SIN CITY – A DREAM COME TRUE
I meet Mickey at a traffic light two blocks from the center of Las Vegas. He’s carrying a heavy suitcase and the brutal and inhuman desert sun is making him sweat. He takes a break in the shadow. I ask him about the suitcase.
- I just found it in the dumpster, he tells me. It has a sticker on it: Fabulous Las Vegas!
Inside of the suitcase he finds a half-eaten pizza, soap and old worn out clothes. Mickey spends every day walking the streets of Las Vegas, looking in dumpsters for things he can use. Once he found a wedding dress. It was brand new.
Mickey came to Vegas ten years ago to drink him self to death. Today he’s homeless and located, together with his friends, on the corner of The Strip, the five-mile long stretch through Vegas with all the casinos. He introduces me to his friends and shows me his right hand. You can’t count the knuckles, it’s that swollen.
- I had to get up and defend a lady because someone harassed her. In our ‘family’ we take care of each other. They paint each other’s toenails black with a marker, when one of them falls asleep – they think it’s funny.
The next time I meet Mickey, he’s skinny and the hair is long. The ‘family’ isn’t there anymore. I ask him, how he’s doing. He doesn’t say much but:- I’ve lost track.
- Las Vegas has become too big. It was much better back in the old days. Sam came to Las Vegas 54 years ago. He’s a gambler and I meet him, sitting in his chair at his favorite sports bar, at Golden Nugget Casino. Downtown. This is where the big casinos were first build and the beginning of the city took place.
He bets his money on baseball, cricket and horseracing. He’s won money before. Not a lot. A couple of thousands dollars. Sam never goes to The Strip anymore, there are too many people. He liked the city better back then, when everybody knew each other. And the dealers at the casinos were men. Today too many dealers are women in short skirts or low-cut dresses, trying to attract the young men’s attention, he thinks. Sam has been in love many times, but has never found ‘the one’. He’s not looking for her anymore.
Half an hour from downtown, Sam lives in an apartment in a housing complex. He shares his small two-bedroom with his friends John and Denaz. In exchange for staying, Denaz cooks for Sam. He doesn’t know how to.
In Sam’s room, there are coupons from the sports bar. But he hasn’t played on anything. The boxes on the vouchers are empty. It’s Friday and Vegas will party tonight, but Sam just wants to stay at home. Smoke a cigar. Watch sports on TV.
Don had money. He moved to Vegas twelve years ago to play poker. I can’t ask him what he did before he came to Vegas. That’s the only thing I can’t ask him. He lost his job when the recession hit and lived on the streets for about a year. He was scared and longed for the life he once had.
I hang around at the little cigar shop, where Don works today. He’s been here for five years now. Most of the costumers are locals: Paul, who works at a casino. Larry, who’s turning 70 today. He’s not doing anything special to celebrate, he can’t afford it. Ron, who lived with his mother until she died last year. ‘Easy’, who rides a Harley. ‘Big Daddy’ who stops by to smoke a cigar in the black leather couch.
Don still plays poker. Not like before, but at cheaper gambling tables, where the stakes are lower. He meets women at the casinos, but they are all after the money, he says. He doesn’t like women of his own age, but prefers them younger. Don thinks Las Vegas is a lonely place and when I ask him who his best friend is, he answers: – My best friend is me! Me, me, me.