As the saying goes, “You’ll always remember your first”… Growing up in Milwaukee, WI I was fascinated by all of my father’s stories about his experiences from working in Las Vegas, during the summer months while he was in college during the 1950s and in later years professionally. When I was in high school we would go out to dinner virtually every Friday night and somewhere along the line, over burgers and shakes, I would inevitably end up asking him to tell me more about his time in Vegas. His recollections absolutely mesmerized me and I thought that if I ever got to go there even once I would be the luckiest guy in the world. On my 18th birthday my dad gave me his copy of “Gambling Secrets of Nick The Greek” which to this day holds a front and center spot in my library. By the time I joined the Navy, about nine months later, I’d probably read this book, cover to cover, about 20 times. Little did I know then that those times with my Pop would lay the groundwork for a life-long love affair with Las Vegas. Fast forward to February 1982. I was stationed at the Naval Shipyard in Long Beach, CA. It was a payday Friday and the following Monday was an off day and I hadn’t really made any plans for the weekend. My buddy Eddie and I were having lunch on the mess deck of our ship when we got around to talking about what we were going to do for the long weekend. I can remember this as if it happened yesterday, he said “I’ve got an idea but you might not go for it. How about we drive over to Las Vegas for a couple of days?” Bingo. I didn’t have a car yet and his truck ending up having some kind of problem so we ended up taking a Greyhound bus. After about a six or seven hour bus ride we ended up in Vegas around dawn. The bus made a stop at Circus Circus and we were off to the races. I was ready to hit the first casino I saw, pretty sure it was Westward Ho, but he wanted to get a bite to eat so we stopped in at a Denny’s that was right next to the ‘Ho. The only thing I really remember was running a couple of dollars through a slot machine while waiting for the waitress to bring my Coke and walking up to the jukebox where there was a lady in front of me who dropped in a few coins before I could get there. The first song that she played was Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland”. To this day whenever I hear that song I’m reminded of those first five minutes in Vegas. Anyway, we kind of made a game plan over breakfast and within about a half hour we were at Circus Circus whooping it up. I had been on the construction site of CC in 1968 with my father and my friend Eddie just knew that that was a harbinger of good things to come. I hit the roulette table and my buddy immediately went to the BJ pit. I dug in my wallet and I had just a little over $220 for the weekend. Luckily I had the return bus ticket tucked away somewhere deep in my wallet. The only reason I remember what my "BR" was is because I thought how freakin’ cool would it be if I put all $220 on black which was right next to 22. For whatever reason that has always stuck with me. Needless to say I didn’t go full degen on my first ever bet in LV but lost about $20 over the course of about a half hour which really seemed like a pisser at the time. One thing that I thought was absolutely fantastic was they had these little boxes at the roulette table that had individual cigarettes there for the taking. I couldn’t believe it and realized that my Dad wasn’t bullshitting me about Las Vegas!! My friend Eddie lost about as much as I did playing $1 BJ but we each hit it pretty big at the Stardust winning about $30 between the two of us. So, with our big score we decided to live it up and take a taxi downtown. We wanted to scope out where the Plaza was so we knew exactly where to go to catch our bus for the ride home to Long Beach. We hit every joint on Fremont and even back in 1982 I thought it was a pretty seedy scene. Who knew, eh? The moment that it really hit me that I was in Vegas was when we ducked into the Horseshoe and there were eight or so craps tables packed to the gills, well before noon. From there it was over to the Golden Nugget and I have two great memories from there. The first was that I thought the chairs at the BJ tables, soft white faux leather, were among the most comfortable chairs I’d ever sat on in my life. The other was that I asked the BJ dealer where the little cigarette box was and she said they didn’t have one but asked what kind of cigarettes I smoked. A few minutes later the pit boss came over to watch over the game and a minute or so after that came back to the table with a pack of smokes for me. Couldn’t believe I got an entire pack instead of having to piddle around with the singles in the little box. Nirvana baby!! By noon we were both down significantly. I had about $50 left and he was just a little bit better off. So we walked back to the strip to chew up some time and extend our money a little. When we got to Vegas World we were pretty gassed out and wanted to eat but we thought we should get to the better part of the strip and have a buffet. We ended up walking to the next spot on the strip, the Sahara , and most def got our money’s worth at a buffet that couldn’t have been more than $3.99. Good eats which further reinforced all the great stuff that Dad had told me about Vegas. So far everything he revealed to me was absolutely spot on. We talked about walking up to Caesars but we both decided that we didn’t want to go there until we came back in a few weeks with more money and dressed a little better. We figured maybe it should be our first stop of the day the next time out. Eddie had a great run at BJ at the Frontier while I had an equally bad run playing roulette. I was down to about $20 and my pal had about $100. Lucky bastard…. He was a good sport when I told him I needed to slow things down and remembered we watched people play this awesome game called Keno at the Sahara buffet. I can’t remember exactly which casino it was, probably the Riviera, but we plopped our butts down in a Keno Lounge and got free beer and cigarettes. I was convinced I could hold out for at least a few hours making $2 bets about every seven minutes or so. We each hit a few three spots and generally treaded water for about four hours so decided to take our show on the road downtown on the off chance that if we tapped out we would at least be by the bus station. By this time we were pretty well oiled up so we camped out at a Keno lounge at the Cal. It wasn’t even dinner time and I was down to about $5 so I was playing about every fifth Keno game, at what I think was $0.80 a game, while my buddy was going on a roll and making outrageous $5 bets. We continued to drink and smoke for free. I think there were also some very limited finger food thingies in the Keno lounge as well. Long story short, we both went busto and departed on a 3:00 am, or so, Greyhound back to Long Beach. Statistically speaking it was my worst trip ever. So, to tally it all up I left town with three pennies and two free cigarettes while preserving about .013% of my bankroll in about 18 hours. Most memorable trip to Vegas. Ever.