Happy 4th of July!
I hope that you all had a wonderful day, celebrating the birth of our nation.
My day was a bit out of the norm. On Thursday or Friday of last week, I saw an advertisement for upcoming concerts. Turns out, Diamond Rio was in town, performing at Mystic Lake casino. I was a big fan in the 90s and I know my sister was as well. They also happen to sing one of my mother’s all-time favorite songs. (One More Day).
The concert was last night, at the outdoor amphitheater at the casino. And did I mention it was free?
We talked it over and decided to go. They were giving out tickets starting at 2pm. We arrived about 2:30. We headed toward the box office for tickets to find a line that was outrageously long. Crazy, scary long. Then, my favorite part, we thought we reached the end, only to find that we had to go into a ballroom and wait in a switchback line. Wow. I mean, these guys aren’t THAT big of stars, right? According to the St. Paul newspaper, they’re only “semi-stars”.
As soon as we got in the line, I set the timer on my phone. 41:30. Forty one minutes. Seriously, I was stunned. If you had seen the length of the line, we thought we were in for HOURS of waiting. But, there were tons of registers open at the box office where they were giving out tickets as quickly as humanly possible.
While waiting, we learned that Mystic Lake doesn’t actually have an amphitheater, but they are considering building one. Before investing the money, they put up a temporary structure that holds just over 8,300 people. Then they’ve planned events there, all summer, to see how it works out. Diamond Rio was the first show in the temporary structure.
Also, while waiting, Emily spotted something interesting in the crowd. I managed to snap a shot, my apologies to the stranger.
Do you see what he is wearing on his hip? A CASSETTE player. WTF? Like Em said, “how is that thing even still working?”
Once we finally got our tickets, we hit up the free beverage station. Mystic Lake is dry, but they have soda fountains everywhere, all the free pop and coffee you can drink. I was in heaven and guzzling Mountain Dew like it was going out of style (that’s a treat I don’t often allow myself, since kicking caffeine).
Then we sat down to gamble a bit and I quickly dropped $10 playing one of those ridiculous slots with a million lines going every which way and you can’t even tell when you win. That was enough of that. Then my mom and I decided to find something better; Em and Chad were off doing their thing.
We finally found 5¢ video poker, which was exactly what I was hunting for. Actually, big gambler that I am, I was hoping for 1¢ video poker, but I don’t think they make those. My mom and I ended up not sitting next to each other, but a seat apart. She crapped out first, and came to stand over my shoulder. I was playing it up and calling out the cards I needed. “Come on TEN of CLUBS” like I was really going to pull these long shots. My mom was entertained, and so was the lady sitting next to me. I lost $20 on that machine, but the menthol-smoking, platinum-haired babe at my side was laughing at my antics, so a success.
Less than an hour gambling and I was down $30.
We hunted down Chad and Emily and decided to track down some food. We ended up eating at the same restaurant we ate at for the Dierks Bentley show, not a lot of options at Mystic. Food was fine, nothing to report. After dinner, we still had time to kill before the gates opened, so we decided to gamble some more. I wasn’t really hoping to lose more money, but whatever. Emily and my mom found cheap (penny or nickel) slots, but the real kind, with reels and sevens and BARs. But there weren’t enough chairs for all four of us. Chad and I wandered around. I saw 2¢ “Deal or No Deal” which looked fun, but there was actually a line of people waiting to play it.
Eventually, I told Chad I wanted to find video poker, as it is the only thing I really like and at least I get some control, rather than just random spinning of wheels. He agreed. While we were looking around, he kept pointing out machines that had recently paid out big. I never notice things like that, I’m just not that big of a “gambler”. Finally, we found a bank of video poker machines, around one of those platforms that holds a car. This was a white Infinity. There were two open seats on one end.
We sat down and Chad said his just paid out $100. Mine had only paid out $2. I offered to switch machines with him, but he declined. (That’s about to become important…) These were 25¢ machines, which is almost too rich for my blood. In order to play max credits, you have to bet $1.25 each draw, which burns through a $20 pretty fast. Since I never expect to win, video gambling is all about longevity for me.
At any rate, I played single credit for a bit, then realized how foolish that is. Even if I hit a moderately decent hand, I won’t actually win anything. If I was going to bet, then I was going to bet. So, I started playing max credits. In no time, I was bleeding money.
I was down to $12.25 left when my screen dealt the following cards: K♥, A♥, 10♥, Q♥. All I was missing from the Royal Flush (the very best hand you can get) was a Jack of Hearts. Obviously believing there is no way on earth that I’ll get it, I slugged my brother-in-law on the arm and said, “Think Jack, Chad, that’s all I need”. He looked over and said, “okay”. So simple. I punched the button that deals the next card.
Before I could blink, it was done.
A royal flush.
My brain didn’t even process. My eyes were seeing the card, but it didn’t seem real. Or that big of a deal. It was only a quarter machine. I only bet $1.25 on that hand.
Chad said, “you just won a thousand dollars”.
I said, “no I didn’t.”
Because I really didn’t know. Everything is in credits, not cash, on the pay tables. 4,000 credits for a Royal Flush if you were betting max credits. Divided by 25 cents.
That is ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.
No wonder my machine was flashing lights and blinking “Call Attendant”. Then the screen switched and it said “Jackpot! $1000.00” Right there on the screen. That was the first second I realized that I just won–BIG. Then I looked in the corner, where it told me my running total and it now said, $1012.25.
