The Casino

Steven. He was spry and sparse, lean and compact, like a chicken wing that’s had all the meat sucked off the bone. I’m sure he had so many stories to tell, some wistful and some wry, some happy and some sad. Former military man, once VP of marketing for a company. Retired at 40 with 

$10 million in the bank and was living the life until he discovered cocaine and suddenly found himself living on the sand in El Segundo.  

Fortunately his ex-wife at least got $5 million and she’s living very well on a horse farm in Sarasota Florida. He sighs as he says, almost wistfully, “Cocaine owned me, I used it to treat my bipolar disorder. The coke balanced out the alcohol, the alcohol balanced out the coke.”

He pauses, “My one regret is my first wife. I didn’t treat her as well as I should have.” 

He is now managing a security guard company in downtown LA. He works full-time, meditates every single day, and one place he likes to go to in particular to meditate but he could do it anywhere.

He said his father used to own restaurants and some bars as well as a jewelry company, so logically when he proposed to both of his wives he was able to get the jewelry from his father and theoretically could have even proposed at his Dad’s restaurant.  

He has a brother who he doesn’t speak to anymore. “I just don’t like him, I did when we were younger but not now.” 

I told him that I was in the service industry, that I work as a bartender, which of course leads to him asking me where. I told him where I used to work and he of course knew because he’s lived in this area since 1978. I then shared where I work now and he said, “Too bad I couldn’t come see you at your bartending gig, but no offense, I don’t mean to sound crass, but I’m too old for that, and even when I was young, heck, even now, I would ogle your boobs if I was to go there. I’m more of a Doer and not a Looker, so it’s to the casino I go for my release!”

He is now 71-years-old and lives in a veterans facility in south-central LA. “I know I’ll never be a billionaire again, but I have a good life.” 

The rain was soft against my car as we made our way East towards the casino. Jazz music from 88.1 was playing in the background, prompting him to comment on how he enjoyed that type of music, it soothes him, just like playing golf once a week, every Friday with his friend up in Moorpark, I think at a place called Rustic Canyon. He takes the train up there, keeps his golf club in his friends trunk, a friend he actually met on the golf course 15 years ago.  

This leads me to ask him if he’s been to the Trump Golf course in Palos Verdes, and he said he doesn’t like it. 

“I like to go hiking there,” I said, to which he replied, “I like to hike too, there’s a place called Indian Canyon I think or something like that, in Palm Springs,” he pauses, as though remembering a moment, “it’s very powerful if you believe in that stuff, it’s a burial ground.” 

“Oh yes, absolutely,” I said, “my friend wants to open a bar in Joshua tree which is near there.” 

He laughs, “Well there’s plenty drinkers out there!” 

“Of course I went to AA because like I said, the coke and the alcohol were like my best friends and my worst enemies, but I stopped all that and so the meditation it helped me with my bipolar disorder because the medicine they were giving me, man, I didn’t want to have sex and it made me feel like a zombie, two very bad things!”

I shared with him about someone I had dated who was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and I said I felt kind of bad because his actions led to me getting a restraining order and he had to go to jail, and he said, “You know, it’s his rock-bottom. Sometimes you got to hit it in order to get better. I know I did. My rock-bottom was losing $5 million and living on the sand having to borrow money.”

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