“Hey, where ya going there, young lady? Need a seat? C’mon with me, plenty of room over there, we’ll get us a place. Me, I’m flying out to the sunny Southwest to catch a little of that desert warmth, get outta this nasty snow an’ sip on some cactus juice… or maybe some sarsaparilla. We used to drink that stuff when I was a kid, everybody did, ever heard of it, sarsaparilla? You know you can still buy it in places out in Arizona? I drank ginger ale for a while, then moved right on up to beer after that; not the same at all though.” My new buddy chuckles as he taps his cane on the floor before suddenly changing the subject. He reaches over to pat my arm and with a shrug and a nod the little old guy in the bright red beret asks, “You ever heard of a guy called Kid Rock?” I smile and nod while slowly following along as we make our way across the airport. “He’s a helluva guy; let me tell you! I met him just a week or so ago, we hung out a while and boy howdy, I had the time of my life!” George makes loud smacking noises from behind his bright-white mustache and beard, nervously opening and closing his mouth when he isn’t talking, as if winding himself up for the next statement. His once-long frame is hunched over with arthritis as he shuffles slowly against his sturdy cane, looking intently for a seat before easing carefully into the one by the window. He’s slight and frail, but his bright personality betrays the outward appearance of a weather-beaten man who’s outlived his bravado. George is quick-witted, charming, and spins an interesting yarn. He pats the seat next to him in invitation, so I situate myself so I can watch his bright blue eyes twinkle as he shares his tales.
“I’d never seen the guy before or since, but he was going into the Grand up in Deadwood the same time I was and he asked if he could buy me a beer. You know where that place is, up at the top of the hill there in town? It’s a pretty cool place, owned by an artist I’m told, but I never met the guy. Heard he’s a rich guy. Anyway, I told the Rock guy that I was headed in to gamble, wanted to find me a nice little slot machine to spend the afternoon with, but I wasn’t going to the bar. So he makes me an offer. He says, “Here’s a $100 bill; let’s be partners, OK? Whatever you win, we’ll split. Deal?”
George looks at me intently and pauses for dramatic effect, just to be sure I’m paying attention. He raises his eyebrows and fidgets with his beard.
“He said he had to go on a motorcycle ride but he’d be back. So I spent three hours sitting there playing the penny slots before I go upstairs looking for him. I found him hanging with his gang, smoking cigars and drinking. I tell him I have something for him and count out the winnings: $2,200. He starts laughing and slaps me on the back.”
“Man, you’re a great partner,” he tells me. Then he asks if I wanna go play some more, so I tell him, ‘Sure!’ and we head over to the tables. He puts a $50 on red and loses but he doesn’t seem to mind that so he tries again with a $50 on black; this time he wins. He turns around and hands me back the whole stack of cash, the entire $2,200 I won. He insists I take it all. I tell him that wasn’t the deal, I’m cool with the split agreement, but he says he just won back his investment so he hasn’t lost anything and besides, I earned it. Then he asks if I want to go to dinner with him and his posse… that’s what rock stars call each other, right? A posse? It was a fantastic meal, it was really tasty, but man could those guys eat! I never saw so much food, and it was all so good! Lemme tell ya, I’m 80 years old and I’ve been around the block a time or two. I mean, I’ve really done some stuff that would curl your hair and if ya got an hour or two I could tell you some doozies, but hanging out with that rock star kid was fun! Have you ever heard of him? I mean, he’s a real guy; he really is. My brother looked him up for me and everything; pretty interesting read if you wanna find out about him, but such a helluva nice guy. I’ve never heard his music though; guess I ought to do that now, go get a tape or see a concert or something. I mean, since we’re partners and all, you know. Hey now, can I buy you a beer? C’mon, kick back, take a load off… it’s on Kid Rock!”