Kim's Blogs

The Education of a Casino Girl


 

1980 Something / CCL

 

A long time ago during my Madonna faze, my abundant black eyeliner faze, and my Purple Rain faze, I worked for CCL/Carnival Cruise Lines.

 

Yes, it’s true. Me, with my bitch red lips and powdery shadow flowing to my brows like a shimmering, aqua river. Me, with my attitude of, “I can rule the whole f*cking world.”

 

That was then.

 

At first, I had applied for the cruise director position, you know, like Julie from the Love Boat (only people over 40 will know about this). But without experience or a degree in one thing or another, I ended up as a croupier instead, which was a beautiful education for a young, innocent Minnesota girl.

 

For example, I learned how to count. Fast. The faster one counts, the faster one can obtain the player’s money. Don’t be shocked. I was ruthless, and I felt powerful taking hundred dollar chips from men with fat cherry smelling cigars who smirked and winked at girls half their age. My first month dealing blackjack, an old fart elderly gentleman sat at my table while a stunning blonde super model stood behind him, and I was like, “Sir, your daughter is lovely,” and he was like, “She Is. Not. My Daughter.”

 

I was disciplined several times during my training period for saying “Shit,” when I made a mistake, and I learned quickly to keep those cuss words hidden inside. And if you know me at all, you may recognize, I keep nothing inside.

 

I learned how to distinguish combinations of 21 in numerous groupings. I was damn good at it, too. Ironic, because math was never my subject in school. I was more interested in the verse of Plath, Sexton, Jong, Oliver. All of the women I wanted to write like.

 

I was forever a writer even when I wasn’t writing; taking notes and observations on the characters I encountered on the ship for later use.

 

Like now.

 

Once, an handsome Arab man with a luxurious crimson turban, whom flew his own jet to Miami, sat at my blackjack table. The pit boss roped off the area just for him and his harem of exotic, dark women. Would I go with him if he asked, I thought. Would I want a life of lavishness, jewels, trips around the world, and sister wives? He never asked, so I never had to answer that question.

 

He played ten thousand dollars a hand (7 hands) as if it were pocket change, as if he were bored, as if he didn’t give a damn. He scratched the lush green table with his clear, manicured nails for a hit as if were the King of an extravagant land. Perhaps he was.

 

The kitchen personnel served him sushi, finger sandwiches, stuffed artichokes, and Chateau Montrose. You could say the casino kissed his ass. In the end, it was worth it because he left the croupiers a seventy thousand dollar tip. Sure, we had to split it amongst several dealers, but it was enough to buy a Gucci bag and some strawberry red Chanel lipstick.

 

I learned how to share a room with five other girls. One bathroom. One porthole. Bitchiness. Wisconsin Wendy and I were the only Americans. And it showed. For instance, we covered up our bodies with towels while the European girls sunbathed topless. Sami, from Paris, walked around the cabin completely naked. This made me nervous, embarrassed, intimidated, and envious.

 

Est-ce que cela vous rend mal a l’aise?” Sami smiled. She knew I was totally uncomfortable and this made her incredibly happy.

 

“What?” I asked, trying not to stare at her perfect breasts, her triangle of black curly hair, her flat stomach.

 

“Does my body make you nervous?” She said in broken English. Sexy English. Catherine Deneuve English.

 

Yes. Damn you. She made me reexamine my own body, my own power, my own femaleness She made me remember her until this day. Now. Because this sort of self-assurance is what I’ve continually strived for since then. And for a writer, if you’re not naked, well, I’d suggest you find another passion.

 

But it was Leah whose accent was like metal scraping metal, whom I scribbled in my journals’ about the most. She was from Latvia, Russia, so I was intrigued immediately, since I appreciated everything foreign, mostly human beings. She spoke 5 languages explaining: “This is simple for me. I hear words and I speak. I listen and I do. It flows like stream. Unlike you lazy Americans, whom for unknown reason, utter only stupid English.” Did I also mention she was mean as triple hell? Did I mention she despised my ignorance? However- she looked like Anais Nin—She smelled of Cartier perfume—And she was married to small, sweet, Cuban Georgie, who happened to be the casino manager, our boss, so the girls wanted to be Leah’s friend. Nobody was. Ever. Unless they were Russian, too, of course.

 

This was a small part of my education as a Casino Girl.

 

I carry every experience with me in little segments and beautiful pieces of who I am now.

 

And by the way,  I still want to rule the whole f*cking world!


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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Lady Fi
    March 25, 2018 at 10:48 am

    I love reading about your memories! You look stunning in that shot.

  • Reply
    Elephants Child
    March 25, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    You were beautiful then, and are beautiful still.
    And a world you ruled would be a better place.
    Hugs.

  • Reply
    Brooke Breazeale
    March 25, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    I love this so much for so many reasons!
    Within just a few words, I was there, proudly taking money from sleazy, fat men, trying to seem a bit less ‘rough around the edges’, uncomfortable in my skin, in awe of the beautiful exotic women who made me feel plain, ignorant and terribly insecure. (my interpretation if I were in your place, of course.)

