By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003
Betty woke up five minutes before her scheduled wake up call. She stretched for a six minutes before beginning her yoga. She wanted to check her messages but she recalled that she locked her cell phone in the safe upon her arrival. She shrugged her shoulders and made coffee, then took a quick seven minute shower. She slipped on a comfortable robe, courtesy of the Bellagio, and casually sipped her Nigeria blended coffee that she bought for $8 at an espresso stand in the Venetian. Betty put on her headphones and wrote in her journal for nine minutes. She scribbled about her thoughts during yoga, and included a couple of quick sketches of odd symbols she thought she saw during one of her morning visions in the shower. She rambled on for a page about a weird dream she had where she lost a pet tarantula in her Aunt Margaret’s bedroom. She was desperately looking for the hairy arachnid, which surprised her since she didn’t have a pet spider and hated creepy things like bugs, tape worms, cockroaches and fashionably challenged guys that wore white pants after Labor Day.
Although she understood that McGrupp preferred not to have her sit and watch him play poker, she confessed that she knew it was distracting but she did it anyway. Off to the side of the poker room, a row of slot machines provided the perfect camouflaged viewpoint. If Betty sat strategically in the middle of a row of Wheel of Fortune fifty-cent slots she could watch McGrupp play without being seen. Betty learned the basic concepts of poker but never played in a casino. Her grandfather taught her and her sisters how to play poker and Hearts during the summer in the mountains when she turned eleven. Betty knew the game but was reluctant to play. She loved hearing the stories that McGrupp told her about the seedy players with hundreds of sad stories to tell and the ingenious layouts of the different poker rooms all over the country and in casinos in Vegas and Reno, on Native American reservations in Washington, in casinos in Connecticut, on riverboats in Mississippi, and in illegal games in Knights of Columbus lodges all over Brooklyn.
She keenly watched McGrupp as she noted that he was the youngest player at the table by at least twenty years, yet sat comfortably knowing every other player was paying sharp attention to his play. She giggled when McGrupp threw his hands in the air after he lost a bad hand to a guy in a wheel chair. She smiled when she saw him make a joke afterwards and the other players, including the dealer, laughed heartily. She marveled at the devious duality behind that grin. She knew that in one moment he could sit down with complete strangers and appear gregarious, warm-hearted, disarming and comedic, yet in the very next instance be ready to rob them all blind without hesitation, coldly taking every dollar from their pockets while morally, philosophically, and financially justifying his thievery.
“Call it Zen Poker,” he’d say.
After Betty finished up her journal entry for the day, she made a list of things to do. She had an appointment at the spa downstairs. She was excited for a hot stone massage and a lemon ginger scrub with a kiwi-cucumber facial wash. Afterwards, she needed to finish studying a couple of paintings at the Guggenheim to include them in part of her thesis in the Classical Influences of Italian Renaissance Painting in Modern Day Reality TV Programming. If there’s a connection to be made between Titian and Joe Millionaire, Betty will unearth the correlation and get a Doctorate for her research. She also needed to buy a t-shirt for her niece. She was looking for something really cheesy and layman, which would piss her sister off since she only dressed her daughter in GAP*KIDS or Beneton for Kids clothes exclusively.
Most importantly, Betty needed to buy shoes that would match a dress she bought the day before at Prada. She was invited to her best friend Susie’s third wedding (the second one since the millennium) and this one was expected to be traditional and the most formal of the three. Her first wedding was done at Midnight while standing on a beach in Santa Cruz, during a full moon and on three hits of liquid acid. The cool waves rolled up onto the bare feet of the bride, groom, members of the wedding party, and half the guests who had tripped their minds out and grooved to a Grateful Dead cover band that performed at the ceremony. The second wedding was less psychedelic and much quicker, as a six month pregnant Susie was married to a minor league baseball player by an Elvis impersonator (old fat Elvis) at the chapel in the Stardust casino. This time she’s getting married at a swanky country club to a Silicon Valley computer guru, one of the few thirtysomething millionaires that didn’t lose all his money when the dotcom bubble burst. And since Betty was the last one of her friends that wasn’t married at least once or had any kids, she wanted to make sure she showed up at Susie’s wedding looking stunning, elegant, and absolutely gorgeous.
But before Betty did any of the things on her list, she dressed and went downstairs. She slowly walked over to the Sports Book and took out a gambling slip. She placed a $500 bet on the Sacramento Kings the night before. The Kings were her grandfather’s favorite basketball team and she found out they won, which meant she won. She walked up to the counter and cashed her winning ticket. As she counted her cash and put away the roll of hundred dollar bills, all she could think about was the new shoes she was going to by later that day.
Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.