Before Las Vegas declared a 14% unemployment… we always considered Las Vegas as a place we could move back to if everything turns to shit and we have nowhere else to go. But now, with a very high unemployment rate, we’re not so sure anymore. A lot of people lost their jobs, both in the casino industry and in the construction industry. And in other industries that support the casinos.
Ten years ago, before the recession hit, Las Vegas was one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. There were about 5,000 people moving to Vegas each month, and about half of that moving out. People came from all around the country looking for the good life in Vegas. Californians sold their overpriced homes and moved to Vegas. People were moving to Vegas in droves looking for that Vegas gold.
I visited Las Vegas for the very first time on December 1999. Of course Willie has been there many times before. We were living in Colorado Springs then… and since my half-sister lived in Vegas and my husband’s best friend also lived there…we decided to visit.
Our first visit was really kind of a survey to see if we like the place… at that time, Willie was only months away from military retirement. And we need to decide where we were going to move…
As with anyone who’s never been to Vegas. I was mesmerized by all the glitz and glamor of the city. The beautiful hotels and casinos, the restaurant scene, the bright lights at night, the 24 hour city life and its possibilities. The idea of moving to Vegas was exciting…
We decided that it would be better if I moved to Vegas first. It was March and Ramon was still in school. So Ramon will stay with Willie until the end of May when school ends. I could stay with my half-sister, while I look for a job. So that when August comes… and Willie is able to join us, we’ll have our own place to stay. I was supposed to stay with my sister until around July so we could save money. But I couldn’t do it. Once I started working… I was ready to have our own place. I have this thing about living with relatives… I don’t like it! Simply because it reminds me of when I was a little girl when we lived with relatives until my dad got off his ass so we could live on our own. Living with relatives is never a good thing. Everyone is excited and happy with the arrangement at the beginning, but after a few months of living in an over crowded house, egos start colliding, insults are hurled to each other, and by the time we moved out… no more niceties left. Even though my sister and brother-in-law were nice and gracious, and didn’t minded me and Ramon occupying one of their rooms, I couldn’t wait to get our own place. There’s no place like my own…
Looking for a job in Las Vegas…
Willie’s friend, Jimmy, was supposed to help me look for a job in Vegas, since he supposedly had connections. That turned out to be a bust. He didn’t have connections and really couldn’t help. The best he could do was dropped me off at the Luxor’s employment center and pointed me to the receptionist.
“Hi… I would like to fill out an application…?”
The receptionist didn’t even bother to ask what job was I applying for. She pointed me to an unoccupied desk with a built-in computer…
“You can go ahead and fill out your application there. Just follow instructions.”
“Oh… OK. Thanks.”
So I began filling out a form. Little did I know that the whole process was going to take me three hours! This place wanted my whole life. They want to know everything about me and information of everyone who are related to me. Every one who knew me – my parents, my grand parents, my uncles, cousins… all my friends and exact addresses of places I’ve lived in the last 10 years. And I think they also wanted to know if had any visible birth marks, the color of my eyes, and my blood type. Holy shit! I just wanted a job. A job in the marketing or human resources department. They haven’t even hired me and they already wanted all these information? Answering all those questions felt like I was getting ready to be locked up in a cell.
I wanted to quit half way through. But my stubbornness got the better of me. I wanted to finish what I started. What difference does it makes anyway? I already gave them my whole life story and more!
When I finished after three hours, I was dazed. Shocked. I couldn’t believe all the information that I had just provided them. All for a lousy job.
“Miss… I am done.”
“OK. We’ll call you if you’re qualified for the job you applied for.”
Guess what… I did not get a call from this place. I didn’t think I would. The whole thing was a total waste of my time. And the worst is that, they now know all my information. I felt violated. I felt like I was just doped. But the truth is, I can’t blame anyone. I did it to myself. I didn’t have to answer all those questions. I could simply have just walked out. What have I gotten into?
This was the very first casino I had applied for a job. I asked myself why did I do it? I did it because I wanted to get a feel on how their application process worked. Though the other places I’ve applied… they did not asked as many questions as the Luxor has.
Most casinos in Las Vegas have JOB Hotlines where prospective employees can call to access job vacancies. Now, with the internet, you can access job vacancies online. I had my time structured. I would call job hotlines in the mornings and or looked through the job classifieds. Went to fill out job applications in the afternoons and turn in my resumes. And in the evenings, I’d write thank you letters to send to people who have interviewed me, and or send follow up letters to check on status of my application.
I’ve always read in books that “looking for a job is a full-time job in itself.” Those authors were not kidding. Indeed it was. Everyday, everything I did had something to do with looking for a job. I only gave myself a break on the weekends.
Of all the places I had applied… there really only one place I had fixed my eyes on… And that was the Venetian Hotel & Casino. One of the casinos we went to see when I first visited Vegas. At that time, Venetian was only a few years old and to me, the most beautiful casino on the Las Vegas strip. As we finished walking through the lobby, seeing the beautiful murals on the ceiling, and all the beautiful pieces of artwork and decorations… I told myself… I am going to work here.
