By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004
The National Rodeo Finals were in town and cowboys from all over America flocked to Las Vegas for a full week of drinking, gambling, and all things rodeo. Two young cowboys sandwiched me at my poker table late one night. Their names were Shane and Cody. I'm not making this up or changing it for "privacy purposes". You can ask BG if you don't believe me. He sat with them later on in the trip. Anyway, these guys were in their late 20s and had flown in from Utah. They wore cowboy boots, the most popular form of footwear of folks heading to the rodeo finals, along with blue jeans held up by belt buckles the size of CDs and plaid shirts. They had goatees and drank Budweiser. One of them was decked out in a black cowboy hat and the other a white one. That's how I was able to distinguish them from one another.
"So which one of you is the bad guy?" I said as I sat down and stacked up my chips into neat columns. "You got the black hat on," as I pointed to Shane, "I'm willing to bet $1 it's you."
"Yer, Gawd dam'd riiight!" he said as he took a huge sip. "Where are you from?"
"I'll tell you, but I don't think you've ever heard of it... it's very small town."
"New York City."
It took several seconds before he got the joke and started laughing. Nice to know that cowboys from Utah operated on a seven second comedic delay. Seriously, they were hilarious. Cody was a nice fella. They both were for that matter, just two guys in town having a blast drinking and yapping at the poker table while their wives were off blowing vacation money at the slots. These guys were loose gamblers and Shane was seeing every flop. Maudie was running over the both of them before I sat down. That's when I let them know that she's my aunt.
"She's yer aunt?" Shane blurted out after he swigged the last backwash of his beer. "Shit. I'm scared of yer aunt."
"You should be, pal. She's going to pay for her trip on fishy plays from cowboys like yerself."
OK, I didn't say that. I really wanted to... that's what the wise ass New Yorker in me would say... but just smiled and kept my mouth shut. I wasn't going to blow Aunt Maudie's cover. Don't tap the glass, right?
Shane and Cody also bestowed upon me the most original nickname I ever got... New York... which they'd shout out at me when I'd see them from time to time in the poker room over the weekend.
"Hey, New York, what kind of hands to you play?" Cody seriously asked me after I bought a round of drinks for them and a Corona for myself... and by saying bought I mean that I tipped the waitress $3 for all three of us. It was a small investment but the drunker they got the better the chances we'd get even more river calls with bottom pair.
"I only play good cards."
That got a chuckle from the cowboys. Both the dealer and Maudie giggled.
"I like playing any Jack, like J-2, J-3. Are them good cards?" inquired Shane.
"Yes. Yes they are," I agreed trying to hold a straight face. That was my biggest bluff of the trip.
At some point, just when I thought I had seen it all... the monkey on the dog was shown on the big screen. Yeah, ESPN2 had full rodeo coverage all weekend long and that was the main attraction on the big screen in the poker room. When they unleashed the monkey, the entire crowd began hootin' and hollerin'. It reminded me of the insanity on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It was one of those bizarre scenes of which you completely miss the context while reading my report in your cubicle at work. But trust me, if you were shitfaced at 4 AM, floating around in a sea of loose cowboys at a poker room in Las Vegas and you saw two hundred and fifty people cheering for a monkey dressed up like a cowboy on a Collie... then maybe you too would start to think that time travel is probable, peace in the Middle East is possible and that I'm 100% pretty sure I'll catch my next gutshot draw, even if it is a one outer.
Certain moments in your life define your existence. That was one of them... a monkey in a cowboy outfit riding a dog.
That was also the only other sentence I had scribbled in my notes. So the next time someone corners me at one of those dreadful New York cocktail parties and asks me if I believe in God, I can honestly say, "I do believe that monkeys can ride dogs. I've seen it in Vegas."
Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.