Editor’s note: When we left columnist Doug Clark Thursday, he was headed for Las Vegas in a last-ditch gamble to win a jackpot big enough to buy a ticket to today’s Super Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
War is hell in Las Vegas, that glittering tar pit of sunken dreams.
Especially when the enemy is an evil dragon of a dealer who fire-bombed my Super Bowl hopes in just three quick hands of a game called War. But more on that later.
Today, I am in the sun-blessed Phoenix area, still ticketless to the Big Show.
I could watch the Cowboys and the Steelers from a mini-TV in the parking lot of Sun Devil Stadium. I may wander to a sports bar shriekfest and drown my sorrows with all the other losers who couldn’t find a way into the real thing.
Or I can always run head-first into one of those thorny cactus plants that stand silent vigil everywhere in the gorgeous, ribbon-rocked Southwest.
It was Cynthia who sealed my fate the other night in Las Vegas.
She was Hitler. I was Poland.
I was Harry Truman. She was Mount St. Helens.
Beware: Cynthia lurks inside the Excalibur. That goliath faux Camelot fights for your eye-popping attention with all the other monoliths to glitzy greed on the Vegas Strip.
For a dance or two, Lady Luck was my prom date.
A series of careful, conservative craps and blackjack bets put over $50 in winnings in my pockets. It was a long way from the $900 I needed to pay a scalper for a Super Bowl ticket, but the night was young and I was doing better than Jim Harbaugh.
The grim-faced Indianapolis Colts quarterback dropped $20 chips at a blackjack table the way one of his receivers dropped that last-second Hail Mary pass and put the Steelers into the Super Bowl.
It was more of a fumble that put me in the Stupid Bowl.
Early last week, I foolishly left Spokane as part of Spokane pop radio station KZZU’s journey to Super Bowl Number 30. James Chicalo, whose name I fished from a sack, won a ticket and a 1,500-mile winter hell ride to the game with me and the station’s brave young wheelman, Jason Valentine.
I went believing the oily radio dweeb who assured me he’d send a Super ticket my way. Easy as picking up a bag of Cheetos at Rosauers. The loon soon back-pedaled faster than a startled roach.
It was suddenly up to me to raise a bundle. “This is the game you used to play at camp,” says Cynthia as I walked past her lair.
Not any camps I went to. The fact nobody was playing with her should have been an omen, but War sounded oh, so simple:
I get a card. She gets a card. Highest one wins.
She cleaned me like an Ex-Lax cocktail.
But how can I kick? Getting here feels as if I guessed every Keno on the board.
Our white-knuckle odyssey south of Butte took us over 800 miles of unbelievably hideous winter road conditions. Outside Blackfoot, Idaho, vicious side winds whipped drifts into a white-out.
We watched the driver of an 18-wheeler in front of us, blinded by spray from a snow plow, roar off the road and into a ditch. We pulled into Salt Lake City to meet a massive traffic snarl caused by drivers trying to flee what would be a record snowstorm.
It was more snow, icy lanes and narrow, twisting mountain passes all the way to St. George, Utah.
Luck? Tell me about luck.
In Caesar’s Palace I watched a Toronto man of East-Indian descent lose well over $3,000 on one ill-fated dice roll. “Ees all right,” he says, handing each of his five female companions a $500 chip. “Ees only money.”
I almost ran to the boutique to borrow an evening gown and some spike heels.
Coming next, does Doug get into the game? Or does he set up a card table in the stadium parking lot and watch it on a portable TV? Or does he say, the hell with it and head to that dusty bordertown Nogales to pick up some Mexican trinkets and a sombrero?