READ ME ... yeah, right. Right?

I'm sick of everyone else having on-line diaries. I want one too.

What is this all about? Maybe you should read the READ ME READ ME.

august 18, 1998:
living; las vegas

My 82-year-old Great Uncle Milton always says, "Anyone who does not enjoy this life is crazy."

Maybe he is right, but prior to a weekend spent listening to him repeating that over and over, I would not have been able to wrap my mind around the concept. I was not enjoying my life -- and, even worse, I seemed to have forgotten entirely what it was about life that was enjoyable. My friends would ask me what I did for fun, and I would stare at them blankly.

Las Vegas is the perfect place to go if you are me, and you have managed to forget what it is that you do for fun, and my Great Uncle Milton is the perfect educator if you need to be re-schooled on the fine art of enjoying this life.

I am told that you either love or hate Las Vegas, and I must be in the former category because I could not get enough, wide-eyed, of the palatial neon structures, the rollercoasters winding in and out (and back into) the city-size casinos and spinning around the diameter of a tower 600 feet above the ground, the ceilings painted with clouds to illuminate an always-day-indoors upper-crust shopping mall and the thousands upon thousands of diversely dressed people throwing their quarters, dollars and hundreds into the casinoholes - - entering the fund to build more of the above.

They are going to lose, but they place their bets anyway. Even at the tables where the odds most favor the players, the probabilities still favor the casino; the payoffs are still disproportionate to the investment; and the rewards are still dwarfed by the necessary risks. But they place their bets anyway, coin after coin, chip after chip.

It is a decision sciences statistical nightmare, an irrational pattern of human behavior, a narcissistic overly-optimistic idealist pastime .. that I desperately needed to see. The gamblers lose their money, but they have a good time losing it. On the ashes of their dashed hopes, a remarkable metropolis of science-fiction proportions is born.

And what is so bad about that?

"The risk taken should be in direct proportion to the probable payoff," I painstakingly explained to my Uncle, showing him probability tables and potential outcome charts of tossing two white and black dice. "When the odds-options pay less than 12 to 1 on a 1/12 chance outcome, you should not be placing the bet."

"But Rebecca," he said, patiently and slowly, "You are forgetting something. Luck."

And, it was not the twinkle in his eye or the winnings in his pocket, nor was it the $50 that he sponsored for my wagers each evening or the optimism he exuded each time he approached the table that convinced me. It was the people that I saw when I took the time to look around.

Who would imagine that an 82-year-old Uncle-to-everyone (albeit truly blood-uncle to me) would sponsor a betting table comprised of his 35-year-old daughter and her newly wedded husband (their son happily asleep in their casino-comp'ed suite), his 42-year-old former lover of 15 years and her semi-new husband (his 13-year-old daughter entertained by the kids-games), his three business-buddies and their (two, at least) spouses, and his 30-year-old pessimistic yet idealistic great-niece, with more charisma and positivity in the Uncle's pinky finger than perhaps the rest of the town put together?

"They are very above-average," he commented, referring to my parents. "Yes," I responded. "And you are in the upper 1th-percentile." There was no need to check my charts. "That goes against probability."

So many people taking so many great risks can remind you of all the ways that your own life goes against the odds, how often your own dice return in your favor, and how small the gambles you fear taking each day truly are when compared to the size of the unquantifiable payoffs we receive, sometimes for free - - the payoffs we relish each day when we choose to appreciate the things that we have, and the people with whom we are lucky enough to bet.

Card-counting, no-pass-line betting, and probability-outcome-tables be damned.

Whoever does not enjoy this life is, in fact, crazy.

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Copyright 1996, 1997, 1998 Rebecca L. Eisenberg All rights Reserved.