And so when I finally moved to Vegas, I applied for a Marketing position at the Venetian. In the casinos, and really, anywhere else for that matter, if you don’t know anyone who would take you in through the “back door,” applying for a job is a long, tedious process. The Venetian Hotel and Casino had an employment center where people with no connections – “people off the street” fill out job applications. The application process was like going through a cattle call in production line…
I lined up with dozens of people. It took me close to two hours to fill out their applications forms. When I finished, a lady at the front reviewed my application and sent me through for the first screening, where I was given an initial interview by another lady. When I passed the first interview, I was told to wait for another hour so I could participate in a group interview. The group interview consisted of other applicants, applying for the same position. There were 10 of us and two interviewers. We were all asked the same questions and the interviewers observed how we reacted to each other, and how well we answered each question… After an hour of group interview… I was told I could go home and wait for their call. The next day I had a call in which they told me I made the cut from the group interview and that they would like to send me for another interview. This time the interview is going to be with the person responsible for hiring…
Talk about keeping you out, and keeping the rip-rap out! Holy cow! I just wanted a job in their marketing department. A Marketing Coordinator job is just a foot in door, but they certainly screened people for that job as if they were recruiting for a highly guarded, top secret position. I was drilled as if I was getting recruited by the FBI or the CIA! Other casinos adapted other techniques too. I was told by many people that for anyone to get a job at the MGM Grand, you have to sing or dance at the interview… Sing or dance!?
I had also applied at a local casino. A six year old property off Boulder Highway. A medium size casino whose revenues are millions of dollars a week. On a busy day, this casino rakes in as much as $8 million dollars… This is where I ended up working. They offered me more money than the Venetian. And you know… money talks, bullshit walks. I could have gotten paid more. But I was just too excited to get offered more money than the Venetian. I have never made that much money before. All my common sense went out the window. I got stupid. I shorted myself which I will forever regret while working at this place.
There’s one thing I learned from all these years and all the times I had to look for a job. Always go for the highest salary, especially if you’re in mid management. I found this out the hard way. Once your in… I’d be almost impossible to get a raise, and they will work you like a horse, 10 – 12 hour days. And on some days, 14 – 16 hours with no overtime… So when it came down to the hard numbers… compared with all the hours I worked. I was being paid cheap. Many times I wanted to cry.
Working in the casino, I discovered and witnessed with my own two eyes, how low and appalling humans can become. They will look you straight in the eye and lie. They’d cheat if they could get away with it. Beg and cry to get what they want. I’ve seen the desperation in people. I’ve seen people lost their entire paycheck and couldn’t pay their mortgage or rent, or their car note… Gambling can turn someone into a zombie. Empty and hollow inside. Gamblers always think… today might be the day I could win big!
I was once asked…
“How do you feel being part of a team that conjures up all sorts of “tricks and traps” – promotions, special events, and giveaways to lure the gambling addicts into the casino?”
“I felt bad. My heart goes out to the people who would often gambled their whole paycheck and can’t pay their rent. I felt bad because some people cannot control their gambling habits. But after a while, I learned to set aside my emotions. We were doing what we’re paid to do… and that is to bring people into the casino. Entice them with gifts and prizes; parties and special events; VIP treatment, and most of all – the possibility of winning big…
… And if you do this long enough, you become numb… and you lost respect for humanity. And the irony is that… most people who work in the casinos, they also have gambling problems… they become victims themselves… or should I say… they victimize themselves…”
This Triple Berry Bar is as colorful as the life in Vegas… only uncomplicated and easy to make. The berries are loaded with fibers and vitamin c… good for your stamina.
Triple Berry Bars
1½ cups unbleached flour
4 TBSPs. refined sugar
Zest of 1 small lemon
½ tsp. salt
½ cup unsalted butter – cut into small pieces
1 large egg - lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400°F
Lightly grease a 9” x 13” baking pan with butter.
Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add lemon zest and whisk again. Add the butter. Using a pastry blender, blend the flour mixture until the consistency become coarse like sand. (You can also use your finger tips or fork if you don’t have a pastry blender.
Beat the egg with the vanilla extract.
Drizzle egg mixture all over the blended flour. Again, with a pastry blender or fork, lightly blend the flour mixture until it clings away from the bowl and you are able to form the whole mixture into a ball. You should have a smooth and soft mixture.
Press mixture into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 baking pan.
Bake the crust for 5 – 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool while you prepare the filling.
½ cup + 2 TBSPs. sugar
3 TBSPs. unbleached flour
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
2 cups frozen triple berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
In a mixing bowl… combine sugar, flour and nutmeg. Add the frozen berries. Using a large spoon, gently stir to mix.
Spread this mixture… evenly over the cooled crust. Set aside while you make the topping.
¼ cup butter – cut into small pieces
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup old fashioned Quaker Oats
½ cup all purpose flour
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Using the pastry blender or your fingertips, work the pieces of butter into the sugar, oatmeal and flour. You should have coarse crumbs.
Sprinkle the topping evenly on top of the filling, pressing it lightly.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400°F.
After 15 minutes… reduce the oven to 350°F and bake for additional 25 minutes or until the edges are light brown.
Cool bars completely, about 3 hours, before cutting.
Serve at room temperature.
Tess’ Kitchen Secret:
#1 – When I have extra time… I grind the oatmeal in the food processor for a smoother texture topping.
#2 – The recipe for the bar crust is also excellent for pies – bottom and top crust. Just double the recipe… and form into two balls…
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!