I wrote yesterday about Partner and I getting comped with an ultra-cheap vacation at Foxwoods, the big Connecticut resort.

This was at Christmastime, incidentally. We checked into the MGM Grand Hotel on the afternoon of December 25, and stayed until the morning of the 27th.

Are we pagans? Are we Satanists? Not exactly. (Although I did point out to Partner that one of the Foxwoods slogans is SATISFY YOUR CRAVINGS, which is probably not the most Christian / Christmassy slogan ever written. Also I won $66.60 at one point, which means that Satan has his eye on me.)

Partner and I had a good time, at any rate. We gambled, and ate, and wandered around, and relaxed in our very comfortable hotel room, which (we both agreed) was easily the nicest $44.50/night hotel room we’d ever stayed in.

Gamblers, and the gambling lifestyle, have always fascinated me. I like wandering around the casino and watching people. There are the “hitters” – the people who punch and kick and rub and cajole the slot-machines, to make them produce. (Sometimes it works! Most of the time it doesn’t!) There are the ultra-serious groups of people playing table games, who almost never look like they’ve fun, until – rarely – someone gets on a winning streak, and they start whooping like maniacs.

Foxwoods has for the past few years run a new series of commercials and advertisements, using images of idealized patrons and gamblers. The KING is the mature man, who gambles and then has a steak dinner. The QUEEN plays slots (she “knows how to push buttons,” according to one of their ads) and goes shopping (Foxwoods has lots of shopping). The JACK is a young man who’s out with his friends. The ACE is usually a young woman, very sure of herself.

And the JOKER is – gee, I think they kind of got rid of JOKER advertising over the past year. Probably somebody realized that the Joker wasn’t just a card, but also a Batman villain.

Foxwoods was packed at Christmastime, but I didn’t see many who resembled the people in the Foxwoods ads. I saw a few groups of older men, who probably thought they were Kings. I saw lots of tooth-impaired women with bad hair and bad skin, some of them on scooters, who might have imagined themselves Queens. I saw lots of younger skinny/overweight guys in sweatshirts who surely imagined themselves Jacks. I saw no Aces at all. (I saw lots of Jokers, though I don’t think they realized they were jokers.)

What part did Partner and I play? I’m sure we were Kings. We gambled, and we ate. We’re both over fifty.

But we were probably Jokers after all.

Bwa ha ha!

Mama is a slot jockey

slot jockey

In an old episode of “The Simpsons,” Marge develops a gambling addiction. “Don’t worry,” Homer tells the kids. “Your mom just has a new occupation. She’s a slot jockey.”

Well, kids, I think I’ve discovered my new career. I’m a slot jockey too!

Partner and I got a couldn’t-refuse offer from Foxwoods recently: two nights at the MGM Grand Hotel for $89, total. Nice room, king-sized bed, etc. Loverly!

But you know why they do this. They want you to spend money. Restaurants. Services. And, um, gambling.

I have never been much of a gambler. Partner and I have patronized all the local casinos at one time or another, but I get a little panicky when I gamble, watching the money melt away like snow in the rain.

But, on this last trip to Foxwoods, everything changed magically.

Firstly there was this new slot machine: LORD OF THE RINGS – LAND OF MORDOR. You have to see it to believe it! The Eye of Sauron glowers down at you from above, shimmering evilly. You play for a while, and if you’re lucky enough to hit three bonus symbols – three Eyes of Sauron, or three Rings of Power – suddenly the world changes around you. Your chair begins to vibrate. Dramatic music (piped into you via bone conduction, through the chair) thunders into your body. The voice of Galadriel (probably not Cate Blanchett, however) speaks: “Look upward! Look at your destiny!”

And you look up at the glowering Eye of Sauron, and it shows you a special bonus: the Hands of Saruman, or Gollum’s Precious Prize, or Frodo’s Ring Bonus, or something equally bizarre.

A bonus comes up once every ten spins or so. It’s wonderful. I played that machine for about an hour, and I was thrilled every time the bonus came up. The vibrating seat was as good as any Brookstone shiatsu-massage chair I’ve ever experienced. And you get a monetary reward at the same time!

Talk about positive feedback!

