Jim Anchower
The Cruise

Hola, amigos. All clear on your end? I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but things have been kinda hectic around El Casa Anchower lately.

First off, I had my electricity cut for a few days. Now, I ain't no deadbeat, but I've been a little low on cash lately, and when it came time to pay the bills this month, I had to do some tough prioritizing. A man's gotta eat. And drink. And set his mind straight. And if a man's gotta set his mind straight, he may as well do it with some weed, you know what I mean?


It's not like I wasn't gonna pay the damn electric bill. But, apparently, the dicklicks at MG&E didn't see it that way. I had to go down there and bring them the money in cash, plus some extra dough for a "reconnect fee." Man, it must be nice to collect a fat reconnection fee just for flipping a switch.

The big reason I was low on cash was that I had to miss a few days at my coat-check job because I threw out my back while working on my car. One of my fan belts was squeaking real bad, and I decided I should take care of it myself. "Hey," I thought, "am I gonna let some mechanic charge me a ton of money to change one lousy belt when I can do it myself?" Hell, no.


I called up Wes, and we took a look under the hood. It's not like Wes is any good at fixing cars, but he's good at other important things, like starting her up, giving her gas, and getting me another beer. Plus, he cusses like a sailor when the occasion requires it, so he's good to have around for that, since my car usually needs more swears than I got stored up in me.

So I'm under the hood, and Wes is behind the wheel, giving her gas and throwing in a "cocksucker" here and a "piece of shit" there. I was trying to loosen a nut on the fan belt, putting a lot of torque into it, when my back suddenly gave out. I don't know if I pinched a nerve or what. All I know is, I was on the ground and could barely move.


Wes helped carry me inside and brought me my bong. I did a few b-loads to relax, but it wasn't helping. I had to call in sick for about four days, which really cheesed me off. I hate wasting sick days like that. I'd rather use them when there's some sort of concert or county fair I want to go to. Plus, I didn't even get to replace the fan belt.

All in all, I lost about $200 plus tips from not working at the coat check those four days. That, combined with my recent purchase of a four-foot Graffix bong, resulted in the Anchower finances not looking so good. Under my mattress, I had $63 in emergency funds, but that wasn't enough to cover the kind of bills I was facing. My first day back at work, I spent the whole time wondering where I could come up with enough money to make it through the month okay.


Then it hit me. The answer was so obvious. I could take my $63 and invest it at one of the Indian casinos.

I had the next day off, so I hopped in my car, squeaky fan belt and all, and picked up Wes and Ron. After filling the car with gas, we took off to Ho-Chunk Casino, which was up in Baraboo, maybe 70 miles away. That gave us a chance to lay back and enjoy the ride.


When we got there, the joint looked like a strip club, only with more slot machines and no hot naked chicks. Plus, everywhere you went, there was this sound of, like, a thousand different videogames going at once. And weird old people.

Me, Wes, and Ron decided we should split up to increase our chances at being lucky. I eased into it by sitting down at an open slot machine. Turns out, it wasn't open: There was a woman sitting at the one next to it, playing two games at once. She shot me a dirty look, so I shot her one back and moved on. It's a good thing I did, 'cause I scored on the next slot. I spent about eight bucks at a Dutch Diamond Delight machine and wound up winning $50. I figured it must be my night and moved on to my next big score.


That next score, I decided, would be blackjack. I'd never played before, but how hard could it be? You've just got to get close to 21 and beat the dealer. So I took a seat at the $5 minimum table. I did okay for a while, getting up to $25. This was going to be my night. I laid down $10 on a bet and was up $40 before long. That's when the table went cold. Fifteen minutes later, I was down to zero. I went to change in my quarters from the slot machine so I could try a different game.

Now, roulette looked pretty easy. All you had to do was pick the right number. I decided I should play lucky number seven. But then I figured that's exactly what they wanted me to do, so I put down $10 on unlucky number 13. (Now that, my friends, is thinking.) A lady next to me told me I should spread them out so that I'd have a better chance of winning. I told her that if I was gonna hit, I was gonna hit big, so I'd let it ride.


Not even 10 minutes later, I was cleaned out on roulette. I hadn't even been there long enough to get a free drink from the cocktail waitress. I just wanted to get the hell out of there and head home. I had beer back at my house, and it was in bigger glasses than the thimbles they were taking around to everyone at Ho-Chunk.

It took me almost half an hour to find Wes and Ron. Ron was at the bar just watching everyone pass by, and Wes was playing nickel slots. He was up $20 on that, so he didn't really want to leave. When I told Wes I was out of money, he asked me if I'd studied any blackjack charts before coming. I told him I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. He didn't say anything more, which is good, 'cause I would have laid him out on the pavement if he had.


I learned a valuable lesson that day: Blackjack and roulette are for suckers. As we were leaving, I saw on the wall that Ho-Chunk has slot tournaments on Wednesday nights. I should definitely go back for one of those, since that's the one thing I was pretty good at. I'm going to have to wait for a while, though: I got a disconnect notice for my gas bill, so I can't spend any more money at the casino right now. But once I get that paid off and have a little spare change in my pocket, I'm heading straight back to Ho-Chunk to get my $63 back and then some. You can count on that.

Jim Anchower joined The Onion's editorial writing staff in 1993 after several distinguished years on The Come Back Inn dishwashing staff. He comments on community-affairs, automotive, and employment issues. He attended LaFollette High School in Madison, WI.


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