Fear and loathing in Central City: A bus trip, a casino and way too much weed
My face when I realized the casino carpet was crawling up my pant leg.
It was not a good day to get high. On a Wednesday afternoon, in a flurry of half-assed planning and with a pile of work accumulating on my desk back at the office like snow in a blizzard, I was on my way up to Central City for our All Bets Are Off feature this week, the writing of which was just more work on the pile. If I had any reassurance, it was that once I got there, I could work in the hotel room we'd reserved. All the same, I had an uneasy feeling that little work was about to get done.
That feeling proved immediately correct. I tried to make it up to the room, I really did, but there was blackjack, and there was also free booze. After snagging one beer from the bar, slamming it on the smoking patio and then managing to procure one more in the span of about ten minutes from the waitress, I changed out $20 and hit the tables.
I was on fire for a while, winning almost every hand -- and though the amount of money I was betting was measly, I managed to come up some $40 in about fifteen minutes. Now cocky, I threw down a bet of $20, and lost, which was when my natural Dutch cheapness kicked in and I walked away holding onto a brand-new $20 I'd satisfyingly done nothing to earn.
When I got to the room, Patricia Calhoun was there racing against her laptop battery's charge (she had forgotten the cable) to put up a post about the Denver Film Society's decision to move its HQ from the Starz FilmCenter to the old Lowenstein Theater -- if she could get it up before the battery died, she explained, she'd scoop the Denver Post, a prospect that had her gleeful. It was also an excellent motivation for me to sit down and work.
That didn't last long. About ten minutes later, after hitting "publish" just seconds before the laptop hibernated, Calhoun announced she was going to "be a good person" and, since I'd taken the bus up, get the minibar unlocked for me -- which I'd actually had no intention of asking her to do. The idea simultaneously lifted and crushed my heart -- a fridge full of free beer was not going to help me get work done. On the other hand, it was a fridge full of free beer, and she'd done it for me.
But I was going to get to work. I could work drunk. I'd done it before. Besides, I wasn't even that drunk yet. I cracked one open and prepared to get down to business.
That was when Will Breathes showed up.
Breathes, our venerable pot critic, had been around town for the previous couple of hours visiting dispensaries in the area. He walked in munching a Rice Krispie treat. "Want one?" he said.
"Shit," I said, chewing the first bite. "This has weed in it, doesn't it?"
"Well," I said, "fuck it"
All bets were off. I finished eating the thing, slammed the rest of my beer, tossed one to him and opened up another for myself, and then I sat down to roll a joint. It wasn't until we were already smoking it that we realized the windows in the room would only open about four inches, and that was about when we noticed the $100 fine for smoking in the rooms as well. It was far too late to care about that, however.
The $20 I'd just won was burning a hole in my pocket when we got to the tables, and now thoroughly fucked up -- and not that I'm a particularly good gambler to begin with -- I lost it all within about twenty minutes. I was okay with that. The room was beginning to spin a little, and the carpet (for real, have you ever seen the carpet they put in casinos) was beginning to seriously weird me out. There was a bus back to town in ten minutes, I was pretty sure. I left Breathes at the tables and went back upstairs to gather my stuff.
The room reeked of weed. This was not good. It occurred to me that smoking a cigarette in the room might cover up the smell, and I decided this was an excellent idea. Holding the thing in my mouth, I packed up my things and walked out with it into the hallway, then realized I still had it, went back into the room and tossed it out the window. I'd gotten to the elevator before I realized I'd forgotten my jacket, so I went back to get that, too. Upon entering for the third time, it was clear to me that the room now reeked of weed and cigarettes.
This was okay. I was on my way out. Nobody, I was confident, would know it was me (side note: everybody knew it was me). I made it to the bus stop and waited for what seemed like a while. No bus came. I examined the schedule. I'd already missed it.
The casino was reeling somehow when I walked back in, listing from side to side like a ship, which made walking through it without running into anything kind of like trying to aim a basketball at one of those machines that moves the hoop back and forth, except the only thing I was aiming was myself. I found Breathes at a video roulette machine, staring contemplatively at it and nursing a beer.
"Oh, hey, man," he said. "I'm trying to throw away the rest of my money." About twenty feet behind him, there was a restaurant with a sign out front of it. The sign read: "$2.99 prime rib."
"They have $2.99 prime rib here," I said.
"That's what the sign says."
He looked up at the sign. "Ah, I bet you have to enroll in some player's club or something to get it, though," he said.
"Let me find out."
The cashier did not appear amused at my earnest line of questioning.
"Is it really $2.99?"
"And there's nothing I have to do to get it at that price?"
"I can just walk in here and get it."
"And eat it."
"Okay, hold on."
I went back to get Breathes, who was down to his last couple of dollars. "Let me throw the rest of this money away, and I'm with you," he said. It didn't take long.
The meal was indeed $2.99, and it was indeed some form of meat, though we were fairly certain the manner of cooking had been the microwave. It was pretty rubbery. All the same, there was probably no food at that point I would have turned down.
I'm not going to say we "drove" back to town, but we somehow got there, with the help of another joint of old-school Panama Red that Breathes explained he'd found via some old hippie who still had the seeds to strains from way back in the day. I think Breathes was probably doing better than I was -- particularly given that I had him drop me off at the house of a friend who wasn't even home. But that was okay. I was in the middle of Capitol Hill, I was incredibly weed-addled and the night was just getting started.
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