First Dibs

Video poker machines and the city’s transient nature make establishing a hangout in Las Vegas difficult. The screens divert eyes and muddle hearing. A continually changing cast of barflies constantly juggles what elsewhere might be considered a roster of locals. And Las Vegas jobs with their Las Vegas schedules also add obstacles to continuity.

Furthermore, staffing at elbow-benders seldom seems predicated on building longevity or familiarity.

Arriving in August of 2013, I lucked out. After sampling this saloon and that dive bar, I wandered into an Eimers whose bartender could’ve been at home behind taps back East. Eimers is the brand name for links in a chain of Nevada taverns.

Wanda was a New Yorker. Let’s qualify that. She was from Upstate. Nevertheless we hit it off so well I followed her to another Eimers. Since that lucky hour the one I’ve settled into has been my socializing through liquor retreat.

At first by grateful choice. Now through default.

For a time Eimers has been the closest to constant I’ve gotten here in the Big Mayberry. The initial elements arranged themselves into a pleasurable circumstance. Since then habit, comfort, inertia has kept me returning.

Wanda, a lodestar of sorts I suppose, attracted better clientele than the usual Vegas types who’ve hitched their existences to the addiction which is bar top touchscreen gambling.

Aside from the nearly simpering presence every female Las Vegas bartender or server should possess to some degree if she wishes her shift to yield beaucoup tips, Wanda handled herself with sharp attentiveness. During business hours this transferred into brisk efficiency.

A Northeasterner with Wanda’s comportment was nothing new to me. In fact wasn’t she normal? To a lot of locals who rested their butts in there she must’ve seemed a revelation. The traits she exhibited rarely appear in the Mojave. Here, half-steppin’, going slow, slower until stopping altogether predominate throughout the Las Vegas hospitality and service industries.

Wanda was quite the exception. Top management became aware of her. With greater urgency and frequency they insisted she take on a supervisory position. Having been a boss elsewhere, the simpler life of a worker ant satisfied her. Yet Eimers persisted and would not be denied in the end.

Too, the associates who staffed her shifts or caught the hours before and after hers weren’t just engaged in wage slavery. These employees contributed to the general atmosphere. On the whole, on both sides of the bar, volleyed a menagerie of erudite, astounding, amusing, pleasant, and confounding humanity who could either rouse intellect or flummox common sense.

In short order it was usually a lively crowd which assembled inside Eimers, day or night, weekday or weekend. One an adult could appreciate.

Blessed it was to have been among those unusual suspects.

Of course it didn’t last long enough. What plainly enjoyable unhyped fun lasts long in Las Vegas?

Centrifugal forces we each possess pulled apart our Eimers. Transfers, relocations to distant Western cities, common here today/gone tomorrow disappearances left the walls intact but tore out the fun components. Plenty of gradually fading “what was” remains.

Aren’t conversation and the laughter it generated sporadic now when both were often continuous and loud? It wasn’t comforting so much as entertaining.

No more fights between female Pats and Broncos fans. (Who knew they even had a rivalry?) Even the gypsies have vanished as have the tolerable vagrants who toed the lines on good behavior indoors they never would’ve during their rough lives outdoors.

Let me confess the gypsies in Las Vegas were far more amenable than the travelers in Metropolitan New York. Swarthy devils, the gypsies nonetheless intrigued. Pasty vermin as they were the travelers preyed on the patience and kindness of good and decent people then exploited them without the slightest remorse.

Given a chance one might let the gypsies work their guile on an aware audience up to that point where the fleecing became real and substantial. Taking the opportunity if there were no possibility of legal repercussions, numerous people would’ve strung up travelers and flayed them until the whip frayed.

Concentrating on the past prospects renders the bar morose. Patrons may be glum but inanimate environments can be re-envisioned, if not altogether rejuvenated. Unfortunately, the latter of the pair is a resistant task. There are moments … but none of these fold into the next like the before.

Certainly Eimers’ clientele has changed. It doesn’t engage nor is as anywhere near as immersive as the prior sessions’ attendees.

Discourse skims now rather than furrows and leaves the brow smooth instead of leaving furrows from thought. Workaday people enter for relief and perhaps dream of coaxing a “royal” from the infernal machine bathing their faces in pixel colors. Whiskey less loosens tongues into deeper cleverness than further dulls quotidian living. Smart byplay lasts no longer than a spark today where yesterday it once ran the lengths of fuses into who knew what keg of provocation or amusement.

In its idiocy of not leaving well enough alone, Eimers’ top management finally convinced Wanda to accept a supervisor’s title. Then sweetening the deal they dispatched her to another site. Not just another site, but a brand spanking new from the ground up facility. It takes no imagination to believe company poohbahs thought she’d conjure similar magic right out the different box.

Ignored or unseen from corporate offices was the time and effort demanded before results bloomed and started accruing. The accretion was gradual, not instantaneous. One that also benefited from a galaxy of randomness. How could similar results be foreseen or guaranteed elsewhere?

