Five Dollars for the Colonelby Dr. Tim Lavalli © 2007
Above the Abe's Liquor Emporium, between the Sands Driving School and Magic Molly's Beauty Palace sits the International Gaming Dealers Academy. About the only thing international was the student body, a United Nations mixture of your tired, weary, seeking for a better life, future student loan defaulters. The academy entrance was a dark tangle of plastic ivy and several strings of dingy yellow holiday lights. The long and narrow former storefront held several high blackjack tables along the right wall and a multi-purpose Let It Ride, Pai Gow and Caribbean Stud table with changeable felts. Down the left side were four poker tables. On this Thursday afternoon, one Oriental lady of thirty or forty or fifty years was practicing her pitch to an empty blackjack table while two young men were seated at one of the poker tables arguing about how to calculate the five percent rake from a thirteen dollar pot.
I walked to the rear of the long, dimly lit room to find the office and Jimmy, who was my introduction to this fine educational facility. He was parked on the greasy sofa discussing the "dealer audition" he'd had that morning at Green Valley Ranch. The conversation broke off when I filled the doorway of the cool, dark office. I would guess not a lot of middle-aged white men in a suit show up at the International Dealers Gaming Academy. Jimmy was the half-son of one of my poker buddy's wives; we had met the last time the poker boyz were in town and I got his number, like all good writers do when they meet anyone who runs in an interesting circle of society, usually an interesting lower, stranger or more dangerous circle.
Jimmy hopped up and introduced me first to Andy. Andy was the wiry and wired assistant director of the IGDA, who was going to run the poker table simulation starting at five. The simulation was the reason I had come by, research for an article on poker dealers and dealer schools. The simulation was basically a single table satellite with eleven dealer wannabes, one in the box and ten playing the simulated poker game. Actually, I was going to get a seat tonight and had been asked as my price of admission to this poker inner sanctum to "fuck with the dealers." It seems that dealers-in-training, who rotate in and out of the box in these simulations, are reluctant to mess with their buddies, lest they too shall be messed with. So I have been asked to shoot every angle, string every bet, question every decision and basically be the player/prick from hell that every dealer hates to see sitting down at their table. Andy would then lie in wait and pounce on any dealer who didn't catch my moves.
The other figure in the slightly damp office was Little Joe. Joe was the boss or more correctly the director of instructional operations. Little Joe was not, of course, little and also not the owner of the Academy. The owner was the dragon lady, Mrs. Nguyen but she was seldom around and never this late in the day. Joe was fortyish with a Binions t-shirt, circa Benny not Becky, and wore a pair of those soft blue flip-flops that I really didn't think they made in adult sizes. Joe was lounging behind the WWII army surplus desk and keeping one eye on some anime cartoon show on the 12' Sony. Was that actually a coat hanger stuck to the broken rabbit ears? Could there be yet another cliche alert this early in the day?
Joe and Andy both were more than willing to discuss anything and everything under the sun about IGDA, its operations and delivery of services. Their description painted an amazing picture of a highly accredited educational system with a stellar curriculum populated by a motivated staff and dedicated students. Unfortunately, we were all sitting in the nerve center of the International Gaming Dealer's Academy and well phrases like: "Fucking for Virginity" and "Fighting for Peace" kept coming to mind. What's the line? "Show me someone who doesn't need at least one big rationalization to get through the day."
The International Gaming Dealer's Academy was a dark, dank, fly by night operation that had been in business for nearly eight years. Must be gold in them thar dealer buttons. But I did not intend to write my article about the "high end" dealers' schools, if I could even find one. Training to be a dealer in Vegas may be the second oldest profession here and I am not so sure you will be bragging to mom about either of those jobs.
I was scribbling a few notes when I caught the end of an Andy to Joe exchange - "It's not a twenty dollar blowjob, you gotta give the Colonel five bucks."
"There's a five dollar pimp named the Colonel?" I asked.
"No, well not exactly..."
"Hell yes, I guess the Colonel is Annie's pimp or her watch dog," Andy laughed.
"Hey, don't be ragging on Annie, she's OK," Little Joe snapped.
Joe hefted his pear shaped body out of his recliner desk chair and herded Jimmy with him to "set up the table" for the poker simulation game. And, of course, I just had to ask Andy about Annie and her $5 protector.
"Well all these stores and schools are sorta like one big family. Only a lot of the folks don't like each other all that much. Hmmm, I guess that is exactly like a family. Anyway, if you go down the back steps to the alley you are going to see the Colonel, he wanders around out there all day in some old army uniform, well part of one and one of those American Legion hats. There's a red arrow on the hat, whatever you do don't ask him to tell you what that means. So across the alley are these two trailers, the back one is Annie's and she'll give you head for twenty bucks, only the Colonel don't like her doing that, so you give him $5 and he goes to get his bottle of muscatel but he doesn't like the folks at Abe's Liquor so he goes down the street to the Chinaman's and then you go to see Annie while he is getting his wine."
I go back to my notes and when I rise to go out to the main room, Andy adds: "Don't ask Annie for anything but a hummer, she don't do sex." I had not considered asking Annie for anything, hummer or otherwise, but I did want to meet the Colonel. The students were slowly filtering in for the poker training session but Jimmy said it would be another "half'en hour" before the game got going, so I headed for the backstairs and the military presence in the alley.
Again, I think a white guy in a business suit appearing on the backstairs drew some immediate attention and sure enough it was the ageless and aging Colonel who moved to greet me as I descended the wooden staircase. He may not have been clear of eye but was direct:
"You got five dollars for my wine?"
Now I really wanted to chat with the Colonel but somehow I was sure he would be more open to a meaningful conversation if he were a bit fortified. I gave him ten and said:
"How about getting an extra bottle and meeting me back here, Colonel."
He gave me a quick smile and smartly answered:
"Glad to son, be back in ten minutes."
"Take your time," I said. "I'm waiting on a game upstairs."
The Colonel shuffled off down the alley and I crossed the cracked and potted mackam and went down the dirt path to the second trailer. Annie had to be an interesting conversation, too. Writers are whores; we will talk to anyone who is anything but straight and normal. I announced myself using the redwood woodpecker door knocker and a young brown-eyed girl came to the screen door.
"You looking for Annie? She is at the dentist, won't be back for an hour or so."
"Thanks," I said and turned to leave.
"You got twenty?" she asked to my back.
As I turned she continued: "Or do you like yours older?"
My hesitation in finding any illusive response gave her the space she needed to go on:
"I ain't like Annie, I do sex, no blowjobs, you gave the Colonel this five right?"
And so it came to pass that on a non-descript late Thursday afternoon of some meaningless month in Las Vegas, I found myself 'doing sex' with a smooth, firm girl of an age I would rather not know. It was soon apparent that she was 'doing sex' less for the twenty bucks than for the multiple orgasms she was having, more on her own than anything I might have been doing but she was more than willing to stay the course through the stroking and pounding; the licking and the flicking until the old guy with the suit hanging over the plastic lawn chair worked himself up to a short, sharp climax. Let's be clear, she took the twenty dollars and asked: "...you come to that dealer school a lot?"
I told her this would probably be my only visit; the answer affected her not at all.
As I walked back out into the alley, the Colonel was seated on the second step, he offered me the half empty bottle; I paused half way to my lips and asked:
"Hey Colonel, tell me about the Red Arrow Division."
Writers are whores.
Dr. Tim Lavalii is a shrink living in Las Vegas, NV.