Day 5: Enter…Brad!
On Monday, my brother Brad arrived from Texas for his leg of the visit, and it was therefore his turn to treat everyone to dinner that evening.
Afterwards, as he likes to gamble and isn’t able to do so in Texas, he and my mom and I headed to the casino in Baraga.
I’m not a fan of gambling, mostly because, for me, it’s not actually “gambling,” since that would imply that there’s a chance of winning.
Still, I usually anticipate a trip to the casino – and more than one when Brad’s there – when I visit home, so I always budget money to lose. This time, I figured we’d be there a lot, so I budgeted a lot.
My biggest problem with gambling – besides the fact that I generally lose and lose fast – is that I really only “like” straightforward quarter slots, none of that fancy forty-five line, crazy bonus nonsense. Unfortunately, I’m in the minority there, since everyone else seems to love them.
Gamblers like them because they’re usually only one cent or five cent machines, so they don’t cost much…except that when you’re playing multiple lines with multiple credits bet on each, you’re actually spending more money each time than you would on a quarter machine betting max credits.
And the casinos love them because the lower the cost per-credit, the worse the payout odds can be. So for them, it’s win-win to an even greater extent than it is normally, which means that the kind of machines I like to play are scarce.
Beyond the matter of the odds, I don’t like those crazy machines. I mean, due to the lousy odds, I win even less often than I do on other machines, and even when you hit something, it’s only a penny, so you win like fifty cents when you hit something, unless you get a bonus. In all the times I’ve played those machines, I’ve never once hit a bonus.
Beyond that, I just don’t understand them. I watched Brad playing one of them, and he went through this whole bonus thing, and somehow, at the end of it, he’d hit one of the mini-jackpots for like $28. I watched the whole thing happen, and after he got the results I said, “This is why I don’t play these; I don’t understand a goddamn thing that just happened.”
The main thing I try to do when I’m at the casino is kill time. I don’t anticipate winning anything, so my goal is to make the money I have last as long as possible.
That’s actually part of the reason I enjoyed it when Brad and I sat down to play roulette. I don’t think I’d ever play it on my own, but it was kind of fun with Brad, and even moreso when a bunch of other people – most of them newbies – sat down to join in. It’s that rare case where I found that my enjoyment of something was actually enhanced by adding more people.
I didn’t win anything, but it took a while to lose everything, so overall, for me, it was a success.
Given that my mom lives in a one-bedroom apartment and that I can’t stay at Kim’s house because of my pet allergies, there had been some concern about where Brad was going to sleep. I had been sleeping on a air mattress that took up most of the living room, and I’m a violent sleeper, so sharing with Brad wasn’t really an option.
Fortunately, one of my mom’s friends was going to be out of town for the week, so she offered the use of her apartment, which was very nice of her. (The mattress I was sleeping on had been loaned to my mom by another friend of hers. See? There are nice people there, despite my complaints.)
So Brad opted to stay over in that apartment. Once we got back from the casino – and stopped to pick up some beer for Brad – he and I headed over there to talk for a while after my mom went to bed.
Brad and I don’t really keep in touch all that regularly, but we always get along when we’re together and can pretty much pick up where we left off (it’s the same with Kim). It helps that we have a very similar sense of humor.
Day 6: Did Someone Say “Casino” Again? Someone Did? Damn.
Over the weekend, we’d learned, an old friend of the family had passed away, so on Tuesday evening Brad, our mom, Kim, and I went to the visitation. It was, obviously, something of a down note for the trip.
Afterwards, we brought our mom home and headed out for round two at the casino.
There was a machine I had my eye on, but I never got a chance to play it, as there was this woman sitting there feeding it as if doing so were her job. She never left it the whole time I was there. I don’t think she even got up to use the restroom. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she was wearing a diaper just to make sure she didn’t have to leave before she was damned good and ready.
At one point I walked past the roulette table and the dealer from the previous night asked me, “Where’s your grandma? Bingo?”
(The night before, my mom had come by while Brad and I were playing and said to the dealer, “These are my boys.”)
I said, “She’s at home, and she’s my mom.”
Later, when Brad and I were playing again, the dealer said to me, “I thought he was your dad, that’s why I thought she was your grandma.”
Brad responded, “His dad? I hate you now.”
Seriously, his hair may be almost totally white, but he doesn’t look that much older than I am.
Once more I didn’t win, but at the end of it all, after a good long run, I was only down fifty cents (at roulette; I’d lost more on the machines), so that was pretty good.