    “And for a writer, if you’re not naked, well, I’d suggest you find another passion.” You nailed it…100% nailed it.

  • Reply
    Nan
    March 25, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Boy, did this bring back memories – only mine were on land! Mine were more sleazy YOUNG men trying to put tips down my cleavage. Or the scary man who had a system – if his glass was empty but up, needs refilling. Empty but upside down, no refill right now. Empty with the tip in it, he’s done. That wasn’t scary; it was that he got angry if you didn’t learn his system quickly. Then he followed me home. My roommade, the big mean bartender (one of 3 women I lived with), went out and scared the crap out of him. Never saw him again. Or the memory of one of the very, very scary owners (w/freaky bodyguards). That is how good your writing is – it brings the person into your world with color and intensity as if they are right there with you, and even brings back memories of crazy times of their own! I loved this post!! MORE!

  • Reply
    Amy@SoulDipper
    March 25, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Yowsers – Such a great experience, but also one that meant holding on to self-esteem with every dollop of virtue! Obviously you did – therein lies the great base built by a loving family! Was Mr. Liverpool intimidated with all that “stuff” after you two connected?

  • Reply
    lisa thomson
    March 25, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    <3 <3 <3 all of these lessons and experiences are wonderful and made even more delicious by your writing, Kim. Chanel Strawberry Red? Ooooh, also delicious. I love that you said 'shit' every time you made a mistake. That is so like me as well. Haha, "Your daughter is lovely." 😛

  • Reply
    Angie@Angie's Recipes
    March 26, 2018 at 3:13 am

    You look gorgeous in that picture! I would be very nervous if my room mate walking around completely naked…

  • Reply
    Minnesota Prairie Roots
    March 26, 2018 at 7:08 am

    You pull me right into this scene, into the drama, into the setting. Even back then you were feisty and strong, even though you may not have considered yourself so.

  • Reply
    Terri Siegler
    March 26, 2018 at 7:08 am

    Hi Kim, I have known you since we both worked on CCL I always remember you writing something and a brief moment of Ballet shoes? For some reason the Ballet shoes stick out in my mind. Was it a picture you had? Anyway you took me to Nassau and you were very kind to me. We had some things in common and was happy to know another Paisan. The friends we made then are still our friends they are like family. We even lived in Nassau together and have stayed in touch all these years. I also remember you talking about your sister Kay with so much love and admiration for her. You met Dave (Mr. Liverpool) and the rest is history. I will love you till the end. Terri

  • Reply
    Christine Carter
    March 26, 2018 at 7:08 am

    I could picture every bit of this, Kim! WOW, just wow. I want to read MORE!! I love learning more about that Casino days… you could probably write a hell of a book about it too.

  • Reply
    domermom
    March 26, 2018 at 7:55 am

    What fascinating memories you’ve shared here, Kim! You know you’ve GOT to write a book now. You’ve already got so many interesting characters (and hey, you could kill off the ones you detested, hee hee!) By the way, even though you weren’t asked to join the harem, do you think you would have??

  • Reply
    Barbara
    March 26, 2018 at 8:16 am

    What a wild experience that must have been, Kim! And, that TIP! omg.
    xob

  • Reply
    Dad
    March 26, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Why I ever let you go at that young age I don’t know. But now I am glad I did, you learned a lot more than I could have taught you. besides I trusted you, because of the kind of the young lady you were and still are.
    Love So Much
    Dad

  • Reply
    Mandy
    March 27, 2018 at 1:42 am

    You dearest Kim, rule your world!
    Sending you love and hugs from a rainy and windy Nairobi.
    🙂 Mandy xoxoxo

  • Reply
    Lisa Gordon
    March 27, 2018 at 6:00 am

    I so enjoyed reading this, Kim and what a wonderful experience this must have been!
    Happy day to you, my friend.
    xo.

  • Reply
    Carrie Rubin
    March 27, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    Oh wow, you could write a book about all your experiences in this job. I’m sure it was eye-opening in many ways. As for rooming with five other girls? Yikes, I would have had to turn the job down right there and then. Introvert hell! 😄

  • Reply
    Marcia @ Menopausal Mother
    March 27, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    This is an incredible experience for you. Good heavens, the characters you met are perfect for a novel!!

  • Reply
    Marie Kléber
    March 28, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Wow! I love reading you.
    Your experience. And all about your life as a casino girl. All these people you met. They would all fit in a story, a book.
    Many women do sunbath topless in France. It’s cultural!
    Keep writing. Keeping saying your truth Kim. It’s inspiring.
    love from Paris
    xoxo

  • Reply
    Jeri
    March 28, 2018 at 9:53 am

    So many good lines in here, but I really like the one where you state you liked feeling powerful in taking people’s money. I’ve done seasonal work in national parks, but have only known a few people who have worked on cruise ships, and you’re one of them. I think I could stomach seasonal work again if I could live in my own RV, but I’m not sure if a cruise ship situation would work. I might die from rolling my eyes too much if I had to share a space with younger women 😉

  • Reply
    Sandra L Garth
    March 30, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    I didn’t want this post to end. Hopefully there will be a part two.

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