Saturday, March 04, 2006

Further Adventures in New Orleans

After lunch and coffee, we arrive back at Lui's parents house and relax for a bit. Then we have a wonderful dinner of ribs, chicken, corn grits (which I'd never had and were terrific) and other dishes I couldn't quite identify. My small body is now wavering on the brink of mass food consumption, and I'm delighted. I haven't eaten so much in years.

Lui's parents seem desperate to make sure I've had enough food, and playfully criticize me for not eating enough. I feel as if I will never eat again. Talk of Mardi Gras parades and New Orleans events fills the tables. We sit around, talking about what we might do that night, and Celina mentions that Harrah's casino has just reopened. It's a big deal. So we decide to head off to the casino for the evening, which I'm excited about. I've never actually seen a casino outside of Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods.

We head off to Harrah's, Lui's father questioning me about what casino games I enjoy. I tell him 'I've always enjoyed craps, and he is immediately interested. However, explaining the game of craps is a lot more complicated than actually playing it, and he seems confused at my scattershot definition of it. I decide craps might not be the way to go.

As we head into downtown New Orleans, I can't help thinking that the city looks entirely sane. If I hadn't viewed the other areas of New Orleans, I would have never known about all the damage around. Instead, the business district looks vibrant and healthy, a well-groomed metropolis. Lui comments that the streets look empty. It would be a crowded night in Hartford.

At the entrance of the casino, my ID is heavily scrutinized. Apparently they are nervous of all the counterfeit security precautions Connecticut has put in. After examination by several security people, I am finally let in, everyone waiting for me.

We separate with Lui's parents, who want to walk around on their own. I'm distracted by all the shiny, blinky things. My attention span isn't all that great. Mark, Lui and Celina want to play some slot machines, so I tag along. We travel through the massive rows of slots, and finally decide on an interesting nickel slot machine.

20 dollars later, I decide to move to a new machine. Mark and Lui are eager to play Wheel of Fortune, but I'm attracted to a video slot game that involves fishing. I sit down and begin fishing for numbers. Normally I wouldn't have a problem gambling, but the saddest gambler I've ever seen is sitting across from me.

She has this strange swagger, and refuses to sit down. Instead, she is moving between three machines, and literally hooked into all of them. Jutting out of the machines are three player club cards, attached to her belt with a clip and long wires. I can't help looking, fascinated by the walking metaphor this woman has become. She needs help, but is also the kind of player the casinos love. I watch her lose a couple of thousand dollars in the course of thirty minutes. Mark returns, and I am primed to leave, feeling saddened by the experience. Mark assures me that it's no big deal.

The next morning, I wake up early to Lui's mother's wonderful Community Coffee. Lui's dad tells me he watched Craps, but still couldn't figure it out. Being a diligent learner, he sits down with a pad and patiently takes notes while I explain it in greater depth. As we sit there, enjoying our coffee and pastries, I think to myself that for the first time I am truly comfortable.

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