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The Coeur D'Alene Casino and Hotel,
Worley, Idaho.

Last Friday I made another trip over to the Coeur D'Alene casino over in
Idaho. I take the free courtesy van over, which I can catch about two
blocks from my apartment. It takes about an hour to get there and an
hour back.

I don't gamble. Except for some penny-ante poker when I was younger, I
just never have gotten into that type of thing. They always talk about
gambling in terms of its "entertainment value." But to me, there's
nothing entertaining about inevitably loosing your money. If I spend a
dollar I want to get something substantial in return for it. I think it
would be much more entertaining to set fire to a dollar bill than to
gamble it away. At least then you would have the short, cheap thill of
watching it burn in the ashtray for a minute or two.

I go over to the casino to buy my cigarettes. That's the only real
purpose for the trip. The taxes on cigarettes in the State of Washington
are some of the highest in the US. To give you some idea, imagine
that you go out and buy a new television set for $500, and then are
charged $600 in taxes on it. If that were really the case with things
like televisions and other normal good, people would be picking up
rifles and revolting in the streets. But unfortunately, that's how high
the tobacco taxes are here.

Now they claim that the high taxes are needed to offset the higher
health care costs that smoking causes. Which is pure bullshit. Not one
single penny of the tax revenue is earmarked specifically for health
care of any sort. In fact, it is just like any other tax upon
citizens — it goes into the general coffers of the State to be used
however the legislature decides. Once again, just another instance of
politicians lying to us and distorting the facts. And of course the
anti-smoking people are fine with that, they are fine with lies if it
suits their agenda.

Speaking of health care, I got some rather "good news/bad news" doctor
joke type news in January following my catheterization. The good news is
that I show no sign of Coronary Artery Disease whatsoever. None. They
showed me the "video" of my heart on the computer following the cath.
The veins and arteries of my heart look like a big, upside down maple
tree, with a nice thick trunk and full branches and limbs. It was
beautiful, really. I was wondering where that baby bird in my heart
lived. Now I know — he lives in the upside down maple tree.

The good news about all of that is that I now know that I didn't cause
any of my heart problems myself by my stupid behavior over the years. I
might have smoked and drank and eaten like crap — but it didn't affect
my heart apparently. My condition is caused by the long-term result of a
congenital heart defect. Which had nothing to do with my stupidity. Even
my cholesterol is a relatively low (for age 51) 160 points.

The "bad news" part of it is that the lack of Coronary disease
doesn't make any difference, really. It's certainly good that it's not
there making things worse, but it's not going to make things any better.

Anyway, I still smoke. Why the hell not? For me to quit smoking would be
the equivalent of telling a terminal cancer patient that they should
watch their cholesterol. A good idea normally, but senseless in the
context of things. Anyway, I enjoy smoking. So I'm going to continue
doing it. They'll pry those babies out of my cold, dead fingers.

The trip over to the casino is boring. I now use that time (and the time
coming back) to go through ideas for my fiction. The basic idea for
That Killer Smile was developed on such a trip, riding in the
courtesy van. "Hello, Robert" got it's start that way, too. So it's boring
but it's not a waste of time.

The trek to the Casino.

Once out to the casino I get my carton or two of smokes at the gift
shop. The carton of Pall Mall 100s that I get out at the casino for
$19.70 would cost me $56.00 in Spokane. That's how high those taxes are
I was talking about.

After I get my cigarettes I have about two hours to kill before the next
van back into Spokane. I usually grab a freebie Mountain Dew or Pepsi at
one of the drink counters and then have a cigarette. That takes about 15
minutes. Only an hour and forty-five minutes left to kill.

You can smoke in most areas of the casino. Which you can't do in
Washington state. You can't light up anywhere indoors in Washington —
your home or apartment excepted. This also includes the clubs and
taverns. If I have the money, I stop in at the casino bar and get a
beer. It's just really nice to be able to sit there and sip a beer
and have a smoke or two, just like in the "good old days." And I'm not
talking about the 1950s here. The "good old days" were actually about a
year and a half ago here as far as being able to smoke in the bars.

Pat Maginess' personal favorite brand.

But normally I just kind of spend the time walking a bit around the
casino and watching the people. Last Friday I was walking down the isle
between two groups of slot machines when I noticed an old woman. She
must have been in her 80s I would guess. She had a full, wrinkled face
and stood with a perpetual stoop. The look on her face was one of
determined concentration. She seemed to be enjoying herself. And I was
glad for her. I might not like gambling myself, but it seems a lot of
people get some sort of satisfaction doing it. On my walk I also ran
into a nice older bleach-blonde with great lips. Too bad I don't have
that magic lamp working yet.

One of the first things I noticed about the casino on the first trip I
ever made out there was the continuous bell-like chime of the slot
machines, forming a kind of ground against everything you experience
there. It's a very hypnotic sound after a while. Over the top of the
chiming slots you have the casino stereo system piping in music. The
music is always the same — a continuous tape loop of popular song hits
from the late 60s and early 70s. The music never varies. It's always that
same time period no matter when you hit the casino. I guess they figure
that's the type of music that would be acceptable to the most people —
"the greatest hits for the greatest number," so to speak.

The time approached for my return van to Spokane. I went to the
vestibule at one of the entrances to the casino and waited, poking my
head out the door every few minutes looking for the bus to arrive. As I
stood there a song came on over the casino stereo system, a song that I
had heard a few weeks prior standing in the exact same spot. In the
earlier instance I couldn't come up with the name of the band, but this
time I did. It was Badfinger, playing their hit song from 1970,
"No Matter What." A few minutes later the van arrived.

"I always did like that song" I said to myself as I carried my new stash
of tobacco to the van. I stepped aboard the bus and found a good seat,
and on the dark trip home to Spokane I thought about new fiction and,
between the cracks, old friends.

Just click on the album to watch the video on youTube.


No matter what you are
I will always be with you
Doesn't matter what you do, girl
Ooh girl, with you

No matter what you do
I will always be around
Won't you tell me what you found, girl
Ooh girl, want you

Knock down the old, grey wall
Be a part of it all
Nothing to say, nothing to see, nothing to do
If you would give me all
As I would give it to you
Nothing would be, nothing would be, nothing would be

No matter where you go
There would always be a place
Can't you see it in my face, girl
Ooh girl, want you