By Greg Price
It was Vegas Baby’ for me earlier this month, but with a different twist.
The family reunion was booked in Sin City where I had a fun time reconnecting with various bloodlines along the way, both with my own Martini family (my mother’s maiden name) and a handful of other family trees.
As always with my travels near and far, here are some observations, both heartfelt and hilarious:
THE GAMBLER: I am happy to report, I won more than I lost at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas at the slot machines and blackjack. The blackjack table proved a more faithful companion overall than the slot machines, as I wasn’t cheated out of my money to the point where my trip was heavily discounted. My uncle John and I schooled fellow family members on the finer art of blackjack and I realized I have to be better with my overall instructions. I talked of how splitting two of the same cards to double your bet can increase your winnings if the dealer is showing a high break card. And indeed there the dealer showing a six when my cousin turned over his cards to split them as I beamed with pride that he was taking my instruction…only to realize they were two Kings, which gave him 20…a near impossible hand to beat no matter what the dealer is showing. I needed to clarify.
Then there was the time we managed to get an all-family blackjack table humming one night where my brother-in-law had just started to dip his toe into the gambling waters. It was quite amusing to see a more grizzled gambler tell him you have to shout ‘down and dirty’ when you double down on your best you are showing a 10 or 11 and asking for one more card as a superstition. Despite it working many a time for my cousin’s husband, my brother-in-law politely refused. I would have thrown him an extra chip just to hear him say it.
Be it craps, roulette, poker or blackjack, many a family member bragged about their ‘system’ including me. If anyone has a fool-proof system, I have yet to see it. I saw family both lose and win big. If there was a fool-proof system, Las Vegas would be a tumbleweed-adorned ghost town by now.
FASHION SENSE: As anyone would know, I tend to have a bit of an odd fashion sense given my affinity for catchy-phrased t-shirts in my casual ways, along with my affinity for comic-book themed attire. Perhaps it was a trait that was passed down in the bloodlines as I discovered two other people attending the reunion had brought their Green Lantern T-shirts as well. I was considering the three of us do a family video where we wore our T-shirts in our full geek-dom and recited;
“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!!!”
POOL PARTY: Given I was burnt to a crisp the weekend before visiting friends beside their pool in Taber, I tried keeping my sun intake to a minimum by covering up my lily-white body. But I still found lounging poolside some of the best time I had at the reunion, catching up with cousins I grew up with on both sides of the border. Seeing my nieces and nephews splash their way in the pool and they form the exact bonds I had at their age with my fellow cousins, it cemented to me what the trip was all about. Making the memories of today while seeing glimpses of ourselves in the younger generation as we recounted decades past.
TREASURE HUNT: My Uncle John has always been a master planner and good public speaker and is usually the one who takes the helm in various family endeavours. MCs at my sister’s weddings, John has also been at the forefront of sports pools and the family newspaper, the PriTini Press as ways to keep family connected. The family reunion was no exception as he also enlisted the help of my mother and my Las Vegas cousins in Todd and Shelly among others. What I loved about the banquet portion was the trivia game, where there was a little-known fact about every attendee at the reunion that we had to find confirmation for. It got us out of the habit of mulling around the family we were most comfortable and familiar with and mingle — the very reason why we were having the reunion in the first place, to reconnect with family we had not seen in awhile while forging new bonds with family that had entered the fold. Being afraid of taking a bath because of the movie Jaws, speeding away on a runaway milk wagon as a four-year old, and a cousin my age getting the strap for bailing through a school window on a detention (I thought that was outlawed by then), were just a few interesting nuggets that brought family closer together. As I looked across the room, that closeness included many a tear being shed as the slide shows unfolded of all the good times our various families have had to date that have led us to the present moment.
It reinforced to me while we all can get busy with our everyday lives chasing material things, the bond of good family and friends is forever, in which I am blessed to have family so caring.
SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN: I have got to visit my cousin Phil Brosseau many time in my travels to Great Falls, but beyond my youth and early 20s, I had lost track of his brother Phil.
Beyond the visions I had of his earlier days with glasses and a moustache, I was taken aback a bit at first with his unique look of a lengthy white beard that reminded me of Santa Claus. Pat’s demeanour was as jolly as Ol’ Saint Nick, as I quite enjoyed my visit with him with his laid-back demeanour and welcoming presence. As families continued to visit at the smorg at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino, I ventured into a side area, where low and behold, there were eight more Santas sitting down to eat breakfast.
Apparently there was a convention in town, where my cousin could have made some more money while keeping the belief in Santa Claus intact.
FRIENDLY SKIES: You always won’t to be sitting next to a person on a long flight that will make your experience as painless as possible. Perhaps a tiny person that gives a little extra leg room, a mother with a well-behaved baby, or simply an interesting person you can strike a conversation with that makes the flight seem shorter.
But while I was lucky at the blackjack tables, I was unlucky in air travel.
There I was beside Larry as he demanded water because of the dry cabin right before they were going to give the safety instructions. That was followed by taking off his shoes and putting his feet up in the spare middle seat where he unveiled to me socks that looked like they hadn’t been washed in weeks with an odour to match.
The flight ended with him taking an extended trip to the bathroom mere seconds before the seatbelt light went on for our descent. I got to find out first hand why they want your seatbelt on because as I stood up to let Larry back into his seat well into our descent at this time, a pocket of turbulence launches me into the lap of a Steven Seagal look-a-like, much to his discomfort and mine.
Oh well, it just made me appreciate all the good times I had at my reunion that much more.