The Critical 'I'

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Sunday, December 21, 2003

JAI-ALAI, BOWLING, AND GAMBLING IN SOUTH FLORIDA
I went out of town this weekend. My friend Kirby was a free man, figuratively, with his wife and child out of town for a week, so he decided to take a road trip to Fort Lauderdale to visit with his youngest brother Rob. I hadn't been down that way in a long while, and didn't really have anything planned, so when he offered me the ride-along, I went for it.

It was good to get out of town for a couple of days, if nothing else. The weather was a lot colder than what we're used to, and that had an impact on what we did for entertainment.

We went to the Jai-Alai arena in Dania Beach on our first night. I was amazed that Rob and his friends had never been. They had heard about it, but knew nothing at all about how it worked. Tampa used to have a jai-alai fronton for decades, but it closed down a few years back; while I never made a habit out of it, I got a kick out of having it around, and still miss it. I figured heading down south would give me an opportunity to re-experience it.

We spent a couple of hours there; there wasn't much of a crowd, but it was fun having a couple of drinks and placing bets based on absolutely no knowledge. Plus we started yelling at the players every time they screwed up (and, in the process, screwed our chances at winning). There was one player named Bergo, who was a chunky sonuvabitch; it was fun hurling verbal abuse at him.

The only other major outing was on Saturday night, when we went bowling. I wasn't real high on it, but it was what the group wanted... My feeling was that, if I felt like bowling (and I pretty much never do), there's at least one bowling alley within short driving distance from my home. Plus, I figured the chances of finding any attractive single women in a bowling alley on a Saturday night were slim (even accounting for my unfamiliarity with Broward County's mating rituals). It was simply something to do, again accounting for the cold weather.

Other than that, we pretty much played poker all weekend. I'm not much of a card player, either in skill or temperament. But, again, it's something the group wanted to do, and do lots of, and I didn't have the energy to fight it. On the bright side, I think I came out a bit ahead on all those rounds, including making a big killing on the last hand we played (something like $25 for the pot).

Other lesser time-fillers were playing videogames (on an outmoded Nintendo 64 game system), latenight drinks at a TGI Friday's, and general hanging-out until 4AM. There was a noticable lack of single women around; but I guess having plenty of male bonding experience was a compensation, of sorts.

The capper was, on the way home tonight, Kirby and I made a pitstop at the Seminole Indian Casino. I'd never been. They're building a pretty large hotel/entertainment complex on the Seminole reservation east of Tampa; a Hard Rock Hotel will be the anchor. Things looked to be in transition when we popped in. There were plenty of bluehaired ladies planted in front of slot machines, then another, slightly livelier, group of people in the poker room. Not a lot of action, so we left after about 15 minutes. It was worth a look, though.

The driving time was fairly quick. I think we made it in three hours, both getting down there and then getting back. Had enough conversation to make the time go quickly.

It's nice to get away sometimes. Just as glad to be sleeping in my own bed tonight.