Well. It’s official : If it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all…when it comes to gambling, that is.  On all other fronts I’d say that I’m ‘way ahead of the game.

The LAF/SOMe expedition to the Bright Lights/Big City bus trip to Wheeling Island ( O.K., I lied about the big city part) Casino and Hotel and dog track proves my point.

I managed to get in my usual morning routine work-out and swim before hustling home to suit up for a day of hitting the fleshpots of West Virginia–slots, roulette, poker, blackjack, craps, chemin-de-fer–all of the decadence that could be accessed for the bargain price of $30.  As it turned out, the day started out cold and rainy , with a delay to make sure that the bus was in tip-top condition (Why would anyone complain about that?) but the loading process was uneventful and we were off !…like a herd of turtles…or a terd of hurdles…or something.  Interesting drive.  Even with all of the industrial insults to its natural beauty, the Ohio River is something to see.  Even today, with down-at-heels river towns, discoloring run-off and abandoned structures along the length that we traveled, it was possible to glimpse a little of the hope and heart that drew settlers to the “Wild West” of Ohio (Iroquois word meaning “great” or “beautiful”; it referred to the river) in the early days of our country.

So…we arrive at Wheeling Island, garden spot of the mid-upper-Ohio River, at a sort of industrial-looking building proclaiming itself the number one gaming spot of…somewhere obscure, and beckoning to would-be high-rollers–which we all were, of course– ready to break the bank.  My roll of quarters was just about burning a hole in my pocket (Actually, I had a plethora of pockets, having donned–not you, Mr. Olin–a vest from a camping catalog with some fourteen of these conveniences–not counting the pencil slots–to avoid having to carry a purse).

Alas, the picture of the jaded individual sitting in front of a “one-armed bandit”, feeding it quarters while squinting through a ribbon of cigarette smoke and occasionally  swirling ice in a glass of amber liquid…not quite.  West Virginia does allow smoking in lots more places than Ohio–big surprise there–so there was a kind of ambient haze in certain locations.  One woman on my right was punching the  game box she was playing pretty regularly between puffs but she did stop at one point after giving a whoop and showed me a picture on her phone.  It was a newly-arrived grandson…which she thought looked more like the other side of his family tree. Lots of exhaust fans were doing their best to mitigate the effects of the smoke, with some success but not total.  However, the gaming machines work from electronic cards, not pocket change and there are no big gushers of coin coming from their vitals.  Bummer!

Made no difference to me, of course, because I was near-totally confounded just trying to figure out how the things worked and which button to push to make something happen…above and beyond the constant ring-a-dings, whoops and whistles, humming and boopity-boops  that accompanied all of the flashing lights that were inside and out of the gadgets.  Being of the social studies ilk, I tended to lean toward the machines featuring Egyptian pyramids, kings, queens and knights, California gold miners, riverboat gamblers or jungle explorations.  ‘Twas all for naught, of course, the twenty dollars of free play got sucked down the rat hole as if it were real money and called plaintively for companionship from the overheated quarters that I still clutched.  The pharaohs, fancy ladies from the steamboats and stalking tigers were of no help at all, whether I was playing quarter machines or even lower denominations (Yes, there truly are nickel slots, even 2 cent and 1 cent machines).  There were a few of the adventurous types who hit the poker tables and did O.K..  I saw not one roulette wheel (James Bond, where are you?). There were blackjack tables, but I don’t know much about how to do that either.  We did watch the greyhounds for a couple of races. Seems to me that betting money based solely on color is probably not a big profit-taker One of our number took the opportunity to bet on every pooch in one contest just so that she could be assured of winning at least once.  It worked, of course, but is not a real viable financial strategy.

The lights were another thing altogether…more on that at a later date.  There’s also a treatise on public restroom policy in eating establishments.  Could be a doctoral thesis for the right scholar.  See me for publishing rights.