“Money is only loaned to a man. He comes into the world with nothing and he leaves with nothing.”   -William Crapo Durant, Founder of General Motors & Chevrolet

             As I sat inside Atlantic City’s Showboat Casino, I peered over my seated friend’s shoulder to observe the game of Blackjack taking place in front of me. I watched his style of betting-he’d wager the minimum amount allowed on a hand…ten dollars (though many casinos have a $20 minimum on blackjack) and he’d never deviate from the plan. He’d win a few hands, then he’d start to lose; then he’d begin to get hot and win again, only to begin to lose some more-before finally quitting and deciding it were time to head back to Philadelphia. Make no mistake…my girl friend was good at blackjack. He’d sometimes call to tell me that he’d won over a thousand dollars. Sure, it would take him sometimes four…five…six hours to pull it off, but the pride of entering a casino equipped with $200, and leaving out with $1,200 would be quite the conquest for anyone. As a reward for winning big, the Casino would offer him a complimentary room, but he knew that there was something beneath the surface of the Casino’s newfound generosity. You see, the Casino was designed for one thing and one thing only: To take people’s money! Kin Hubbard once said, “The safest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it in your pocket.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
            A Casino, like many other legal hustles and scams, doesn’t come forthright and explain its intentions. Instead, its hustle is based and predicated on Chance. They make you believe that you have a chance…to win. They prey on human appetites. When you begin to win in a casino, you desire to win more. If you’ve won their money, the Casino wants it back, so they’ll offer the winner a complimentary room for the night. Why? Because chances are…most people will wake up the next day to spend more money in the Casino again…and the Casino will ultimately win. It’s set up for you to fail. Ever notice there are no clocks in the Casino…no windows…they take away your ability to be aware of time. They offer you “complimentary” drinks-lowering your inhibitions. They’re always air-conditioned, keeping you wide awake. They make you feel right at home…while they take your money. When someone has a hot hand and is consistently beating the dealer and winning, a manager comes over, relieves the dealer and a new one replaces him/her. The Casino sells you the false hope of chance.
            The first time I accompanied my friend to a Casino I was fascinated by the lights from afar. We entered its vast structure and walked along a seemingly endless Persian-styled rug, past the marble floors and pillars. I saw a lobby, where in it stood and sat nearly thirty people-their faces bore expressions of sadness, panic, calamity and fatigue. I could tell these were the Casino’s victims…they came there because the Casino sold them the chance of winning…but it was designed for them to lose. I looked over each one, and imagined what their stories were. Perhaps some had a serious addiction and this was a typical Friday night; some may have blown bi-weekly paychecks or even children’s college savings. Some could have squandered large quantities stolen from loved ones. They sat and paced the lobby in a trance and it brought back thoughts of seeing drug-addicted people in Philadelphia, as I felt immense pity, and yet shook my head in contempt. My gambling friend was way too cautious to get caught up in this kind of a situation. He played blackjack the same way he conducted his own life. He played it safe (bet the minimum) and was very cerebral. He never took chances, so when he won, he won little by little; and when he lost… he only lost a little. The greatest thing that set him apart was his uncanny ability to walk away. He’d sometimes bring me along just to hold his wallet…with specific instructions-to under no circumstances ever give him any additional money. I’m not a gambler (though I’ve played and won a few times), and as much as it bored me to tears to watch him in the Casino, I respected the way he played the game. Now…lemme get to the random thought:

