In retrospect, it was probably the slightly homoerotic come-on that piqued my interest.
"You should come see me," was the call.
I'm not gay and even if I was, the grizzled black man with funny-looking teeth probably wouldn't have stirred my loins. However, as I walked toward the bathroom for the second time, the man said the words quietly.
"You should come see me."
As I drained the by-product of several beers and several more greyhounds, I decided I would indeed stop by to see the old man.
He was a shoeshine man of the first order. He buffed his first shoe on the streets of New Orleans and eventually made his way to Vegas, working the graveyard shift next to the men's room at the Luxor hotel and casino.
"I love this color shoe," he said. "It takes a real good shine."
As I sat and watched him slowly clean my shoes, working carefully on the scuffs, I began to reflect on the last 72 hours.
It began with a mad dash to a poker room. My poker jones had been itching for months. It needed caressing more than my body needed food. My stomach was thankful for the five-dollar hotdog and soda I bought seven hours later with a comp from the poker room manager. After seven hours of play, I was down a dollar, but plus five in comps.
Twenty minutes later I had avoided a much-needed shower in favor of a whore bath (wet hair, brush teeth, re-apply deodorant, splash on some aftershave), and met my friends for an $8 drink at the MGM Grand.
We walked aimlessly for an hour before standing in front of the Bellagio's water show. Sinatra sang "Luck Be A Lady" as water cannons shot white-lit streams a hundred feet in the air. It was then I realized that sleep deprivation can be better than any drug.
We sought out an old haunt, The Barbary Coast, in search of cheap Pai Gow Poker tables. Only finding $10 minimums, I spoke briefly to a pit boss. I'll admit I found myself feeling mildly powerful when the boss told us to sit down and he'd get a $5 game going for us. In the end, it didn't matter. By 2am I was betting $20 a hand. By 5am I had lost $150. The pit boss comped us breakfast. I ended the night down $151, but full of t-bone steak and eggs and up $20 in comps.
The night brought little sleep, but a new day in which I would win $150 playing poker and $10 more in comps. Still down a dollar, and after 13 hours of playing poker, I bought myself a slice of pizza at 2am. Besides three olives at 2pm, I hadn't eaten all day.
The New York New York offered $10 Pai Gow and the best dealers in town. When my terminally drunk buddy, Joey , tried to play a breath mint for the dealer, she barely blinked. When Joey started flirting, she responded with, "What did you slur?"
I lost another fifty bucks, but the dealers made it worth it.
Again, a basically sleepless night leading to another day of poker playing. This day in the poker room was mundane and barely worth mentioning. I spent my previous day's comps on a buffet lunch, then later bought myself a reuben sandwich.
The final night of Pai Gow was actually profitable. I cleared $100 playing at a $5 table.
It was in the middle of that game that I stopped by the shoeshine stand and got a good shine on my shoes.
As I stood up, admiring the new shine, I threw a $10 bill to the guy who had just massaged my leather.
I can't remember if I mentioned to him that I had only paid $30 for the shoes.