Day 7: The Casino Again? Really?
Kim took the afternoon off, so we all headed off to Watersmeet to go to a different casino.
Again, I didn’t win anything, and Kim was the only one to come out ahead.
We had to get back in time for my niece Jenni’s soccer game, which we did, but then it started to rain, so Brad, our mom, and I just went home.
That night Brad and I opted to to to the movie and see Get Him To The Greek, which was uneven, but the parts that were funny were really funny.
Oh, and I finally came out and admitted to my mom and the rest of the family (and now to the wider world) that I started smoking again.
Yeah, I know.
Day 8: Farewell
Thursday evening found us all at Kim’s house for a farewell dinner of pasties, as Brad and I would both be leaving the next day.
After saying our goodbyes – we’ll be back next year when my niece Jourdan graduates from college – we dropped our mom off and headed out for one last gambling hurrah.
This time I was able to get on the machine I’d been eyeing the other night. You could choose the credit denomination on it (five, ten, twenty-five, or fifty cents), so I decided to kill time playing nickel credits. I started hitting, and had eventually built up more than the twenty dollars I put in, so I switched to quarters and kept hitting.
Meanwhile, the lady who’d been monopolizing it the other night came and sat down right next to me, and I could see that she was absolutely seething every time I hit something.
Eventually I had it up to around $186. I decided to try to see if I could get it over $200, and resolved that I would play it down to $150 otherwise. After all, it was hitting a lot, and if it was hot, I didn’t want to walk away, and $150 was nothing to sneeze at (it would put me ahead $90 for the night). Eventually it went cold, and I cashed out at $150.
Thankfully, I got confirmation that I’d done the right thing; a string of people – but not the lady who’d worked it the other night, oddly enough – tried it after I left and no one hit anything to speak of.
We called it an early night, as Brad was gambled out and had to leave early in the morning.
Day 9: Homecoming 2
I got up very early and drove Brad to the airport, then headed back to my mom’s to sleep for a few more hours.
Brad was already back in Texas by the time I headed up to the airport.
Shortly after boarding the plane I was landing in Chicago, with only about an hour and a half to spend in the airport.
Or so I thought. I was sitting at my gate getting ready to board when I heard someone say something about it being a flight to Denver. I got up and checked the board and found that my gate had changed. Or had it? Had I just been at the wrong gate all along?
(It had changed, I later learned, when I looked at my phone and saw the alert from Orbitz telling me about the gate change.)
So I went to the correct gate and an announcement was made that due to thunderstorms…somewhere, my flight was delayed by twenty-five minutes.
Eventually I got on the plane, but we were delayed even longer. Thunderstorms in the Ohio-Pennsylvania region had created a narrow traffic corridor for flights headed in this direction, and we were like number sixteen in line to depart.
Fortunately, we got moved up again, and eventually I arrived in DC about forty-five minutes later than scheduled.
Unfortunately, my late arrival – and Scott forgetting that I was flying into National – plus the time it took for my bag to come around, meant that I ended up cutting into the dinner plans that Scott had with Stacy and her visiting cousin (and for me, if I were interested, but I was too fried to think about doing anything other than going home).
Sorry about that.
Upon arriving at home, I found that, thankfully, the place was still where I left it, though I regretted not leaving the A/C on and set at like eighty or so, as it was over ninety inside.
But at long last my two homecomings were behind me.
Next year I’ll have to do it again for Jourdan’s graduation, but one of these times I’d like to just send Kim the money I would spend on a plane ticket and a rental car and have her and the family use it to come out to visit me.
My reasons aren’t purely selfish; I think the kids would like to see DC. Hell, just riding the Metro would be cool for them. And I know Dean would dig the Air and Space Museum, so I’m hoping it’ll happen one of these years.
In any case, that’s a rather c0ndensed telling of my travel adventures. There’s a lot I left out, some of which I will fill in as time goes by, some of which I won't, but those were the highlights, at least.
I’m always glad to make the trip, even though I hate making the trip. I had a good time with Brad; as much as he loved the Navy, I think he’s really glad to be out, and the fact that he’s happy with his life – he’s currently attending culinary school, with plans to open his own bistro/catering business – has an impact on how he responds to life, so as a result, he was even more fun to be around than usual.
Ultimately, while I do miss my family while I’m here, this place – despite having problems of its own – is home now, and it’s always good to be home.