Chuck Williams

Chuck Williams: So much for the 'American Dream'

It was not the place where one would expect to find a clue as to what's happening in our nation's political process.

Sunday night, I was eating at the Golden Steer, an old-school Las Vegas steak house tucked a few blocks off the strip on West Sahara Avenue. There were photos of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. ­­-- the Rat Pack -- hanging on the walls. The booths had high-backed leather seats, and the waiters wore suits and ties, and some were in tuxedos.

It was like you walked back into the 1960s. This was my parents' Vegas, not mine.

It was here I met Venko, our waiter.

Let me tell you a little about Venko. He is 67 years old and grew up in communist Bulgaria. He's very much an immigrant, but he's been in the U.S. for 27 years. He is clearly living the American dream. And he is full of stories, great stories.

As he placed the large steak knives on our table, he started talking about O.J. Simpson. I think Venko even called them O.J. Simpson knives. It was kind of creepy, but really interesting, especially when Venko started telling a story about serving Simpson the night before the former football star was arrested in Vegas.

It turns out Simpson's last good meal was at the Golden Steer, which has been in the same location since the '50s.

We were sitting in a both with a photo of Muhammad Ali standing over a vanquished Sonny Liston. It turns out we were in the Champ's booth. Venko talked of serving Ali for his 70th birthday a few years back. He talked about how much Ali, suffering from Parkinson's Syndrome, enjoyed the soup specially prepared for him.

I could listen to Venko all day. But I had to ruin it, as I am capable of doing. I asked Venko about politics because I was curious what a Bulgarian immigrant thought about Donald Trump.

The answer stunned me.

"I was a Democrat until a few weeks ago," Venko said. "I support him."

Venko made it clear he would be voting for Trump in the upcoming Nevada Republican caucus.

"I am pissed off," Venko said.

A man who fled communism and has worked in the restaurant industry for 43 years in five different countries is just as angry about the current state of his adopted nation as many others.

How did we get here? How did a man who came to this country seeking a better way of life, become just as agitated as the rest of us? How did everyone get so upset all at once?

There are so many questions about what is in political play right now. What we thought we knew about the process is not as it currently exists. Venko was clear why he was not considering Hillary Clinton. It feels too much like a monarchy, he said.

Venko's perspective is valuable as we watch the political drama that will lead to a new president play out this year.

As we opened the heavy doors and left the Golden Steer, there was nice view of the Vegas strip. A Trump building, ironically, towered in distance. In front of it was Circus Circus.

All you could do was laugh -- and think of my new friend, Venko.

Chuck Williams, senior reporter, at chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com.

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