The Gambler (by Treva Perkins)

Last Spring I emailed my daughters suggesting that when Deanna came home for her summer vacation from Poland, the three of us should rent a house in South Lake Tahoe for a couple of days. We could celebrate our upcoming birthdays: Stephanie’s birthday in August, my birthday in September, and Deanna’s birthday in October. What I really wanted was time with my girls away from telephones, schedules, and friends. Just the three of us.

Stephanie immediately said, “That’s great! I’ll finally get to see you play 21 at Harrah’s.” Ever since I told her about the summer of my 21st birthday, during which I dealt 21 at Harrah’s, she had wanted to see her mom play the game. I had never gambled when I worked there or ever, for that matter, so this was going to be a quick sit down just for Stephanie’s benefit.

The two of us walked through Harrah’s and started to sit at a 21 table when we noticed that the minimum bet was ten dollars per hand. Too rich for us! We walked across the street to Harvey’s, where the minimum was five dollars. We sat down and played a few hands of 21 and basically came out even.

Then Stephanie said, “Let’s go play craps.”

My reply: “I don’t know how to play craps.”

This was a Tuesday afternoon. The craps table was almost empty, with only about five people around it. I quickly learned that ‘crapping out’ is when a person rolls a seven, which is the most readily available combination of dice. It didn’t take long for these gamblers to ‘crap out’, so the play quickly went around the table two times, with each person throwing the dice two, three or four times before losing their turn. Once Stephanie lost her turn a second time, she declared to me, “The next time the dice comes around, you are going to take your turn.” There was a married man, about my age, on my right who looked like he knew what he was doing. I asked for instructions on dice throwing. He showed me how to flick my wrists with the dice, keeping them low so they wouldn’t bounce out of the table at the other end onto the floor. Apparently that is a no no. Also, the dice need to hit the back lip of the table so there has to be enough force to get them there, but not too much force or over the table they fly. The ‘lip’ on the side of the table was about armpit high, so just getting my arm over and then not too far down near the table top—another no no—was awkward. I felt like I should be standing on a booster block.

When it was my turn to roll, Stephanie pointed to the top of my head and yelled to our table mates, “First time roller, she’s a first time roller, she’s good luck!”

I started rolling. Stephanie started putting down five-dollar bets, while getting some finer points on betting from nearby players. I rolled and I rolled. Every once in a while I would hear a roar from my fellow gamblers. The table started filling in and then people were two deep watching, feeling and contributing to the excitement. Hands flew up while yells of ‘Yay’ came from the crowd. “What happened, what happened?” I asked. “What did I roll?” I hit my number, which I was beginning to understand was a good thing. I think everyone won when I did this. At least everyone was excited, so I assumed that they all won. Stephanie told me that the married man who taught me how to roll was betting against me. I decided not to let that bother me. There was a twenty-something year old Asian man to the left of us who was betting larger twenty-five-dollar chips, betting with me. At one point he said, “If you roll a five right now, I’ll give you $250. Didn’t happen, but at least I didn’t roll a seven, so I was still in the game. Eventually a casino employee showed up with a large tray of chips to replenish the table. “Look, the table has run out of chips,” I said. I was told that it was more likely that the pit boss was trying to change the rhythm of play and hopefully break my streak.

Stephanie started the mantra, “Go mom, go mom!” Everyone at the table started yelling, “Go mom, go mom!”

At one point I quietly whispered to Stephanie, “I’m tired of rolling.”

“Shhhh, be quiet, keep rolling!” We had had a nice lunch with a beer and I was feeling the late afternoon affects. It felt like nap time, but I kept rolling.

Once again the young Asian man to our left said, “If you roll a four right now, I’ll give you $300.00.” I didn’t roll that four, but I did hit my number three more times, which made the crowd very happy. I am sure you could hear the boisterous yelling all over the first floor of Harvey’s. Stephanie kept betting conservatively, while the young man’s chip pile got bigger and bigger.

Finally, I crapped out!

Stephanie, ever the cheerleader, started clapping and yelling, “Yay for mom! Yay for mom!” Everyone at the table joined in clapping and yelling and mouthing their thank yous. They had all been winners; even the guy who had been betting against me had finally started betting with me and won.

The next roller was Stephanie. She rolled twice before crapping out. At that point we had been at the club much longer than we had told Deanna that we’d be gone. Stephanie pushed our chips toward the dealer to indicate that we were done. “Ahh, come on, give us a chance to get even,” he said.

Stephanie looked at him and said, “Are you kidding me?” Off we went to cash in our chips, which turned out to be worth over four hundred dollars. Not bad.

When we turned around from cashing in, the young Asian better was behind us. He asked, “Do you know how rare it is to hit four of your numbers?” We had no idea. He excitedly exclaimed, “One in a million!” His winnings? Fourteen hundred dollars! And no, he did not share any of his good fortune with us.

