Sunday, March 14, 2004

Lord I was born a gamblin' man

Apologies for the mangled line above...

Last night I went to my friend Jimmy's bachelor party. No nudie bars involved - it was just a small bus overstuffed with people and booze heading down to Foxwoods for dinner and gambling. On the one hand, I had a great time hanging out with everyone - I knew a decent amount of the guys already, and the rest I got to know. Pretty much all good folks and a lot of fun. We made it back to the drop-off point around 3:15 or so in the morning, and then I drove home as quickly as I could. I'm still pretty tired.

The other side of it, though, was a reminder as to why I don't really get much joy out of casino gambling. My mental picture of casinos has always been like a clip from a James Bond film - elegant men in suits and tuxes, beautiful women in strapless dresses throwing dice, dignified yet sexy waitresses serving top-shelf cocktails using lead crystal glasses. The floors aren't super-crowded, the games are all the casino classics for high stakes, and if you pulled anyone there (patrons or staff) aside they'd have a fascinating life story to tell.

But the reality is far different. I've never been to Vegas or any European casinos, but I have been to Atlantic City and both Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun, along with various Carribean casinos over the years. The reality is that a bunch of grungy-looking tourists are playing all sorts of garish poker variations on tables, while most people hope for a huge slot machine payout. Everyone is focused on their gambling with a laser-sighted eye. Last night, a man actually keeled over at one of the craps tables right after I went to get coins - I didn't see it happen but when I walked back over a couple of staffers had blocked off that area while paramedics tried to recuicitate him. And the action continued around him as if he weren't unconscious and possibly dying on the casino floor.

There were people with oxygen tanks being wheeled around in the smoking areas. All night I was seeing toddlers and small kids, with infants actually being carried onto the casino floor in their infant carriers. As we left around 1:30, there were still toddlers afoot.

The thing is, I'm not a big gambler. And I'm not bothered at all with gambling - if people want to part with their money, who am I to say they shouldn't? I play occasional card games, and I buy a scratch ticket or do a quick-pick once in awhile. I think casinos should be built wherever people want to put them.

But those sort of scenes just suck all the potential joy out of gambling with amazing force. There's just a profound wrongness to seeing that kind of scene on the floor of a casino - witnessing the over-the-top desparation that is so prevalent there makes me want nothing more than to shower for about two hours straight when I get home, to wash off the hopelessness that you can't help but to have rub off just a little bit on you.

Even after two hours scrubbing with a loofah, it'd be tough to go to sleep. Fortunately, I was so tired I skipped the shower and went straight to bed. After a good night's sleep, I was only still depressed enough to write this about it.

But I feel much better now. Luckily I won't be going to any casinos again for a while.

Boy status report: he's napping right now. He still has the cold, but the cough is pretty much over, he's just dealing with a runny nose and a sub-standard appetite. His mood is much improved over yesterday, though.

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