"THE PERFECT STORM," from 2000 was a fact-based movie about the high-risk, high reward nature of commercial fishing.
|THE VICTIMS OF THE PERFECT STORM WERE A CREW OF UNLUCKY FISHERMEN WHO UNEXPECTEDLY SAILED INTO THE CROSS-HAIRS OF THREE CONVERGING STORMS...RESULTING IN BEING CAUGHT IN THE FIERCEST, GRANDDADDY OF LETHAL STORMS IN MODERN HISTORY.|
From the movie, the term "perfect" has become chic to add to a wide assortment of acutely bad situations. Today, I have the perfect casino story to attach this "perfect" moniker.
From late 1984 to mid-1986, I dealt craps, in the perfect toilet of Atlantic City casinos, (the Atlantis),
While I worked at the Atlantis, the financial value of dealing at any casino in town was about the same. However, two joints stood out as slightly better...and one (mine) was a distant worse. For this blog, it's not relevant why our tip income was inferior...what is important is, the low-class clientele.
The Atlantis' casino space was separated on three gaming levels. The top floor had the high-roller games. Overwhelming, the folks who were attracted to these tables played close to the minimum ($25.00). So these self-proclaimed big-shots...who would have been complete nobodies anywhere else...made themselves out to be aristocrats.
On weekends, many regular customers treated the old dump next to Trump as a private social club. They gambled, had meals, saw shows and hung out with casino friends, (strangers, whose schedule regularly coincided). Some extended families did the same. Once these clans learned the ropes, they played the system to maximize their freebies. But far worse, they abused the privilege and treated the place (and employees) like they owned it.
Sometimes, we (the workers) felt like we were witnessing them playing pinochle on their kitchen table. They were so at home that it wasn't uncommon to hear embarrassing details of their lives or "too much information" when grievances turned into family arguments and dirty laundry was aired.
Matriarchal Scary Mary and her kin (sometimes as much as twenty people), became weekend fixtures. As "big fish" in a "small pond," they cut themselves a large chunk of influence and convinced management that the casino couldn't survive without them.
By using an iron-fisted personality, Scary Mary's three generations of low, high roller minions were forced to follow her lead. Soon, in a family dominated by weak males, they all knew how to use their sense of entitlement. With complete disregard to a craps employee's reputation and job security, this ploy was especially efficient to bolster their odds by making false claims, (lying and cheating).
These people wielded so much clout that well-adjusted employees wouldn't dream of correcting them. They saw how Scary Mary treated her own family, so most of us got out of their way and hardly a brave soul reprimanded them. So if there was a dispute on a craps game, any attempt by the staff to defend the house's best interest was guaranteed to result in a severe and demeaning tongue lashing. If the situation erupted into a federal case, someone (100% in the right)...could lose their job.
I have done a good job in forgetting nightmare customers. Unfortunately those harsh thirty-year old memories were rekindled last week at my present job.
"B," my supervisor that night as well as being a former Atlantis coworker, pointed out a player and whispered, "There's Calvin Park."
This skinny, sickly man looked like he was over seventy. I imagined him to be an old biker who led a tough life. His companion was an equally mature woman with a bad blond dye job. This lady took on a curious position behind him at another craps table. She seemed to be his watchdog as she alternated watching him play ten dollars at a time and protecting his blindside from would-be rail thieves (chip robbers) and/or knife wielding enemies. I don't use the term "broad" to describe women but that's what came to mind. This hard woman made me think what gun moll Bonnie Parker (Clyde's Barrow's Bonnie) might have looked like if she lived to be a senior citizen.
Despite my talent for remembering people, I told "B", "Who's Calvin Park?" Within seconds of his description, I not only recalled the Calvin Park legend but I also remembered going out of my way (thirty years ago), to catch a mere glimpse of his incredible skyrocket to notoriety. To prove Park's rapid ascension was so unique... when I stole my tiny glance at him playing craps at Atlantis' top level...the last thing I was looking at...was his face.
"B" was the boxman when Calvin Park had the defining moment of his life. So he had first-hand knowledge of the backstory he shared with me. Most notably, Park was a small business owner who had enough disposable income to burn $1,000.00 playing craps at the Atlantis high-roller pit, a couple of weekends each month.
