The Prairie Wind hotel is brand new, in fact pre-new. Plastic tarps and drywall everywhere. We walked accross the lot to a front door surrounded by scaffolding with two men painting the siding on the top. We asked them if the hotel was open. They said there should be somebody in there. This was close enough to an answer as it gave us permission to explore somewhere.
Paul and Becky were filming the place like it was the tomb of Christ. The place was nicish, like a Ramada or a Red Lion. Guests will enjoy AC, minifridges, cable with HBO (Porn on special order) an indoor swimming pool, a nicely designed courtyard, soft interior lighting, wall paintings that look like they came from the Rapid City mall, light pastel carpeting, full internet access. The contrast with how actual citizens of the rez live is obvious. The casino and hotel are owned and operated by the tribe, and is just one example we would see that day of why socialism doesn't work.
The place clearly wasn't open yet. Signs of construction were everwhere. Some rooms didn't have fridges. Some didn't have beds. Still, we needed official documentation, as we are professionalism incarnate. One of the foremen in what looks like will be the managers office gave us that confirmation, and after two more trips through the visually arresting motel hallway we headed back out the front door and toward the casino.
The casino stands in a big metal box at the east end of the lot. No one under twenty one, no cameras, no one visually intoxicated, turn your cell phones off please. a security guard in neon green dutifully looked at us as we entered. Smoking permitted in the entire establishment.
Poker, blackjack, slots, Wheel of Fortune slots, "Wheel of Destiny" slots. The copyrighted and the uncopyrighted sitting together alike in dignity. I've written of the casino experience before, and I see no reason to repeat it here. This place was just the same, reservegas or no. http://mrheartland.blogspot.com/2006_10_01_archive.html
Except that the clientèle were quite old. People in most casinos tend to be older, but these folks were really old. Not old in a "You're still in your twenties and you don't know what old-age hell really is yet" way but, seriously, the average age was eighty. They appeared to be mostly white ranchers and townies from the areas surrounding the reservation. some in cowboy hats, some pulling on their Camels. It reminded me of walking into any given village Pump-and-Pantry and seeing an eighty-year-old man sucking on his non-filter and cackling at the World-Herald. Everything you hear about smoking is true, don't doubt that. One has to travel to the strangest ends of the earth to find an eighty-year-old smoker. It's just that rural whites are immune to lung cancer. It's a simple fact. Put some miles on your car and see for yourself.
Fried chicken was the main dish on the buffet. I must have been getting hungry, because it was looking pretty good even though it was surrounded by filth. All of the tables were covered in the dishes of their last patrons. The wait-staff was taking a half-hour smoke break, as a unit, along with one of the painters from the hotel.
We toured the place for awhile and gradually broke off into individuals. Near the center of the room was a formally red-haired woman who had chained herself to her favorite slot. It was some sort of VIP card inserted into the machine connected to a neon-green bungie cord that was securely clasped to her blouse. She was playing at least twelve games a minute, too fast for me to tell if she was winning or losing. I stood right at the side of her for a full two minutes, staring like she was a falling mountain. She never flinched. I could have told her that all of her grandchildren had offered to service me for crack, and she wouldn't have noticed.
What is it about casinos that appeal to the elderly? Outside of Vegas, and especially on a dry reservation, the casino is just about the most sexless place you can possibly imagine. Mechanical, deterministic, (straight line and a goal) sterile, inorganic. The casino also offers the capitalistic promise of achievement and social advancement that hookers and Hurricane pints do not. A sexless vice that involves trying to make money is no vice at all, in the eyes of some. True, there's no hard work or inginuity involved. No individual supermen improving society in their quest for self-gain. But our economy has never really been based on that, and it takes quite a bit of scamming to make anyone think that it is.
The time had come for gambling. I put a dollar in a Western-themed slot (shoot em up sheriff or something) and promptly lost it. That was enough, I had paid the price for admission. Paul made a ten-dollar profit at his machine and promptly lost both his winnings and the original fifteen he put in. He later theorized that the machines are designed this way. Certainly not.
After losing my dollar, I found Dan sitting at the blackjack table. Poor fool. He just wanted to avoid the tacky slots and do something worthy of the experience. Anyone who knows gambling knows that blackjack is the worst game that one can possibly play. The dealer only needs to sit back and wait for you to make the wrong moves, and you will. Dan lost twenty dollars in less than five minutes.
While this was happening, Becky had been caught taking pictures. Security gathered around her and told her to leave, or at least to take her camera to the car and than come back. They never did ask for her age or her ID. She walked out the door and promptly walked into the hills to become one with dying grass.
Suppose she had caught the face of one of the patrons, and one of us put it on one of our personal internet playpens, what would the reaction be? What's the general attitude toward hitting up the reservegas in these parts? What do the people who go tp Prairie Wind think of themselves?
It was clearly time to go, the place had somehow failed to seduce us. So we eventually regathered ourselves into a unit and got back in the clown car to,
Well, that wasn't really clear.