Topic suggested byÂ Chirotus. Thank you!
Most people don’t completely remember their early childhood. Freud suggested this was the result of our embarrassment over ideas and actions of our early youth and called it “motivated forgetting.” However, many people remember certain events from that period that had a strong effect on them. One that I remember was my first experience of magick.
When I was five years old I watched my father die of a heart attack. My mother couldn’t deal with maintaining a house, raising me and my older brother, trying to find a job, and the loss of her husband. My brother and I were sent off to relatives while my mother received help dealing with the stress. A few months later, my brother and I snuck down to a phone after everyone in the house was asleep. We called our mother and begged to come home. That helped snap my mother out of her situation and in a short time, with help, it was me, my mother, and my brother against the world.
My mother had obtained a job as an accountant at a neighbor’s busy store. As usual for women then (and for too many women now), she did twice the work and received half the pay she should have received. But she was happy for the work and the ability to move her hours around so she could get my brother off to school and me off to kindergarten. Her work taking care of a business, our home, and us was hard, and after a time she needed a vacation.
I had an uncle who lived in Las Vegas. He was a pit boss (later he offered to send me to dealer school), and we think he may have been a part owner of the hotel/casino where he worked. He told my mother that if she could get us to Las Vegas, he’d get us a room for free. That became the plan.
The Trip to Las Vegas
My mother owned an old, faded blue car from the early-1950s. Today such a car would be called a “beater.” I think it had a googolplex miles on the odometer. I still remember the stink of the fabric seats. It might have been mold. The car, we had named it Annabelle for some reason, had no air conditioning and it would have been horrible trying to take us in mid-summer through the desert from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. I doubt if the car would even make it that far. So my mother decided on the cheapest alternative: we would take the Greyhound Bus. We got a lift to the Santa Monica station and got on the bus. There were two stops where we had to change busses along the way. The first was in downtown L.A. There was no problem there. We arrived at the second station, about ten miles outside of nowhere, just in time to see the red of the taillights of the bus that was supposed to take us the rest of the way. “No problem,” the station manager told us. “You can take the next bus to Las Vegas.” It was scheduled to arrive six hours later.
The last place any normal person would want to be is in a non-air conditioned bus station in a desert in the middle of nowhere with two small children. To this day I wonder how my mother kept sane. Eventually, the bus arrived. We were hot and sweaty as we boarded, and we enjoyed sitting in the air-conditioned bus taking us to our destination. [The seats on buses or "coaches" then were quite plush, oversized, and comfortable. Too bad airplanes won't use seats like that!]
We arrived and took a taxi to the hotel. The weather was very hot. But as they say, “It’s a dry heat.”
Yeah, dry. It was like living in a kiln!
Mid-Century Las Vegas
Over past recent decades, Las Vegas tried to rebrand itself as a family destination. Today, the hotels are often “kid friendly” and have lots of things for children to do. Some hotels even offer child care. Unfortunately, people started coming there for the entertainment and not the gambling. Profits went down so prices on other things such as rooms and meals have skyrocketed. Now, Las Vegas is trying to return to its adult reputation with its advertising of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
Back at the time of our visit, however, gambling was king! Meals were cheap. Rooms were cheap. And there was nothing for kids to do. Oh, there was a swimming pool outside, but I couldn’t stand the heat. There was a putting green that my brother liked. More power to him. It should have been called a “putt and sweat.” To her dismay, I hung with my mother.
My mother like to play the nickel slots. Today, you put in your paper money and push buttons on the machines. Back at this time you had to put in your nickel in a slot on the right side of the large deviceâ€”the reason they were called “slot machines”â€” and pull down a handle that looked like a straight bar on the side of the machine to make the wheels spin and determine whether you won or lost. The nickname for slot machines was “one armed bandits.” Today you can drop $20 in a few minutes. Back then they were rather slow bandits. Ten dollars of nickels could last you for hours. Hours! Unfortunately, there was no place for a little kid like me.
My mother got a heavy cardboard cupful of nickels and plunked me down in the aisle just outside of where the machines were. That way she could keep an eye on me and still relax as she slowly gambled away the nickels. It’s a fairly mindless action with relaxing repetition mixed with occasional joy when the sound of coins hit metal at the bottom of the machine when you get a small payoff. [Today, many modern slot machines play recordings of that sound when people win.]
For a time, I looked around and listened to the bells and voices of the people. But soon, I was completely bored. And that resulted in my first act of magick.
My Magick Ritual
“Mom,” I whined, “I’m bored.”
“You’ll just have to sit there and wait.”
I watched some more. “Can I play like you are?”
“No, that’s gambling. Little boys aren’t allowed to gamble.”
“I don’t want to gamble, I just want to play like you are.”
“You can’t. That’s gambling.”
“How about if I just put the money in the machine?”
“I’m sorry, that’s gambling. You can’t do that.” A uniformed guard with a gun was watching now.
“Okay. You put in the money and let me pull the handle. I won’t touch the money at all.”
“Nope. That’s still gambling. You’ll just have to watch and wait.”
“Well, if I can’t play over there, I’ll play over here!”
My goal was to play like I was winning at slot machines like my mother occasionally did.
[Smoking was a big thing in casinos, and the place reeked of burned tobacco. To make sure the smokers didn't have to leave the casino, there were several cigarette vending machines against the wall.]
- My mom and the guard watched as I walked over to one of several cigarette vending machines.
- I assumed the god form of The Mother (well, my mother) by miming putting a nickel into the machine.
- Since it didn’t have a slot machine’s arm, I made the next ritual move, duplicating the pulling of the slot machine’s arm by pulling down on the protruding nub used to open the coin return slide.
$1.37 in change clattered down the coin return slot. My magick had worked!
The guard burst into laughter as my mother ran out of the slot machine area to scoop me up.
Did my magickal ritual cause the machine to spit out money? If not, of all the cigarette machines that were there, why did I choose that particular one? Â I could have selected another.Â Why the odd amount of change when cigarettes were only fifty cents a pack back then? How did pennies even get in there?
I don’t know what happened that afternoon. I only have a simple name for it: magick!