We pull into the casino parking lot, it’s definitely not the nicest area of town so we double-check that the car doors are locked. I look across the parking lot and see that the decrepit trailer park is still up and running, yes its still there.
The building is about 13,000 square feet, it’s a big square box with peeling white paint covering the exterior and large flashing white lights surrounding the bottom of the roof, almost like large Christmas lights that we hang on our houses during the holidays. There is an old faded red canopy on the tacky walkway to the main entrance, I feel like I’m at the Academy Awards except on the wrong side of the tracks and I’m not wearing a gown.
My husband and I both take a deep breath of the cool night air before we step inside the casino. We know what awaits us and we are not surprised when the acrid stench from a trillion stale cigarettes permeates the air. We can feel our lungs tighten up and always think this place is the poster child for a second hand smoke commercial. The smoke is so thick you could probably cut it with a knife.
The carpets look like they haven’t been replaced in the 60 odd years this place has been open. The pattern is red and black checkered, I think there are yellow lines also, buts it’s so dirty it’s hard to tell. My husband thinks it looks like a dirty old Scottish kilt that hasn’t been washed in over 500 years.
This first room we walk into has slots machines running down the middle of it and also down all four sides. Most of the people playing are older women, retirement age and they don’t really look like they are having much fun in this dingy, depressing place. The ceilings are low and the ventilation is horrible, if they even have any, I think this is mainly why it smells like a large ashtray in the middle of the desert.
We pass through to the second room that has more slot machines and a large bar that encircles most of this room. The bar is our destination. We sit in the middle of the bar, there are .25-cent video slot machines built into the actual bar in front of each bar stool. My eyes are stinging from all the smoke here, they actually hurt, I can’t see the smoke but I sure feel it.
Jack our favorite bartender is working; he’s a strange character but has a good heart. He’s been slinging drinks at this place for over 30 years. He’s probably 70 or so but is in really good shape; well he looks it at least. My husband and I still laugh at some of the stories he has told us over the years. He has not eaten “hot food” for over 20 years and has not had a glass of water in that long, he only drinks soda. He’s about 5’6”, salt and pepper hair and has about one of the worst front to back comb over’s you’ve ever seen. His main hobby is collecting hundreds of used cars “Junker’s” that he stores in a large dirt lot and has “Larry the drunk mechanic” fix them. Larry is now our mechanic; he lives in a trailer in this dirt lot. Larry does good work on our cars if we can catch him before “Miller time” which is usually early afternoon.
We both order a drink and two shrimp cocktails that Jack takes from the small refrigerator with the glass door that sits on the back of the bar. He uses a small ladle to put the cocktail sauce on top of the shrimp. “Jack, can we get a side of sauce,” I ask. This is mainly why we come here, for the cheap shrimp cocktails that are so damn good and only .99 cents.
There is a large mirror on the back of the bar. There is an old display for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer on the back of the bar. It shows an old car probably dating back to the twenties, it’s bouncing and the wheels are spinning. There is a man in a white overcoat, cap and goggles sitting in the drivers seat. There is also an American flag on the display. We laugh thinking what a great advertisement for “drinking and driving.” Boy, times sure have changed.
The guy to my left sitting about 4 stools down is getting kind of loud, he’s got that look of a major alcoholic and seems to be tying a good one on. He is trying to talk to a lady sitting a few chairs away who’s playing video poker at the bar. She turns to him, smiles and then turns away and begins to ignore him. She’s busy trying to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
We finish our drinks and head out for the night assuring Jack we will see him soon, that is, once we get our new lung transplants.
* This is my second assignment for my class. We had to go to a place where locals go and try to use some strong imagery. Hope it wasn’t too long…