As we were leaving Stephanie told me that she had never been at a crap table for longer than twenty minutes let alone rolled for twenty minutes. I had rolled the dice for forty minutes!

And that was the end of my crap playing. I just can’t imagine that playing craps could ever be that exciting and fun again.

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Dotti

By Treva Perkins

A dear old friend of mine recently died.  In January.  Peacefully.  In her sleep. She was dear to me because she and I could talk forever about anything:  politics, women’s rights, food preparation, the arts, Los Angeles freeways, gardening, Mexico, news… any topic.  Dotti was an intellect.  Forward thinking.  Open minded.  Because of these attributes she never aged even though she lived to be 95.

In my mind, Dotti will live on forever.  Talking.  Laughing.  Insights that amaze with wit that amuses.

Here’s to you Dotti!  May your new journey be as rewarding as your life was a beautiful gift to all of us who knew you.

Doug, the Guy

By Treva Perkins

Oh that guy!  There was no way that I was going to give him the satisfaction of even looking at him!  And those girls hanging all over him as they all walked the hallways ooogaling and cooing.  There were at least four or five of them at all times sauntering down the hall with him arm in arm.  It was disgusting.  Didn’t they know how ridiculous they looked?  And the guy had a big smile that said it all; he loved it! I couldn’t stand it.  All of this frenzy took place toward the end my ninth grade year at George Jacobs Junior High, in Eureka, CA.  This tall, slender Elvis look alike with his dark hair and creamy white skin had shown up at our school and was making quite a stir with the girls.  He and I didn’t have any classes together so the only time I saw him was passing in the hallways always accompanied by a bevy of silly girls.  No, I was not going to be part of the harem.

Probably the reason that I caught his attention was because I ignored him, thoroughly. Certainly I didn’t mean to bring this interest to myself because not only was I terribly shy, but I didn’t want to be pulled in to being part of the troupe.  It wasn’t too many days before one of the girls approached me and said that Doug wanted to call me.  After all of these years, details are few and far between but I did talk to Doug for at least an hour on the phone after dinner for several nights.  He didn’t live anywhere near me so popping over for a visit was not to be.   Doug asked me to the prom.  Considering all of the girls who had been dying to date him, I couldn’t believe that he picked me.  On the evening of the prom his aunt, who he was living with at the time, drove us to the school for the gala event.   This was my first real date and on the way home in the back seat with his aunt driving up front, I had my first real kiss.

With the end of the school year, Doug seemed to disappear as fast as he had swooped into town.  I can only imagine that my parents might have sighed a breath of relief when this whirlwind liaison ended.   

Arrival

By Treva P

My husband David, my daughter Stephanie and I disembark from our first-class Pan Am flight shuffling into a stark gray building where we present our passports and then wait to be picked up by the driver of my husband’s new boss.  New boss, new job, new city and new experiences to come in this my first trip and move to Sao Paulo, Brazil, circa 1976.  The city and the sky are gray, not attractive.  It is August and this is their winter.  We are quickly whisked away to a downtown hotel in the middle of the city where we will stay until we find and rent a house. 

Our first obstacle to overcome is what to do with our dog.  We had snuck Liza, our small, adorable black Lhasa Apso dog, on board the plane in a black carry-on bag.  It was astonishing how well she did on that long trip traversing thousands of miles from Pasadena.   Once we settle in for the flight, she peeks out from the bag munching on treats and slurping up water.  But now our need is to figure out how we are going to keep her in our room when dogs aren’t allowed in the hotel.  This is going to be challenging, especially taking those necessary twice a day walks.  David is assigned that duty.

Stephanie is a real trooper behaving perfectly and adjusting to her new surroundings.  She turns one year old this first week we are in the hotel.  A cupcake and a celebration will be in order.

Upon recalling our arrival in Sao Paulo all those years ago, I cringe to think about how naïve we were.  Taking a dog on the airplane? Moving with a one year old?  At the time, living and working overseas seemed adventurous and seemed the right thing to do for David’s career.  It eventually was good for his career but that first year in Sao Paulo was a tough one in many many ways.   For a couple of months after we moved into a rented home outside the city, I was isolated because we didn’t have a car or a driver.  And, once we were given a car, we discovered that finding our way around was annoyingly difficult – we were always losing our way.  That first year there was an emergency room visit late into the night, a second pregnancy and an appointment with an obstetrician who didn’t understand the term ‘natural childbirth’, a large rat in the back yard, our maid was as lonely as I was since she had no one nearby with whom to talk, and then there was my less than adequate Portuguese language skills.  The difficulties continued.  David wasn’t given the position for which he was hired so he became very despondent and miserable with his job and his boss.  You can only guess what it is like to live with a man who is so torn, disappointed and discouraged.  For a year I tried to console and emotionally support him.  After those excruciating months, David was hired by a competitor bank for the very position for which we had moved in the first place.  It was then time to move to Rio de Janeiro.