Sunday, July 09, 2006

Anticipation and Immortality.

Some of my fondest gambling memories have very little to do with the actual wagering process. Sure, there have been a couple of memorable scores at the OTB, the casino, or betting on sports. But what I remember most vividly and fondly -- and what makes me wonder if I can ever completely give it up -- is all the collateral, anticipatory stuff. That is to say, the recollections not of a big hand, but of how I felt on the way to the casino. The palpable anticipation during the brisk walk from the parking garage. Remembering what it feels like the morning you're scheduled to leave for Las Vegas. That great moment that you and your friends (see "Friends and 'Gambling-Friends'") collectively succumb and someone says what everyone else is thinking and you decide to put life on hold for a night and go play poker. The moment of "Fuck it, let's go", for all you fans of Rounders.

But what is that moment all about? I'm starting to think it's about avoiding mortality. Or if that's too sweeping a statement, it's about avoiding the unpleasant reality that everything -- even the fun things -- must necessarily end. It's probably why I always used go to sleep with the television on. It's a way of resisting the natural, unavoidable progress of things. To rage against the dying of the light. (Wasn't Dylan Thomas a degenerate gambler? I'll Google it.)

Most types of gambling are available 24 hours a day, and this neatly plays into this mindset I'm describing. Even neophytes will cynically refer to the conspicuous lack of clocks in casinos as evidence of an intent to make people forget what time it is so that they won't stop gambling. But it's so much more than that. The willful ignorance of time's march enables a suspension of responsibility. It helps us to avoid the inevitability of the fact that you can't stay up at the poker table indefinitely. That you've got to go to work tomorrow. That you can't hope to beat the house edge. That you're going to die.

So if you're ever in Vegas with me and you want to make me really happy, just turn to me during a break in the action and say, only half-kidding: "I think I might change my return ticket and stay here a few more days." I'll love you for it.


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