I love Downtown Vegas. With the old hotels on the strip now gone, this is the one place that retains some of the history of Vintage Vegas, that and you don’t have to walk five miles to get to the next hotel. As someone who adheres to the dress code of shabby prep, Ralph Lauren clothes that are either too big or too wrinkled and most time both, I fit in with the eclectic mix of hipsters, street performers, midwest first time visitors, locals, drunks, beggars, punk kids and every other cliche you can think of. At the end of Freemont Street, past the canopy that lights up at night, past the Heart Attack Grill with people happily weighing themselves hoping to eclipse 350 pounds so they can get their free meal sits the El Cortex hotel, which, since 1941, has entertained guests. As you enter, you can feel the history, among other things, oozing from the walls. One day I found myself inside and for some reason drawn to the electronic craps machine. A few words may have been changed, but following is an almost verbatim blow by blow of what happened. I changed the names to protect the innocent and because this, most likely, in some form, will wind up in a movie I’m writing.
I’m not sure why this exists, but back in the mid-90’s, before I even ventured into the TV world, I wrote this mash up short script of beloved 1970’s TV show Brady Bunch meeting gritty 1990’s cop drama NYPD Blue. Please forgive the lack of format. Enjoy….I think.
You would think I would remember a lot about a day I lost $80,000,000.00, but it was back in the 80’s, during a summer job, a summer job where I was a temp.Well I was a temp, until the day after I lost $80,000,000.00.
What I do recall of that summer was that I was working at One Liberty Plaza, the old Merrill Lynch.It was my first summer job that didn’t involve working in a warehouse, where I shipped dresses, learned how to wheel dresses through the streets of NY and was schooled on bribing JFK custom officials with fresh canned tomatoes.
The days leading up to the eight figure loss are as murky as the job I was doing.I was on a floor that accepted some sort of Fed Funds to pay out to the holder.We used antiqueated computers to check cusip numbers, but worked mostly from carbon copy papers. The hours we paid out funds was from 10-3, not a second later.It was never crowded until around 2:30 when bike messengers would line up outside a bank teller like window hoping to beak the strict deadline.
I was 20.I was, believe or not, somewhat of a wiseass, whose favorite pastime was to get into fights with the multitudede of Jews for Jesus that used to hang out around Wall Street; that is unless of course it was a cute girl who on one occasion I convinced to meet me at a bar after work to further discuss her ridiculous views.And here I was, assigned to shadow the woman who had the final say as to whether of not these funds would be paid out.It seemed like everything centered on her.
I want to say was named Pat, that or Peg. Either way, she had just been thrust into the spot a few weeks before and was not handling it well.Besides the gallons of Coke, the soda, not powder and hundreds of cigarettes she smoked, things “seemed” to be normal.Then one day, she didn’t show up.Vanished.There was a rumor of a nervous breakdown, but no one could confirm anything.It was years before the internet, so she was basically forgotten.
And once she was gone there was no one to take over the desk by me.This was the 80’s.Anything goes.The manager of the entire department was probably so coked up, powder, not soda, that he thought it was fine to have some kid from Bergen County, who hung out at Paramus Park on the weekends, to be in charge of millions of dollars.It was now up to me to decide on millions of dollars in payments in a moments notice.And while hectic, and cutting down on my Jews for Jesus dating, things went well.I’d love to tell the story about things going haywire, but I kinda enjoyed the power of being able to reject work the second hand reached 3.Clerks were running towards me to get things done, suddenly I was the expert while the manager was taking all the credit.
Things went great for a month.I was making enough money to have my very own Girbaud pants and capezio shoes, the same ones that Lionel Richie wore on the cover of the Can’t Slow Down album.I had outlasted Pat/Peg, by weeks…and then the day came.It started like any other, a woman, who most likely was a hooker in her night profession, came around and gave everyone a back massage and the carbon copy papers began to trickle onto my desk. (fyi – this is not a metaphor). Then an amount I had never seen before $88,000,000.00. It was big.Bigger than any amount I had paid before.And it was faded.I asked someone else at the desk and he said it looked like $88,000,000 to him, but he had just come back from a four drink lunch, the 80’s.Another guy said 88 and even massage woman thought that looked likely so I paid it out and closed out the day.