Unlike the families and faux-social clubs that also met up there, Park was a withdrawn man. While the others (that everyone hated) whooped it up, Park (who was equally loathsome in his own way), was a loner, playing a different style... quietly.
Park was a "don't" player. Despite being razzed by the low-class masses on the pass line, he never wavered. On several occasions"B" referred to him on that historic night, as golden. He might have had temporary set-backs but overwhelmingly, he couldn't lose.
At first, the family took harmless verbal swipes at Park. But soon Scary Mary led her entourage into an escalation of childish insults that morphed into a deluge of obscenities. One by one, someone from the family exceeded what they were willing to lose and quit. But Scary Mary forged on. Between prolonged episodes of intense coughing, in her harsh, shrill voice, the black-hearted witch used language that would make a longshoreman blush, to profane Park every time he won.
Scary Mary didn't take her losing streak laying down. Through vicious insistence, she demanded that the casino change the dice. Even though it was against their policy, they accepted being manipulated, (they secretly rooted against her in general but in this rare case, they were superstitious and willing to do anything to stop the casino from hemorrhaging big money to Park).
To rationalize the switch and to eliminate the idea of a conspiracy, the casino manager showed Calvin Park an insignificant flaw in one die. Park was in his rights to protest and stop the bullshit but he was so focused on winning that if a black cat was thrown on the table, he couldn't have been bothered.
When the game resumed with an aura of invincibility, he remained stoic and ignored Scary Mary's renewed verbal attacks. Instead of being distracted, to spite her and the big bosses, Park rode the crest of this perfect casino storm and multiplied his bets to $1,000.00 each..
Scary Mary remained stubborn but over time, the intensity of her sarcastic MF-ing foul mouth weakened. Her barbs became infrequent as the new dice remained cold. Soon, Park's most stubborn adversary raised the white flag of defeat as she pissed and moaned about her worse loss, EVER!
A large throng of spectators remained as Park played alone. The area was as quiet as a cathedral until Scary Mary reminded everyone how evil she was even when she wasn't playing by yelling at a waitress, "I said six fucking sugars in my coffee not five...you think I can't taste the fucking difference!"
Park was in the zone. Within a couple of hours, he was betting the $5,000.00 table maximum and making additional side bets to further support his cause.
That night I was dealing on the middle level. Like a telethon, the news filtering down to us from upstairs reminded me of the giant tote board with spinning numbers always getting higher.
|I REMEMBER AS A KID BEING ENTRANCED BY TOTE BOARD NUMBERS SPINNING HIGHER. NOW THAT THEY ARE DIGITIZED, I THINK IT LOSES SOME OF ITS FASCINATION.|
Some of my middle level cohorts went upstairs to see the action with their own eyes.
Each new report of Park's luck sounded like an exaggeration. When I broke down to sneak my own peak, his rail included a gazillion gray chips, (each $5,000.00). Which explains why I said I never saw his face.
"B" reminded me that late that night Park broke his silence and made one announcement, "I have $800,000.00 and I ain't stoppin' till I have a million."
To keep Park (and his booty), in the casino, the well-trained Atlantis management team used psychology and persuasiveness to arrange for Mrs. Park (in her pre-gun moll days?) and other family members helicoptered in. Over the course of a marathon gambling session, (twenty hours a day for five days), the winds of Park's perfect casino storm simmered down to doldrums and finally stopped.
When a new storm brewed, the gale came from the opposite direction. So while he and his family were lavished with every amenity the casino could throw his way, Park lost every single dime back...plus some fresh, out of pocket cash.
"B" sighed, "The best casino stories involve greed, stupidity and a lust for power...that's why so few have happy endings. You'd think that Park would have known...the freight train doesn't come through town every day. Just look at that burnt-out degenerate, he's still chasing the fantasy of another one-in-a-million perfect storm ." I looked at the seemingly vigilant Mrs. Park and said, "So his misses isn't watching his back, she's just being polite and trying to hide her boredom." "B" scoffed, "That dude could've had the world by the balls...and now look at him...thirty years after his ten minutes of fame, he's just a punchline, playing for peanuts and cursing the world every time he loses."