Over in my area, they recently opened up a big Casino, Graton. I was enticed to go and check it out tonight. It was not much of an enticement. Being a great lover of statistics, I find most forms of gambling mystifying. I assume the electronic games have winning percentages that are mandated by the state. The blackjack tables are shuffled continuously so card counting is impossible except at the high stakes tables—or so I’m told. Craps, while a sucker’s game at least has a fun group thing going on, is not available. There is no poker, which one could win at if one were a good player. And there is no sports betting, which again, one could win at if one were a capable handicapper. Thus, to me, it is just a really loud, ugly place where cigarette smokers go to play expensive computer games.
And everybody’s in on it. As you can see in the picture on the right, there are Willy Wonka slot machines. Roald Dahl is lucky he is dead not to have to see that. I also saw Dolly Parton slot machines. There were lots of other things, but I’m not up on pop culture. It does make me wonder though. Parton is estimated to be worth a half billion dollars. Is there nothing she won’t do for money? If I had a couple of billion dollars, would she let me take a dump on her? Because what she’s doing on those slot machines is even more disgusting. I walked into that casino with a so-so opinion of her. Now I despise her. She is nothing but a whore who will do anything for money, even though she has more than she could ever spend.
But welcome to America, right? Isn’t that the new American Dream? Gain a bit of fame so you can cash out? The problem with that “dream” of course is there is no end to cashing out. Apparently, people are not cashing out so they can lay on a beach the rest of their lives. Now you just cash out for the pleasure of cashing out. And everyone is involved. Those who have no fame to cash out, can sit at the slots and put their cash in. I’m sure for every dollar some Dolly Parton fan wastes on one of her machines, the grande dame receives a few pennies. Soon she’ll be up to a cool billion. That’s why she went into country music, right?!
I don’t mean to put down all the gamblers. Hey, entertainment is entertainment. It ain’t my thing, but whatever. What bothers me is that I thought I saw a lot of Bill Whites there: lost people looking for just a little bit of meaning in their sad American lives where real meaning is scoffed at and ridiculed. It was a Sunday. They could have it all. In the morning, they could go to church and have a meaningless spiritual experience and in the evening, they could go to the casino and have a meaningless entertainment experience. Really, any person who feeds pigeons in the park has a far more engaged life than any such person.
Of course, as anyone who has spent any time in a casino can tell you, most of the people seem very sad. And that was fully on display tonight. It’s a binary experience after all: you either win or you lose. And that’s the problem with our whole culture and the economy that overwhelms it. That’s our meaning: winning a penny is good and losing a penny is bad. There might as well be switches on our fucking foreheads. But it wouldn’t matter. Because it doesn’t matter how many pennies you win. It is never enough. You’ll still sell off whatever is left of your soul to “Win!” again. Just ask the now fully soul-free Dolly Parton.