Sunday, May 25, 2008

[This is way too detailed, but whatevers.] So, yesterday I traveled to the Wonder of it All [i.e. Foxwoods, which I am not linking to here because of their website is quite annoying] with CJ, H, and L, to play Bingo. H and L had played Bingo once or twice before, and have a startlingly good winning record. H, you may recall, even got a stint in the money machine.

So. Foxwoods is loud, and complicated, with a lot of different areas and casinos and restaurants. There's a fake-New-England town area, and a fake-NYC area (though I only "got" the theme after I saw signs for Juniors and Craftwich), a bar with a giant salmon statue, and a buffet where they display huge, bloody pieces of raw meat, which did not make us want to eat there. Their Bingo hall is enormous. Just rows and rows of chairs at long tables with pink plastic trash bags duct-taped to the sides every fourfeet or so, so that you can shove your losing bingo sheet into a bag without getting up. You can also, if you got there early (recommended), put the trash from your El Pollo Loco dinner into them. The hall holds 3,600 people, though there was less than half of that there when we played. But over a thousand, for sure. People bring special bingo dauber caddies and little figurines and stuffed animals brought for good luck. There were a lot of old people, as you'd expect, but also a few couples and small groups of 20- and 30-somethings, which felt encouraging somehow. We paid $20 to get in, which gives you bingo sheets for all of the regular games, and then we bought the maximum extras package with all of the Special and Quickie games for an additional $29. They scatter the Special and Quickie games throughout the regular rounds. Each round is slightly different, so you might be looking to create a 9-square, or an L shape, Bingo the hard way (not using the free space), or an "Indian star". TV screens encircle the room and show you the ball with the number for a few seconds before the caller says it out loud. If you get a Bingo, you have to wait until the caller says the letter and number, and then shout "Bingo!" loud enough for the caller to hear it. Then you hold your sheet up and wait for a person to come over and verify your sheet. Each sheet has a code printed on it, so they read off the code to the caller, and then the caller people punch it into their computer, which will tell if a Bingo was possible on that card or not. The caller says either "No Bingo" (and play continues) or "Good Bingo" which means there's been a winner. If more than one person gets Bingo at the same time, they split the pot. Most sheets have 9 cards on them, so that's a lot of searching for numbers. They don't go slowly, either.

Before we started, CJ and I made a deal to split whatever we won 50/50, and shook on it. Somewhere in the middle of the first act (there's an intermission) was a game where we had to make a "Y". Suddenly I realized I only needed one more number. "I only need one more!" I whispered, and then the very next number came up: 34. "And there it is!" It all happened so fast! I waited until she said "N thirty-four" and I yelled "Bingo!" super loud, as everyone in the room groaned a little (as they did after every call of bingo). A runner person verified my sheet, had me sign a little slip, and a few minutes later she came back and counted out $500 cash for me. I gave CJ $250 the next time we had a spare minute. We were very happy, though CJ said, "I kind of feel like I didn't win," and I was all, feel that bulge of cash in your pocket? I think you won.

At intermission I looked at my watch and saw it was around 9; we had started playing at 6:30, which seemed about an hour ago, tops. I watched a woman do the money machine. She had clearly not gotten any of the helpful hints that H had gotten, because she was just grabbing and crumpling the money and then trying to shove it through the little slot, which wasn't working all that well. I imagine that's about how I'd do it. In the second act, L got a bingo on one of the special games, winning $300. It's like old hat for her; I think she's played 4 times and won 3, or something. Had she won a second time on that game (it's complicated) she would have gotten to spin the big wheel. Instead, a nice older woman did it and everyone cheered her on.

By the time we were done, it was 11 p.m. We wanted to get a snack and play some slots, so we got bagels and soup at Panera, and then found the "smoke-free slots" area (oh yes, smoking is allowed indoors here. It's on a reservation so they make their own rules). I lost $5 on a slot machine, then another $3 at a different one, and $2 at a video poker machine. I did get a free vodka and cranberry from a passing waitress, though, which was nice. I put in another $10 bill, and lost about $8 before moving back to another slot machine. This one was "The Hex-Breaker" and was a 5-cent slot, and my "points" kept going up and down and it was time to leave, so I tripled my bet and hit it, bringing me up to $30.05. So I cashed out $10 ahead.

There were about 1,200 people playing Bingo, and maybe 40 winners, so I was one of the lucky 3%. A couple of the people our age also won, though there were lots more old-timers there. I think this kind of Bingo might be too hard for the elderly. You mis-hear one number, or fall behind at all, and you're screwed. I can't believe how the time flew by. They totally suckered me in with the winning, and I signed up for their free "Dreams card" which gives you points for losing your money. Foxwoods is almost 2 hours away so I don't know how often I'll be tempted to return. Still, though: Bingo. The 5 hours of entertainment was totally worth $50 -- of course I say that since I won something, but still. A+++, would play again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Here are some Twitter-like things.

