The Dealer

I sat with the girl
Curls like deep dried blood
Danced around her near-smile
Soft scar on her chin stood
Against an incursion of joy

The cuffs on her wrists
The wrong elegance

She laid out the spades
We both remained trapped
By greed or absence
All our waning strength sapped
Acting the hour as happy

Published in: on December 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Casino Queen

This piece is what I call a song scene.  Basically, it’s what I see when I listen to the Asteroid Galaxy Tour’s song The Golden Age

Years before the waves of feet washed the colour from the casino carpet, she stepped out of the lift.  The tight black dress she wore, slit to the hip, was covered in swirling oriental dragons.  The diamond dipped earrings hung heavily on her ears.  A complex chaos of blonde hair framed the smile that melted the room.  Crowds parted as she wandered through the floor, and she had no doubt she left adoration in her wake.

She ordered an expensive sounding chardonnay from a familiar waitress beside the roulette table.  She wielded this graceful scepter as she held court over the long velvet table and the spinning wheel.  The players vied for her attention, until she chose a lucky loser with the good sense to bet big.  Pressed to his arm, she shone as his luck and his chips dwindled.

When her chosen champion was finished losing, she left the half-finished wine flute on the buffer, a cherry-red kiss on its rim as memorandum of her presence.  She walked through the lounge to a door you had to know to notice, and slipped into her narrow dressing room.  In the halo of the mirror, she flirted with herself, raking mascara through her long lashes, blowing kisses into wonderland.  When she was finally satisfied, she drifted into the backstage hallway, an unglamorous affair, more like an abandoned school than a star’s greenroom, to await the start of her simple show.

The man behind the piano had brilliant fingers, but when she stepped into view, he was forgotten.  She rasped smoky lust songs.  The faithful worshiped her, the men who came every night while they were in the city.  Curious heads poked into the room, and found a set.  She knew not a single one, and she adored every last one of them.  She worshiped their worship, and they warmed her to the core.

The next afternoon, a lucky winner in a rented convertible pulled up before the casino lobby.  She floated down the lift from her suite.  Her head was wrapped in a beige scarf, her eyes shaded by thick sunglasses, her form unhidden in the wrap of a trench coat.  The only soul brave enough to speak to her after her set held open the car door, and she slipped in, unnoticed by a public that wouldn’t recognize her.

They headed off the strip, to a movie theatre playing a film in which she was a minor background player.  He pretended she was the star she felt she should be, and she pretended he was more than a handsome face with a small measure of caramel coated charm.  They left to the falling rain.  He fumbled to resecure the roof while she clung to the doorway under the marque.  She laughed and smiled at the jeweled city.  He was certain he had hit the jackpot.

At the hotel, she graced him with a quick kiss before she disappointed him.  She headed back into the cacophonous din of her delusion, happy and lost in the artifice of the world she built.

Published in: on November 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Leonard’s Visit

 

Leonard was coming back to Calgary from Art School for a week, which meant I was going to be at either the Ship and Anchor or the Distillery.  The Distillery has changed a lot lately, and in some ways, no matter how many new things she tries, Leonard is still a robot of habit in the deepest steel chambers of her mechanical heart.  She can’t handle seeing how some things have changed, and she wanted the familiar, so we were at the Ship.

We went on Friday.  If you don’t know, the Ship and Anchor is a bit of a punk pub, at least originally, but it’s slowly showing a hipster influence.  There’s a row of fake books on a shelf near the ceiling.  Antique-looking paintings and artefacts adorn the walls, interspersed with FIFA soccer pennants.  Each table had its own crowd, with no coherent group dominating the bar.  A couple of old guys spoke emphatically near a group of bookish girls too afraid to yell to be heard over the bar noise.  A pair of overly attractive people tried to decide if they wanted to make out at 8 pm in a pub, mostly through trail and error.

I got there to find Kodie, Leonard, B1 and A2.  I hadn’t eaten, so I ordered food.  For the rest of the night, one person at our table was always eating.  Either someone new would show up and order food, or someone who had been there for a while needed an appy.

I was sitting by A2.  He was ordering a different beer with each round and showing off his iPhone.

Tall showed up a bit later, followed by R1 and A3, friends of Leonard.  It freaks her out to see people she knows from different places together, especially if they get along.  She especially hates it if they start doing things without her.  She calls it “hanging out behind her back.”  I believe it’s because robots are always plotting against humans, so she assumes it goes the other way.  She knows it’s crazy, and she’s mostly gotten over it, but at times it bugs her.

