what price do you put on hope?

i wrote this in 2007, and just came across it on my backup hard drive when looking for something else entirely. ah, for those days when writing came so much faster and more furiously…

my sister is now celebrating her 6th anniversary with the “boyfriend” in the piece, and i’m on my third computer since the one i mention. i’m posting the piece for archiving purposes here, and to remind myself of this craft that i really should pick up and do more often (i don’t mean the gambling… writing of course!).

17 july 2007

i’m losing rhinestones from my new strappy heeled shoes almost as fast as i’m losing money in the slot machines.  after a quick whirl through las vegas, and about 125 dollars less than i came with, repetitive computerized sounds of reels—sometimes punctuated by a “winning” noise and the clicking of betting one (or max) credit—are still ringing in my ears.  no, wait, i’m in the airport and those are actual machines next to the gates ringing and clacking.  my sister’s boyfriend said he read somewhere that the slot machines at this first and last stop to vegas aren’t regulated by the same rules as the casinos in terms of payout, so it’s harder to win here.  i was going to take my 50 cent win on 5 dollars and prove them all wrong.  but then i kept playing, as you do, and lost it all.

my gaming (the accepted term before gambling) was limited to the computer screens with special bonus additions, preferably in the 1 to 5 cent range.  i must say though, that the most satisfying—mentally—and most successful efforts were at the 25 cent draw bonus poker screens.  i appreciated the semblance of interaction, am certain i was missing some card counting opportunities, and somehow felt a strong sense of kinship to the professional poker players just a few miles down the strip who were battling it out for the top spot in the world series of poker.  a couple of times i played for at least an hour and was able to cash my ticket in for the same amount i arrived at the flashing machine with.  i began to suspect that the machines could read my mind, or in particularly misguided moments, that i could predict their next move, and am a little snowed on how random the computer generated spinning could actually be.  i understand that my affection for ordering fictitious chinese take out, present-heavy parties, larry the lobster, and board games-turned-digital put together with investing small amounts of money at irregular intervals don’t make me a very good candidate for winning “the big bucks”.  it is still disappointing to come home with an empty wallet.

i came to this overstimulating environment to meet up with my sister.  she in turn was accompanying her boyfriend and his friend on their yearly poker playing escape.  both men came with a fund of several hundred dollars which they have been paying into over the course of the year, with the express intention of sitting at a table several hours every day playing the game they love.  if i had any amount of money i thought i could spare, i would have sat down at one of the intimidating, high minimum amount tables as well to try my luck.  i didn’t hold cards in my hand once this trip.  my fingers are actually itching to do so, but not for a 250 dollar buy in. and both of them ended up several hundred dollars down as well.  which sounds more painful to me than my little over one hundred dollar loss.

not having traveled by airplane in the states for almost a year, the whole experience has been much like a cold bucket of water thrown in my face.  once again, i feel more scrutinized and less safe traveling here than i have in any of my travels around the world in the past year and a half.  this statement seems worth a moment of silence, at least a pause to consider its impact.  while sitting at the salt lake city airport and battling with the theatrics of fox news blaring from every seat cluster, i was informed we are on orange level terror alert.  i was stopped at two out of three security checks for bottles of water, tubes of sunscreen, and a yogurt drink.  juggling a pair of strappy shoes, a laptop, and a studded belt, along with my backpack and purse, i thought i had covered all my bases by displaying and/or removing it all.  i could have chosen to have my 7 dollar 4 oz bottle of organic, unused sunscreen shipped back to me for a price of 15 dollars, or have it confiscated and thrown into a bin that not even the security worker knew the fate of.  there is a strange element to it all when we are carrying more electronic devices than ever before, but a tube of liquid/paste/lotion causes anticipation of danger and an accepted state of hysteria.  i think the terror alert factor should be changed to “how hysterical are we feeling today?” or, “how much longer do we feel like forcing a militarized state/state of war on ourselves?”.  yes, i think i’m feeling quite ________ today (fill in the blanks with any of the following: provoked, unsafe, under imminent threat of attack from a foreign national… or choose your own “freedom conserving” word).  london was extreme too, and as either a former or current colonial power there must be some underlying sense of unstated awareness that the “natives” are STILL not happy.  neither their generations upon generations who live in a world crafted by arbitrary colonial behaviour.

oh i’m so tense, and never tenser, could all go a bit frank spencer.  and i’m talking gibberish…* 

* arctic monkeys song about being unable to talk to a woman in a pub, but it somehow has been echoing in my head since i was first in sfo two days ago.

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