Being a small town guy at heart, I have always been suspicious of gambling towns such as Reno; denizens of evil as it were. Naturally, I was on the alert when I encountered the subject of last week’s column which follows.
I’m not a gambler of any sort. Not only do I not take chances on possible life changing events, the thought of risking any of my hard earned money on the roll of the dice or the spin of the roulette wheel makes me nauseous. So what were my wife, Susie and I doing in Reno, Nevada?
It started when we were visiting relatives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California and decided to do some sightseeing in that area. Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe and many of the historical gold and silver strikes are easy to reach from Reno as was the Memorial to the pioneer Donner party on the eastern side of the mountains. The history of that ill-fated expedition has always intrigued me. There was also the inexpensive mid-week accommodations to be found in the Hotel casinos – not that I’m cheap or anything. –
We decided on our first day in Reno that it was a nice morning for a walk so we strolled down the mostly deserted streets passing by a couple of cash advance businesses and the garishly painted, ‘world famous five star wedding chapel’ whose sign promised ‘no waiting’ . We had not walked far when we came across a little place whose main claim to fame was that it had been featured on some sort of ‘diners and dives’ television show.
I liked the place right away when the waitress brought our coffee in small white mugs that were just the right size and weight for drinking coffee. I have been looking for a mug such as that for years. Similar to the problem that Goldilocks had, most of the mugs I had found were either too big or too small. The one I held in my hands was just right. I resolved to have that coffee mug.
Before I could figure out how to get it, however, I was distracted when I noticed the restaurant hostess, clutching her armload of menus, leading a couple towards the booth across from us. Behind her was a casually dressed, diminutive and delicate looking Asian woman in her late teens or early twenties. She was taking small, tentative steps as she was guided by the pressure of a hairy hand on her elbow. The hand belonged to a slightly overweight, fiftyish man wearing khaki Bermuda shorts and a white shirt with the top 2 or 3 buttons loose exposing a flashy gold chain around the man’s very pale neck, capping off the aura of nefarious behavior that surrounded the man.
He glanced nervously around the room, sort of smirking at people as he walked. What with my being an astute observer of the human condition, I was instantly suspicious about this guy. When he caught me watching him, the smirk became a leering smile, reminiscent of Vincent Price smiling at the folks who just showed up at the Wax Museum.
I leaned across the table and whispered to Susie. “Check that out. That old guy went overseas and bought himself a young wife.” As you undoubtedly know, I am very sophisticated but the fact that old men can legally pick out a young bride in the far east still shocks me.
She looked at the two of them taking their seats and said “That’s not his wife. It’s more than likely his daughter.” Susie’s optimistic outlook and her always assuming the best in people drives me crazy sometimes.
“His daughter? Ummm, did you happen to notice that they look nothing alike??”
“So what? Her mother is Asian and married to the man. ”
“Balderdash,” I said. “This is Reno, Nevada. Unsavory is the norm here. Besides, there’s no intrigue in a man and daughter story.” I told her. I am much more worldly than Susie; her genuine naiveté is one of her most endearing features but it also means that she doesn’t always recognize sleazy behavior. Not me. I’ve been around the block a few times so naturally the suspicion that the still leering man was involved in the white slavery stuff had crossed my mind.
I glanced across the aisle at the two. The girl, head down, was fiddling with her tiny purse and the man was watching her as he sipped from his coffee cup.
“Look at them.” I said to Susie. “They’re not even talking.”
“It’s definitely his daughter then.” She said with her room brightening smile.
“It is not.” I started to explain to her my intuitive reasoning on this matter and my idea of confronting the man but before I could, the waitress came by with a pot of coffee. An idea popped into my head.
“Excuse me, ma’am. Is there any way I could buy this coffee mug?” I asked.
“I expect so. Check with the cashier and see what she has to say.” She replied.
I hurried through my breakfast and went to the cashier. She called the manager and we agreed on a 3 dollar price. Walking back to our table with my prize, I glanced towards the booth where the odd couple were seated. They were gone.
So much for my detective work. Now I’ll never know the real story.
There was a lot more I wanted to say about this but space requirements and decorum eliminated much of it. I know the guy was up to something and maybe it was all legal but whatever it was, it didn’t pass the smell test. I was already dismayed before we even got to the restaurant by a guy taking a leak at the corner where the Wedding Chapel was located. Perhaps he was upset with the chapel for being the source of a bad experience or maybe he was just making a statement on marriage in general. Whatever his reasons, we have a zero tolerance policy on public urination in Mooresville, so I was pretty unhappy about this.
But not so unhappy as to confront the guy. He looked pretty bedraggled but again, being from a small town, I had no idea how he might react.