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The power mullet


"Lucky thing they started that lottery, maybe I'll be able to pay that light bill.

"Welcome to West Nashville, scenic tourist destination for no one. Fast food drive-thrus, pawn shops, used car lots, the picturesque vistas of check cashing signs and rent-to-own stores dominate the district. Every storefront from the bottle shop to the dry cleaner has the sign out front...LOTTO ON SALE NOW!

The good old bookies are pissed off. "The damn government has ruined my family business...", says Big Jimbo (name not changed for comic effect), a strikingly obese man with a Kenny Rogers style mullet and a large gold nugget pinkie ring. "For three generations, my family has been running the numbers game in this town. We have a divine right to take these poor folks' money." Despite large cash donations to the anti-lottery crusaders, Jimbo, and many like him were disappointed to see the lottery become legal in Tennessee. "With football season over, aint nobody bettin nothin... hell, I may not be able to make my truck payment next month without sellin some crack or weed. It's gettin so you can't make an honest living anymore."

Jimbo will survive. His family has owned nearly every vending machine and jukebox in this town for as long as anyone can remember. However, their lucrative illegal poker machine empire came crashing down last year when state police raided the West Side Moose Lodge, a fraternal lounge whose members included mostly retired local judges, politicians, and policemen. (all claimed not to know of the machines' existence in a back room.) The ensuing political pressure required poker machines to be pulled from roadhouses and convenience stores throughout the tri-county area. The machines themselves, often installed in the cleaned out shells of old "Ms. Pac-Man" or "Galaga" arcade games-always with large "Out of Order" signs on them, pulled in $200-$500 dollars daily. And now, with the state government taking over as numbers runners, bookmakers statewide are watching their revenue streams dry up.

Out here on the West side of town, the neon signs flash WHISKEY, but the people are lining up for tickets. "I had a dream about these numbers last night.",exclaims LaRonda Washington, a 19 year old mother of three. "If they come in, I'll be able to get my girls Easter outfits off lay-away." Not an uncommon statement in this neighborhood, because no one would believe their own state government would be in the business of selling false hope. Business is booming.