The day I got thrown out of three casinos and one country

This isn’t in the Guinness Book of World Records, but, really, it should be. Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you all about the day I got thrown out of three casinos and one country.

That’s right . . . three casinos and one country, all in a single day.

Let’s start at night and work our way back to the morning. It’s around 10 o’clock on an August night in 1971, and my four buddies and I are in the middle of our six-week, two-car, Kerouacian tour of America, and we’ve just arrived in Las Vegas, home of bright lights, blazing heat, short skirts and some serious age restrictions.

We are wearing our finest casino wear. I myself am dressed to the nines, having donned my cleanest pair of cutoff jeans and my least filthy T-shirt. I am, to be sure, a dead ringer for Sean Connery as James Bond.

Mike, Hank, Jan, Kenny and I stroll confidently into a casino and are happily pumping quarters into adjacent slot machines when a very large man approaches and demands to see our ID, like we’re a bunch of undesirables or something.

So out come our wallets. Mike is 21, and he can prove it. Likewise, Jan is 21 and Kenny is 21 and Hank is 21.

Now it’s my turn, and here we have a problem. My driver’s license states clearly that I am two months shy of my 21st birthday, and it doesn’t help any that I look 17. (At this stage of my life, I’m still aspiring to peachfuzz.) And the problem is that the gambling age in Vegas is 21. And I’m not even carrying a fake, because who needs a fake when the drinking age in my home state of New York is 18?

And this is when the very large man points to the door and advises me, nicely and politely, that I would be well advised to be walking out of his glitzy casino . . . NOW, KID! (Thank you, Arlo.)

OK, fine, no problem, man who can maim me with one arm tied behind his back. There are lots of casinos in this town. I’ll just wander off and try my luck in another.

So off I go to the casino next door, where, incredibly, the same thing happens. And then on to yet another, where it happens again.

And this is around when I figure there’s no point in trying further. Three casinos, yer out.

I resort to hanging out on the strip and looking at legs for an hour or two while my buddies play the slots.

But this is just the sad end to a very long day that started more than 12 hours and a few hundred miles away in San Diego.

There was a midday incident, somewhere between there and Vegas, when our two-car caravan got stopped by a Nevada state cop who wanted to know what we five longhairs were doing in his fine state. And I’m happy to say that he didn’t look in the glove compartment of the blue Cougar, in which one of us had placed a small baggie filled with some greenery, else I might never have made it to Vegas and probably would have had to make a very desperate call to my parents and most certainly would have failed to set my record of being thrown out of three casinos and one country.

Which brings us to the “thrown out of one country” part of this tale.

As I said, we started our day hours earlier in San Diego, and what’s the point of being five college guys in San Diego if you can’t pay a quick visit to Tijuana, that lovely Mexican border town where you can pick up, oh, pretty much anything your heart desires, including numerous communicable diseases?

This sounded awfully exciting, and since this was back in 1971, when you could cross a border without a passport, the five of us headed to Mexico, intending to make the easy walk to Tijuana on the other side.

We crossed the border – it’s very important here to note that WE DID, INDEED, CROSS THE BORDER – when we came upon a sign that said . . .


Honest to god, that’s what the sign said.

This was more than a little interesting to me, since my hair at the time extended well below my shoulders. But I really wanted to see Tijuana, so I neatly tucked my tresses inside the full-brim tennis hat I was wearing and continued to march toward Tijuana with my pals.

Until a man in a uniform, carrying a gun, pointed directly at me and, without speaking a word, directed me toward a shack on the side of the road, to our right. I make it a habit not to argue with men carrying guns in foreign countries.

The other guys kept marching toward Tijuana and I trudged to the shack, where I sat down on a bench with a whole other bunch of miscreants.

It was a small, single room, and in the center of the room was a desk, and behind the desk was a very small man whose head barely cleared the desktop. But he was nonetheless clearly THE MAN.

And the man looked at me and, without speaking a word, pointed his forefinger in my direction and beckoned me to stand up and step forward. I did as directed, and then, again without speaking a word, the man pointed at my head and flicked the same forefinger upward, toward the ceiling, a couple of times, directing me to remove my cap.

And so I did, and my hair fell down to my shoulders.

And then, again, without a word, the same forefinger pointed to the left, in the direction of the United States of America, which is where I came from and was where I was about to return. Because, as the sign said . . .


And not a word was spoken.

I walked back over the border, back to the U.S., picked up my guitar and played the blues – the I’ll Never Make It to Tijuana Blues – for a couple of hours until my buddies came back.

But hey . . . I WAS in Mexico, even if it was only 10 feet or so over the border, so it counts.

And about 12 hours later I got thrown out of three casinos.

And if that isn’t a single-day record, then I want to meet the guy who beat it.

— 30 —

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