A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Today I went to Foxwoods Resort Casino with a group of friends. The point of the trip was to see a show (comedian Mike Epps doing stand-up), but since Ledyard, Connecticut is a bit of a haul, we decided to hang around a bit before and afterward. Gambling is pretty close to last on the list of things I'm interested in, but people-watching is near the top, as is eating, so I was game.

Foxwoods is the largest casino in the world, but imho that's the only superlative it can claim. It reminds me of a large mall, or maybe an airport. I don't really understand the appeal to so many people of dropping large sums of money there.

Monte Carlo--now there's a casino! The bathrooms in the Monte Carlo casino are classier than the high-stakes rooms at Foxwoods. Las Vegas is Disneyfied nowadays--the last time I was there, so many people were videotaping that it wasn't possible to pan around without getting footage of dozens of other people videotaping you. But at least it's over-the-top: the pyramid-shaped Luxor with its 42.3-billion-candlepower Sky Beam, easily visible from space; the Bellagio with its Fiori di Como ceiling of 2000 hand-blown Chihuly flowers held up by 10,000 pounds of steel; the Mirage with its erupting volcano; the Venetian with its quarter-mile-long Grand Canal, complete with gondolas and gondoliers.

I understand that people go to casinos to gamble, first, last and foremost. It used to be, however, that the romance and glamour of the casinos (think James Bond, Mr. Lucky, To Catch A Thief) camouflaged the reality of throwing your money down a hole in games that so clearly favor the house. At Foxwoods, there are 7,000 slot and poker machines that accept anything from a penny to a hundred dollars a play. You no longer have even to pull a handle--just push a button.

Feed in a twenty. Press, press, press, press. Nothing. No sound of gears whirring, no lights or bells. No decisions even about which might be the "lucky" button. No bluffing, no human interaction. No money coming out. Another twenty. Press, press, press, press. Shrug. Move to another machine. This is fun? Meh.