Archive for May 30th, 2011

Dubuque (or how we spent our last furlough day)

Yes, Dubuque. Aaron and his friends are in the habit of heading to Dubuque every now and again. The city boasts two full-blown casinos and, I was told, other charms. Those charms weren’t really specified, but it doesn’t take much to coax me into a mini-vacation an hour and a half away on what promises to be our last furlough day. We cashed in our change jar for 145 hard ones and off to Dubuque we went!

We left the comfort of our Madison condo shortly after one o’clock on Friday and rolled into the old river town around 2:30. Famished, we entered Paul’s Tavern and claimed a small booth. It was not hard to decide on what to order because the menu is succinct: burger, cheeseburger, tuna, grilled cheese and one other item I’m forgetting. For $2.65, I was sold on the cheeseburger. It did not disappoint. After our meal, we headed out to explore the downtown. Armed with my camera, I happily snapped pictures of the city’s old architecture. As you can see from the pics, some is very well-preserved while some is not so much. I hope someone will come along with enough money and sense to restore it to its intended beauty. It’d be a shame to let it deteriorate further; the town must have positively sparkled once.

After we deemed our exploration complete, we checked into our hotel: the Hilton Garden Inn, which happens to be connected to what Aaron calls the “good” casino, Mystique. As you know, Dear Reader, I am not much of a gambler, but apparently 2011 is the year of gaming for me. In the past month, I have quadmultiplied the number of casinos I had previously set foot in. Anyway, the hotel room was nice, but the walls were quite thin and we were treated to the sounds of other tvs and vacuum cleaners. But, you rightly point out, we were not there for rest. We were there to make money. Aaron clearly delineated our mission: money for our bar dues (or around $900 for the both of us, due July 1). After watching a bit of tape-delayed French Open, I put on some lip gloss and was ready to hit the floor. We walked the long hall connecting the hotel to Mystique and entered the Promised Land. The lights! The sounds! The costumes! Ok, maybe it’s not Vegas, but make no mistake – this is a casino. And it will take your money. Or, at least our money. After wasting time playing five cent Jacks or Better video poker, there were finally enough people at the craps table to make us feel comfortable to join in. Aaron went first. $100. And…cold table. That, of course, did not deter me. I’m in. $60. And…super cold table. We’re all out, except I insist on saving my $1 chip. So, we’re out $159 in about 30 minutes. Drat.

We regroup at the bar where two drinks are about $5. At least that’s something. We strategize. I suggest more five cent Jacks or Better to get our confidence up. Aaron (skeptically) agrees. Ten minutes later, we’re down another $4. Hmm. Ok, Aaron says, we’re going to go to Diamond Jo’s. I looked at him with confusion. But you always say Diamond Jo’s is the “bad” casino; you say they’re mean there. Well, they’re not mean, Aaron responds, they’re just rude. What’s the difference? I ask. Aaron pretty much shrugs off my query and confidently tells me Diamond Jo’s is our ticket to again being licensed attorneys. Off we go! A short car ride later, we surreptitiously enter the “bad” casino. I say surreptitiously because Aaron parked the car in some far-off lot and we had to crawl through bushes to get to the front door. He insisted this is normal. After being carded and stamped (and, in my memory, wanded), we hit the floor. The place is seriously electric. If the mood at Mystique was a sedated octogenarian with a twist of zombie, this place is the opposite. We do a quick tour of the place and settle in on a hopping craps table. Aaron sets $100 on the table, and we divvy up the chips. We’re instantly raking in the dough. Come on 9! 9 hits! Come on 4! 4 hits! The old man in the White Sox jacket next to me is rolling like crazy. The young guy with the pretty wine-drinking wife (she asked for a red like a Chardonnay and then laughed at herself) on the other end of the table keeps calling the White Sox gent, “Blue.” “You’re my man, Blue!” I laugh. Old School is a great movie and this is our table. Until it isn’t. After Blue craps out, it’s downhill. We cash out. We’ve made more than $100, though. Hooray! For reasons neither one of us understand, we headed back to Mystique, put our new $100 back on the cold craps table and lost the money in about five seconds. Oops.

Oh well. It was fun. We got a drink, went back to the room and decided upon room service and a movie. We ordered sandwiches and The Company Men, with Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones. The sandwiches were decent and the movie was ok, but should have been better. I had serious insomnia and didn’t really fall asleep until about six in the morning. Was I overstimulated? Was it too much adrenaline? Was Dubuque too much for me? I don’t think so. I think I just couldn’t sleep. I think part of me was just awake, thinking about craps. Thinking about how you do everything right but it doesn’t work out for you. And about how someone else bets all wrong, but they win big. Thinking about how many things I have absolutely no control over. Like dice. Like the weather. Like other people. Thinking about how, despite all that and despite my horrible gambling luck, I am extremely lucky. I have a husband whom I adore; I have a family that makes me really happy; I have friends that are family; I feel safe in the morning and at night; I have a dog that I can’t imagine living without; I have a home that I love being in; I live in a city that’s home; I have a job that makes me intellectually and emotionally satisfied; I have coworkers I trust and enjoy; I have the ability to go to Dubuque for a night in a trusty car; I have, with the assistance of Albuterol, the ability to breathe in and out every day. Even if we lost our change jar savings, I have come out ahead.


May 2011
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