Monday, July 27, 2009

The Most Confusing Place on Earth

That's right. You know where I'm talking about. Tunica, Mississippi.

This weekend, Thomas, Kyle, Anna, and I took a little vacation to the self-acclaimed "Gambling Capital of Mississippi," (Biloxi? Gulfport? Apparently not). What the sign should really say is "Confusing Capital of Everywhere." For those of you who have taken your wallets and your bodies to gambling emporiums may know what I'm talkin' 'bout.

1. When you get there, you have to get a member card. Much like a credit card, this one accrues points that you can use to buy food, get prizes, etc. after you've used it in slot machines or on tables. However, it seems that the system for assigning points is completely arbitrary. If two people play the slot machines, both for the same amount of time, both losing (winning? please) about the same amount of money, one person will have a tiny little sum (worth about $.08), and the other will have zilch (worth about the same. wink).

2. The cards do not work in every machine. They are "invalid" in some machines, and in others, they work like charms. They also are supposed to have your names on them, but that information, too, is also arbitrary. If you would like to change identities for a night, like they do in Vegas, all you have to do is let the employees change your last name from Richardson to Richard. Or Susannah F. to Susanna M. Or if you want to make an inter-temporal journey, just ask for a card from 1999. And the staff will be sure to oblige your request.

3. If you think you'll just spend a penny at the penny slots, you've got another thing coming. The big really means that you have to bet 30 "credits" (¢) everytime.

4. Winning at the slot machine is a discipline you might need a degree in. First, there are lots of buttons to push these days, not just the lever to pull--I think people have come to terms with that. BUT! You can bet different odds, for different lines (that are really just different colored zig-zags), and increase (decrease?) your odds. Here is a photo of a winning screen:

A 'Q,' a wild, some flowers, a treasure chest, and an 'A,' is what it took to win this one. I think I won something like 6 whole credits on this spin. On another machine, I had a string of pearls, 2 birds, and a lamp post, and I think I won something like 3 credits. I guess I should enroll in the Casino College.

Probably the most fun I had that night was the quick blackjack lesson I received from a dealer, Mr. Donnie Lucious, when I was the only one at the table. I learned about splitting, and insurance, and when I could improve my odds. He was really a nice old guy. I came out $10 richer from that table than I started with, ("Big Winner!" Mr. Lucious said) only to have it yanked away by the slot machines later. But hey, those points for my lunch buffet the next day.

It should probably go without saying, but I also enjoyed the company of my pals. Here we are in front of the Hollywood Casino. The picture is crooked because I put my camera on someone's Honda to get us all in there. I hope they don't mind!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gettin' Rural

One book on my personal reading list this summer is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. For me, this has been a refreshing read- its topic is one of my favorite subjects-FOOD! And after the Welty workshops last summer and my AmeriCorps term this summer, I've become so grateful to my surroundings, which is a shared sentiment I found in this book. And since I will soon be changing surroundings soon (I think I'm tearing up!), I wanted to express my gratitude.

So thank you, Nashville Public Radio and Lightning 100 for telling me about shows at the Ryman, about, and for commentator Frank DeFord's cheerful voice every Wednesday morning.

Thank you, Lewisburg, Tennessee, for Forgie's Fruit Farm, where we picked Harvester peaches on a beautiful landscape.

So delicious, it's "forbidden!"

And thanks to (not really part of my surroundings, unless you wanted to call them my "cyber-surroundings") for the recipe that turned those tasty peaches into this:

Thank you Middle Tennessee, for the twangin', the pickin', and the drinkin' at the Full Moon Pickin' Party in Warner Parks.

These players (above, not below-:) ) at one point played the Bluegrass version of the Scooby Doo theme song. I kid you not.

Oxford, MS (not a completely different landscape at all) is just a wee 4 1/2 hours from Nashville, TN (and only 2 1/2 hours from my home in West Tennessee), so I don't think I'll be much deprived from anything. However, I will have to hide my Vanderbilt and Go Vols T-shirts, unless I want the wrath of the South upon me!