Saturday, December 18th, found me sitting in a comfortable chair in the Center Bar at the Hard Rock Casino listening to my friend Alan’s band play amid, above and around the noise from the slot machines and the hubbub of a multitude of people.
I watch situations and reactions, and on Saturday night I was in my element. I was in the middle of a people buffet. What I saw ran the gamut from average to bizarre to just plain sad.
What were their stories? I like to hear about the lives of others, but a good deal of the time the facts are highly glossed. People typically want you to think everything is hunky dory and will give you the impression their life is spent in a ray of sunshine.
I tried to avoid talking directly to a guy wearing Don Johnson’s Miami Vice, but even as I kept easing away, I was sizing him up as a character in a future book. I did the same with the trench coat-wearing, fiftyish Nicolas Cage look-alike who was hanging all over a girl who was half his size and looked barely twenty-one.
The women and men who were dressed to the nines for a night out on the town were interesting, too, but not as much as the craggy folks mindlessly playing the slots. These were the real people as they wore who they were and what they were about for the entire casino to see. They were the “regulars.”
In the three hours we were at the Hard Rock, I noticed several people who did not move from their allotted slot seats. Now, while I like the slots and love Vegas, I don’t have a problem walking away from Wild Cherry whether I’m up or down. You can tell the ones who do have a problem – they have an invisible name etched on the back of their seats.
Alan’s band, Five Star Iris, played “Is There Something I Can Do,” the song that introduced us to each other back when I was in a black pit of grief. This song is about the helplessness the singer feels toward a grieving friend, but I realized it is more than that: it’s a song about hope amid the chaos of life. It’s Alan’s creed and a lesson he teaches by words and example: we’re all here to help each other.
The people I observed wore masks (except the “regulars”). They looked, for the most part, happy and upbeat and ranged from tipsy to drunk. These people hanging around Center Bar were the fakes, yet, in my opinion, they were in more need of help than the gambling addicts.
After Alan sang my grief song, I wondered how a person could help a total stranger when said stranger is unaware he needs help. How do you help a drowning man when he believes he’s a fish? It was an unusual question to ponder in the middle of a night of music and gambling.
We are all writers of our own fate and the fate of others. Our stories are written by our actions and interactions with the people around us. Our words don’t have to be put down on paper; they can be sung or spoken out loud or whispered quietly into the ear of a grieving friend.
Alan Schaefer’s band
Five Star Iris
Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch