Chapter 12 – A Dry Casino?
Following our early morning visit to the Batu Caves we had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted. Lacking the imagination to come up with anything more productive or original, Tim and I decided our time would be best spent getting piss drunk all afternoon while driving around in a cart on one of Malaysia’s internationally renowned golf courses. As we were heading out the door, however, we called a last minute audible at the suggestion of a wristwatch-wearing Australian whom we’d met in the lobby of our hostel. At the time, the guy informed us he’d been nursing a “wicked Scotch hangover.” As fellow alcoholics, we understood his pain and subsequently felt we could trust his recommendation. So, O’Shaughnessy and I opted instead to visit a strip of casinos up in a mountainous region of the country known as the Genting Highlands that had been dubbed by the Aussie as “Vegas of the East.”
Before getting on the bus, we crossed the street from our hostel and popped into one of the infinite number of 7-Elevens lining the streets of KL. We’d been in the city for almost two whole days and, in front of that particular convenient store, the whole time, the same barefoot bum had been sleeping in the same facedown position on the middle of the sidewalk. Not only was I impressed that no authorities had addressed the situation, but also that this bustamo had been completely unfazed by the scattering and pattering of the evening cockroaches that, once the sun had fallen, gave the chilling impression that the sidewalk had really been a moving walkway. I was sure the guy was either dead or doing the best damn Rip Van Winkle impression I’d ever seen. Either way, my bro and I had some drinking to do and the mortality of that dirty-foot street scrub wasn’t our priority at the moment, so we let him be.
On the way to the Genting Highlands, I was convinced we’d been sitting behind adulterous golf legend Tiger Woods. He’d had the same colored skin and facial features, the same black Nike baseball cap and had even been wearing a red collared shirt. I mean, it didn’t seem that far-fetched at the time. The outskirts of Kuala Lumpur would’ve been the perfect umbrella to hide beneath during the media shit-storm brought on by all the two-faced bitches who’d stabbed him in the back after willfully swallowing more of his shots than the 18th hole at Augusta.
As we rolled along, the bus took us through some scenic mountain terrain. We very much enjoyed the visual aspect of the ride but weren’t particularly impressed with the holes in the roof of the bus that leaked steady torrents of freshly fallen rainwater the entire time. I got a little wet, Tim got a little wet, but by the time we reached the Genting Highlands, Tiger Woods had gotten so drenched that he looked like he’d been laying on his back beneath an elephant that just unloaded a huge batch of morning piss all over his torso.
The driver let us off at a place called the First World Hotel. With that first drink on our minds, we didn’t waste any time dickin’ around. We walked through a couple long hallways and entered the First World Plaza. This massive, wide-open, dimly lit area housed an enormous replica of the Statue of Liberty and an equally large statue of an Oscar – the award, not the grouch. Some people had been riding up along the ceiling in a neon dragon-shaped carousel that looked down on the mall below where the rest of the visitors spent large amounts of money and carried as many shopping bags full of designer clothes as they could physically handle. Occasionally wedged between the dozens and dozens of retail shops had been several restaurants and drink stands. Much to our chagrin, none of them had served beer.
Also in this oversized foyer had been a stage with a fancy background that read “Happy New Year” in huge red and white letters and, at the time, was occupied by a magician dressed like The Phantom of the Opera. Since such a large crowd had gathered around clapping and cheering, Osh and I decided to stop and see what all the fuss was about. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the man on stage was no more than a weak-ass scrub doin’ weak-ass tricks. After five minutes of gradual build-up that gained intensity with each shrill note of an in-your-face Magnum P.I. style guitar solo, this brutal Blaine-wannabe’s anti-climactic finish entailed nothing more than him pulling and unraveling an entire roll of toilet paper out his hat and letting it pile up on the stage. Some people clapped, some didn’t.
We wanted to get drunk before we started gambling, but the entire resort area had been Muslim as fuck and the booze was nowhere to be found. Surrounded by people capable of having a good time without applying the sauce, Tim and I felt like we didn’t belong and went to seek immediate refuge at the casino.
Guarded by two Malaysian police officers with standard issue berets and machine guns, the entrance to Star Casino had a metal detector and a strictly enforced dress code. As it turned out, basketball shorts and a Cleveland Browns t-shirt just weren’t gonna cut it for those gentlemen. With nothing to drink and nowhere to gamble, things were starting to look pretty bleak.
“Shit,” Tim checked the time on his watch, “whattaya wanna do?”
“I dunno man,” I said, peering into the casino, “this shit’s pretty gay right now.”
“Yeah…Well,” he began, “we could go back downstairs, buy some clothes to gamble in and then return them afterwards.”
“Yeah? Ya think so?”
“Hey, we came this far, didn’t we?”
After entering the store that looked the least expensive, we had some teenage Malaysian chick help us find the cheapest slacks they had to offer and then each picked out a striped shirt that looked like it’d come straight outta Bert and Ernie’s closet – the one where they keep their clothes, not the one those gayrods have been hiding in for all these years. Not wanting to deal with ATMs – or “Tyme Machines” as the freaks in Wisconsin like to call them – we held on to what cash we had for the casino and put the purchases on plastic. After a brief wardrobe stop in the bathroom during which we tucked away all the still-intact price tags, albeit douchey as hell, we decided we’d looked presentable enough to enter the casino and start throwin’ down bills at the blackjack table.
This time the guards let us in right away and like the bros we are, Tim and I gave each other a sick-ass high five in celebration. Once inside, we began following the sound of slot machines the way Toucan Sam follows his nose – only we didn’t get our big delicious bowl of Fruit Loops at the end of the trail. Instead, we got a big shit sandwich in the form of the worst casino on the face of the fuckin’ planet. The place was super small, had no booze and was chock full of fucking dweebs playing games so lame and so juvenile they made the shit they got at Chuck E. Cheese seem like the MGM Grand. Incapable of comprehending our surroundings on our own, we approached one of the gun-toting guards for some enlightenment.
“Uh, hey, can you tell us where the blackjack table is?”
“No blackjack here.”
“How is there no blackjack here?”
“Not here blackjack,” he said with a directionally guiding nod of the head. “Other casino blackjack.”
In need of a drink and on the verge of losing it, I took a few deep breaths and was able to regain my composure. Osh and I walked across the street into a different building that may or may not have been part of the same resort where we entered another long stretch of hallway lined with signs. The signs had been written in both English and an Arabic-looking script called Malaysian Jawi that, to me, looked a lot like someone had just shaved a bush of black pubes, scattered them all over a piece of paper and called it an alphabet. Nevertheless, they indicated the location of the other casino up in the distance, so we decided to follow.
On the way, the two Irish lads struck a little luck before even hitting the tables. On our mission from God, we’d been given manna and quail. The way the day was going I had to rub my eyes to make sure it wasn’t a mirage, but up ahead and to the left I was pretty sure I’d been seeing a beautiful oasis in the middle of the brutal bone-dry desert through which we’d been trekking all day. It was real – a completely empty pub housing shelves and shelves of liquid gold. Like a pair of camels not knowing when they’ll get their next drink, Tim and I loaded up on Tiger after Tiger while watching a bunch of European dorks kick a soccer ball around on the television.
Once we were nice and toasty and ready to take on the task at hand, we walked down yet another long and dim hallway that’d been slightly illuminated by dangling, golden-colored icicle lights before finally reaching the casino. Upon penetration, my first order of business had been to drain my bladder. Why I hadn’t just pissed at the bar before leaving, I haven’t a clue.
Unable to spot it on my own and not in the mood to hunt it down, I asked the nearest security guard to point me to the pisser. In response to the inquiry, I was given a blank stare that spoke volumes about his understanding of the English language. With my piss bag on the brink of bursting, I seized the opportunity to utilize my expertise in sign language. Like a catcher calling for the heater, I put my hand down by the danger zone, extended one finger and began hissing like an angry serpent.
“Pssssss! Penis, urine, toilet, me?” I said, figuring caveman English might help get my point across. “Please, toilet. You point.”
Thankfully he understood and with a chuckle, showed me the way. Looking around en route, it was plain to see that this casino was a lot bigger and more traditional-looking than the first. I figured there was no way they couldn’t have blackjack at the place.
While scrubbing my digits after handling my diseased wart-farm of a penis, I glanced over at the bathroom attendant and couldn’t help but wonder, had I needed to take a shit, for what amount of money I could convince the man to wipe my ass for me…or even more perplexing, how I’d non-verbally approach him with the proposal if he didn’t speak any English. I smiled and nodded at the gentleman, glad he couldn’t read my mind before heading back out to meet my buddy.
I busted out of the facilities ready to throw down on some 21, but the sour look on O’Shaughnessy’s face made it clear that they too had zero blackjack tables. To throw salt in the already gaping wound, it was also a dry casino. Just so we didn’t feel like we came for nothing, Tim and I hung out for an hour or so and tried our luck at roulette. I was imprudent with my money and lost it all in two spins of the wheel. Timmy-boy, on the other hand, didn’t do too bad and walked away with enough scratch to pay for the day’s transportation.
Before heading back to Kuala Lumpur, we returned to the store to exchange our douchebag outfits for cash. As if we were the unsuspecting victims of some cruel hidden camera television show, the bastards topped our total bust of a field trip by offering only store credit in exchange for the ugly-ass forty-dollar ensembles. Obviously never returning and finding no use for store credit up in a location as remote as the Genting Highlands of Malaysia, we opted to hold on to the clothes to give to the shabbily-dressed, sidewalk-sleeping Rip Van Winkle outside the 7-Eleven near our hostel. By the time we got back to the ‘hood, however, we found that Rip was gone.
“Well, fuck it,” O’Shaughnessy said, and in a gesture symbolic of not letting a miserable day spoil a potentially solid evening, with price tags still intact, he crumpled and tossed his threads into the nearest garbage can before pulling open the door of the 7-Eleven. “Let’s go get some booze.”