I spoke with Edward on the drive up from Los Angeles when I
was a few hours away from Reno. I said I wasn’t going to arrive
until quite late and should I get a motel. He said not to worry;
he’d be awake and be waiting for me. I arrived around midnight.
I had no idea who this man was or what I was walking into.
We’d only spoken on the phone for the first time today. “This is
the way it is going to be for the next few months,” I thought to
myself as I finally got out of the car.
Edward was awake, like he said he’d be. I was shaking a little from
coffee, cigarettes and a lengthy drive. Nancy, his elderly mother,
was just going to bed. Nancy breathes through tubes. She has
oxygen pumped into her nose to help keep her up and about. She
gets weak if she doesn’t use the oxygen. The tubes are long and
follow her around the house wherever she goes. She’s chained to
those tanks and the machine eternally whirls in the background.
Edward works at Fitzgerald’s, an old casino even for Reno. I’d
only been to Reno once before in my life. I was on a road trip
with a girl. Heading back from Lake Tahoe we spent an evening
in Reno for a night out drinking. Downstairs at the hotel bar I
asked the bartender for a bottle of champagne, he said he had
some little bottles of sparking wine and he promptly unscrewed
them for me. We ended up in a bikers bar in some part of town.
where I started doing shots of tequila with a gentleman who,
after my inquiry as to whether he wanted salt and lime, informed
me, “I don’t need no fucking salad with my dinner.”
The Casino Edward was working in had filed for chapter 11 in
2000. It has an aged leprechaun as its mascot. I guess the luck was
on the players side then. I hope some luck rubs off on Edward,
not that he really needs it. He’s one of those people that’ll always
be all right. I’ve never really made the ‘smart’ choices in life. So
to see a man in his late 50’s where he is makes me nervous when
you’ve taken lots of gambles with your own life.
Edward is an entertainer, he tells me. He entertains the players
when he deals. “Asian women are the best dealers in the business
nowadays. They mechanically work the cards all day and only
smile when needed and nothing more”. It seems Edwards’s
talents as a dealer are falling into the past in the gaming industry;
He’d rather enjoy his day and ‘connect’ with the players than deal
a higher number of hands. I watch him for several days working
away. The time is filled with hope and laughter. Edward flirts
with the female players while addressing all the men as ‘Sir’. I
think he would like a companion, but he is looking after Nancy
right now. At home Edward tells stories of other times while
making dinner for Nancy and I. We have ribs and rice. Edward
likes to cook, likes to take care of his mother. Edward said it
should take him two years to get all her money. I’m not sure
whether he’s joking or not.
Edward was in the garage when a raccoon tried to get into some
dried food. He’d got out his .38 to shoot it, but he said he was
too drunk and didn’t want to clean up the mess. Food plays an
important role in Edwards’s routine. I’ve offered to take them
both out to dinner but he kindly refuses. He talks about the
players, the tips, the money he did or didn’t make, stories from
when he was on the run, stories from his youth. He tells me of his
uncle’s last bet, hocking his house for $25,000 to put on a George
Foreman fight that he thought was fixed. It wasn’t; he died a week
later. Edward has gambling in his blood; his mother and father
ran a casino in Sparks when he was growing up. Edward now
divides his time between working at the casino, watching movies
from Netflicks, looking after his mother, and drinking from the
moment she goes to bed. He takes enjoyment in everything he
does though; he’s that kind of guy.
My ears are ringing from the sounds of the casino. Edward
says he doesn’t notice anymore. He’s a gambler who tries not to
gamble these days, yet his whole life has been the casinos and he
knows nothing more. He has a collection of dice that belonged to
his father; some of them are loaded to land on certain numbers.
He tells me of days when he could hustle money from playing
dice, but again, those days are over. He commutes into Reno
from Lockwood every day. Lockwood is not so much a small
town but a series of streets with odd French names. Some of the
streets are lined with houses, others with trailers. Driving East on
highway 80, there’s no sign for the town on the freeway, just an
exit number. Lately there’s been talk of Edward and some of the
older dealers losing their jobs. A company is coming in to turn
the aging Casino into a boutique hotel. I ask Edward what he’ll
do if that happens. “One door closes and another one opens” he
says, smiling, both of us knowing perfectly well he’ll land on his
feet somehow. But inside I’m scared of one day ending up in my
very own Lockwood.