Stan breezed into the crowded Mt. Olympos Diner alone, with a big smile, a wave and a personal greeting for each server on duty.
"Somebody talked me into sitting down next to you," he said as slid into the counter seat. The dark brown hair on top of his head didn't quite match his gray sideburns and didn't look as if it was quite attached to his scalp. He wore a man-sized chunky gold ring on the pinky of his right hand.
"Some great weather," he said. "I told the wife I'm going out for a cup of coffee.
"Oh sweetheart," he called to a waitress behind the counter.
"Hey Stan! I know what you want, fried egg sandwich, dry, on wheat toast. Right?"
"That's right, dear, and be sure to bring me the cole slaw this time." She laughed
"Good weather for flying. I hope it holds out for tomorrow. Vegas. I go out three, four times a year. I've been going to Vegas for 50 years. They all know me, the pit bosses, the dealers. I used to know all the comedians who played the showrooms, too. Great bunch of people. Bally's. I always stay at Bally's."
What do you play?
"Blackjack, craps, pai-gow. That's Chinese poker. I used to count cards at the blackjack table and the casinos don't like that. They say it's cheating but it isn't. It's nothing but keeping track and calculating probability. But you can't count cards any more the way they deal from a bunch of decks.
"Let me tell you a story. Way back, after World War II there were these Quonset huts set up as casinos on the Strip. They'd put three or four of them in a row. One night I went into one and at the blackjack table, a young woman got an ace and an eight. She didn't know much about the game and she asked me what she should do. Well, she had either a nineteen or a nine, depending on how you want to look at it so I explained to her she could either stand on nineteen or take a hit on nine.
"So the dealer says to me, 'You can't help her. that's cheating.'
"'No,'" I says to him. 'You're the one cheating because you didn't call what she had in her hand and that's what you're supposed to do.' The dealer calls the pit boss over and told him what happened and I tell the pit boss I had done the dealer's job for him. That pit boss tells me to cash out and get out of the casino." Stan shrugged. "What're you gonna do?"
"Vegas had some class back then. Remember the old Flamingo? That was the first big hotel on the Strip. Some of the new hotels are nice. I like Bally's and the Wynn is nice. I always like the old MGM Grand. The wife and I used to stay there. Let me tell you something. Were were staying there and we checked out maybe an hour before the big fire started. Were were down the Strip and people were running, yelling about the fire. 'What fire? What are you talking about?' I said. We looked back and all we could see was this black smoke pouring from the windows of the rooms. You just never know?"