I grabbed Chad’s arm and said, “I just won a thousand dollars, what do I do?”
Of course, he knew that, since he’d already told me I won, and he didn’t know what to do either. Regardless of the flashing “call attendant” on the screen, we didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, a security guard came by. I should point out that from the pressing of the button to the security guard arriving; 60 seconds, max. It all happened very fast. Security called an attendant and congratulated. People were gathering, drawn in by the flashing lights. A guy said, “did she win the car?” and security said that I didn’t, just the jackpot. The guy said, “too bad” and walked away.
Don’t rain on my parade dude. I just won a cool G. I never win ANYTHING, ever. This is amazing. Who cares about some stupid car? Not me, I just won a thousand dollars.
Security had to move on, so that guy congratulated me, which was nice. Then he left. Chad and I were waiting. I said to Chad, “do you think they’ll care if I take a picture of the machine?” Chad got a weird look on his face. Then I realized that it probably isn’t a smart idea to take pictures of the machines in a casino, but I didn’t care. I looked at Chad and said, “I’m doing it and if they don’t like it, I’ll erase it.”
Hee, hee! Isn’t that fantastic?!? I wish there wasn’t a glare, but when shooting illegal photos, you don’t stand up and aim for a better angle. And I’m so happy that I have that!
The attendant arrived and filled out a form, which I had to initial. Then he said, “wait here and I’ll be back with your cash” then he reset the machine so it stopped flashing. He also pointed out I’d only be cashing out the thousand, so I could still play the $12.25. My instinct was to cash out, but it seemed petty at that point. Fine, take my $12.25. I began playing that out, then Emily and my mom walked over. Chad was standing at my side and I was half-in half-out of my chair, and shaking. They said, “what’s up?” and I said, “I just won a thousand dollars”. They both thought I was kidding. I said, “I’m serious” and they both looked to Chad for confirmation. I guess he’s more reliable than me. He confirmed it. As my only witness, I better keep him around. He saw it happen.
Then the attendant returned and gestured for me to open my palm. I held out my hand, palm up, while he counted out hundred dollar bills into my hand. That was possibly the coolest part for me. Even more than winning, because winning was a blur. This I remember. I don’t have a photo of the moment, but I do have this, from when I got home that night.
And, yeah, it’s a bit grainy, but it was dim inside and whothehellcares because look at that cold hard cash! (Weird phrase, because cash is neither cold, nor hard). Can you tell I’m grinning like a loon behind all that money?
At any rate, after we moved on, I suddenly saw a digital sign for my concert. I thought it would be a cool addition to the blog, but it switched to a different ad. I pulled out my cell phone and got the camera ready for when it came around. While waiting, a different security guard walked by and saw me. He moved on. When the picture came back around, I waited for a guy to move and I noticed the security guy a few feet away. I took the picture:
I love that it has the date, as well!
Then, as soon as I took it, security stepped forward and said, “sorry, there is no photography allowed anywhere in the casino.” After he waited for me to take the picture! Isn’t that weird? But at least I know it was smart to just take the jackpot photo and be done with it. Obviously I wouldn’t have been allowed if I’d gotten caught.
Eventually, we made it to the amphitheater. We had decent seats, being for free, and we waited for the show to start. Unfortunately, we had to wait 45 minutes before the opening act started. Rocket Club. They were okay. They sang one song I really liked, which I have since downloaded. But they were on the stage for way too long, especially since the temporary seats were the most uncomfortable seats in history. Plus, they weren’t strong enough to handle the weight of the people in them and they were sinking forward into the grass, pressing my knees into the row in front of us. Not comfy at all.
I also took a picture of the four of us, but I took it with my camera, so I can’t get it. But Chad was there, I promise.
Eventually, Diamond Rio came out and Em said, “they look old!” Which was funny, since they weren’t spring chickens in the 90s and, well, time has passed. They had even more hits than I remembered. They did two different medleys, so that they could get everything in, which was a bit much, because they didn’t have THAT many hits. And they put my second favorite song (You’re Gone) into the second medley, which was a bummer. My favorite is a sad song called, “I Believe“, and I figured there was no way they’d ever sing that in concert.
That gives an idea of how far away we were. This is them singing “Meet in the Middle“, their biggest hit.
My best close up of the stage, taken from the Iphone. I took good pictures with my camera, but, of course, I can’t upload them, so there they remain.
The band hasn’t done anything in some time, at least not that we’d heard. The reason? They’ve gone Christian. We had to endure a few Christian ballads and a weird set where they covered 70s rock songs in a bluegrass style. Strange. But, when you’re not being paid, I guess you can do whatever the heck you want, right?
However, despite that, they did sing every song we like. Meet in the Middle, How Your Love Makes Me Feel, I Believe, One More Day, Norma Jean Riley, Beautiful Mess and many others. What is surprising, or not, about Diamond Rio is that they can actually sing. I always liked them in the past because of their beautiful harmonies. In concert, they might be even more amazing. Like my sister said, “They sound exactly like they do on the radio” which was true. These guys can actually sing, which is a pleasure to listen to.
It was the best 4th of July that I’ve had, so far in my life. (Who knows what next year will bring?) It’s pretty hard to top a good concert, fun memories, and, oh yeah, winning a thousand dollars.
When my mom finally believed that I won, she hugged me and said, “Good for you! You really needed it.” And so I did. Sometimes you swerve to the left, fate skips a beat and it scares you to death. Or, maybe, it feels really good.