On Friday afternoons in summer I can usually be found at the Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven getting lobster rolls for house guests, my wife and myself. A few Fridays ago while my lobster was being bagged, I found myself dreamily gazing at the slices of pies available. In particular, I was staring deeply into the chocolate chiffon pie and soon drifting back to childhood. For eight summers my parents dragged their only child off to their vacation in Las Vegas. Often I would have lunch alone at the deli near our hotel, where I could lose myself in a heaping slice of chocolate chiffon pie. That dessert became my trusty and tasty companion away from the casinos that wouldn’t let me in.

Marcel Proust had his Madeleine cookie to unleash childhood memories, so why can’t I have chocolate chiffon pie?

Soon after school was out, my four parents — mother, father, aunt, uncle — would pile into the Buick Special with me and drive the 862 miles from Denver to Vegas, from the middle-class neighborhood to the glittering strip. Even the word “strip” had an obvious risqué connotation to pubescent ears. We would climb over the Continental Divide (this was before they put the Eisenhower Tunnel through the Rockies), across Utah and into the Mojave Desert. After all that sandy nothingness, up popped the Emerald City — Vegas.

This was the Vegas of 60 years ago, the sin city’s early days when there were only about a dozen hotels. Each one had a casino and each one wooed gamblers like my aunt and uncle. My mother played the slot machines until her arm cramped. My father didn’t particularly care for gambling, except as a spectator sport. He watched and played from a safe distance with no money at stake. His favorite expression was “live and learn.” So while he was auditing the casino, I was left to...to what? I was the kid in the adult candy store.

Not allowed into the casino areas, I was exiled for the most part to the outdoor pool, the local tennis court, that deli, my room and whatever book I brought. Occasionally I would chat up a contemporary, some other lost boy looking for Peter Pan in Gomorrah. There was only so much time you could spend in the 100-degree sun without feeling as if a stroke were imminent. On the other hand, there was only so much time you could spend in the pioneer days of air conditioning. It was like going from an oven into a refrigerator — until you felt like sleep was a good idea. So I would become restless.

There were at least two times when the restlessness paid off. One morning before my family woke up, I took a book out to the pool and sat. The only other person there was in the pool doing laps, a bald man using quiet, steady strokes. He got out, dried off and sat down to read a newspaper and smoke a cigar. A hotel employee came over with a telephone.

“Call for you, Mr. Burns.”

As the bald gent took the phone, I heard that unmistakable voice. I was sitting next to George Burns. Somewhere inside the hotel his toupee was still asleep. After he finished his phone call, he turned to me.

“What are you reading, kid?”

And so began a little ice-breaker — remembered forever.

On another early morning a year or so later, I was awakened by sirens in the distance. No one else was disturbed, so I dressed and went out. There across the street from our Sahara Hotel, the El Rancho Vegas, the oldest hotel on the strip, was burning down. I ran toward the flames and commotion and witnessed the stunning sight of lots and lots of money melting. Silver dollars and casino chips congealed into worthlessness. Behind me, a man called out: “Hey, kid, turn around and stand next to the money piles. I want to record this for my family.”

The man, wearing a raincoat with pajama pants jutting from the hem, then aimed his Bell & Howell at me. It was Red Skelton.

This was the era of hotel dinner shows with star headliners, from Frank Sinatra to Liberace, from Lena Horne to Steve & Eydie (if you have to ask, forget it). People dressed in fashionable evening wear, ready to lose their nicely pressed shirts at the dice tables afterwards.

On the fringes of every hotel casino was a place called a lounge, an intimate section with a small stage and several tables. This is where I could watch jazz musicians and standup comics. And so a sense of humor could be forged at the edge of gambling.

During the day I actually looked forward to that deli next to the Sahara. Yesterday I tried to recall its name. Wolfie’s? No. Foxy’s! Yes.

I looked it up and found a site all about the yesterdays of Vegas and the classic landmarks now gone. In a blog of reminiscences I found a wonderful squib about Foxy’s chocolate chiffon pie and guess what? I wrote and posted that squib five years ago, but totally forgot about it.

I think I just passed the point of live and learn. Welcome to live, forget and learn again. Care to join me in some chocolate chiffon pie?

Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.