Month: June, 2007

Ka-ching!

Sunday, June 17th, 2007 | All Things, Family

On this brilliantly sunny Sunday, we piled into the car for a road trip to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Mohegan Sun

Mohegan Sun

I remember when going to a casino was an experience punctuated by the cacophany of quarters cascading against steel bins. All that’s changed, though; as of May 1, 2007, all of Mohegan Sun’s 6,000 slot machines became coin-free, joining the ranks of those along the Las Vegas strip and Atlantic City’s boardwalk. Instead of coins or tokens, the casino now employs so-called “Ticket In/Ticket Out” (TITO) technology; payouts are made via bar-code printed vouchers, which can be inserted and scanned into any machine for gaming credits (just like paper currency), or redeemed for cash at redemption kiosks or cashier booths.

The shift to electronic ticketing allowed Mohegan Sun to trim 20% of its attendant and cashier staff and to clear up valuable floor space previously occupied by the bulky coin-redemption booths. In their place, the casino plans to set up new lounges designed by the ubiquitous Rockwell Group.

Certainly, it’s a quicker and more convenient system for the players, who no longer have to bother with heavy, dirty coins, or to wait for slot machines to be refilled or emptied. I have to believe, though, that visitors tend to gamble more money this way: once the bill ($10 minimum here, as we discovered) gets sucked out of sight, it’s very easy to forget you’re playing with real money. And players are far more likely to gamble away any remaining credits than to bother redeeming their tickets for a few dollars. Not to mention that the tickets, which are as good as cash inside the casino, can be lost or simply forgotten and unredeemed.

For those who feel nostalgic for the festive clink-clink-clinking, I was amused to note that Mohegan Sun’s slot machines will simulate the telltale payout sounds when printing the electronic tickets. I still miss those logo-emblazoned plastic buckets, grubby as they were, in which in visits past, I used to haul home weeks and weeks worth of laundry money.

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Over the East River

Saturday, June 16th, 2007 | All Things, Friends

Queens to Manhattan:

59th Street Bridge

Manhattan to Brooklyn…

It was the night of MC’s 30th birthday festivities, so I headed into Williamsburg for the second time in a month. The original plan was to meet SYB at the L transfer point for pre-party cubanos and batidas. Sucelt Coffee Shop, the hole-in-the-wall at 14th Street and Seventh Avenue, is revered for some of “The Best Winter Food in New York,” but this was summer (or close enough) and by the time we emerged from the subway station, the shop was closed. We couldn’t think of a fast and decent alternative nearby, so instead pressed onward into Brooklyn, hoping to grab something to eat there before the main event.

After trudging several fruitless blocks along Bedford, we ended up at Vinnie’s Pizza di Teggino, which we learned later that night was under new ownership, with some new menu items added to cater to the neighborhood clientele.

Vinnie’s Pizzeria

I wasn’t too hungry, so SYB ordered a couple of specialty slices for himself and an Italian ice for me, reminding me that ’tis the season for the Lemon Ice King of Corona. (Soon, soon.)

He was about halfway through his second slice when I noticed one of the young owners cautiously approaching our table. “Hey, guys…? Uh, I don’t know if anyone told you… and if they didn’t, they really should have…”

We had no idea where this revelation was going, but it was not a comforting start. Fearing the worst, we put down our food.

“…but uh… well, that’s vegan  pizza you’re eating.”

Oh. (…and whew!) Strangely, the guy seemed to be anticipating some kind of freak-out reaction to the news — maybe a dramatic spit take, a throwing back of chairs and wild shouts of “Soy?! We can’t eat no %$#@ soy!” — but we assured him that all was well. Certainly the reverse situation could be upsetting (i.e., serving sausage pizza to a vegan), but although we love it, meat isn’t actually required eating at our every meal, so we weren’t all that upset. Or rather: at all. I was more surprised that SYB hadn’t clued in to the faux-cheese/faux-meat before that point, so it must have been pretty good pizza, even without all the artery-clogging animal products.

Vinnie’s vegan pizza

On to the Soft Spot and its pretty back garden, where I kicked back with a (Coors) Blue Moon, sans orange wedge this time, compliments of the birthday girl. There were mylar balloons and pastel-iced cupcakes, and later still, some “Fake Plastic Trees.” The halfie photo book I brought in for JL turned out to be a successful conversation piece in this target-rich environment, though I ended up cutting out of the festivities before I could deliver it to her in person… just in time to catch the L back to Manhattan.

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Issue Project Room

Friday, June 15th, 2007 | All Things, Music

Instead of the McEwan film, I hopped the G from Greenpoint Avenue to Carroll Street. In my decades of riding the subway, this was farthest I’d ever ridden on the G, which is the only line in the system that does not enter Manhattan. We emerged in front of the Gowanus Yacht Club, and as we made our way towards the waterfront, picture-perfect brownstones along familiar-looking streets gave way to warehouses, until at last we reached our destination: the non-profit Issue Project Room.

The performance tonight was a last hurrah of sorts for this entirely distinctive performance space off the Carroll Street Bridge; the IPR, which since June 2005 has been devoted to innovative projects and multidisciplinary, experimental art and cultural events, will be closing on June 30 due to landlord issues and a pending shutdown of the canal for cleanup. We entered in through an imposing black metal gate, hung with a wooden arts-and-crafts style sign and entered a field of gravel, grass, weeds and trees alongside the brown-green waters of the Gowanus Canal.

Gowanus Canal

The performance space itself is a two-story converted oil silo; another adjacent silo houses artists studios. We entered the ground floor bar, past the large metal dumpster, where IPR volunteers were pumping out plastic cups of Brooklyn’s finest beer from a keg. No, we were informed emphatically: not Brooklyn Brewery, but Six Point Craft Ales – “We are 100% Brooklyn!”

It was still a bit early for the show, so we joined the others (including Reuters alum TN) in the waning sun.

Issue Project Room

Issue Project Room

Issue Project Room

Showtime: we climbed up an exterior metal staircase to reach a bare circular space, dotted overhead with the most unique sound set-up I’d ever seen. The 16-channel hemispherical speaker system is the brainchild of artist/composer Stephan Moore and tonight it served as the ultimate showcase for IPR’s final series: “Points in a Circle.”

Performing tonight were Ikue Mori (best known as drummer and founder of early 80s no-wave group DNA) and composer/performer Keith Fullerton Whitman (whom I knew under the moniker Hrvåtski from the first mix tape B ever made me.)

Over the next hour and a half, the ceiling-suspended speakers sent waves of familiar and unfamiliar electronic sounds bouncing and radiating through the room. About a hundred people sat immobile in the dimmed space, eyes closed, reveling in the aural experience.

Gowanus Canal

Issue Project Room

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