Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lost My Vegas Buddy, My Best Friend

Sometimes life kicks you in the gut. Not the kick
in the gut you get when you are on a losing streak.
Or the kick in the gut when you go to the ATM and
find out you've hit your daily limit. But the kick in
the gut that just knocks you down and makes you
hurt into your soul.

I lost my sister, my best friend and my best Vegas
buddy suddenly and without warning. She was gone
in a flash, way too young and I didn't get to say

We grew up and she moved to the southwest. We'd
meet in Las Vegas two to four times a year. If I had
to go to Vegas for business, she was on the first plane
out of Phoenix. Deb was my roomie and my partner
in crime. We looked nothing alike, she had that
southwest thing going on and men fell like idiots in
her presence. She made friends everywhere and with
everyone. She could talk to a wall.

You couldn't trust her alone in the restroom.
She was always making friends in the restroom. She
introduced to me to Raquel, a stunning blonde,
whom she met in the restroom at Paris. "I'd like you to
meet my new friend, Raquel. Raquel is a guy. Don't
you just love her makeup?"

Another time she was in the restroom at the Hard Rock
chatting up the hookers and getting clothing and makeup
tips from them. I had a security guard sneak me into the
side door of the Joint to watch KC and the Sunshine Band
rehearse. Deb would have loved it, but she was busy finding
out where they ladies of the evening bought their clothes.

My first trip to Las Vegas was her idea. We drove up from
Phoenix, both single, me from the midwest and dazzled,
she the worldly tour guide. Our parents told to park the car
and walk on the strip. Little did we know the cops would
stop us for suspicion of prostitution. It was during one of the
computer conventions and we were taking pictures of
ourselves on the strip, when a group of conventioneers
ran into our photo shots laughing with their hankies over
their face to hide their identity. The cops were cracking down
on pavement princesses because of the convention.
We were just walking and following the parent's directive.
The cops pulled over and made us show our ID's and
questioned us. She still had the picture
of us on the strip with the guys framed on her bureau.
It was one of her highlight trips.

We had run in with celebrities. We happened by chance
to be a Caesars the night the Planet Hollywood restaurant
was opening. Deb called a stunned Sly Stallone
a m-f*** runt because his security contingency
make her move away from her slot machine. Later that
night she asked some B level actress who did her breast
implants because "your rack is way too perfect".
Another trip, we were in an elevator with the late
Richard Pryor who was totally amused
by the fact that she didn't recognize him. I don't even want
to tell you what she told Mike Tyson.

She had gambling rules. You had to ask God to bless your
machine. We had to bless our purses with money blessing
water that she found in Mexico. And you had to bring along
whatever trinket she was sure was a good luck charm for that
trip. When we stayed at the Luxor, she found pyramid
crystals. At the Rio she brought along voo doo dolls she bought
when we were on a cruise in the Caribbean. At Paris, it
was troll dolls with hair that she styled before she left home.
Caesars she insisted we wear those gawd awful gold
medallions. At the Golden Nugget, she brought along some
gold painted rocks. At TI and the Mirage, she had puka
beads because they reminded her of the tropics. I refused to
wear the carnival masks she found for the Venetian.

We weren't allowed to look at her machine because we would
give her bad vibes. If a person sat down next to her, she'd blow
smoke in their face and tell them they were giving her bad karma.
There were times I wanted to hide. And there were times
she forced you to sit next to her. Not too long ago, Deb insisted
I sit next to her...and I did. For 36 straight hours at TI she
didn't move. And she did win the jackpot. But she STILL
refused to move. I had to bring her food. The cocktail waitresses
had all befriended her and all the slot floor people cheered her on.
And on our next trip, she took up the same spot and lost and
lost and lost. But she didn't move.

Her boyfriend and my husband preferred us to go alone. They
couldn't deal with us together. I think us dancing on tables sort
of did them in.

We had different tastes in dining. One night she insisted we
ride the bus to the Plaza in the middle of the night to have
ham and eggs. The food was greasy and yuck and it seemed
like we were the only people in the cafe that had their
own teeth. But she loved it. She said it was vintage Vegas
and I needed to get with the program. When I forced her to
go to a great Italian restaurant, she complained to the maitre'd
that she wanted mashed potatoes and gravy. And she got them!

She joined me for slot tournaments and cheered for someone
else. Every time.

While she was unpredictable and blunt, she also was kind
and sweet. You never knew which Deb was going to come out.
She spent one entire evening playing the slots with
a lonely old man and even pushed his wheelchair to the restroom
and waited for him. She took him for dinner and waited until
his daughter returned. Another evening she consoled a broken
hearted guy who was jilted and convinced his ex fiance to
give him another chance. If a person needed help, she was there.

And yet, there were the times when she disappeared and
I spent the evening looking for her. Once I found her partying
with an entire fraternity. She broke into tears and accused me of
leaving her alone. Damn, she sure wasn't alone!

Other times we hit the shows. We flew in to see Ringo Starr
and his All Star Band. Deb hated it and ended up sitting at
the bar in the Joint. We laughed until we cried at Carrot Top.
She kept every ticket stub from every show and I found them in
her possessions. And I cried.

And we shopped. We had our Vegas clothes. And she kept
every one of them for our next planned trip. She'd even
bought us new troll dolls and bought herself pink cowboy
boots for the trip.

Vegas won't be the same without her. I couldn't say the word
Vegas without crying. I couldn't go on a business trip in March.
It was too raw. But I am going to Vegas in May. We're visiting
her grave in Phoenix and flying to Vegas. I need closure.
And I sure do need some Vegas!