By Edward A. Forbes
I had just driven a lady friend to Houston for a doctor appointment, and as we were leaving, she said “Let’s go to Louisiana to the casino.”
I, in all honesty, considered the drive to Houston adventurous enough, but what the heck. No one was waiting for my return, and I had no other plans for the day. The trip was on.
I had $100 on me and considered that more than adequate to donate to the coffers of a casino. I also had a full tank of gas. Without further ado, the trip began. I flew across Houston to the welcoming arms of a terminally under-construction Interstate 10 and settled back for the three-hour journey to L’Auberge Casino.
I have been driving on Interstate 10 at least annually to Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, and like a Hollywood persona, it is in a perennial state of cosmetic surgery. The Joan Rivers version of highways stretched to the max; three lanes go down to two and then to one lane with those fun concrete walls that protect workers and threaten to damage your vehicle.
Everyone was driving 80 mph. With an occasional nod to sanity, the 65-mph mark rears its head briefly. With a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel, we drove across Beaumont, Orange, and then the “Welcome to Louisiana” information center flew by in a blur. We finally reached Lake Charles around noon.
I have never been to L’Auberge before and relied on my GPS and street signs to reach our destination. Parking worthy of an NRG event awaited. The thing that struck me first was that there must be several hundred handicap parking spaces there, and they were all full. We began our hike to the entrance, and I thought since casinos usually have great restaurants, we could have a nice lunch before flinging ourselves into the hardboiled, take-their-money area.
Au contraire, my friend. The casino had restaurants, I was informed, but they didn’t open until 4 p.m. I fully intended to be flying along I-10 at that time in the other direction, so we were delegated to eat at the “deli.”
The deli turned out to be an establishment with beautiful (on the walls) menu descriptions of what turned out to be sub-McDonald’s fare. The picture of the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich was infinitely superior to the product I was served. I ate two bites. We were here to gamble, not to dine, so it was time to adjourn to the casino proper.
To enter the hallowed ground of gambling, I had to swear that I was 21 years old, not a truant of Gamblers Anonymous and that I had no symptoms of Covid. We each passed muster and were allowed to enter.
My friend made a beeline for the baccarat tables, and I stopped to observe the craps table. I had no idea of the rules or strategies of shooting craps, but I watched people place their bets and employees using sticks like the old shepherds’ crook pull the money in for the house.
The bettors would play for a while, then step back with a drink and smoke a cigarette in three or four puffs, carcinogens washed down with a bourbon and water, then crowd their way back around the table. After 30 or 40 minutes of this, I meandered over to the blackjack tables.
They wanted $50 minimum to sit at the table, so I stood. I watched for a while and at least had some understanding of what was going on, but after 30 or 40 minutes, I was bored.
They had what used to be slot machines that now displayed different versions of video poker.
I had to trundle over to the cashier’s booth and put money on a plastic card (no more quarter, penny, or dollar coins allowed).
As I sashayed back across the casino floor, I looked for all the folks that were parking in the handicapped spaces. I saw a couple of wheelchairs, a couple of walkers and a passel of seniors. The over-65 set ruled evidently early on weekdays, because we far outnumbered anyone younger than 60.
I arrived at the machines. They all had some version of video poker with different betting rules and the ability to play multiple hands at a time. I never understood the betting, despite attempting to read the abbreviated rules several times. I managed to extend my playing time to over an hour, and now I was really bored and ready to go home. I began the search for my friend.
There were several baccarat tables with some very serious-looking people playing intently. I found my friend’s table, and she played what looked like her last hand. It was not a winner. I told her my flight was leaving, and she should pack her bags if she was going to be a passenger. I cashed out my ticket and hit the parking lot.
If I ever go back to Lake Charles, it would not be to eat at L’Auberge. I’m sure the casino won’t mourn my non-return. My total winnings I gained for the day - 16 cents.
(Email Edward A. Frobes at firstname.lastname@example.org or send comments by snail mail to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX. 77516.)