I wanted to get to the Gulf as soon as possible, but I thought that Mobile won’t be much fun either, so I made a wise decision to book Beau Rivage in Biloxi and get there the same day with just a short stop in Mobile. The black owner of bed and breakfast where I stayed in Montgomery has taught me how to pronounce Mobile correctly, because I was cheerfully embarrassing myself by saying it as an adjective “mobile” with the emphasis on the first syllabus. Mo-BEEL, you have to say it. Armed with such piece of intelligence I arrived to Mobile to find it, what else, empty. It was too hot and humid to walk around the city or the beach, so I just went to the local museum. They were very happy to see me. The security guard could have easily worked as a guide, because before I even started my tour he took about 15 minutes to tell me every detail, location and description of the exhibits. This time, however, I listened patiently. Maybe it was the heat or my acclimatization to Southern ways or because his accent was so quintessentially Southern that I stood there not listening to what he said but to how he said it. Anyway, after just a few days in the South I myself became very slow. Mobile was a major supply center for the Civil War for the Confederates. They even built a submarine, back in 1860s that sank a Union ship! I was impressed.
But I was becoming impatient to go to Biloxi now. The prospect of sitting at a poker table in a cool room trumped any sightseeing agenda. I was relieved to arrive to Beau Rivage which is a smaller replica of Bellagio in Las Vegas. Sitting at a poker table has a soothing effect on me especially after such a long trip through unfamiliar surroundings. Even though it was my first time in this casino it didn’t matter because all poker rooms are essentially the same – same rules, same colorful characters, same cocktail waitresses. Same shitty cards for hours, haha! But the game, the game was really sweet. The only annoying thing is, of course, the leisurely pace of dealers and players.
I thought that they have characters in Atlantic City. I haven’t seen nothing. I wish I was Mark Twain or O’Henry or at least be allowed to take pictures at the poker table to convey the richness of personalities at the table. One grandpa in the wheelchair looked like he might have fought in the Civil War. Oh, by the way, “war” has a different meaning in the South. Antebellum, which means prewar, is not the same as pre-war in New York. It’s a different war we’re talking about and it’s not World War I or II. Anyway, the grandpa had paper white skin, snow white long uncombed hair, and beard – put a bowler hat on him and voila – a perfect villain for a western. But that was just my vivid imagination – he was actually very nice. He ordered a hotdog without a bun, and after a waitress brought it to him, wrapped in paper napkin at the bottom, he just sat there holding it like a candle. I thought it would be poor judgement on my part to make any jokes about it. Everybody knows each other there, I mean they are all on the first name basis – dealers, players, managers and waitresses. There’s some level of familiarity in New Jersey as well, but there’s still more random players in AC than in Biloxi. Another guy, also on wheelchair rolled onto my foot under the table. He said he’s usually playing in New Orleans, but sometimes he plays here because the game is too loose in Biloxi. Great, I thought, they have a casino in New Orleans. My sightseeing agenda has just suffered a severe blow.
All TVs in the poker room show one channel – Fox News. At least in AC they have some sports and occasional CNN and MSNBC.
The next day I did venture out onto the small boardwalk near the casino to check out the beach.
There was no sight of oil, but the beach smelled like a fish market at the end of a hot day. Upon closer inspection I saw scores of dead fish in the water. I thought it was from the oil spill. There were no people around to ask about that.
Later I saw a bum sitting under the bridge, dozing off, who, as I was making pictures of him, got up and started moving towards me.
I asked him about the fish. From what I could decipher from his thick accent the dead fish wasn’t from the spill, but from a capsized fishing boat.
He said he didn’t see oil here at all. He eagerly proceeded to tell me his unfortunate life story, but the heat and the smell made it unbearable for me to stay outside any longer.
It was a good idea to go back to the poker room and retrieve my tax dollars from the Southerners in an honest competition. (It’s a well known fact that red states get more tax dollars than they pay, while accusing us, liberals, of being socialists). I did just that. If only I had more time in Biloxi. Guys, it’s one of the best places to play poker, if you don’t mind the glacier speed of everybody. That guy on the wheelchair was the only good player at the table; he noticed me too in the same way. He told me I was folding too many hands. Unfortunately he was sitting to the left of me, which means he raised me every time I was in the hand, all the while telling me interesting stories about him surviving hurricane Katrina and the aftermath alone in his apartment. It also occurred to me that perhaps I come across as a nurse or a social worker –cripples, bums and octogenarians all seem to want to talk to me. But on the other hand it may indicate that I have cleansed myself from the touch of Wall Street bitchiness. Anyway, some of my money, no doubt, ended up in Katrina veteran’s stack, but I more than compensated for it from less vigilant players at the table. After a few unwise bluffing attempts, I saw the futility of the scare tactics at the Southern poker tables, where everyone is certain of catching that hole on the river. Catching a hole on the river means catching a card you need that only comes one time out of four or five – which also means that the other times they don’t catch it and I get the pot with my top pair. It’s simplified but you get the idea. It’s more profitable to play poker against people who rely on chance, or Divine Providence, as they would call it, rather than against people who count the odds. If people relied on odds casinos, lotteries, Wall Street, megachurches and all kinds of get-rich quick schemes would go out of business. All of the above enterprises need people who believe, not people who think. And the thing is, if you try to be charitable and point that out to people – you expose yourself to attacks by the very people you’re trying to help. The best way to piss somebody off at the poker table is to point out at his incorrect play. I think I was ready to embrace Jesus Christ as my savior, literally!
I liked Biloxi so much that I didn’t want to leave, but New Orleans was my next and last stop and besides, they have a casino there as well.