There is a new robin's nest on my second-story porch. This time, it's about three feet off the ground, perfect for spying. I haven't seen a robin near it for a few days, though I think I remember that happening last time, too. (The robin is off getting fat and making little eggs inside herself. Or something. We'll see what happens.

I rode my bike to work today. Yesterday I drove, because I foolishly let THE MAN tell me that it might rain. It did not. So today, I said, 30% chance of rain? I'll take those odds! And I was rewarded with a dry commute both ways. Lesson: Don't listen to the MAN! He's clearly in bed with the oil companies.

I have Asked Metafilter a couple of things. Some questions I haven't asked (yet):

Say I found a dead bird on the ground, and wanted to preserve it without getting a taxidermist involved. Could I, hypothetically, mummify it with a food dehydrator?

How can I make a room in my house, with walls and at least some sound privacy, without adding a separate heat source for the room?

How do I stop feeling dizzy on my bike rides? Do I have a brain tumor?

You know how people who have really loud Harley Davidsons talk about how the noise "means freedom" to them? My counter argument to them is, what if my definition of freedom is screaming at the top of my lungs while walking down the street? Is there a hole in my argument that I'm missing? Because it seems iron-clad to me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

So we went fishing for real on Saturday. We had gotten the correct bait at the sportsman's shop, and (from the proprietor) the precise location where fish had recently been stocked and were biting. And I caught our first fish! It was a weird short little bass. He had very big, bulbous eyes, and was only about 5 inches long. So back in the lake he went. But then I caught a perch! He was very pretty. And at about 8 inches long, big enough to eat, so we kept him. Keeping him, in this instance, meant putting him in the old kitty litter bucket which was half-full of melting ice. This meant that for the next half-hour or so that we were fishing, there would be an occasional rustling sound from the bucket as the perch slowly froze/suffocated to death. "Do you want me to gut it now?" asked CJ after I glanced sadly at the bucket for the 10th time. Yes, sure. He "took care of it" out of my line of sight. It was a very pretty fish, with cool stripes on the side and bright orange fins. I think I would have felt less conflicted if it had been ugly. I am like most pampered first-worlders in this regard, sadly.

We ended up not catching anything else, and it was kind of cold and windy, so we took our one small perch home. We don't yet have a scaling knife, so CJ filleted it (while I read a book upstairs, under the covers). He had to do some online research to do so, but he did a great job. We ended up with a very small amount of meat, which I sauteed in a bit of olive oil and salt. The flesh was perfect, very little fishy flavor, mostly just really good, really fresh tasting. The texture was divine. Eating it made me want to go fishing again. But fishing is time consuming, and a lot of that time is spent staring out into space as you wait for something to happen. It is, frankly, kind of boring. CJ is still wicked into it, and is fine with it being his solo thing. Which it may be.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I just got my MA fishing license in the mail. I have never gotten such a thing, but there it is. For $27 a year, I can catch my share of trout and panfish, bring them home, and eat them. (Only one a week or so, though, because of the various heavy metals in the fish. Zero if you're pregnant, which can't be a good sign...) Of course, this is all CJ's idea. I am too squeamish to put a worm on a hook, for example, or to gut a fish, but CJ is experienced in such things. I like the idea of being more connected with the food that I eat, though, so I'm into the fishing idea. Plus I have always liked those Skil-crane games at the arcade, so. You know. Similar.

We actually fished last weekend, when it was cold and drizzly (we had temporary fishing licenses that we'd bought online). CJ has his father's classic, manly old rod and reel and tackle box, and I have a bright yellow Scooby Doo-licensed fishing rod that I got at a tag sale for fifty cents a couple of weeks ago. It works fine, mostly. We went to the conservation area near my house, because we've seen people fishing there before. In fact, there was a guy fishing from atop a beaver lodge when we were there. We arrived baitless, so we dug around in the dirt with our hands to find a few feeble worms. We didn't catch anything, which was fine, as I was considering it a dry run. I had already perfected (almost) my casting technique while inside, using a bobber without a hook. A fishing rod makes for a very alluring cat toy. (Nothing better than having a 10-pound cat at the end of your line with a bobber in her mouth, fighting you with all her might as you reel 'er in.)

Because we caught nothing, we decided to "catch" a couple of trout at the new co-op. They were fairly tasty. CJ stuffed them with tomatoes, garlic, olives, and basil, and then steamed them. Next time I'm going to grill them.

After our failure, we went back to the local sporting goods' store, where the guy gave us advice about where to go and what bait to use (mealworms, which we bought, and this weird neon playdough-like stuff, which we also bought) and how to use it. So we are totally set for next weekend. I may have trouble with the eating, though; CJ is the kind of fellow who doesn't leave a scrap of meat on the bone, and when we ate the aforementioned store-bought trout, CJ opened up the head to get at the forehead meat or whatever. I told him that next time, he needs to do that over the sink when I'm not around.

I am hoping my vegan friends don't disown me now.