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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wild Pandas and Desert Diamonds on the reservation

    The shady bars and Mexican restaurants were beginning to get more sparse as we passed Valencia Road, and I was starting to think we might have to turn back. It looked like our spur-of-the-moment travel adventure was turning out to be nothing more than a cruise through the Food Cities and taco stands of fake Rocky Point and then into a vast desert.

    I was just about to get into the left lane to make a U-turn, when an immense stadium of colorful lights and various vehicles came into sight. Desert Diamond Casino: home of the $8.85 pasta buffet and a slew of American Indians, old ladies with beef jerky skin and cheap slot machines.

    After circling around the colossal parking lot packed to the brim, we finally reached something that could only be described as an extravagant “”Pueblo Deco”” entranceway and made our way in.

    There was a sign by the door stipulating that every person must be dressed “”appropriately,”” but the people inside looked more like they were going to a Circle K than a casino. Instead of sexy cocktail waitresses in sequined shirt/dresses, there were a bunch of frumpy 30-year-olds in gas station attendant uniforms passing out sodas in Styrofoam cups. Even the inside of the building seemed smaller than the lavish exterior, but the myriad of tacky machines and advertisements made the room pleasant to look at.

    My friend and I rushed over to the buffet and piled an exorbitant amount of lasagna, fettuccini alfredo, chicken marsala, baked ziti, roast beef, spaghetti and some stringy thing with little shrimps onto our plates. By the time we reached the end, my dish looked like a Jenga board of Italian food, except for the fact that pulling something out from the bottom most likely wouldn’t make it collapse. I dug my fork into the goop and miraculously pulled out a clam. Not knowing where it came from, I shoved it into my mouth and moved on to a stuffed pasta shell.

    Every single thing on my plate had the same mushy and flavorless taste as the thing before, until I finally abandoned it all and shoved a biscotti stick into a nearby chocolate fountain. Now that was good!

    My friend had heard that in Las Vegas, you could get free drinks all night if you pretended like you were gambling, so we ventured out onto the floor. Lo and behold, almost nobody was actually drinking. Everyone at the slot machines appeared to be contentedly alone sipping their Diet Pepsi’s and gazing intently into the cartoon characters that shimmied up and down their screens. These people were serious.

    My friend spotted a female John Goodman look-alike holding a Budweiser and began to follow her past the desolate keno room and into a bar that looked like an exhibit at Disneyland. And then we saw it, clear as day.

    There was a person, sitting there, inside … smoking a cigarette. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea that the Tohono O’odham nation didn’t have to follow state smoking laws, but was relieved nonetheless. My friend walked up to the bar and tried to order a pack of Camels, but for some reason they only had three different varieties of Marlboros and something really cheap looking called “”Next.”” She bought a pack of Reds and we sat down at a fake tree trunk table and considered our next move.

    The time had come. We had to see what the commotion was all about, and we knew for a fact it wasn’t the food. We were going to try out the slots.

    Unfortunately, we only had a dollar put together, and the “”Finding Nemo”” machine we were coveting looked too expensive. We walked around for a while, passing something called “”Cash Fever”” with a huge rotating Mr. Magoo statue and a number of Wheel of Fortune archetypes. Finally, we settled on a machine with a picture of a ravenous panda bear cartoon that cost only two cents.

    There were so many buttons, but you could only press the one that was lit up. Confused, I pushed something that said “”50 rounds”” and spun the wheel. A series of goldfish, gongs, bamboo shoots, ukuleles and parasols whirled around for a minute and then arranged themselves in a row. The machine turned off.

    “”What happened to the rest of the money?”” my friend screamed.

    “”Oh, shit.”” The button tricked us into spending the entire dollar in one spin. “”Wild Panda”” was a rip-off. Our hopes were crushed.

    Oh, well, it’s probably best that we didn’t get hooked onto the machine, because that would increase our chances of becoming addicted. Then we’d spend the rest of our nights cruising through the depths of Nogales Highway and smoking Pall Mall’s in Hawaiian shirts. Eventually, my teeth would stink like sardines caught in a smoke stack and I’d get calluses on my fingers and puss in my soul.

    It was probably for the best, but I don’t know. Desert Diamond Casino was kind of fun. Maybe I’d come back next time and try out the Bingo room. I know all the old people made it look kind of slow-paced, but they did have free coffee.

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