Celebrating an only-in-Vegas Thanksgiving holiday

It’s Thanksgiving morning and I am at The Orleans, having just dropped a friend off at the airport and running a quick errand to collect money on a bet I won a couple weeks ago. I’ve had this slip in my wallet, sharing space with my new green-inked Greenspun Interactive business cards and a dry-cleaning receipt from Tiffany Cleaners. That I am in a casino on Thanksgiving doesn’t seem at all odd for this Las Vegan. The casino activity is normal – it’s not terribly busy, and aside from the casual, “Happy Thanksgiving” greeting between cocktail servers and players -- and maybe a little more eye contact between gamblers -- it could just as well be any Thursday as Thanksgiving Day.

But as I walk toward the exit, something stops me. It is a car. A burnt-orange 2008 Dodge Challenger, set high amid a bank of Triple Diamond slot machines. Line up five of the black-and-silver Triple Diamond icons with maximum play on a 2-cent machine, and you win this retro-muscle car that gets, by my guess, about 10 mpg around town. It rests on shiny black tires with gleaming rims – even the valve stems seem to have been chromed. The trim is black and boasts of a “6.1-liter Hemi” engine. Liter-wise, the engine is about three times larger than the four-cylinder motor that powers my Mazda 6. I study this car. It would be beautiful if it weren’t so ugly. And I watch four slot players as they quietly spin the reels, and I wonder, do they expect to actually win this car on Thanksgiving morning in Las Vegas? Will they call their friends and family and say, “You think YOU’RE thankful! I just won a new Dodge Charger at The Orleans! What? Oh, about 10 miles per gallon. YES I plan to keep it! …”

I push the doors open to the damp outside. My next destination will be the Riviera, a quick trip to catch up on some friends assembling for a 12-step program convention that happens every year at this time. A couple thousand people joining to share their experience, strength and hope in Las Vegas on Thanksgiving weekend – and yet another holiday stop at a casino. Then I’m off, lugging a casserole pan heavy with mashed yams, to a big gathering of orphaned journalists at the HoE (Home of an Editor). But first, before any of that, I stop outside the front entrance of The Orleans to call my grandparents. I have to time these calls for when I am not driving, because these people are so very distracting, and for when I am outside. Their hearing is not so strong as they near age 90, and I have to shout at both of them to tell them how I am doing and that, today, it is raining in Vegas, and that I hope we might have some snow in Idaho when I visit for Christmas. Grandma asks where I am calling from, and I tell her I am at The Orleans hotel-casino, right out front.

She laughs, and I tell her all about my trip through the casino, and the gas-gobbling Dodge Charger. She says, “You really love it there, don’t you?” I say I do. She gets that. I do love Las Vegas, in a very Vegas way. You can have it all here, on Thanksgiving or any other day. Of that, I am thankful.

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