While there may be few things sadder than a neglected blog (sigh, time to dust off the old hairshirt), I can speak the True Name of at least one of them: the Horseshoe, an Indiana casino, circa Monday night.
Pre-Monday, I had never in my life been to a casino because, you know, I have no desire to live under a bridge. For one thing, I’m bad at math. For another, I associate casinos with Las Vegas, a city near the top of my list of places in which I have no interest whatsoever. I just can’t understand a town where the cultural touchstones are Hunter S. Thompson, Elvis impersonators, Barry Manilow, and Siegfried & Roy.
Casinos have this weird sensibility that I can only describe as...drag queen machismo? It’s sort of like a check-cashing facility meets the most depressing gay bar on the planet.
Now, all of that said, I was super-excited to go to the Horseshoe, mostly because sometimes I like to pretend that I live in a Bruce Springsteen song.
I suppose the first sign that the whole experience would be more depressing than I could have imagined was the sign in the elevator that informed patrons that it’s illegal to leave children alone in the parking garage. I mean, that’s impressive, and I’m from Tennessee.
But that fascinating little reminder was nothing compared to the epiphany I had upon walking onto the casino floor, which is when every futuristic dystopian novel I’ve ever read suddenly seemed less like preachy NPR fan fic and more like war-zone reportage. The pleasing pings and hypnotizing lights were interrupted only by my (not infrequent) observation that polyester short-shorts and lace-up corsets aren’t really a great look for most of the cocktail waitresses of Indiana.
Was the Horseshoe casino, as its website purports, the “ultimate gambling experience?” As a first-timer, it’s hard for me to say. If the ultimate gambling experience involves an empty back room with five-dollar slot machines, plus a lot of disabled people at penny slot machines, well, it was definitely up there.
If you think I’m being judgmental, I hasten to add I can vouch for the surge of dopamine that shoots through one’s addled brain when one wins, let’s say, three dollars at the slots. The same machine that celebrates a one-nickel gain like it’s 1999 is diplomatically silent when you’re on a losing streak. You pump these machines full of dirty dollars (not a bucketful of quarters, much to my disappointment) and they return your winnings on small slips of paper that resemble receipts.
Which, I suppose, they are—receipts for whatever price you’ve paid (around $30, for me) to inhabit an unreal city for a while, to be taken in by its soothing bleeps and bloops before you’re spit out into the sobering sprawl of a concrete parking garage that seemingly goes on for miles. We staggered to the car like overstimulated toddlers, all disoriented and dizzy. I saw spots. Here now, a day later, I’m still blinking extra hard.