This past Friday, my wife and I indulged in one of my favorite double-features. Based on her (rampant? excessive? extravagant? .... let's say "passionate") gambling, we were awarded free buffet and free tickets to bad-boy magicians Penn and Teller at Harrah's Casino in Atlantic City. After stuffing ourselves like Thanksgiving turkeys, we enjoyed a stellar performance by the celebrated illusionist duo. Upon exiting the showroom, my wife headed to the casino for a few hours of pressing a button on a slot machine while it eats dollar after precious dollar of our hard-earned income. I dislike gambling. Not because of any sort of moral issue. I just find it boring. My wife, however loves it. And since I enjoy spending time with my wife, I feed an inordinate amount of cash into one of those machines, too.
Saturday evening brought us to our second casino in as many days. Even though Philadelphia legalized casino gambling in 2004, after much debate and protest, Sugar House Casino opened its doors just this past May, making it the first casino within the city limits. My son was attending a concert at a venue two blocks from Sugar House Casino. He asked for a ride home after the show, and since he does not drive, my wife and I obliged his request, knowing that we could kill some time at the casino. Fishtown, as you may imagine, isn't an upscale Philadelphia neighborhood, as, say Society Hill or Rittenhouse Square. The name being the first indication. The building that houses the casino is big and bright and flashy and totally out-of-place in the dingy, blue-collar community.
We parked and walked through the parking lot (past a sign warning against leaving your children in your car — a chronic problem in Philadelphia area casinos, thank you) to the main building. Upon entering we were surrounded by flashing lights and the mechanized "cha-ching" of coins (coins no longer fall from slot machines, only bar-coded paper vouchers). My wife settled at one of her favorite themed machines while I wandered for a bit. I sat down in front of a slot machine in the large No Smoking area. After a few minutes, I caught a whiff of the unmistakable and nauseating smell of cigar. I looked around and spotted the source of the stench. Over at a nearby craps table stood a man with slick helmet of coiffed black hair. He was wearing a classic tuxedo and, in his hand, he held a fat, long, black salami-like cigar — it's far end smoldering and erupting in thick, gray smoke. He rolled the stogie lovingly between his stubby fingers and, with his other hand, cradled the waist of a trampy-looking trollop, who was over-dressed in a sequined mini.
I marvelled at this prick as I reminded myself that I was in Fishtown — fucking Fishtown — and not on the set of a Martin Scorsese film. "Who the fuck dresses like that?", I thought. This guy reinforced my belief that anyone under the age of sixty that smokes cigars is a douchebag. Cigars are things our grandfathers smoked. Old men on a park bench, with no pleasure left in their life, smoke cigars. Bookies and gangsters in 1940s movies with Edward G. Robinson and George Raft smoke cigars. Forty-year old guys do not smoke cigars unless they are in a casino in Fishtown trying to impress themselves and the bimbo they're trying to charm into the sack.
He may as well have had a neon sign over his head that flashed "Asshole" in glowing red letters.
...and my wife does not have a gambling problem, goddammit!