AGMA found herself part of a uniquely American ritual this week. It’s one that thousands upon thousands of American Baby Boomers participate in a regular basis. One that knows no racial, gender, cultural or economic barriers. You just have to be over 21…
She made a pilgrimage to one of the 600+ casinos in the U.S.
I realize that casinos are present and popular in other parts of the world. But our casinos in the U.S. are gigantic, over the top affairs filled to the brim with aging Boomers. Graying, sallow, drawn and sometimes wheezing Boomers.
Makes me proud of my generation. Not.
Don’t get me wrong. There isn’t anything wrong with a bit of dabbling in games of chance now and then as long as it doesn’t consume your life, retirement account and make you like the Walking Dead.
Must. Press. Button.
It’s actually kind of fun. Especially if you win.
I wouldn’t know about that.
My first encounter with the gaming world was in Las Vegas in 1987. The AGMA’s celebrated their 10th anniversary of nuptial bliss with a trip to Sin City. I was 33 years old. It was pretty much fun.
That was at the very tail end of the Rat Pack Las Vegas. The last gasp of the Vegas glory days. Hotel coffee shops still served 50 cent shrimp cocktails, $3 prime rib dinners and $6 all you can eat crab legs. Rooms were cheap and drinks in the casino’s were always free. And dark, smoky lounges were sprinkled throughout the casino floor with smoky, sultry lounge singers. It was a veritable cacophony of sights and sounds when somebody hit a jackpot – flashing lights, sirens and that wonderful loud klink, klink, klink of coins dropping down.
Those were the days of The Tropicanna and The Sands and The Stardust. When the concept of the mega hotel-casino was in it’s infancy and thoughts of bringing your kids there were ludicrous.
As cliche goes, those were “the good old days”.
I’m glad I got to see that remnant of the old Vegas. It was iconic, and, for better or worse, a quirky, crazy part of American history that’s now gone forever.
Anybody who’s been there in the last twenty years knows what I’m talking about. Now you need a 2nd mortgage just to be able to stay and eat there. No more smoky lounges on the casino floor. No more coins – now you get a piece of paper from the slot machine with your winnings printed on it to a recording of clink, clink, clink.
Back in the day, I played $1 minimum bet blackjack at The Hacienda. Some of the places off the strip were 50 cent minimums. Now, it’s a miracle to find a table with even a $10 minimum. Too rich for my bank account…
Oh – I never won. Ever. It didn’t matter what I played. Blackjack, slot machines, roulette, machine poker. But I never gambled much – maybe $50 in a day. A good day was when I went up to the room at night with anything other than nothing. Cha-Ching.
Once pretty much confined to Vegas and Atlantic City, now it seems like casinos are everywhere. The expansion started on Indian reservations, then to riverboats, but that wasn’t enough. States, many of them Bible thumping red states (go figure…) wanted a piece of the multi-kazillion dollar gambling pie so they legalized casinos. The revenues support the schools you know. Yeah right…
Fast forward to a few days ago. I’ve been on a trip. Again. Visiting family and old friends in Arizona. Good times.
On the drive up from Tucson to Phoenix, I made a pilgrimage detour. The casino I went to is on some of that prime real estate that the U.S. Government graciously gave the Native Americans as a thank you for “allowing” the white settlers to have their sacred, traditional rich hunting and farming lands. In other words, it was a barren patch of scrub desert that couldn’t support a family of kangaroo rats. Thanks Uncle Sam.
Kudos to the Native Americans for now having a lucrative purpose for that God forsaken, piece-o-crap land. Thanks Uncle Sam.
Unfortunately, AGMA was not shocked at what she found inside. The Woodstock generation fighting over the Davincci Diamonds quarter slot machines. Boomers who protested at Kent State sitting in front of poker machines with their oxygen tanks beside them. Smoking a cigarette. Slumped postures and glazed over eyes and a big line at the ATM machine.
All incredibly depressing. It was the middle of the day on a Thursday, the weather outside was spectacular – sunny and mild – and the joint was full.
How the mighty are fallen.
I fished my $50 offering out of my wallet and started my dance with several one armed bandits. Twenty minutes later, when the carnage was over and the dust cleared, I cashed out. I tenderly put my redemption ticket in the payback machine, grabbed my 55 cents, and fled into the sunshine and fresh air.
It was difficult to find an exit. They do that on purpose. Bastards.
Actually, I consider my bad luck rather fortunate. It gets me in and out pretty fast. And I know I will never become one of the gambling Walking Dead.
Must. Push. Button.
AGMA’ll be back in a casino again. Oh yes…. Hope springs eternal in AGMA-land.
I know that the big jackpot is waiting for me one of these days. Not.
But it’s fun to dream about seeing those flashing lights and hearing that clink, clink, clink sound. Even if it is a recording.
Come’on triple 7’s! AGMA needs a new pair of orthopedic shoes!