Between the time I wrote about the welcoming attitudes of Albuquerque and the time I'm taking to write this, at least one interesting thing happened.
Hoping to acclimate myself to the city more, a friend recommended that we indulge in one of the simple pleasures that aligns itself with living in the 505—gambling. And I'm sure everyone has at least one good gambling story to contribute to the masses. Now, I've never gambled before, unless you count weekends with my family back in Texas, playing poker or screw-your-neighbor (it's not what it sounds like). Always excited to unleash my competitive side, I said, “to hell with it!” So, we got dressed up and headed to the Sandia Resort and Casino.
After waiting in a ridiculously long line to register to become a member (all the while staring at the beckoning slot machines and blackjack tables), I kept growing antsy, and my inebriated friend was becoming somewhat of a nuisance. Like a soldier in battle, I kept my composure and my eyes revealed nothing … except that I was growing impatient.
Once we were issued member cards and let into the casino with our complimentary $25 in chips, we headed straight for the bar. Oh, and you can smoke in the casino, which immediately indicated to me that I was home. After downing a couple of vodka-red bulls, I headed to the blackjack table, where I eagerly threw my money (and my friend's money because she became too drunk to play) into the game. The dealer pushed the chips back to me, and said, “You have to wait until a new game.” Somewhat embarrassed as the other players scoffed at me, I sat back and watched.
I eyed their expressions, their bodily ticks, their gestures. I had them pegged. Once the new deck was dealt, my money was on the table, and it was on. The $50 that I started out with turned into $100, and that $100 turned into $150, and that $150 turned into $200. A voice inside said to walk away. To a young, broke writer like myself, quadrupling your money in 10 minutes is unheard of. But I ignored the voice, and my $200 turned into $100, and that $100 turned into $25, and then BOOM! I was out.
It only took 15 minutes to land at ground zero, but it was perfect timing. My aforementioned companion telephoned me to say she had hailed a cab outside, and seeing as how I had no funds left to enjoy myself, the time to leave was then or never. So, I reluctantly sauntered toward the exit, turning around to take one last look at the casino, my home away from home. The live band playing Temptations covers made it even harder to say, “good-bye.” Upon getting in the cab, I knew I'd be back. Still, it just goes to show that even when the stakes are high, and your funds are low, there's always one last silver lining to guide you safely onward, or it at least to a cab gearing up to take you home.
Until next week …
It's a family tradition. Once a year, my stepfather and I go to the Albuquerque Downs to get some fresh air and, more importantly, gamble.
We arrived in time for the first race. I picked up a program and we settled down at a bench. Richard, the stepfather, picked his horse purely from stats and horse history on the program. I like to watch the horses when they are paraded out in front of the grandstand before making my selection. Whatever horse looks the most pissed off is usually the one I go with. This works best on short races, 350 or 400 yards. On the longer races, the mad ones come in third. (Of course, a jockey friend of the family says it's all a sucker game.)
Richard told me his pick and I went inside to place the bets. This is our system as Richard requires oxygen and the smoky inside of the track is not the best place for him. He traverses it coming in and once again when we leave.
I won the first two races and picked the show (third place) on the last three races. I would have won had I picked “show” but I get greedy for the winner. Richard didn't fare
as well but won on the fifth race. Then we headed home.
The track is open for live racing until Nov. 14. You should go. Sure, it's gambling, but it's also like a day at the park. There are kids running around and a beautiful view of the Sandias. This is no Kentucky Derby and the crowd looks pretty rough. I call it the Ken-Thuggy Derby. But who needs aristocrats in white suits when you can have cowboys in long-toed boots. I love this town.
Personally, I refuse to gamble unless there are short people and horses involved. A jockey friend once told me that it’s a sucker game. Well, with God as my witness, I am that sucker. There is no better day than one spent at a horse track—the fresh air, the beautiful animals, the chain-smoking old men inside playing the simulcast races. Ah, sweet: looking through the program to find the oddly named creature to wager my two dollars on and then yelling as he or she runs the mud track, the trumpet music, the ridiculous jockey uniforms, the old Mexican men and their long-toed boots.