Okay. So, after a bit, I realized that the Land of Mordor wasn’t paying off all that well, vibrating chair or no vibrating chair. I wandered for a while, and found a machine called GOLDEN CHARIOTS. I took the money I’d parlayed from the Land of Mordor – I’d turned $20 into $25 – and fed it into GOLDEN CHARIOTS.

In no time at all, $25 had turned into $100.

People were hovering around me, grinning at me, giving me thumbs-up. (They were also hoping that I’d get up soon and leave this hot machine, so that they could play it.)

Honestly, who can figure slot-machines out? There’s an algorithm controlling the machines: it makes the payouts more or less frequent, and/or more or less large, depending on the time of day, and the number of players, and lots of other factors.

Also, the machines know who I am. Whenever I sit down at a machine, I insert my Foxwoods Rewards card, so that I can earn points and money from the casino. But also, the casino can track me and see what I’m playing, and how much I’m betting. I’m sure the slot machines’ algorithm is sophisticated enough to learn something about what makes me tick.

In a few slot-machine sessions, I earned a hundred dollars over and above what I’d played.

Then Partner and I had dinner.

Then I went back to the casino and played other machines, and I ended up giving my winnings back to the management (all but a bit).

Foolish? I know.

But entertaining.

During the in-between time, when I was still ahead a bit, I bought a GREEN CORN POWWOW hat from the Native American store with my lucky winnings

I should have worn it that evening. But I wore my French hipster hat instead, and lost.

Maybe I can blame it all on the Eye of Sauron.

Skunk cabbage


I wrote a blog not long ago about how warm the winter and early spring have been here in southern New England, and how all the plants are confused and blooming out of season. 



It was an apocalyptic screed, and I wanted to write something more mellow to counter it.



Early flowers are not entirely a bad thing.  They are lovely. Right now, in early spring, the magnolias are blooming on the Brown campus.  The azaleas are blooming near my office building!  I’ve seen dandelions in bloom!  And there’s something in the grass outside our apartment that looks almost like carpet bugle, with tiny purple blossoms, but much smaller.



All this in early spring.



(Ahem.  Global warming / climate change / apocalypse. Ahem.)



The other day we were driving through rural Connecticut (to go to Foxwoods – why else would we be driving through rural Connecticut?), and I was watching the drab early-spring scenery rush by.  And I saw, in a low unruly-looking place among trees, skunk cabbage coming up!



It took me back.  I don’t know if East Coast skunk cabbage is the same as the West Coast variety I used to see in Washington state, but it looks exactly the same.  Those big shiny green leaves!  Those big juicy yellow flowers that smell like rotting meat!



That, my friends, is the nasty sulfurous aroma of rebirth.



Welcome, Connecticut skunk cabbage.  We’re very glad to see you. 



You’re the real herald of spring.





Partner and I went to Foxwoods, the gigantic Connecticut casino, a few days ago. When you approach it from the east, it’s impossible to believe that they didn’t plan the view: you’re driving through a pretty-but-dull New England landscape, and then you come around a corner, and there, framed perfectly straight ahead of you, is a Disney castle of cream-colored brick, with a roof of angelically beautiful blue.



Welcome to the Mashantucket Pequot Nation.



I hated it the first time I went there. There’s the continual din of slot machines chiming in C major, and the smell of stale cigarette smoke, and the grim spectacle of people with oxygen tanks riding from slot machine to slot machine in their scooter chairs. And you don’t see a lot of smiling faces, oh no children you don’t.



But it’s fascinating nonetheless. And you might win a million dollars.



We go a couple of times a year. The food ain’t bad, and once in a while you leave with more money than you arrived with. (Not this time, unfortunately.) I love watching the table games, especially things with names like Pai Gow and Dragon Poker and Caribbean 21. Also, I am amazed at the security staff, which is mostly made up of overweight men over seventy years of age with ambulatory disabilities. I think I could have kicked their asses, for the most part, if I’d wanted to.



Partner tells me that business is off at the casinos, and I think it’s true. It felt – empty. Foxwoods is an enormous place, and normally it’s swarming with people, but the other day there were big lonely spaces. And the machines weren’t paying. You could tell that all the machines were set to some slightly-lower payoff point; you won a little, once in a while, but never enough to inspire or encourage you. The grim faces were a little grimmer than usual.



It’s beginning to feel like a fancy upscale mall on the verge of going into decline.



Next time we’re going to Mohegan Sun.




%d bloggers like this: