneers. Maybe a charitable definition where suffering spouses and families were concerned, but nonetheless an influence in the Nisei lifeline.
Forget the Chinese “whales” of today and earlier Japanese high rollers who bought everything within bifocal sight. It was the ’60s-’70s Nisei who set the standards of acceptance in all entertainment and restaurant venues for everyone that followed, especially in Las Vegas. Playing a blackjack table as a private reserve with only black chips, $10-a-point gin rummy games (spades double), or a $10,000 putt doesn’t make one a sinner. Probably more like a gladiator in an arena with a lion.
Our world has benefited greatly from the philanthropic generosity of many familiar names over the years, to be sure. What I’m trying to squeeze into the equation is that Eddie, Lou, Duke, Mas, Fred, Joe, Cappy, Jack, et al and assorted agri-scions impacted lives by virtue of this Nevada history. Maybe not worthy of a gold medal, statue or testimonial, but a CR2S footnote shouldn’t be challenged.
So there you go. If you’re without a clue as to why this recall, that’s okay. Not to fret. Kilroy was alive and well. Louie Prima was pre-Rat Pack. Don Rickles a lounge act. An alpaca sweater was preferred over a tux.
So to commemorate this sentimental journey, I played four hands of blackjack, two at a time: First round was a win and a push and decided to press before the next deal: resulting in a stay with a 16 and a pair of aces to split as the house has a 5 up card. There was no need to squeeze the down cards as dealer busts with an 8 of hearts! Expenses and profit made with my lucky number and favorite body part. How cool!
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.