Before we opened a family business and stopped having extra money and free time, Luna and I used to go to Vegas twice a year. Once with the whole-ass mob, and once in December, just us. A couple of times, our just-us trip coincided with the last two days of the National Finals Rodeo. Which also coincided with the annual clearance sale at the Western Wear shop across from the Las Vegas Hilton. Now, two of Luna’s favorite things in the world are clearance sales and cowboy boots, so we spent an hour or two there on Sunday afternoon. And I went outside for a cigarette, and wound up hanging out on the storefront with a slim black guy in full out rodeo garb, also smoking.
Maybe 100,000 people go to Vegas for the NFR, I heard, so a normal-sized guy in a dark brown shirt with pearl buttons and a handsome matched Stetson wasn’t even anything you’d’ve noticed that week. We’re standing out front, smoking and talking about Vegas and football and whatever, in the aimless way you do when you’re sharing the cameraderie of being a tobacco pariah while your wife shops. And we’re having a nice time, when a guy who looks a little bit like Wilford Brimley did when he was maybe fifty walks by us, does a Daffy Duck double-take, shouts “OH MY GOD!” and starts all but salaaming in front of my new buddy. Got an autograph, got his picture taken, shook hands four times in joyous disbelief, and ran off to his car, giddy. I asked my new buddy if it happened a lot. He allowed that it did sometimes. Then we continued talking about nothing.
I looked up the NFR website when I got home. Don’t remember his name, but it turns out I was passing the time smoking and bullshitting with the rodeo equivalent of Phil Mickelson or Derek Jeter or Russell Crowe or somebody like that — not the top guy in his game, but certainly top five.
I love Vegas.