I'm taking a break this week so I can visit my mother. I wrote this column in 2018, after a similar visit.
BOSSIER CITY, La. -- I don't want to know how my mom gets comp rooms at the Horseshoe Bossier City Hotel for us. Maybe they give them out to cute older ladies as a means of decoration. After all, her friend Paula has a couple too, which is why we're staying on the 15th floor with a view of downtown Bossier and beyond for free. (Mom and Paula are up on the 23rd floor, with a view of Shreveport across the aptly named Red River.)
It's not because my mother gambles enough to be considered a prize for the casino; I've seen her play penny slots and nickel video poker. There aren't enough hours in the day to make her patronage worthwhile to the casino, especially if they're going to prime her action by giving her $40 of free play. Especially since I'm playing under her name, with her player's card plugged in the machine.
This is how I know I'm not a degenerate with a gambling problem who needs to call the 1-800 number prominently featured on posters all over the casino. Because I'm getting really bored. I'm contemplating upping my bets so I can lose the free money faster, get up to the room, and have a little dessert and pinot noir.
I've got to play off the whole $40 before I can cash out. That's what Paula says. I don't understand this (like I don't understand why two pair, aces and kings, isn't a good enough hand to at least break even) so I keep tapping buttons. Karen wants me to hold three cards and try to make an inside straight.
Dang, we hit it. That's 20 more cents (I mean credits) we have to burn off.
Meanwhile Mom goes off in search of her just-turned-21-year-old granddaughter and her 27-year-old boyfriend who is named Travis or Kyle or Taylor or Tyler and looks like the photo they used to slip behind the plasticine windows in the genuine split-cowhide wallets at JCPenney. Mom likes Kyler even though he once told her granddaughter he didn't think women should come to the managers' meetings at the car dealership where they both work.
. . .
Mom looks great. At 80, she has enough energy to hang out with Paula in the casino until 12:30 a.m. When they try to hit the coffee shop on the way back up to their room they find it closed. (Good thing Paula got that cheesecake-dipped apple from Chocolate Crocodile next door on the Louisiana Boardwalk earlier today.)
Mom was going to borrow her daughter's car and drive up to Shreveport from Chauvin--a six-hour, 53-minute drive according to the Internet, a little over five hours according to Mom--the Wednesday after Christmas. But other voices insisted, so her son-in-law ferried her to Alexandria, where Paula picked her up and drove her to Bossier City by way of Natchitoches, where they had greasy meat pies that spoiled their appetite for lunch though they were perfectly willing to sit with us while we drank coffee and ate cookies that Mom insisted on buying us.
And there we caught up on the past few months, because Mom will tell you things face to face that she will never tell you over the phone--like the incident with her sister who took a little too much medicine and wound up calling the police on Mom when they all had to evacuate Savannah earlier this year because they thought a killer hurricane was coming. (No one was booked and fingerprinted, though part of me would like to have that mug shot for Instagram.)
Mom on the phone: "It was fine and there was no damage when we got home."
And about the cruise she took a few weeks later with Paula and Mom's other sister and her granddaughter, and how they all had shirts made that had their fellow passengers wondering if they weren't in some exclusive club. (Or, I want to say and don't, because I'm a good son, a cult.)
And about the free shots they pass out at Senor Frog that have practically no alcohol at all. And about how her granddaughter thought the woman was offering to braid her whole head for $10, not $10 a row.
Mom on the phone: "I think everybody had a good time."
And about their encounter--this time it was Mom and the granddaughter and the son-in-law and the daughter--with the Naked Cowboy in New York's Times Square. Like I said, there are things I don't want to know.
It's good to see her even if we can't keep up, and it's good that she has a running buddy like Paula who has her back. Even if Paula does think you can eat faster if you sit at a high table because the food is that much closer to your face. (Maybe she's right, because science. Paula is a respiratory therapist.)
Mom and Paula have been friends for years, since way back before Mom's husband Jesse died and Paula's husband Harry retired and started listening to that preacher on the radio who convinced him that the rapture was imminent. Paula was married to Harry for 40 years, but she only put up with him for a couple more of them after Harry adopted the eschatological position that he needed to start preparing to be bodily taken into heaven.
She cut him loose, which was a shame, but he wasn't the same person who used to be so much fun.
Once Harry drove nonstop from Shreveport to Savannah to show up at Mom's house and demand that Jesse ride with him out to Tybee Beach so he could film Harry's ascension into heaven. And Jesse, being as he was, went out to the beach with him, video camera in hand, no doubt thinking it was mighty presumptuous of Harry to assume that Jesse was going to be left behind to post the video on YouTube (as though he could ever figure that out) while Harry was up there in the sweet hereafter, gloating on the non-believers who were going to have to negotiate the tribulation.
Mom's back in Louisiana for two weeks. While I'm not the sort of person who thinks a grown man should let his mother buy him two pairs of pants, I needed some new trousers and she wouldn't let us pay for anything, except for breakfast on the day we were driving home, but when we got to the restaurant Paula's boyfriend Gerald was there, lying in wait with his wallet.
And telling us more stories about Paula. Like about how she was surprised to learn there was a lake near Lake Tahoe.
On top of that, the waitress brought Mom and Karen bacon they didn't order, and said they could keep it if they wanted, otherwise the Louisiana civil code would compel her to scrape it in the garbage. So we took that home too. The dogs will be delighted.
If I ever get both Mom and Paula up to these precincts, rest assured I'll alert the authorities so they can sound the warning sirens.