Spent yesterday recovering from Too Much Fun had in Niagara Falls Friday night with Sean (high school friend with whom I’ve stayed in touch BF—Before Facebook) and his wife Heather. If there is a place for grown-ups to eat dinner in downtown Niagara Falls that doesn’t have a branch in an Upstate New York shopping mall, we couldn’t find it. Ended up in an “Italian American” eatery called My Cousin Vinny’s where we were served big portions of pasta by an excessively enthusiastic middle-aged waitress. She positively swooned over Heather’s tattoos. “Ooooh, look at that!” she said, pointing to the ship on Heather’s left upper arm. “Coooooool!” We hadn’t ordered our food yet. “And look at that one!” she said, grabbing Heather’s wrist and turning it to expose a parrot perched on a cannonball bomb. “What’s that?” she asked. “A parrot on a bomb,” Heather replied.
Our main objective in Niagara Falls was to go to the casino, and maybe catch the fireworks. D was a bit nervous about the casino plan since we have Very Little Money and I tend to get Caught Up In The Moment When Having Too Much Fun. I promised not to gamble away our last dollar. In fact, I’d never gambled at all except for some five-cent slot machines at a casino in Brisbane with my sister K. I wasn’t sure I’d know what to do. After dinner we headed to the Breeze Bar in the middle of the floor and parked ourselves at two electronic blackjack machines. D put $10 into ours and a Maker’s Mark and Labatt Blue later, I was up to $40. “Gambling’s awesome!” I said. Next to me, Heather had just lost the last of her initial $20 and was cursing at what I thought was the machine, but may well have been me. “It’s almost too easy,” I said. “Should I try playing something else?” “NO,” said D. “I mean, do whatever you want, but this seems like…a good machine.”
Ultimately I dwindled away all the credits in the machine, having hit a high point around $45. We decided to walk over to the Oakes Hotel, which has a viewing area from which you can see the fireworks over the lit-up falls. D and I had been in Niagara Falls earlier in the week, when we met his aunt and cousins for lunch and a ride on the Maid of the Mist. D was worried that the Falls would be disappointing the way things that are supposed to be sublime often are in material reality, like the first time he saw an actual Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and it just wasn’t That Big. But the Falls are actually amazing, especially viewed through the blinding mist from a little boat right in the middle of the horseshoe. Heather had never been on the Maid of the Mist, so earlier in the day she and Sean had booked the ride. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain, and they mostly heard a roaring sound while getting completely drenched. I think the Falls may have redeemed themselves with their night show, viewed from the comfort of a 14th-floor alcove, followed by a quick elevator ride to the lounge on the hotel’s top floor. We were so delighted to find that the drinks didn’t cost $20 each that we set to work drinking many of them. I started and stuck with dirty Stoli martinis; D did double Johnny Walkers; Sean started on beer and quickly moved to Jameson’s; and Heather experimented with a French Martini before switching to Ketel One and tonics. The sofas were comfy, our British waitress was cute and charming, and all was going swimmingly until we asked if they sold cigarettes at the bar, and the answer was that they sold two brands, something we didn’t catch and something called “Playas.” D—a few Johnny Walkers in—was incredulous that there was a Canadian cigarette called “Playas.” “Playas?” he asked our charming waitress. “Is there really a cigarette called ‘Playas’?? That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard!” She smiled wanly and drifted away. I then explained that “Playas” is how she pronounces “Players,” which was most likely the actual name of the brand. “Oh my god,” said D. “I’m such an asshole.” When our waitress returned, D explained that he hadn’t been making fun of her, that he was just a dumbass from Arkansas who didn’t know anything about Canadian cigarette brands. It turned out that she was actually kind of offended. “It’s okay,” she said coldly, “I’m used to it.” She handed Heather a vodka tonic that, it turned out, contained negligible vodka. D apologized to Heather for ruining her drink. I was downing my fourth dirty martini and found the whole ordeal inappropriately hilarious.
At some point the overhead lights started flashing, and we were all impaired enough to be confused as to whether this was a signal that the bar was closing or simply someone playing with the lights. It seemed a good time to leave in either case. We headed back to the casino, ordered some beers, and parked in front of some slot machines. The objective of these machines was to make a row of lights light up, and the strategy toward achieving said objective was to continuously push a button. This was something I could do. I put in $5 and pushed the button until the button stopped working. “Did I run out of money?” I asked D. “Yes,” he said, feeding a bill into an adjacent machine. “Try this one.” From somewhere nearby I heard Heather cursing out another machine. It all gets a bit fuzzy from there, but at some point I apparently updated my LiveJournal and then at some other point D was telling me it was a good time to cash out and we went to a machine that gave us real cash money. “Gambling is THE BEST,” I said. Heather, who I forgot to mention is from Reno, said something that I either didn’t catch or selectively forgot.
By the light of the next day, it turned out that I had actually won back all the cash that we’d stuck into machines, plus $3. D informed me that as long as we didn’t consider the obscene amount of money we’d spent on alcohol, we’d come out ahead. “Is that why there’s money in my pocket?” I asked, somewhat dizzily pulling three dollar coins from my jeans. “Yes,” D said. “You won.”