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Monday, April 4, 2011



They say that it’s better to be lucky than good. At least that’s what people say who aren’t very good at anything. My wife and I went to Empire City casino a couple weeks ago, as we do once in awhile if nothing else is going on. The evening goes like this: We enter the casino and have a couple of drinks near the bandshell. When we have drunk ourselves down to 20 bucks we head to the slot machines where my wife feeds the hungry maw. She presses the “play one credit” button five times, and gets three credits back. This goes on for about half an hour until she has one credit left, and when she presses that, she wins 40 credits, and I quickly press the “cash out” button, grab her by the hair and drag her from the area just as she is about to put the credit back in.

There used to be “one-armed bandits” that you had to pull a lever on to run the machine, but now there are too many handicapped people that need to squander our Medicaid money. People with one arm who were left-handed complained that they couldn’t lose money fast enough, and now the machines just have a button. Even if you are an armless, legless torso you can press it with your nose and cash out with your teeth.

Casinos don’t have gambling anymore, they have “gaming,” since they lost the “b” and the “l” in a card game. Empire City doesn’t have roulette or Baccarat, or anything that James Bond would play. If you look around the place, nobody looks a whole lot like James Bond. There are a lot of large people wearing plastic bedroom-slipper-looking footwear that look like they won plenty of money for food, but not for rent. They look very comfortably dressed, as though they may need to do some things that might require heroic range of motion, and therefore very unrestrictive clothing. Some even look like they may be wearing pajamas. I realized that the slot machines were only a penny. This seemed dumb until I saw a guy win 300 credits. A 300% return on your investment? Try that on Wall Street. So I took all the pennies that were underneath the seat cushions in my car, which turned out to be $8,149 dollars, and played them in the penny slots- I won 8 bucks, not bad!

I always make sure that my manners are impeccable when I am at a casino. I don’t want someone in the security room looking at me on a hidden camera slowing down the video going, “Did you see that? He just put his dirty Kleenex on the bar!” People who can’t afford a camcorder go to the casino with their kids and steal something so that they always have memories on tape to look back on when they get out of jail. If you misbehave in any way, the "eye in the sky" will find you, and when it does, the Pit Boss will be in your face in a second. I'm not sure what the Pit Boss does, other than quickly change all your tires and gas you up, unless I am mixing it up with a pit bull.

They don’t have poker or blackjack here at Empire City, not even craps. Who would name a game “craps” I wonder? Sometimes, depending on what I eat, it really is a crapshoot sometimes, but I wouldn’t go so far as to make a game of it or anything. In Atlantic City I used to try to play blackjack, but the game moved so fast, and everyone was waiting for me to add up the cards, pointing to each diamond, and carrying the one, etc. They were “counting the shoe,” and I was removing mine in order to count using my toes.

Empire City is also the old Yonkers Raceway, so we "played the ponies" for a while. They won of course, since they are good at poker, especially stud. During the race, the horses pull those little chariot carts. I'm not sure why they need the humans at all, I guess just to steer. In a dog race it's just the dog, and it's up to him to find the finish line. Horses only ever run around the track- why not a horse marathon? Anyway, you pick a horse with a name that either sounds really dumb, or relates to some uncanny coincidence in your life. When we looked at the card, ALL the horses had names that were really dumb, which seemed to me an uncanny coincidence in my life. So I bet on all of them, and just my luck, the race ended in a 9- way tie, all for third place.

So after my wife won her 20 bucks in the slot machine, I stuck in a $20. I won $405 dollars, which I do NOT plan to pay taxes on so HA! I immediately went over to the redemption window, expecting a religious experience. I did not find one, although I was asked what denominations I liked to receive money in (I said Christian only because I was born on Christmas). In the end I took the money in one $400 dollar bill and a $5.

Incidentally, to change the subject, a remake of the 1945 classic Mildred Pierce debuted last week on HBO. The mini-series was shot largely on location in Peekskill. When my wife and I went there for the Cinco de Mayo celebration, we realized one thing: If your town is chosen as a site for a depression-era movie, you should probably congratulate yourselves, and then schedule an emergency meeting of the town board as soon as possible. We were amazed at how they had transformed the shops into quaint facades with old-timey advertising slogans on them, until we discovered that the production had wrapped three weeks ago.

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