Saturday, July 11, 2009


Of the various phenomena which, when I dwell on them, confound me--cigarette smoking, tattoos, and keno are high on the list.

The smoking of cigarettes, from as early as I can remember, has been a bewildering habit. They stink. They are expensive. And they kill you. Let me have a pack of Luckies. Tattoos? If you don't like your shirt you can always change it. If you put a button on your hat that reads "I am The Greatest" when you are 20, you might want to take it off when you are 40, or 21. Why would you write something on your body that can not be altered? Is the point that this message is "forever?" Perhaps so, but as we all who have been around the track more than twenty times know, many things which seem like they will be "forever" turn out not to be locks.

Cigarettes and tattoos. I don't get them. However, playing keno may be the most bewildering of the trio. Near my home there is a downtown area with storefronts which offer Chinese food, delicious breakfast fare, and really outstanding shoe repair. There is also a tavern in this section with many television sets for those who enjoy watching a game with a beverage. Adjacent to these four stores is a keno parlor. When it opened, I thought it would close in a month. It has been there for over five years. In there, people sit watching numbers on a screen for hours at a time. As I peek in through the windows, the viewers seem to be nearly always glum--sitting by themselves, sadly watching numbers pop up on a screen. Today is a gorgeous 80 degree day with no humidity in Boston. What possesses anyone to sit inside "playing" keno?

Perhaps these same keno players would find March Madness followers to be confounding. But there is a difference, I think, between spectators watching activity that involves humans and emotion, and the hopeless staring at numbers which surface randomly on a monitor.

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