So I probably shouldn’t have been hitting on A3.  Since the last time I’d seen her, she’d gotten a rather significant haircut, and was adorable with her short hair.  I was trying to be subtle, so as not to upset Leonard until there was reason for her to be truly angry at me.  On top of that, it was a loud bar, and everyone kept switching places around the table, so A3 and I didn’t get much of a chance to talk.  I doubt she noticed.  She also didn’t get my full attention, and I wasn’t willing to push to hard, so she was able to escape my considerable charm.

This time…

When Shawn showed up, our waitress changed.  The new girl was gorgeous, and completely inattentive.  You had to yell at her to stop her to order a drink.  We soon decided it was time to move the party, and Kodie and Shawn suggested the Elbow River Casino.  Tall, A3, B1 and R2 were out, but the rest of us decided to go. 

I’ve only ever been to the casino in Lethbridge.  It’s a newish building on the highway out of town.  I used to go with Txt Girl and her friends, because she loved to gamble.  I’d spend $20 on ten games of blackjack, then just hang out, because I value my money.  The Lethbridge Casino was fun every time.

Elbow River Casino was different.  It was smaller, darker, and mostly row upon row of heartless slot machines. 

Pictured: Uncivilized Gambling

 I don’t like playing the slots because they’re too much like video games.  The bright lights and sounds confuse me into thinking I’m having more fun than I am, and I forget every button I press costs me money.  I feel like my Nintendo cheated me as a child, so I know those machines that are literally after my money will for sure.  I just don’t like the disconnect I get from something too much like my Xbox 360.

So I walked by and got a drink.  Then I checked out the Blackjack.

There were no $2 tables.

The lowest on the floor were $5 minimum bet.

When the fuck did that happen?  I want 10 games for my $20.  Now, the most I’m guaranteed is 4 games.  4 fucking games.  Less than half.  I sighed, and sat down by A2.  I managed to last for 8 games without going over my $20 limit.  I was frustrated when the last of my money left so I went to find Kodie.

He was at a slot machine, and I was not sober enough to make good decisions.  In 3 minutes, the evil little robot ate $20 more.  I asked Kodie how he managed to keep the machine going.  He shrugged a timid shrug that suggested he’d spent more than he should have.

Shawn and I found the cheapest slots in the place, and I lost another $10 before I gave up.  It was home time, and I was down $50.

Do all Casino’s suck this much?  Am I remembering things wrong?

Or is the Elbow River Casino where hope goes to die?

Stampede

The Calgary Stampede can be a difficult thing to enjoy.  The city is absolutely overrun.  There’s no parking, there’s too many people on transit, there’s even more bad drivers, and there’s crowds everywhere you go.  You can’t get into a restaurant or pub.

Then again, cute girls in cowboy hats and short shorts are crowding the streets.  It’s never too early to be drunk.  There’s games and festival food.  With a plan, it’s a beautiful thing.

So I went this weekend and did it right.  David had a bunch of friends down from Edmonton, so we drank a bunch of beers at my house.  When you head out to Stampede, it helps to be less than sober.  Most of the people you meet will be drunk, and possibly assholes, but they’re easier to cope with when you’re full of beer.  

The day was a bit rainy, which actually cut down on the crowds.  There are people sober enough to go inside when the weather is terrible.  Not my kind of people, but they exist.  So we walked to the gates and paid $14 to get inside.  It pisses me off a little that there’s nothing included for that $14.  You pay that to have access to all the rest of Stampede.  Shouldn’t the people setting up booths and rides and exhibitions pay rent so that we’ll see their stuff, and we can give them even more money?  I mean, Disney Land is expensive, but you get access to all the rides with admission.  You don’t pay to get into West Edmonton Mall, you just pay for what you use.  Stampede, you pay entrance, for food, for entertainment, for souvenirs, for everything.

I need 5 beers first to justify it.

But the small crowd inside was awesome.  We walked through the midway, stopping every once in a while to gamble or throw a baseball at some beer bottles.  We checked out the rides, but since we’re planning to come back on a weekday, when you can get a wristband to ride all day, we decided not to buy any tickets.  We went to the beer gardens, had a round and got shot glasses on Mardi-Gras beads, and then the rain picked up enough that even we noticed.  So we headed over to the Big Four and hide in the casino, playing slot machines until the rain settled down.

We headed out to my favourite part of Stampede: food.  I had Taco in a Bag, Elephant Ears, the giant lemonade, and cheesecake dipped in chocolate.  I am a bottomless pit of Stampede food.

If you’re a Stampede goer, and you want to know how it stacked up, it was average.  It’s a run of the mill Stampede.  You need to go to at least one, but they probably won’t ever blow your mind.