Life in the Casino
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Let me assure you that I never wanted to live in a casino. I mean, there's the noise. The smoke. The sleeplessness. The excess of bad food. You can't avoid the constant reports from the tables: sometimes good, mostly bad, but either way…unstoppable.
Still, watching CNN of late, or staying up into the wee hours with my face lit by the increasingly eerie glow of my laptop, I can't help but feel... I can't help but think... Well, I can't help but imagine that I have come to occupy a cheap room on an upper story of some B-list Vegas casino.
I'm pretty sure that if I dared to get up and pull back the curtain, I would discover that I am not actually living in a modest, 3+2 Beverly Hills-adjacent home, but some overbuilt and fragile Nevada fantasy of painted stucco and fake palms and flashing lights.
And when I finally shut down my computer at one or two and go hide in my bed, I can't help imagining that somewhere down beneath my floorboards, I can still hear the roar and bells of slots, the twang of crappy bands, the sparse laughter of high-rollers, and the gut-wrenching losses of the better part of America…going all night long.
Like you, it was never my intention to move into a casino full-time. I mean, I'm not some boozy drifter or reckless captain of the night. I wasn't out for some extended bender or red-eyed high. In fact, like you, I wasn't seeking risk at all… I was seeking safety. Yes, safety.
You see, for years, I went to visit these young advisors with eager handshakes and nice suits who assured me that the only real safety lay in gambling. That if I did not maximize my stocks, corporate bonds, and of course, roll the dice across this happy green square of real estate, I would actually be taking the biggest risk of all. I mean: Consider inflation. Consider college. Consider the golden years. Consider the risk in not investing….
And if, after the hearty shake which ended each meeting, I felt at all nervous about this remarkable theory... If, after heading down to the parking garage I sometimes paused with my hand on the ignition key, and momentarily doubted the theory that "safety comes from gambling"—I would recall all the books I'd read with titles like, "You have to believe to succeed." And "Just Do It!" I would remember all the magnificent lectures I'd heard about the value of boldness.
And I'd say to myself, "Gee...wasn't America herself built by gamblers? Didn't the Pilgrims arrive on little boats? Didn't the pioneers cross in tiny wagons? Why should the Urban Man fear to push out in a small, but doughty 401K, or a teeny floating basket of mutual funds, double-A bonds, and mortgage-backed securities?"
Surely, the entrance to the gaming floor was the very door of prudence. And if I somehow ended up living in this place full time, it was with the best intentions.
Just now it's 3 a.m. and The Urban Man sits at his keyboard with his brokerage program shining like the very face of a gaudy one-armed bandit. My hand hesitates on the mouse just as a slots player sometimes hesitates before the pull. A waitress comes by with whiskey and cigarettes, but the Urban Man knows he needs a clear head to decide if he should sell or buy, double down or double up.
What choice constitutes safety…tonight? There's no one to ask, now that the dapper young advisors have fled their offices. Me, I'd also like to move out—I mean, the noise and smoke have really started getting to me—but everyone knows that casinos are designed so it's really hard to find the exits.
For KCRW, I'm Marc Porter Zasada with The Urban Man.
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