I got to talk to one of my best friends the other night, he was headed to the 26th Floor of the Horseshoe Casino in Shreveport. I know that place, I was there once, and what an adventure it was. I love telling this story, so thanks in advance, for indulging me.
Halloween 2005 – the weather in Idaho had already turned, all the leaves had fallen off the trees by the 26th. This was seven weeks after Hurricane Katrina had devastated New Orleans and my best friend, Rusty. He lost all of his possessions in Katrina and it knocked him for a bit of a loop emotionally.
I expected to hear from Rusty over the weekend before the Halloween Monday, we had been planning for me to fly to Little Rock to see what I could do for him, when I couldn’t reach him for days on end, I worried. Finally on Monday morning, his phone was answered, it was an odd conversation lasting only a few seconds, and I made a decision to keep my reservation and fly out.
I flew in to Little Rock late at night and took the shuttle to the Doubletree. Still couldn’t reach Rusty. The next morning I called again, nothing, I chided myself, “what the heck are you doing here?” I went for a walk through the downtown, I love the city on the river. Back to my hotel to check out, thought to myself, I will call one more time – but this time from the hotel phone, maybe he’s blocking my calls – mistake on my part maybe, but he answered. You can imagine how I felt – I was pissed. Rusty in his southern manner assured me that he had not been ignoring me, he had been in jail. What?! Who answered your phone yesterday then? No explanation made sense. Then he finally asked where I was calling from –Little Rock, how did I get there? Rusty had completely forgotten that I was coming to town, what with the chain of events that landed him behind bars, I can see how he had forgotten. My question was, where are you? Shreveport– but I have to go to Tulsa– can you wait til tomorrow before you go back, stay in Little Rock– I can be there on Wednesday. What’s a girl to say, of course I stayed. So I checked back in to my hotel for another night and took another walk.
Wednesday came and I had to checkout again, I turned my bags over to the concierge and headed out to the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. As I was touring, Rusty called, he said, “Can you get a rental car and meet me in Shreveport?” Of course, why couldn’t I? So I headed back to my hotel to arrange one. Another mistake on my part. I called every rental car agency in town directly, there was not a car to be found. I called Rusty back and told him. When I said I couldn’t get a car, he interpreted it as I wouldn’t get a car and hung up.
I went out to the hotel bar where the adventure continued. When I sat down, my bartender told me “Honey, you look like you need a drink.” I replied, “You have no idea.” and went on to tell her my story. While I was talking to the guy next to me, my bartender turned to me and held out her phone, “Talk to Ed, he has a car for you.” I took the phone and told Ed what I was trying to do, he said no problem, have Gloria bring you over when you get off work. O – K- I was thinking this was crazy, but I turned to Gloria and said, hey, Ed says you can take me over when you get done? She said, you bet, I’m almost done with my shift, I’ll drive you to Benton. Where is that? I asked, oh, about 30 minutes away, but it’s on my way home. Alrighty, I was set. I was getting in a car with a stranger, 1000 miles from home and she was taking me to a town I had never heard of, all to get a rental so I could connect with Rusty. I tried to call him – no answer. Great.
Gloria took me out to Ed’s and then stayed to make sure I knew where I was headed. They gave me a map and sent me down I-30 toTexarkana and told me to go south from there. There is a shortcut, but it was dark already. I tried Rusty again, still no answer. So I headed down the road.
My phone finally rang 60 miles down the road, he said, “Where are you?” I had no idea, “Where are you?” His answer was “on my way toLittle Rock.” Great, I was on my way toShreveport. Finally he asked if I had passed Arkadelphia yet – I sure had, so he said, keep going, I will meet you inShreveport.
Now if either of us had been thinking, we would have just met inTexarkana, but no thinking was really going on. It was late and the world seemed to be spinning off its axis, so we both motored on.
Rusty told me, there is a hotel in Shreveport, you have a room on the 26th floor, check in there, I’ve got a room too, I will meet you there. It’s all comped, so order whatever you like and wait for me. Ok, the rest of this was surreal, why would I question this.
Sure enough, around eleven I got in to the hotel, went to the counter and said, “Hey, I have a room??” They finally found it and handed me a key card with a bunch of yes, ma’am’s and whatever you need ma’am, etc. So I got on the elevator. I’m tired at this point and the damn light won’t light up on the elevator panel. The guy behind me, ahems, and suggests I put my key card in to get to that floor. Sure enough that works. I ride to the 26th floor and am met by a concierge who takes my bag to my room, opens the curtains so I can see the lights, shows me around and asks what I would like to drink? Off he goes to round up some alcohol and I am left a little bewildered. I’m in a two bedroom, two bath suite that is larger than most small houses.
Rusty calls, “How do you like the view?” Pretty cool is what I’m thinking. He says he’ll be there in a few hours, order room service, it’s all on the house. So I spend the next few hours killing time. Around two I call him, we talk for the next thirty minutes and at no time does he tell me he’s almost there until he walks in to the lobby where I am. Did I mention that I haven’t seen Rusty since 1995? We go up and order room service, him talking a million miles an hour like usual, he hops up after we’ve eaten and says, C’mon, I want to show you around and we go downstairs again. We are walking around outside when we wander towards a security shack, the lady inside is wondering what we’re doing when Rusty pulls out a card and hands that to her, she quietly goes inside and calls someone. In a few minutes the Pit Boss and one of his guys pop out and order us a limo. They stand around and talk football with us until the limo arrives and we get a personal tour ofShreveport, at 4 a.m., in the dark. Did I mention surreal? We finally go back to the hotel around dawn for breakfast, get cleaned up and Rusty breaks it to me that he has to be at the airport at 9 a.m., he has to go back toTulsa. He stayed with me until 11, we had tons to catch up on, then I got in my rental car and headed back to Benton. He went to the airport. I never really figured out why everything was comped and we were treated so well, you see Rusty has secrets, always has, always will.
When I got back to Ed’s, he was happy to see me with his car, I’d been up for well over 30 hours at this point and I told Ed I didn’t have a ride back to Little Rock. He said, no problem, let me close up and I’ll give you a ride. And he did.
I checked in to the Holiday Inn, my flight was the next morning. On Friday, I got on the plane in Little Rock and tried to order my thoughts. How was I ever going to explain this week to anyone? So, I figured, the truth was my best defense, I couldn’t make up a story like that if I’d tried. Rusty is always an adventure.