Light foot traffic in an obscure spot consigned Wanda’s new den to moribund status from the get-go. Distance and conflicting schedules have made us strangers. Sadly, a frequent Las Vegas occurrence.

Although earnest and outwardly sparkly, Cheri, the bartender possibly chosen and assigned with the intent to retain Wanda’s departed spark, compares best to a plodder.

Younger? Fresher? Yes. Better? Nope.

Already statuesque and bosomy wearing Western boots which never fail vaulting her higher in male esteem and the tight, mandatory, low scooped T-shirts that fuel slavering, the brassy red-haired pourer nevertheless suffered in comparison to her worldly, no-nonsense predecessor. With Cheri all was surface.

By complete happenstance an incident occurred which in a generous sense could’ve equaled one of Eimers’ earlier life-out-loud “moments.” It was a marvelous train wreck between extremely knowing and befuddlement.

During a lull in the Vegas Golden Knights’ assault on hockey history in the Stanley Cup Finals, a distinctive patron and her two-woman retinue filled space at the bar. All three were attractive but it was their apparent inapproachability that made all the straight males inside Eimers’ Spidey senses tingle beware. Casually glancing at them, who couldn’t have mistaken this trio as working girls? Each hadn’t just dressed to impress, but as bait.

Las Vegas hookers don’t wear uniforms announcing their professions or levels of whoredom. Yet the amount of flesh bared, the tight garments adhering to the slavishly toned contours, heels verging on bondage shoe heights, and a final giveaway – eyes that roamed seeking to discriminate potential horizontal commerce from goggle-eyed busters and likely vice bulls.

Sure. It was easy mistaking hookers for club girls who’ve accustomed themselves to frivolous spa treatments and bottle service. Although, really, isn’t one mere steps or slips from crossing over into the other’s playing field?

Indeed, a pavement princess occasionally dropped anchor at that Eimers. Doubtlessly at every other Eimers as well.

Like other patrons most working girls sat, smoked, sipped and gambled there simply to relax and exhale. Yes, a rare few tried conducting business. If they were discreet, they remained though on the shortest of leashes. Otherwise whoever poured never hesitated giving an offender the thumb.

Any sharp observer would’ve seen the three appraising the other patrons and premises itself. It was obvious both failed passing muster.

Until Cheri emerged from the storeroom toting a case of beer. Sighting her, the trio livened considerably. Two deferred to who could’ve been regarded as the Viper. Not that she was a decidedly better looking Heather than the other pair, but her presence of command put and kept her associates in check.

Seeing new patrons Cheri switched on her best mercantile manner. Seeing new meat, the fresh three flashed smiles showing all their teeth. While none ordered anything complicated, the last requests before meeting the firing squad drinks they ordered could’ve either stiffened or broken spines.

This being Las Vegas asking for an industrial strength cocktail at any time doesn’t cause concerns, raise suspicions, or prompt second guessing.

While Cheri played mixologist, the Viper artfully prattled and wrung the bartender dry of information. Reading the bartender’s name tag, though, her curious patron might’ve conveniently renamed her “Manna.” Given her ease, I thought the Viper might’ve been a slumming reporter or interrogator.

Though Cheri was usually diligent about keeping close tabs on whoever else bent elbows there, her intriguers monopolized her time and attention. I liked what the Viper did. She smoothly started asking innocuous to presumptuous questions – the latter the sort which made the mind double clutch before answering – in a 3:1 ratio.

All this without once prematurely giving the game away by flicking her tongue.

Cheri always regained her balance but afterwards she was slightly less surefooted. Not that Cheri had grown up cloistered. After all, Las Vegas has an extensive gay and lesbian presence. A number of customers making Cheri’s cash register ring that afternoon she knew to be same-sexers.

One can’t hope to thrive in Las Vegas and hold biases prevalent in the less tolerant parts of the country. People visit Sin City to let their inhibitions run free, not just stuff them in different closets.

At the end, had the Viper had shoved a note between Cheri’s boobs she couldn’t have made her intentions any clearer.

So when the “Eureka!” sign started flashing above Cheri’s head, she wasn’t dismissive from offense. No, she was dismissive because, well, she didn’t play on the Viper’s team and had no interest in trying out.

(Oh to have witnessed Wanda parrying this encounter.)

Too bad. For later once the Viper and her escorts departed without possibility of Cheri’s red pelt as a future trophy, a few of the less gentlemanly among us really debated – in hushed conspiratorial schoolboy tones naturally – whether Cheri had misunderstood or misheard the Viper’s “tossed salad” reference.

Interpreting it as we had, again who among us didn’t have a Howard Stern moment the shock jock best might’ve described as “watching some hot lesbo sex?” None of us thought seeing the Viper and her friends writhing around the big red head as all that farfetched.

But leave the last line to the Viper herself. Cheri absented herself into the storeroom as the trio rose to leave. The gesture stirred their regret. Oh, up to a point. They tipped generously.

The Viper declared Cheri would eventually be a team player. Their little discourse that afternoon had doubtlessly started the process. The transformation into knowing what a woman craved.

“And when it happens,” the Viper said, “I got first dibs on that.”

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