Mid-Life Crisis Trip
Entry 25.1: Robert in Indian Country (Part 1)
Robert wrote a few special editions while he's working an ATNI conference.
Sun, Sep 10, 2006
In our ritzy room contest, we seem to already have a winner, and Laura hasn't even checked into her room, yet!
Robert's group, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) is having one of its three times annually conferences (thirderly conferences?) at Lincoln City on the Oregon coast. And when we say "coast," we don't mean "looky over yonder, you can sorta see the ocean a way off." We mean, "before you walk out the door, you better check the tide tables."
The hotel the ATNI (not, for a change, you taxpayers) is graciously paying for is RIGHT ON the beach, and Robert's room is on the third floor with a commanding view of the beach and the ocean. There're rocks just offshore and you can watch the waves break over them.
Plus, his room has got a mini-refrigerator, a mini-microwave, and a full size ironing board.
Lest you think he's totally in the lap of luxury, Robert reports that the coffee is as lousy as it ever is at a hotel.
Robert's first Board Meeting! The ATNI has a board meeting, which turns out to be every bit as exciting as you might think. There's talk of bylaws and clauses and officer elections and all sorts of hoorah. We'd go into more detail but we're not sure that your hearts can stand it.
Two nice things come out of it: the board approves a new office for us (Yay! "My dream of a stapler is closer!" exclaims Robert). Also, they approve a full-time salary for Robert's boss, Dave, which means that he won't be leaving in two months.
Of course, there's enough money to pay him for only six months, so he needs to find more funding if he wants to keep working past next February.
Robert's main purpose for being here is to attend various meetings and try to figure out what's going on in Indian Country. His stated purpose is to run the Internet Cafe, which mostly runs itself. Once it's set up.
Because it needs to be running bright and early tomorrow morning, Robert (who is never bright and early) decides the smart move is to set it up on Sunday night. This has the additional advantage that Laura will be here to help.
We unload the four computers, monitors and cables from the back of the PT Cruiser (which they pretty much fill) and put them on a cart and Robert heads up the back way and into the bowels of the convention center part of the casino.
The casino is mostly slot machines. We don't know if you've been in a casino lately (like, the last 10 years), but slot machines have undergone a transformation in that time. They're more video game than slot machine these days. There's no arm to pull—you poke at the screen—and they beep rather than clang.
They are also totally run by computer chips, which sends a shiver down Robert's spine. The idea of giving money to a computer and trusting that it will fairly decide if it should give you a lot more money back seems like wishing on a star to Robert. "I'd do it, if I could inspect the source code," he says.
The other thing we notice is the difference between the casino ads and the reality. In the casino ads (such as billboards and magazine ads), there's always glamorous, well-dressed people cheerfully "gaming" (throwing away their money). But gosh, they're having fun and they look good.
In reality, casinos are full of poorly-dressed unglamorous people with grim looks on their faces. We've seen people standing in breadlines who looked happier than these folks.
The room we need to get into to set up the Internet Cafe is locked. We're free to roam the deserted corridors of the convention center—past all the food preparation stuff and coffee carafes and expensive kitchen equipment—but we can't get into a room full of tables and chairs.
While Robert is off doing some damn thing or another (actually heading down to the security office to try and find somebody who's on duty), Laura sweet talks a roaming guard into letting her in the room. All their security must be focused on the casino part...
Whew! We finally have all four computers set up and connected to the Internet, and everything works first time we power it up (Thank You, Jesus!). There's sort of a rat's nest of cables and power cords, but they won't let us drill a hole in the center of the table, so as long as you don't look BEHIND the computers, it looks very elegant. We call it good and head to the casino restaurant to see what their chow is like. Surprisingly, it's pretty good (order the seafood—hard to go wrong when it's yards to the ocean) and while not dirt cheap, it's still pretty inexpensive.
Robert heads back to his glamorous, ocean-view room while Laura heads back to the car for the one-hour drive back home (she has to go to work tomorrow, while Robert wanders around playing Indians and Indians).