chillin’ at the casino: part 1

i am not a gambler. not in any respect. i don’t get the thrill that drives one to spend, spend, spend. but casinos have more than gambling these days and as we all know, they aren’t just in Vegas anymore. we have a casino local to us and while i’m not a gambler, i have been there several times for all of those other reasons: 1) to see a concert and comedy show, 2) enjoy dinner at the buffet and 3) watch someone else spend, spend, spend.

if you didn’t know it by now, i’m a people watcher. it’s a natural talent and always provides multiple levels of entertainment and blog inspiration. my most recent visit provided me with a little alone time in which i found no shortage of writing inspiration. once again, i found myself sitting, typing notes in my phone and giggling to myself completely devoid of my friends and their goings-on.

“oh no! she’s got her cell phone out. girl! who are you talking to, i don’t even have service in here. tell him to bring some friends”

“are you finding us some boys?”

“boys? what? no. i don’t have service either, i’m taking blog notes.”

“oh lord. she did this the last time we went out too. the blog was funny though.”

“just a couple more and i’ll be done.”

“uh huh. sure you will. come on. someone’s gonna have to hold her hand so she doesn’t walk into a wall.”

so, we enjoyed the show and then we enjoyed the buffet. i like having eating choices and nothing accommodates that like a buffet. an international buffet, even. with worldly inspired options and enough dessert to choke a horse. we sat with our plates full, laughing and giggling about the days’ events, our children and our “getting ready” horror stories of nail polish in our hair, burnt clothing from forgotten ironing and the elusive lost shoe (an evening out with a buncha moms is nothing shy of sit-down-stand-up-comedy. we would stand but we just don’t have the energy and no matter how cute our shoes are, they hurt). after filling ourselves to our clothing limits we paraded around like a cheerleading squad, laughing at everything and nothing at the same time. we have one poker player in the group. she was not going to rest until she’d played a hand or two… or more likely in the amount of two hundred dollars worth of poker. that’s where i come in. the other girls ran off to the slot machines…a group of broken video games if you ask me, with no point, no extra man and limited fun. so i sit with the poker player, to keep her company, repel the “how YOU doin’?” gang and she keeps me supplied with drinks. mostly rum and coke. it’s a win-win (for me, anyway).

it is during this time of sitting quietly and watching that i made my many observations. in the midst of watching, i found myself being watched. the ever-familiar and always happy security agent wandered over to me as i typed feverishly into my phone. poker players are not allowed to play with their phones or take calls while at the table. i, on the other hand, am not at the table, not a poker player and so those rules don’t apply to me. mostly. but you can’t sit enveloped in a one-sided cell phone conversation via thumbs without catching the eye of Big Brother. Mr. Security came to me quietly with a… a look of inquiry. i stood up and flatly said:

“Big Brother wants to know what i’m up to? just taking notes for my blog. do you need to see.”

he shook his head “no” while simultaneously reaching out for my phone. i quickly showed him first, that i had not made nor received any calls. as well, i had not sent nor received any text messages. then i thumbed over to my magic notepad and went through my notes with him. at first he was within hair-smelling distance. no. not me to smell his hair, him to smell mine, as men do, but that was not his intention — just a scenario to explain our proximity. as i proceeded to explain what i was considering writing and what i was observing he took a comfortable step back and flashed his familiar smile. he listened to me and let me finish before he gave me some friendly words:

“i would have never taken you for a writer, but that just goes to show that even after all these years of observing people, i know nothing about women. (bahahahah!) feel free to take as many notes as you need. Big Brother and i are both satisfied knowing that your not in cahoots with any of the players. here is something that your notepad will never tell you and you can write this down: poker is a social game. most of this is just socialization. 90% of our regulars, 90% of our daily clients are DAILY. they come here everyday and they usually follow the same routine. they would rather come here everyday and blow a hundred or two instead of saving up to go to vegas and blow thousands. this way they get it out of their system, the loss isn’t so heavy and they get to see their friends.”

amazing! 90% go there daily. wow. i would have never suspected such a fact. ok. so now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. there is a lot to take note of in a casino. some of it has to do with the structure. some with the machines and games, but the lion’s share has to do with the people. the clientele.

casino’s draw a crowd. all of them do. from the CEO to the housewife. everyone looking for a chance. a score. a win. now, i know that some people go there to socialize, to hang out, to perfect their skill of reading faces and counting cards, but not one of those people would turn down a win. everyone that steps into a casino is hit with that electrifying air upon entry. the air of winners. the air of jackpots and big wins. the air… of the long shot. the reality though, it that the air is also mixed with the air of losers. of no luck at alls. the air of desperation, lost mortgages and marriages on the rocks.

