Shortly after my twenty-first birthday, my mother collected her retirement a decade early from Kaiser Medical. She decided to have a little fun. Mom invited me to go with her to Biloxi, Mississippi, where we would live it up for a few days. We drove down, and ended up staying at the Grand Biloxi Hotel and Casino. It wasn’t my first time in a gambling establishment. When I was younger, my sister was married in Laughlin, Nevada, and the family and I stayed at the Colorado Belle. I have fond and scary memories of that time: getting lost in the arcade for hours, shoving tokens inside racing and adventure games, then getting lost again inside their massive buffet, which was nowhere near as fun as the arcade. The trip to Biloxi did mark my first time being able to drink and gamble, so I was excited at the possibilities of drunken gaming abandon. This is what happened.
Mom and I spent the first day together: eating at expensive hotel restaurants, playing slots side by side, and enjoying one another’s company. Day Two began around five o’clock in the afternoon because I’m notorious for sleeping in and Mom felt no need to wake me as she had some crocheting she wanted to get caught up on. Once on the casino floor, we instantly split up. I headed for the card tables (I’m a Texas Hold’em sorta guy), and I bought into the first open five-dollar seat. I sat down with five-hundred samolians, and cashed out six hours later three-grand ahead for my troubles. I’m pretty good. Always have been where cards are concerned. Not bragging, just telling it like it is. During my time at the table, I drank my weight in eight ounce Budweisers. They were these cute little bottles, like souvenir-size, really, and I snickered every time the heavy-chested waitress brought me another one. Being inexperienced in the rules of Casino Floor Etiquette, I didn’t know two important details: I didn’t have to pay for my drinks, and tipping was not only encouraged, but expected. I stumbled ever so elegantly to the bar so that I might pay my tab. The bartender guffawed at me. He didn’t titter, or chuckle, but full on laughed in my face. “You don’t owe me a penny, bro,” he said, in between explosive bursts of joviality. “Just make sure you tip your server.” As you may have already figured out, I did not “tip my server.” I spent the next hour shuffling around the casino floor asking people if they knew the big-breasted waitress. Mostly I got, “Ain’t they all got big tits?” from the men, and simple stares from women who surely thought me some misogynistic tool. Needless to say, I never found her. To this day, I still feel bad about that.
I cashed out at the tellers’ booths, pocketed thirty-three-hundred smackers and changed my remaining two hundred for slot tokens. I sidled up to the poker machines, flopped down, and started playing Five Card to my heart’s content. Before I knew it, I needed to empty my token bucket. I stuffed the over-flowing plastic container in the crook of my elbow and cashed out once again. Up another grand. Nice. Part of what makes me a good poker player is knowing (like Kenny Rodgers before me) when to hold em and when to fold em. Having forty-three hundred to my name seemed a nice stopping point, so I left the casino floor. I deposited four big ones in my hotel room, had my mother paged, waited for her to come to the phone, and told her I’d be drinking myself into oblivion at the bar on the second floor. She slurred a wonderfully stuttered, “Oh-ohhhh-oh-ohshay,” and I hung up. (My mother’s not a drinker, but when the mood overcomes her, she can kill one or two margaritas.)
Down on the second floor, I took a seat at one of their many empty stools. (The reason for all the empty seats wouldn’t be known to me until I paid my tab.) There was one person in attendance, though: A simmering hot Vietnamese woman in a white halter with a sleeveless, mid-drift jean jacket, jean shorts, and black leggings. She had long, wavy black hair that covered her back in a fan. Emerald eyes and a birthmark above the right corner of her full lips. She wasn’t a hooker, so get that out of your head right now. She was nice, though, and I introduced myself while the bar keep fixed me the first of many Crown and cokes. I don’t remember this beautiful young woman’s name, but I do recall asking if she was single, to which she responded, rather too quickly, “I’m a lesbian.” “Cool,” I exclaimed, and continued right on shooting the shit. She taught me several phrases in Vietnamese that I promptly forgot, and we drank the night away. I will never forget that unnamed lady. In a future book of mine I would use her likeness and accent as the building blocks for a character named Sunne, who shared a tragic love story with Donald Adams of Dastardly Bastard. Now, back to why the bar was so empty. My lady friend called it a night, and I refused to sit at the bar by myself, so I asked the bartender for my bill. How one drinks five-hundred-fifty-dollars worth of Crown and coke remains to be seen. Needless to say, he didn’t get a tip. Have you figured out the problem yet? That’s right, I was Two-hundred-and-fifty dollars short. The guy told me I could post it to my room, but the room wasn’t in my name, so, once again, I had the hotel operator page my mother. After twenty minutes, I gave the nice operator a message and disconnected. The bar keep and I talked for some time, about what, I can’t remember, but he finally looked down at his watch and told me he had to close up. I asked what time it was, and he informed me it was three in the morning. About this time, my mother stumbled off the elevator and came staggering toward the bar. She had this Cheshire grin plastered upon her face. Her eyes swam in her head as she said, “I gosh your monies.”
I paid my tab and walked her back to the lift. “How much did you have to drink?” I said in my most sober and perfectly articulated way. A drunk man’s memory is infallible, I tell you. Mom lovingly gazed up at me as only a mother can do and held up a hand full of what seemed to be coffee stirrers. In reality, they were the little red straws she’d stored away after each and every margarita she’d consumed, like some alcoholic squirrel packing away tequila and lime mixer for the winter. As sweetly as possible, she said, “I had dish many.” There had to have been fifty stirrers in that woman’s hand. I’m surprised she was still vertical, much less able to form words into sentences.
Though I’ve only told you about my shenanigans while at the Grand Biloxi Hotel and Casino, my mother and I spent another two days there. We made some great memories, but maybe I’ll talk about that some other time.
There is no point to this story. Whilst ruminating on what I was going to talk about today for the letter B, I came across this goofy memory and decided to share it with you fine folks. A year after our trip to Biloxi, I met and fell in love with my wife, Chelle. Three years after that, my daughter, Autumn, came along. I became an adult and, as life seems to demand, me and Mom drifted apart. We’d come to live together again in 2011, and she enjoyed watching her granddaughter (and in 2012, her grandson) grow up. But after Biloxi, me and her never really spent that same kind of time together. I remember it with a smile, like when we used to have tickle fights when I was a kid. I love my mother with all my heart. She’s always been there for me, no matter what stupid mess I stepped into, and I will never forget that. To this day, she remains the one I call on when I have no one else to talk to, which is rare because my wife is an amazing listener. But, Mom, if you’re reading this: Thank you for Biloxi. I love you.
By the way, the morning after my night of drunken gaming abandon, I woke up in the bathtub.