The smell of cigarette smoke. The sound of oxygen tanks banging off of machines. The stomach ache that comes after the buffet.
It can only be talking about one thing – a casino, baby!
I am a late bloomer when it comes to gambling. Even though I grew up about four hours from Las Vegas, the thought of flushing what little money I had down an electronic toilet – albeit one with lots of bells and whistles – didn't appeal to me.
But my wife enjoys Vegas, and my enjoyment of the whole vibe that comes with it has grown. Of course, Las Vegas is about much more than gambling. It is about the food and entertainment as much as anything for me. Plus the weather in the winter is great.
But we do hit the area Indian casinos from time to time as well as occasional trips to Vegas, and we recently hit one in Wisconsin for a night of entertainment.
We are not big spenders. We allot a certain amount for gambling and stick with that. We take breaks to have a drink or grab dinner and generally don't go nuts.
Vegas is fun because it can be glitzy. Some people, especially on the weekends, dress to impress and the young and beautiful are always out and about.
That is certainly not the case with the smaller casinos. There is no glitz or glamour to be found … at all. There are groups people who have a look of sad determination mixed with the knowledge that all is not well in their world on their faces, shuffling from machine to machine like a slow-moving army of the undead.
Night of the walking dead gamblers.
Some are pulling the already mentioned oxygen tanks, which are weapons in the hands of people who have nothing left to lose. Watch your knees as they wander by – being banged by a metal tank is not fun.
My wife and I dressed for a casual night, but still looked good. Button up shirts, nice shoes – you know, not like bums.
Well, that made us stick out among the hordes of people wearing dirty jeans, tattered shorts, filthy flip-flops and my all time favorite … sweat pants. I understand being casual, but looking like a homeless person is a step too far down for my tastes.
And as I mentioned, casinos are still a place for smokers to enjoy their habit with abandon. The casino is to smokers what an unlocked liquor cabinet is to a teen throwing a party when his parents are gone.
For the smokers, the casino routine is something like this: Sit down, light up and blow. Repeat.
I generally have no problem with this, but by 10 p.m. my eyes were burning to the point that I had to dodge outside to get some fresh air. It was pleasant standing there next to a woman in a Green Bay Packers shirt chain smoking Marlboros.
Overall, we lost what we brought, but that is to be expected. In Vegas, you can actually win. At the smaller casinos winning consistently is difficult. That is why we set a limit and then go back up to the room.
And once I'm back in the room, I am not in danger of being smacked by an out of control oxygen tank.