Albany Journal – 7/19/12

I decided yesterday that I wanted to get out of Albany for a little while and check out the rest of the world beyond it.  That’s when some stroke of genius came to me, as I organized my friends and checked out the Turning Stone Hotel and Casino on Native American soil about two hours west of Albany.  We took one car up there, as it was four of us who went, and we arrived ready to play the casino table games when we arrived.  Luckily, Turning Stone wasn’t that crowded during the weekday afternoon when we visited, and the table games were quite cheap compared to what Atlantic City had to offer.  I had been meaning to go to Turning Stone for quite a while now, if not with my buddies from Albany, then with my brother who would never come up to Albany anyway.  But this time I made the trip with friends, as this made me only too happy to beseech them to come up.

The casino itself is basically structured like most other casinos I had seen before, both in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.  The air conditioning flooded the air with cold oxygen so that people would stay and be happy gambling in the casino.  The drinks were free, as usual for any casino, but since it was definitely off-peak time, the waitresses came around much sooner, and the table games were much cheaper.  The carpeting and the furniture in the casino is plush enough to make one feel that he or she is walking on sponges, and there were so many lights and sounds eminating from the slot machine section, that one gets dizzy and amazingly tired hearing it all.  My game was blackjack – yes, the game that one can’t possibly win unless one has extraordinary luck.  Plenty of the gamblers around me drank beer in clear plastic cups, and the bar was definitely opened for business, which is why I stayed away from it.  It is really a first class Casino that we’re talking about here, complete with the “Lava Lounge” – a night club that operates on the weekend, plenty of shops – all of them over priced, and plenty of free booze, which I luckily stayed away from.

So I sat at the blackjack table and played a few rounds before these two beautiful blonde-haired women sat near me with an older-aged retiree with whom they seemed on familar terms.  These women could have been in the movies they were so pretty, and I immediately came to the conclusion that these two women were women for hire – the sexual healers necessary for big-muscled men with too much testosterone or to give the elderly-aged folks a cheap thrill.  But since I’m basically going out with Lisa now, I tried not to stare at them too much.  I knew somehow that the time had passed for me to be hitting on strange women, and so I tried not to look at the blonde women who sat near me at the table.  One of the older guys gave them some chips to play with, and right then I knew they were sexual healers present to help lonely men out of their woes.  This was definitely part of my past life, I admit, but I don’t want to regret my past either.  Life is life, no matter how we get by, and luckily I met Lisa just before I was about to go crazy again due to women who would never care for me.

For the first half of the day, I was winning quite big, but then all of a sudden I was losing pretty badly.  My friends and I would rendezvous at the appropriate meeting spot, and so I was lucky that this time came sooner than later.   I walked way having lost only $22.50, and out of $200 spent total, this really was a secret win.  In Atlantic City, I would had lost a lot more, because their table games during the summer have high anties.  So I was happy with what I had lost, and I bought a large tea at the coffee shop that was there and waited for my friends to arrive.  My friends, it turned out, won a little, but not too much – where talking about $20 and $30 wins.

The big losses came after my second round of playing blackjack.  It just seemed that no matter what I did, I always had the worst cards, and the dealer always had the winning hand, even when I had good cards.  I played and I played, hoping to recover my losses, and I even bet very conservatively, making sure not to bet over my head.  By evening time I had lost $200, and that meant that I was broke for the whole month as had happened many times before.   Nevertheless, I justified these losses as entertainment losses, as though the books had some kind of category for that type of loss.  But I was really quite broken up about it, and I nursed my losess in another cup of never-ending tea.  I got home with $50 left in my pocket after the loss of $200.

And yet I still kept thinking about the women I had seen earlier at the blackjack table.  I knew they were sexual healers, and I knew that they would go up to the hotel room with the senior citizen and please him, but this time I wasn’t the least bit wanting of them, as in my past I had seen many sexual healers and spent quite a lot of money on them – this when I was once a wealthy man who was to one day squander most of his fortune chasing women like that all over New York City.  I felt that I had really matured since then, and no longer did the blonde women overcome me.  I am seeing someone now here in Albany, and her name is Lisa, and she is probably the kindest and sweetest woman I have ever met.  We go well with each other.

The car ride back to Albany took about two hours, and since we had to go out of our way to drop a friend off, we had spent nearly three or four hours in the car ride alone.  The casino was far from the Albany city line, and I realized that there was some good in that.  I slowly understood why a lot of New Yorkers are against letting more casinos into New York, but I can also say that these casinos would be very beneficial financially to the State of New York.  The Turning Stone casino, however, was controlled and bulit on Native American soil, and so was not taxed by the State at all – neither do I think they should be taxed in any way.  I’m very glad to see Native Americans finally make some real money so that they can keep their tribes on equal footing with the rest of the changing world.  Good for them, I thought.  My $200 contribution to their cause really made a lot of sense to me when I made it home late last night.

Harvey Havel is the author of five novels. This past spring, Stories from the Fall of the Empire, his sixth book and his first collection of short stories, was recently released by Publish America. Later this summer, Two Tickets to Memphis, his sixth novel, is forthcoming from Publish America as well. Havel has previously taught Writing at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey and also at SUNY Albany and the College of St. Rose, both in Albany, New York. Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1971, Havel now resides full time in Albany, New York.