in my hours there, i made two sets of observations. the first set is about the casino and all that it holds, in general. the second set of observations (which might have to return as a part 2) is strictly regarding the poker room. so, let’s begin our journey.

casino observations:

1. people still smoke?: i’m not judging. i’m not complaining. but! once upon a time i smoked cigarettes. i think i might have been in high school. early high school. i don’t have any rhyme or reason for it other than the fact that it was forbidden and banned and teenagers always embrace what is forbidden and banned. with that said.. i’m almost amazed to see that people still smoke. and inside, no less. i’d be a liar if i said i didn’t hate it. the smell invades and permeates everything about me. my hair, skin and clothing wreak of second-hand smoke and that totally irks me. but that’s the price i pay for going to that establishment. c’est la vie. nothing a shower can’t solve. but again, i am often shocked to see someone smoking thinking to myself: “people still do that?” as if it’s some long lost habit. like macrame or doin’ “The Hustle”.

2. slot machine stalkers: this is almost self explanatory, but i’ll give you my version. my grandmother was a nickel slot machine player. she had her favorite casinos, her favorite types of machines and occasionally an actual favorite machine. she would sit at that one machine and play until her heart was content. if the machine was not available, she would loiter nearby reluctantly entertaining some other machine until she could pounce. apparently, this is what all slot machine players do. they stalk “their” machine. they loathe the person that spins their wheels and pushes their buttons. they watch and wait until that person makes the slightest move and they transport themselves through space and time, effortlessly, to claim what is unknowingly theirs. heaven forbid that machine “hits” and pays out to another person. all is lost and you will need law enforcement to get them to a) not slap the winner in the back of the head and cast a stink eye in their direction for all of time, b) not write an angry letter to management demanding their cut for having played eighty five dollars in nickels to that one machine and for being being casino loyal and lastly, to c) NOT sit down at that exact machine until the sun comes up, goes down and comes up again. they will skip meals, showers, phone calls and all discernible human activity trying to spin those wheels into submission.

3. the gambling oxymoron: there is an advertisement on the ATM machine, as well as the paper towel dispenser in the ladies’ room, to call and eight hundred number if you have a gambling problem. it just seems a little… insincere? i mean seriously? on the ATM, where you can withdraw money from your life, your children’s future and your wife’s secret account is the last stop on the road to freedom from your addiction.. Mr. Security explained the reason. a story too sad to tell but someone stole some money, lost it and then… took their own life. so i get it. like we’ve heard about eye contact from the armored truck guy because you might change your mind and not try to hijack the truck because of that eye contact. however, i still find it to be insincere. perhaps that’s just me.

4. jackpot cruisers: a select group of folk. small in numbers but biiiiiiig in purpose. they chase the “ding ding dingdingding” coming from a machine off in the distance. they hear the sound, drop what they are doing and break into a sprint trying to find the machine that is singing it’s song. i don’t know if they want to get an eye on the winner, if they want to assault the machine right after in hopes of a repeat of if they are just groupies wanting to share in the air of a winner. either way, they will push you to the ground trying to get there before the song stops.

5. technology terrified: within a 270° turning of my head (that’s looking from as-far-as-i-can-left to as-far-as-i-can-right without straining myself) i saw no less than thirty flat screen televisions. there were at least three different programs being watched at all times with intermittent advertisements for the very casino i was sitting in. in addition, every piece of equipment was touch screen or remote. including the toilet and paper towel dispenser. on top of that, my cell phone was jammed and would not make, take or receive phone calls or text messages. booooooooo. some of the employees carried gadgets that looked complicated and heavy. viewing and experiencing all of this made me paranoid. i felt like Big Brother was sitting in my lap, taking measurements and duplicating my entire system in some back room. a little scary. juuuusssssst a little.

and last but not least;

6. casino attire: as Mr. Security shared with us, soooooome people would rather go local than save up and go all out on a Viva Las Vegas excursion. not me. Las Vegas is Las Vegas and no casino in the world can compare. there’s something intoxicating about “The Strip” and knowing that everyone who has ever been anyone and anyone who has only been no one has been there. carrying with them their hopes, their dreams and their very last dime. there are only two other places as awesome and kinetic: Hollywood and Broadway. anyway, i guess the mere idea of casino is enough for some so they go full tilt. and by full tilt, i mean ALL OUT. you will see people dressed as if they are going to meet the president. and others? not so much. some people look like they were on the bus on the way home from work and decided “aahhh, what the hell” and others look as though they have been planning their fashion ensemble for the last few weeks. both of them standing in line to eat the cafeteria-mass-produced buffet food items.

