Chris and I at the casino

Today, after work, on Payday-Friday, a hazy, mid-summer afternoon, I went with my friend Chris to a place in Rhode Island called Twin Rivers: a newer slightly less trashy—still white trashy—RI casino. I don’t gamble, nor do I ever go to casinos (neither does Chris) however, today is Chris’s birthday, and it’s hard to say “no” to someone on their birthday. Anyway, I went, –and my God, –that place, on a 4:30pm afternoon, is the single most depressing place in all of Rhode Island.

Outside is typical casino: valet parking, black jaguars near the landing, immaculate landscaping, spectacular large glass doors, fountains, and dressy employees with silly hats that like to open doors. It was pomp and posh on the outside, but once you walked in, it was really something else. There were old people, as far as the eye can see, with thick blind-people sunglasses; there were people pushing their own oxygen tanks like it was a baby on a stroller. And of course it wasn’t all old people, there were younger middle-aged people too, all unfashionably unkempt, wearing homemade-vintage ripped t-shirts, domestic abuse label tank tops, smelling generally suspicious (eau de suspicion), and all unabashedly exposing their dark-gothic tattoos. It felt more or less like you were at the DMV.

But that wasn’t the depressing part. As we walked in, to this dark scintillating indoors, and the outdoor sun was checked at the door, my friend commented that among the vast ocean of people, he couldn’t spot a single smiling face. It was true. No one was happy! It was an eerie juxtaposition of sullen faces partially flickering under a flashing orgy of video slot machines—machines lined out like cornfields, orderly and in the thousands; it was a veritable slot-machine farm.

The games all suggest “fun” and “adventure”: “Pirate’s Gold”, the “Monopoly”, “Wheel of Fortune”, “The Hot Penny”, the “Pharaoh’s Mistress”. However, they are all the SAME GAME: a variation of that old “bar, cherry, 7 game”, but with different icons matching the theme of the title. But the whole non sequitur part of it (for me at least) was that the games weren’t even that fun; they’re rather monotonous. And people just sit there, pushing the same worn out button, “replay bid”, “replay bid”, over and over again, until the initial 40$ allotment they planned on spending has been efficiently depleted, and the other 60$ they didn’t plan on spending is almost at a rounded nil. And while this is going on, obsequious waitresses go around asking the same run down question, stated as a ballpark-vendor assertion, “Beverages! … Beverages!” The same waitress asked us if we wanted beverages about 19 times, and we said no 19 times; she refused to be subdued to response conditioning, unlike Pavlov’s dog.

Well, overall it’s a very strange place to be. I won’t say I didn’t have a good time, or enjoy the company (because I did). But I think for my own sake, I need to remain a tourist, rather than a local. Otherwise, please, come get me.