It didn’t seem possible that I was coming into the final week of my road trip, one that had been fueled by spontaneity and ecstasy, covering the vast expanse of the former American frontier, most of it now privately owned, a good portion of it cut off from everyone. The spaces were still there, but the freedom was gone. You didn’t have to commit a crime to be locked up for life. All you needed was to go to a good college or buy a reliable car, and if you weren’t one of the elites, could end up an indentured servant.
Where was the promise now? Where was the hope? It came in the form of casinos and lotteries, that one last wild, extravagant fantasy, that anyone, from any background, can one day strike it rich and spend the rest of their life on Easy Street.
I have nothing against gambling, casinos, or lotteries, I’ve just never been a player. I learned the value of a dollar too well. The entire scope of my life had been adjusted to the parameters of hundreds and single thousands of dollars. I was still in habit of walking out of restaurants that showed double digits on their menus. These days that would keep me out of every establishment.
When I got to the Sky City Casino I was in a haze; too much driving, too little sleep, too much manic observation, too little repose. It had been a long hard day and my feet were still chilled from the rain. The thing to do was to hit the shower and bed, but I wanted to walk down to the casino, to sit there and meditate if that was even possible. If I got disrupted it wouldn’t be like yanking me down from Shangri-La. I was already agitated.
In Wyoming I’d climbed to a mountain top to visit an ancient Medicine Wheel. Now I walked into the casino and stood before the Hot Stuff Wicked Wheel. A little devil toddler sat with his chin in his hands. The grand prize was fourteen-thousand dollars. There were two hundred and forty-three ways to win. Lights flashed in front of my eyes. A thousand sounds assaulted my ears; whoops, hollers, bells, sirens, clangs, bongs, computer voices, lasers, coins falling, groans of desperation, elevator music.
I walked over to the Rawhide Quick Strike. This was the New Wild West. The three wheels on the slot machine depicted cowboys, covered wagons, and bags of gold. There was the Buffalo Slot. Three charging buffaloes raising up a cloud of dust. Multiply your wins up to twenty-five times. Multiply your wins up to a hundred and twenty-five times. I went and sat down at a slot machine that had just been sanitized. The man to the left of me was trying his luck at the Celestial Temple. Come on, Zeus!
A pop song came on the radio. How can any woman be too beautiful? The carpet was a pixelated haze. It was a very small crowd for such a big noise, just a handful of senior citizens and a few tribal members. Ding-dong. Ding-dong. I put three dollars in the penny slot and lost it all in a few minutes. Wolf – Ace – Elk. What did you need to win? I got up and started walking again, almost stumbling, in a trance. Flamenco Forever. Shadow Diamond. Golden Tower. Spartacus. The room was full of every distraction in the world. Even a holy man could wind up wrecked.
Somehow, I made it back to the hall and headed back towards my room. Now I was hungry and there were vending machines, but I’d used all my singles dollars in the slot machine. That was messed up knowing that I’d gambled away my food money. For someone who didn’t gamble, I’d sure caved fast.
That night I didn’t sleep well. The bed was comfortable, but my mind was bumpy. At four-thirty I got up and made a pot of coffee. Then I got in shower and stood in the hot water until it ran out. The night before had been the first winter storm of the year. It was in the 30s all over the region. It was still dark out when I left and went out to the car. There was so much frost on the windows I had to had to warm up the car to melt it before I could drive.