April 18, 2010
Reno Nevada 4:45 AM
I’m sitting in the airport returning to Los Angeles having performed a wedding in Reno Nevada, the blue collar gambling capital of the America. The wedding went well. It was standard and basic, but the interesting thing about this trip was my stay in the Grand Casino Hotel. The place was huge! The whole bottom floor was one massive array of buzzing, clicking, whirling, flashing, eye popping, slot machines and card tables. It was dizzying. I’m sure by Las Vegas standards it was tiny, only 3500 rooms, but to me, that’s massive. It was hilarious to see the people so glued to these machines as if they were in deep samadhi, engrossed in the reality of gambling. And the casino was rolling in the cash. I saw men flashing massive wads of hundred dollar bills, yet the oddest and perhaps the saddest thing of all were the leathery old ladies hooked up to oxygen tanks totally glued to these slot machines. They were there at 9PM and still there at 4AM as I checked out for my flight home.
On this weekend the hotel was hosting a gun convention. I saw men walking in the casino lobby sporting huge hunting rifles and even assailant weapons, pistols and what appeared to be machine guns. I’d never seen anything like this anywhere, not to mention a hotel lobby! It was disconcerting. With all the liquor, just one head going wrong could cause a massacre. So between the gamblers, the gun owners and all the smoking, drinking, rock ‘n roll along with the beeping, clicking, whirling and flashing slot machines, there was me, the white Hindu priest. On my way to my wedding walking in the lobby, dressed in my flowing Hindu robes, I was thinking, “Who are these people? They are so bizarre and strange”! But then it occurred to me, no, it’s not them, it’s me, I’m the weirdo here! These guys with the guns, this is the Sarah Palin America, the cowboy America, the Tea Party America. They’re the ones who’ve conquered this land. They own this place. It’s me who am the freak. And yet they looked at me in my priestly robes as if I was just part of the scenery, another guy doing his thing. You have to love these people.