Monday, January 05, 2009


I'm back in Hutchinson tonight. I spent last night in Joplin and had a great afternoon today with Greg and his mom. Going out to lunch turned into a five hour trip.

We went to a town about 20 minutes away to a restaurant we've been to before, only to discover that on Sunday they only offer a buffet. And it was bad. Very bad. We just looked at it and passed.

On the drive out there we had passed a place called Sandstone Gardens, and Greg's mom mentioned they had a restaurant there she had eaten at before. So, we headed back there and had a wonderful lunch. You can tell by the smile on Miss Joy's face.

Sandstone Gardens is a gift and interior design store/restaurant/statuary garden place. It's hard to describe, but it's cool. I'm planning to go back again.

You can tell they are planning on being a destination. They've got a huge parking lot and easy access from the interstate. I'll be eager to see if they're able to make that happen. I'm always amazed at places that accomplish that feat.

Cathy and I had lunch at Lambert's in Sikeston Saturday and, like every time I'm there, I wonder how they went from a little cafe to the empire they are now. Yes, the food is good. But the food is good at hundreds of little places along the road that do not become destinations unto themselves. I guess the marketing people would say it's "sticky," but I always wonder how things become sticky.

Maybe the Sandstone Gardens folks will talk to the Lambert's folks to get some tips. I want to go back in the summer and see how the grounds look.

After lunch and some shopping around the store - some of their Christmas stuff was half off! - we made our last stop of the afternoon. We went to the Downstream Casino that is a new addition to the landscape there. Greg had been there with some friends, and Greg's mom hadn't seen it yet. It's big news in the area, I guess.

I've never been to a Casino before. If you're a casino lover, just stop reading now because I'm going to tick you off. And there's no need for that.

My impression of the casino experience is that it's trashy - at least this one experience. And I don't mean a little trashy. I mean there might as well be black velvet decor, an adult xxx store, hookers for hire and an Elvis impersonator making the rounds with free drinks to keep you buzzed enough to forget you're feeding your money into a machine so you can push a button. Maybe they do have some of those things for all I know. But - word to the wise - the King is Dead. Elvis is NOT Alive and Well. Really. Honest.

I don't know what other casinos look like, but this was row after row of blinking, beeping machines in a cavernous room lit largely by the gaudy displays on the machines. At nearly every machine was a person hunched over it, glassy eyed, staring at the display as if it held the secret to life, a cigarette in one hand while the other hand methodically punched the appropriate "bet" buttons. They stopped only to feed more cash into the machine.

Frankly, I could see some entertainment value in playing the quarter machines for $5 or $10 worth of fun. But, that would require being elbow to elbow with the people who seem way beyond the "this is entertainment" phase to the "this is the next big win" phase. There's a reason casinos don't go out of business. It's because you're giving them your money.

All of that said, we had a lot of laughs during our 10-15 minutes there. I just couldn't spend much time with the majority of the other folks there. That is not my crowd. I'm sure there are some folks in there who are, but not the majority.

Apparently the casino regularly gives people free credit to play. You know why they can afford to do that? Because people are blindly feeding real money into the machines. But not me.

My outlay - $0. My take - a cool bungee cord they give you to hold your little card. I took the card off it and will use it for a jump drive or something. See, it's not true what they say about if you don't play, you don't win. I didn't play and yet I got this cool new bungee cord. It's not a million dollar jackpot, but no one else got that, either. And I still have all my money AND the cool bungee cord.
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