well, darlings… i will conclude here with my casino observations. i will pick up with poker room observations which are just as entertaining. i thoroughly enjoy my people watching adventures and sharing them has brought me a whole new high. all’s fair in love and observation. i poke fun and make jokes, but i do understand how serious an addiction gambling can be. but, unlike any other vice, it has the power to wipe out an entire life in one hand. sad but true. other vices are a gamble, but gambling is … GAMBLING! everything a person has ever known, had, worked for and loved can vanish with the wrong card.

i’d love to hear from you. leave me a comment. and if you like this post, then click the star up top so i know. until next time… stay sweet.

a concert by any other name does NOT sound as sweet

have you ever been to a concert? do you have a favorite? i do. i have seen several artists at most of the local venues and i think that i enjoyed every single one. a few of them stand out louder than the rest.  they are vivid and unforgettable.  what is your favorite souvenir? ticket stub? t-shirt? program? i think i have all of my ticket stubs, and for most concerts i have a t-shirt. some of them have been sacrificed along the way, but i remember them well.

leading my recollections is always lauryn hill.  i saw her at the forum, when it was “The Forum”. my bestie and i had floor seat tickets, for about $35 during the miseducation of lauryn hill tour. miss hill had bronchitis and advised us that she would do her best but her voice might not make it. she was alone on stage with a set of lockers and a classic school desk for her decor. at one point she had a horn section on stage as well as two dj’s. it comes to mind first because it was more than i could have ever expected.  she even introduced us to her son zion, who was a toddler at the time.  good times.

the next favorite memory is that of the isley brothers at the greek theater in august. what a magical concert. shannon and i were enamored with oldies. we were in love with the isley brothers and had just begun our twenties. and, the greek theater! have you ever been there? it is phenomenal. outside open-air venue with classic stadium seating. it was a warm and clear summer night. the greek is high in the sky, next to the griffith observatory. the stars looked like christmas lights. i think i stood for the entire concert. i can close my eyes and teleport back in time. i can feel the warm air on my skin. the cold beer, sweating in the plastic cup in my hands. the music intoxicated me as i swayed, swooned and hummed along.

“liiiiiving, for the love of yooooooooooooou”

another favorite memory includes the ever handsome, overwhelmingly gorgeous, significantly swaggered crooner: maxwell.  my bestie, shannon, and i saw him at the balboa concert hall in san diego.  it was so beautiful.  even when the congo drum fell over and the band had to regroup.  shannon and i were completely under dressed for the occasion. that did not affect our good time, at all.  there are more… janet at the pond. prince in honolulu.  salt n pepa in honolulu. all of those concerts were wonderful in their own way.  but none of them stands up to the memory of the beastie boys concert.

i lived in hawaii from the age of 19 to 21.  i guess that was the “finding myself” chapter.  i lived with my mother, brother and sister for almost two years.  it was the first and only time that we all lived in the same place at the same time.  i had a mantourage (thanks kim) of non-hawaiian born surfer boys.  brian, ryan, rob and jarrett.  i met them through my friend lance.  those were good times.  when i decided to return home to california, it was springtime.  the boys and i tried to pack every minute full of memory makers.  many beer drinking friday nights followed by surfing saturday mornings.  who me? surf?  umm, no.  yes, i tried once and i have the scars to prove it.  ’nuff said.  anyway, during that time, we went to many concerts.  local talent, big name talent, any talent.  i saw fishbone, ben harper and weekly, i was entertained by natural vibrations.  lookumup.  the last concert i saw before i left was the BEASTIE BOYS. you know who they are?  familiar with them?  what image comes to mind? this?

Album Art

or perhaps this?

either way, whether it’s one of those albums or another, you get who i’m referring to.  they were going to have a concert at the turtle bay hilton resort on the north shore of oahu.  i think it was about one week before i left hawaii “for good”.  the concert would be on the retired beachfront golf course.  i know, right?  could it get better?  yes!  and it did.

brian and i decided to go.  we bought tickets and circled the date on the calendar.  the countdown began and we were ecstatic.  concert day came and we were ready.  i don’t even think the beastie boys were scheduled to take the stage until 7 or 8 o’clock at night.  more like 8.  i wore my brand new low top red chuck taylor all stars.  i wanted to “break them in”.  we were on the north shore by lunch time.  we parked on the side of the road in a long line of like-minders amongst the 7 foot tall sugar cane.  by two o’clock the line of cars was miles long.  we had an ice chest, some fast food, music, and all the patience in the world.  the gates opened about 3 or 4.  we were directed to our parking spot accordingly and the tailgate party began.

we hung out in the parking lot for hooooooooours.  eating, drinking and yukkin’ it up with the other peoples.  as the sun began to set and the island breeze began to grow, the natives began to get restless.  we eventually gathered at yet another gate, where we hemmed and hawed until we were granted access to the actual concert site.  and what a site…

as i stated earlier, the concert site was on a retired golf course on the back side of the turtle bay hilton resort.  the golf grass was still there, but the determination of the beach pushed through and spotted the green with mini sandtraps.  the stage was black and out of place.  just off the green was the beach.  literally.  15 feet from the stage were waves of warm pacific ocean.  the sun was setting and the scene was set…

it looked something like this:

it was soooooomething like this

the darker it got, the more restless those natives grew.  i can’t even remember the opening act (that ice chest in the parking lot stole a lot of my memories).  but they didn’t even take the stage until it was almost dark out.  by the time the beasties set adidas on stage, it was black outside.  except, it’s never pitch black in hawaii.  the stars shine so bright.  gosh, it really was magical.

the stage lights started to flicker in a strobe light like manner.  and the familiar sounds of pre-concert chaos started; the “wicka wicka” of the turntables, the “yo yo yo HAH-why-YEE!” from the familiar voices of Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA!!  “and the crowd goes wild”…. and still the stage is pitch black.

the volume of everything begins to increase exponentially.  the crowd of thousands begins to move and pulse as one.  the stage lights flicker again and there was a hiroshima sized dust cloud ascending slowly into the sky.  the retired golf course was not the ideal concert venue for this one reason.

i would love to share the most intimate details of this concerting experience, but as i explained earlier, that tailgate party ice chest continues to hold the majority of my memories.  i can tell you that i remember paul revere and brass monkey.  i also remember in a brief moment of concert silence i shouted out

“we looooove yooooooooooooooooooooooooou!”

and in return i got “and we love you back.” it still makes the hair on my arms stand up.

what i most remember is that the entire crowd was moving.  there were so many people and we were stuck to one another. seriously. at some point, brian and i were sucked into the crowd and were no longer able to take just one step back and be safe.  we were in.  for good.  and that was the beginning of the end.  i have played many sports and done many things on an athletic level.  but i still get winded, easily (i had recently discovered that i had allergies and asthma). it was warm out, and the people were warm, sticky, sweaty or clammy.

it was difficult to maneuver and eventually i lost the battle.  i started to get light headed which led to tunnel vision.  usually, i turn colors when all of this is going on and brian must have picked up on it.  he was talking to me, but i haven’t any idea what he said.  he grabbed my hands and wrapped my arms around his neck.  he did an about face and began to lead us out of the crowd.  he fought and battled and made his way out, with me in tow, his living super cape.  i think i was actually passed out.  ((alcohol + sun)x hours of the day = blackout).  the next thing i know, i am lying on the ground. i feel the poke of grass and hear the crunch of the sand under my weight.  the warm breeze caressed my body and i got a chill because i was completely covered in sweat.  i remember several voices “is she alright? is she alright?” and brian assuring them that i just “needed some air”.  he was right.  a little air and everything subsided.  brian suggested that we go home.  we’d had a long day and you can never really convince someone that you’re “alright”, after you’ve passed out.

he held my hand and we walked towards the exit.  he smiled and we giggled knowing that we had a good time.  it was indeed the best concert ever.  he asked if i wanted anything before i left, and in fact, i did.  i wanted a t-shirt.  he suggested that the lines were too long and that we should make an express exit.  i informed him that there was no way i was going to leave without one.  we waited in line, i made the purchase and we proceeded to the car.

when we finally got to the car, i realized then that i was covered from head to toe in mud.  not actual mud, but golf course beach dust mixed with sweat.  my entire skin surface was covered.  i had mud plugs in both nostrils.  mud in my ears and on my legs, underneath my jeans.  i even had mud, between my toes, on my socked feet inside my all stars.  and speaking of the all stars; they got broke in alright.  they were no longer red, but dirt covered red.  the white toe was some sort of brown with the identifiable marks of other people’s shoes.  one of the eyelets fell out and the laces would never be the same.  i still have those shoes, and i love them.  i’m sure there’s beastie boy infused turtle bay hilton sand in them somewhere.

that t-shirt is my favorite t-shirt.  it has been worn and washed so many times that it looks almost like gauze.  it attracts attention wherever i go and my brother has vowed to have it for his own (as if).  i’ve run in it, washed in it, barbecued in it.  i’ve cleaned the house in it, worn it to work and worn it to bed.  i fear that the time has come that i should retire it, before it is irreparably damaged.  it doesn’t just remind me of a concert.  it reminds me of one of the best times in my life.  it brings back places, smells and smiles.  it brings me back to a time that needs no introduction, but deserves memorialization.  it is a time capsule and it is very dear to me.

below, you will see the shirt that earned that night.  i have it on right earnings and reward