Monday, June 30, 2008

Double Down

Just about eight years ago I touched down in the sweltering humidity of Tokyo for a whirlwind three day indoctrination before a year's service to the Rising Sun. I remember - ironically enough - rooming with two other guys in the five-star Keio Plaza Hotel. One was from Missouri and the other Kansas, I think (I do remember his name was Jeff.) Almost immediately through our jet-lagged introductions, I began gushing over my homeland in the heartland.

I'm from Indiana, and I share a familiar half pride/half chagrin attitude to my home state. Make no doubt about it, I'm damn proud of where I'm from (see how I did that, using from as an adverb.) I'm also quite a realist and enjoy seeing things as they are. In Indiana, when we hear hoofbeats, we don't think zebras too often. This attitude keeps me proud of my Indiana roots and at the same time apoplectic at the number of folksy representatives that inevitably creep out of their hovels whenever a camera's present.

What's that have to do with gambling? I'm glad you asked.

One of the great things about Indiana is our recent acceptance of legalized gambling. As recent as ten years ago, you'd be hard pressed to press your luck on anything beyond a one dollar scratch-off ticket or your pick of forty-four tumbling balls. Enter the parimutuel track. Followed closely by the riverboat. And what does one get when combining the two? That's right, a race-ino.

Last week I ventured down to the new Indiana Live! race-ino near the bustling burg of Shelbyville. It's all electronic, no table games, with an unending cover band/karaoke racket behind the bar. It's billing itself as having a "Vegas attitude" with an "Indiana address." Sure.

A quick glance shows the overwhelming pallet of casino colors and sounds, and a quick tour round the website devoted to jackpot winners displays something a bit too wholesome for Sin City's reputation.

Here we have Jeff and Sarah with their $15,000 in winnings. My money's on Jeff springing for a truckload of Skoal tobaccy.

Glenda plans to blow the entire $2,000 on her hulk-a-maniac hunk.
And then there's Arlo. Words cannot express what $2,000 must mean to this guy. I know I'd be that happy to be holding a fake check.

Am I embarassed by these people. Hell no. I am however thoroughly embarassed by a casino 700 miles from any ocean, surrounded by verdant fields, and 300 yards from a McDonald's thinking it has a "Vegas attitude." This is a rural casino, and you're more likely to be holding a fake $20,000 check in front of the Enchanted Unicorn penny slot than see Myrtle from Greensburg order a mojito. It's Indiana through and through.

* * *

Back in Japan, my buddy Matt, who was himself born - if only by geography - in Indiana, raised in Chicago, matriculated in Minnesota and then transplanted to Denver never let me get too down on my earthy Hoosier mates. He reminded me that you're going to find people like Glenda and Jeff where ever you go. At that moment, I think I started to let the little, repressed Arlo in me shine...well maybe not. I don't look good in oversized polos.

Indiana Live! Keep the gambling, lose the identity crisis, and please keep passing out those crazy checks.