The Summer of 1998 Part XII

Pete Garvey was my parking lot neighbor, a slight, reserved fifty-something loner from Oregon. He too was habitating in a blue Chevy van (’78 long model) with a bike braced to the exterior (his was strapped on the front). I never cottoned to the idea of a front-loaded bicycle. Most auto accidents are front-end related, so there goes your alternate means of transportation. Besides, your bike becomes bug-ridden. Oh well, to each his own. As we slowly became acquainted, I discovered we had several other things in common, the main one being his artistic aptitude. He showed me an album of photographs of his artwork, some of which were very impressive (mostly oil on canvas landscapes). Well, was I disappointed in myself. In all my trips, I had always packed at least one portfolio. I didn’t even have my own “mini-album” of 3 X 5 photographs of my art and architectural achievements, with which I could have really shared a commonality with Pete.

It was an oversight that was unforgivable at the time. Well, at least Pete sympathized with my irritation. We had been socializing on the open cargo door-side of his van, so I was able to get a measure on his interior accommodations, as so often I am inclined to do with fellow van owners. In contrast to Ol’ Baleau, Pete’s van was strictly utilitarian in its Spartan interior. But, it all worked, just to Pete’s specifications – a multitude of accouterments supported on hooks attached to the exposed struts, and several rubber trash containers used strictly for storage of some sort (I couldn’t imagine or dare ask what). In comparison, Ol’ Baleau’s interior looked like something out of the Bauhaus School of Art. Among Pete’s hanging items were a number of fishing rods (complete with reels) which I couldn’t readily relate to as a common denominator, since I was such a neophyte in the fishing game. In retrospect, we could have had a lot more to share, but it just wasn’t the time or place to pull it off. Those are the accidentals of travel.

As it turned out, Pete was more akin to Blaine as far as their methods of gambling was concerned, that is, they both liked to hang out for extended periods of time in one particular gaming area. Get this, Pete’s schedule was to stay for three months, just getting by winning twenty or thirty bucks a night, knowing just when to stop. He seemed remarkably successful with this approach, so Blaine jumped on his bandwagon like a chicken on a June bug. In short, Pete was conducting hands-on seminars for Blaine in front of the slot machines, I don’t know how it all turned out, but I couldn’t have cared less. It was a crock, as far as I was concerned. Lady Luck was the eminent domain, claiming her quotient at every pull of the slot handle.

The three of us had a ceremonious send-off in the parking lot, raising our hands in a pseudo-toast and farewell to each other. Shouts of “Good Luck” were exchanged, and then Blaine was heard to say, “Watch out Las Vegas and Laughlin, here I come.” I had a gut feeling I wouldn’t see my buddy for quite a long time. As it turned out, it would be six weeks before we were re-united in Dallas (for five weeks, he was mired in Laughlin…unbelievable). I spent one last night with my feet in Nevada.

As I was securing the bike on its shuttle the next morning, I was recalling the ominous note that had been taped to Ol’ PUCH the night before. For convenience sake, I had been tying up the wheels to a metal handrail in front of the Embassy Suites. I guess management thought it was degrading to their upscale image. The message was succinct: “Do not park your bike here. We will break the lock.” That was enough of an omen for me…it was time to move on. I hooked ’em to Reno.

As I was descending more than 1500 feet to Carson City (remember, its city hall sits higher than the bottom of Lake Tahoe), I was reflecting on the one amenity of Tahoe (aside from its unparalleled beauty) that made it so pleasant…the casinos were strictly for gambling only (plus adult entertainment). There were no gaudy, superficial attractions contrived to attract the family clientele with their rug rats and brats. Las Vegas had taken care of all that, with its Luxor, New York City, and MGM Grand. Okay, I’ll admit it – I’m a traditionalist. I’m adamant in retaining certain bastions of lifestyle in this otherwise homogenized country. One galling example is women wanting to enroll in an all-men’s military institute, such as VMI (have men tried to matriculate in to Vassar?). Yeah, in some respects, I’m a gender segregationalist. Or maybe I’m just getting cranky in my old age.