“No one can earn a million dollars honestly.”  -William Jennings Bryan

            There’s another profession that is based on chance, even though it’s designed to fail. The employees of that enterprise are called drug dealers. In my opinion, a drug dealer is no more intelligent than the addict he sells to. Everyone knows that it only takes one incident of contact with a drug to be hooked-yet countless people get hooked on drugs with the vain notion, It won’t happen to me. Everyone knows that drug dealers never retire from their occupation of choice with a pension and a retirement villa. The Drug Dealers who refuse to quit wind up dead or in jail. There are no exceptions and have never been any exceptions to the rule…yet lo and behold…there’s never a shortage of morons to stand outside on a corner, foolishly thinking It won’t happen to me. The Idiot who sells drugs and the fool who can’t stop gambling are both lured in by the prize… quick money. Both know the risks; a gambler realizes that he could potentially lose everything he came with, but he insists that his skill will overcome the Casino’s money structure-which is designed for him to fail. The drug dealer believes that he can acquire large amounts of money quickly, and that his pension for police evasion will keep him in business. The Drug Dealer is in denial that he’s too lazy to get a real job. Why’s that? His mantra is that he “Ain’t got time to be workin’ no 9-5 for minimum wage.”
             It’s laughable when the man who refuses to work for $10 an hour for one year of his life with an honest job gaining experience, gets arrested and works for 35 cents an hour for the next five years of his life with a menial prison job. He fails to see or fails to care about the design. The same design that sold him chance-each successful sale, each materialistic purchase a victory for him-but ultimately the design is the only winner. What’s the best job available for prisoners? Suicide Watch. Lil Wayne, who made $42 million last year, is now making 50 cents an hour with his suicide watch position. Contrary to the meager salary, it’s actually the highest paying job for a prisoner-mostly entailing mingling with prisoners and is much better than working the kitchen or sanitation duty. You usually have to be recommended by a correctional officer or you must volunteer. Prisoners take course on how to deal with at-risk counterparts. Spike Milligan famously said, Money couldn’t buy friends, but you do get a better class of enemy. Throughout the ebb and flow of his dealings, the drug dealer makes enemies with law enforcement, rival drug dealers, and even the honest hardworking citizen…who’s detest can range from both jealousy of someone making three times their salary in half the time, to natural animosity towards those who make their children’s streets dangerous and those who feel exempt from the laws of the land and taxes that the law abiding citizens must endure.
        So why would anyone get into a labyrinth of circumstances when the only exits are prison or death? Simple. People are stupid. Truth be told, selling drugs has likely crossed almost every inner city black man’s mind at some point in his life. Unless you were the product of a wealthy family, you know what it’s like to have a bank account with a negative balance. You know what it felt like to be B-R-O-K-E. We all attempted to place a phone call on the cell one day and were redirected to a customer service rep for payment by our wireless providers. We’ve had the experience of screening blocked phone calls with the bill collector on the other end, looking to make arrangements for a delinquent payment. We all know the struggle. The reason why we all didn’t run to the corner, stripper pole or worse is because we chose to make better choices. They thoughta were just that: THOUGHTS. We recognized that it’s all planned to fail. We knew the ending before the entire saga played out. A Sucker is born every day and yet every day someone wakes up with dreams of being the next Scarface ...forgetting that Scarface dies at the end. Who will be the next idiot?

I know how it feel to wake up fucked up/Pockets broke as hell, another rock to sell/ People look at you like you’re the user/Sellin’ drugs to all the losers, mad Buddha abuser/But they don’t know about ya stress-filled day/ Baby on the way, mad bills to pay/That’s why you drink Tanqueray, so you can reminisce/ And wish…you wasn’t livin’ so devilish…shit/ I remember I was just like you/ Smokin’ blunts with my crew, flippin’ old 62’s/ Cause G-E-D was it B-I-G/ I got P-A-I-D, that’s why my Mom hates me/ She was forced to kick me out, no doubt/ Then I figured out, nicks went for twenty down south/ Packed up my tools for my raw power moves/ Glock nineteen for casket and flower moves/For punks tryna stop my flow/ and what they don’t know will show on the autopsy/ Went to see Papi, to cop me a brick/ Ask for some consignment, he wasn’t tryna hear it/ Smokin’ mad Newports cause I’m doin’ court for an assault that I caught in Bridgeport New York/ Catch me if you can, like the gingerbread man/ You better have ya gat in hand, cause Maaaaan/    -Notorious B.I.G “Everyday Struggle”

       …Damn he was nice….

…These Are The Random Thoughts Of Ronald Gray….