Last weekend, I traveled alone to Davenport, Iowa, to attend a gathering of BoomerGirls at the Quad-Cities Convention Center. I stayed at the Isle of Capri Hotel, which is adjacent to the convention center and, as it turns out, the Isle of Capri Casino.
No woman is an island at the Isle of Capri. Unless she doesn’t gamble.
I have plenty of vices, but fortunately, betting isn’t one of them. Despite that saucy “What happens here, stays here” ad campaign, I’ve never been to Vegas. My only slot machine experience was as a reporter covering the first gambling boat in Kansas City. I lost $20 in six minutes.
It’s not that I have moral misgivings about gaming. Back in the day, I put a few dollars down on the dogs and ponies. I’ll still throw 5 bucks at the Powerball once in a blue moon. And when NCCA tournament time rolls around in March, I’ll fill out my bracket and ... (I refuse to finish that sentence on the grounds that it might incriminate me).
But, given my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, I know better than to expose myself to the temptations of booze and “easy money” in a sexy environment where, at any minute, George Clooney could lean over my shoulder and kiss my dice — or better still, me — for luck.
(True confession: I’ve seen “Ocean’s 11” eight times.)
Still, there’s precious little to do at the Isle of Capri resort, if you don’t play.
My room was plush with a flat screen TV, cushy linens and a fabulous view of the Mississippi River. I hung out — watching movies, fiddling with the thermostat, jumping on the bed — until I got antsy.
Next, I hit the gym. It was a deluxe facility with fancy machines and no person in sight. Apparently, fitness isn’t foremost on the minds of casino-goers. They’ve got more fun things to do.
The pool was nice, but it was teeming with rambunctious kids playing Marco Polo. I took a dip in the hot tub and split.
An hour later, curiosity got the best of me. I put on my black jersey pants and pink sweater, dolled up my face (just in case George showed up), grabbed my coupon for a free cocktail and decided to cruise the casino.
As I approached the host/doorman/bouncer guy (who didn’t check my ID), my senses filled with the sights, sounds and smells of the game. Flashing lights, dinging bells and lots and lots of smoke.
Seems the only place you can legally light a cigarette in Iowa is in your home or one of the state’s 17 casinos.
Eyes watering, I walked slowly through the thick of it, thinking maybe — just maybe — someone would look up from what they were doing to check out the new chick on the floor: Is she a high roller? A shark? Or just another cougar on the prowl for George Clooney? (Cougar, heck! I was a good 15 years younger than the average patron. I was practically jail bait!)
No one bothered. They were too fixated on the business at hand. Then I noticed it: the absence of human sound. There were bells and whistles and the constant humming of oxygen machines, but nobody was talking, laughing or even crying. This wasn’t fun; this was serious. And where the heck was George!?
I exited without redeeming my drink coupon. Gambling just wasn’t my scene.
Passing the all-you-can-eat-buffet, I found my way to the property’s steakhouse, where I ordered dinner at the bar. The blond and boisterous bartender was chatting me up when she abruptly stopped mid-conversation, threw some scotch in a glass and bolted to the other end of the bar.
“Hiya, Betty!” she cried to a spry, elderly lady walking in on the arm of a handsome young man in a dark suit. “How ya doin’ tonight?”
I would find out later that Betty was a MVG (most valuable guest), a 91-year-old widow who checked in every Friday through Sunday, gambling all night and sleeping during the day. I watched as she held court with the entire restaurant staff who stopped by to pay their respects.
Her escort was a VIP host — not George caliber, but not too shabby, either. As he led Betty to their table for two and dinner on the house, I wondered if I had judged too hastily.
Maybe gambling COULD be my scene. In about 35 years.
— Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at BoomerGirl.com.