I knew something wasn’t good as soon as I got in the next morning as there were several guys in dark suits in the managers office.Was he being busted for coke?They left, but he remained.Then I was called in.The next few minutes are a blur, but it was something to the effect of the payment was supposed to be $8,000,000 and I had lost the bank $32,000 in over night interest due to the $80,000,000.00 mistake. A head was going to roll and that head was going to be mine.I had 15 minutes to get out.No pleading my case was going to work.He wanted me gone to save his own ass.Looking back I can’t blame him, he had a nose to feed. I was the temp, low man on the totem pole, the easy sacrifice.I’d like to say I was defiant and walked out in a Jerry Maguire moment, but I can’t because I used my last minutes getting one last massage and more importantly, the movie hadn’t even been made yet.
Thus ended my stay at Merrill.That was until i was hired again as temp the next summer and something even more insane happened.
Years ago, when the kids were small, I took a crack at writing the first of a series of bedtime stories.Here is that story. Any and all comments are welcome.
The Adventures of Max and Max Cheese
One beautiful summer day, Penelope was in the park. She was busy running around with all the other little children.She came across a mother who was holding her new born baby.She loved the baby.It was small, smaller then her.It smelled nice.It smiled widely in it’s mothers arms. Penelope wanted a baby of her own.Someone she could hold and take care of.Someone who would smile when in her arms.It was just then she looked down and saw two very little babies.She reached down with her cupped hands and picked them up.
“Hi Mommy.I’m Max and this is my brother Max Cheese.”
Penelope was puzzled.“Hi Max and Max Cheese, I’m Penelope, but I’m not your mommy.”
“You ARE our mommy” said Max Cheese.“Whoever picks us up gets to be our mommy for the day.”
Penelope was thrilled with her new babies.She ran over to her daddy who was sitting on a bench.
“Hi daddy.These are my babies, Max and Max Cheese.”She stretched out her hands to show her daddy.
“Nice to meet you Max and Max Cheese,” said Penelope’s daddy.He pretended he saw them, but he really couldn’t.
“How old are your babies Penelope?”
Penelope thought for a moment and then said, “They’re two, I mean they’re three.No I think they are one.”As she kept giving different ages Max and Max Cheese kept getting bigger and smaller.They were getting dizzy, but they were having fun.
“Well have fun with your babies”, said Penelope’s father and he went back to reading his newspaper.
Penelope ran over to the swings.“How about a ride Max and Max Cheese?”
They both cried hooray so Penelope careful put them on the swing and started to push, but not too hard because they were so small.Penelope was having the time of her life with her new babies.
From the swing they ran over to a bench and had a birthday party.Then they went back to the swing.Then they all went down the slide.The babies then began to yawn.Penelope had a great idea.She loved to sleep on her daddies tummy so she knew the babies would like it too.She carefully carried them over to her daddy and put them on his stomach.They were asleep in no time.
“Daddy, please don’t move, Max and Max Cheese are sleeping on your tummy.”
With a big grin, Penelope’s daddy told her not to worry.In fact, he laid down on the grass so the babies would be more comfortable.
Minutes later Penelope was back.Max and Max Cheese were up and were waiting for some more fun.Back to the swings and the slide and another birthday party.It was the best day ever.
At the end of the day Penelope had to leave the park.She wanted to take Max and Max Cheese with her, but they said they had to stay at the park for the next little girl who wanted to have some babies. Penelope was sad, but she understood.She kissed Max and then she kissed Max Cheese.They all waved goodbye.
Max and Max Cheese knew Penelope was a good mommy.As the park grew dark, they thought about their perfect day. They knew tomorrow would bring a whole new adventure with a new mommy and so to contain their excitement, they both shot up some smack and drifted off to sleep.