The night was late. The drinks were deep. The cigar bar was located well off the Strip, hidden in the depths of the side streets and alleys.
The man seemed to be waiting for me, his steel-grey eyes framed by his steel-grey hair. He beckoned me to him, his hand waving me to him behind a cloud of cigar smoke.
“Come. You talk to me. You are?”
“WM. We talk.” The alcohol flowing through my veins substituted trust, the fatigue in my mind replaced wary, and I gave him my complete and utter confidence. I sat down with my cigar and listened.
“I am Salvatore, you call me Sal. And now we talk of things, you and I, and I tell you of the World.” I stared into his eyes. Even at forty I felt a child beside this man. His cold grey eyes had seen so much more than me. This man had seen and experienced The World.
“The world is in a difficult place, my friend. I have been in Vegas for over thirty years. Recessions have come and gone, but nothing, nothing has been like what I am seeing today. My restaurant”, he waved aimlessly around him, “ My restaurant, the food receipts are down ten percent, the bar is down over thirty percent. I have never seen what I am seeing today. Even the conventions like you are attending do not help my business.”
I did not ask him how he knew I was at a convention. He would know. He continued. “And the real estate. Condominiums were sold before they are built. For hundreds of thousand of dollars. And now those owners. Those owners lose everything. Sometimes the buildings are not being built. All. All of them bankrupt.”
I inhaled my cigar, savoring the pungent aroma, trying to enjoy the taste, but his weary message made it difficult to enjoy my guilty pleasure.
“I tell you, my friend, this is nothing like we have seen before. It will be years, years before it passes.”
I nodded silently, letting the older man continue his rant. “The best years. Those were the 60s, the 70s”. He smiled ruefully. “My friend, do you know what the women were like back then?” He smiled at me and I nodded my head no, telling him I was barely born.
He laughed out loud. “Oh my God! The women! But today…they are like the economy, both are now are so cold!” He laughed at his own joke, then shrugged his shoulders.
“SoWM,all I can say to you is to enjoy what you have today, because things are only going to get more difficult, my friend. We are entering a new world.”
He gazed at me through the cigar smoke, as if daring me to take his advice.