Doug Nufer

from Negativeland

             To impress those used to the standard flash of the casino, the
     management spared nothing to display the extraordinary.  That wasn't easy.  In
     the casino racket, a hyped gimmick motif was the rule-- not the exception.
             In a way, it didn't work.  Like a brand of beer or cigarettes that
     tries to pass itself off as a cut above the ordinary while delivering no
     better than the usual taste, the Abracadabra was all image.  Your chance of
     winning was no greater here than in any other casino.  The food and drinks may
     have seemed better at first and there were certain perks you didn't get other
     places, but if cash didn't churn into chips fast enough, a gambling hall went
     out of business.  
             Judging from all the cars, we couldn't say the place was dying.  Still,
     an outsider couldn't tell how well a casino did, particularly one that went
     all out for illusion and mirage.  It was easy to tell people going to Reno not
     to miss the Abracadabra.  And yet, I couldn't claim they'd do worse at
     Harrah's or Circus Circus, and many plainly would have preferred the Cal-Neva
     or Fitzgerald's.
             This time in the afternoon at the end of the year the sun couldn't wait
     to set.  Although it wasn't yet dark, the moment we turned into the lot, five
     search lights positioned around the edges went on simultaneously.
             "Some things don't change," I said.
             The search lights weren't indications that anything unusual was
             Until we stepped outside.
             Attendants on camelback directed us through sphinxes along the path
     from the car to the lobby.  Suddenly air around us warmed and even though I'd
     lived here, the giant glass pyramid ceiling gave me the sense of walking into
     a wonderful new space.  A maze of hallways became gamerooms brighter than
     daylight and louder than wind.  Towering minarets and glowing domes drew off
     the smokes of roast garlic lamb.  Long pools led through courtyards of
     gardens, each more beautiful than the other, and we moved through the arcades
     with a purpose, pausing to admire.  All was ours to inspect and enjoy.
             With everywhere open, we followed a red carpet that seemed to be for
     us.  Could they have remembered me?  The cocktail waitresses were sleek and
     tender.  The dealers and pit bosses were friendly and kind.  Even the
     crapshooters smiled.  Everyone was happy, charming, debonair, handsome and
     well dressed.  The laughter was music.  There was music!  People welcomed us. 
     We belonged here.  We were as exciting and attractive as they were.
             "No no no, CUT, for chrissakes.  They're not Tom and Melanie!"
             Everyone groaned and looked at us like we'd done the unforgivable.
             "Behind the rope, with the crowd," said a guy so big that he didn't
     have to be polite.
             Then we saw the cameras, and the rope holding back those who didn't
     wear suits and gowns, whose hair wasn't perfect.  We crossed the line where
     the smiles of the chic met the stares of the desperate as they tried to look
     like they weren't ugly.
             "Wouldn't you know," I said, "another commercial."
             "Not a commercial," whispered one of the crowd, "a movie."

Copyright © 1996 Doug Nufer

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