Face
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Face
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August 23rd, 2013 at 8:01:10 AM permalink
Day 1

I had the opportunity to attend some NIGC training with the Mohawks this week, and not one to pass up training OR a road trip, I shoved my way onto the list and set off Monday. As I shun maps and GPS, I pointed my truck north and east and just went, flying blind on what should’ve been a 6.5 hour trip. Exactly 6 hours later to the minute, I arrived at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino.

The Akwesasne Mohawk Casino is located in the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne at the northernmost part of NYS, right on State Rt 37. The Nation is so north, in fact, it actually covers parts of both Ontario and Quebec, Canada. One state, 2 provinces, and three different countries; I can only imagine the difficulties that must arise from time to time. Imagine needing a passport just to walk to the other side of town! And from what I’ve heard, there has been no shortage of conflict, which always seems to arise when talking Nation/State affairs.

The area up there is simply gorgeous. Far, far outside of town, it’s nothing but vast fields of farmland. I felt at home on the way up, just thousands of acres of pastures and corn, marked by a large farm every mile or so. I remember having the thought that if my aging truck decided to give up the ghost, I wouldn’t have even been mad. I might have even ditched it and just started my new life up there. It was a place I’d be happy to live and die in.

Inside of town was even better. The St. Lawrence River area is just breathtaking. Everywhere there’s an island to stop at, a bay to canoe in, backwater flats to flip a plug in, sports arenas to slap a puck in, hell, there’s even Mohawk International Raceway for some good ol’ dirt track action. If heaven exists, I’m pretty sure it’d look very similar =)

I arrived to a relatively small, new casino that just sort of appears on the edge of town. If I had to describe it, I think I’d use the word “quaint”. It was clean, peaceful, well done. The parking lot was easily manageable and sufficient for the traffic, finding a spot wasn’t a hassle, and you were greeted with clean, crisp landscaping. A large, handmade, stainless steel eagle was the centerpiece of the décor, its 8’ span of hammered and welded strips casting shadow and shine upon the garden. Impressed with the outside, I headed in to grab a room and see what the inside had in store.



The inside was about what I expected – clean, new, and didn’t suffer from lack of culture. Typical to most well done tribal casinos, cultural symbols were interwoven wherever one looked; three feathers for the Mohawk tribe, representations of the clans, belts of the Haudenosaunee. Check in was a 2 minute breeze, and I walked the long hall to the elevators.

The elevators proved to be the first and by far the most irritating feature I’d experience all trip. Firstly, there were well out of the way of… well, anything, really. Other than the pool or the conference rooms, every game and amenity was at least 50 yards away. I suppose it wasn’t terrible, but as a smoker and one who likes to return to the room often, it was a little aggravating. Their function was the breaking point. They just didn’t seem to be high caliber units. The dinger that signaled floors was static-y and grating, they were clunky and noisy, and slower than a frozen turtle. By the end of the first day, I was already dreading every time I had to use them.

The rooms were a treat and did not leave me wanting. A large flat screen hung over a desk which was flanked by closet space. A large workspace desk was available which housed a small fridge. A safe was inconspicuously located inside the end table, so inconspicuous I didn’t even find it until I was packing up to leave on the last day. The room had one large king sized bed, with large and fluffy pillows. The bathrooms were spotless, featuring a giant, glass enclosed shower that could fit 3 people comfortably ;) If I had to find some downside, I’d go with the smell. As is custom at all casinos, there is scent pumped in seemingly everywhere. While it was pleasant, it didn’t mix with my detergent (or perhaps the smell goes stale) and left my clothes smelling odd. But as one who smells like lithium grease or warm fish for half the week, it was of little concern to me and wasn’t enough to sour me on the room.





With a good 4 hours to kill, I decided to get my bearings and headed to the floor. The casino was set up well. I don’t think “symmetrical” would be technically true, so I’ll just say it had good “feng shui”. It flowed, it worked. Whatever you wanted or needed was never far from where you were. The casino was endcapped by a gigantic bingo hall, which seemed to pull in quite a few patrons. It had a poker room to compliment its Class II section, which always seemed to be full. Announcements were ever present that “Joe’s seat was ready” or the “Last call for Steve at table 2”. A darkly dressed steakhouse behind glass doors was also near this end of the casino, and the food was top notch. And strangely, I noticed a not insignificant amount of the slot banks held signs designating them as a non-smoking area. I didn’t do a breakdown or anything, but I’d put it as at least 30% if not more than 50%. It was a large area. As a result, about the only smoke I noticed was that directly off the cig. There was none of that stale fog to make one’s eyes burn.

At the end of the casino opposite the Class II, a raised bar called Cascades took up most of the area. It was also darkly lit with several large TVs broadcasting music videos. The stone pillars were filled with glass enclosures where great gas fueled tornadoes of fire burned. Not wanting to game or be around my coworkers, I took up a seat in a dark corner next to a fire tornado and got me some good Canadian beer and a touch of whiskey. Somewhere along the way, that touch grew to a full on slap, and some 3 hours later I hoisted myself up and staggered back to my room.



Another plus for the rooms – the floors are comfortable as well.
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EvenBob
EvenBob
Joined: Jul 18, 2010
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August 23rd, 2013 at 8:12:16 AM permalink
For a self admitted jock, you have the best writing style
of anybody on this forum. If I didn't know it was you I
would think this report was written by a professional
writer. Well thought out with lots of depth. Your talents
are wasted in a casino, Face..
"It's not enough to succeed, your friends must fail." Gore Vidal
Face
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Face
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August 23rd, 2013 at 10:41:16 AM permalink
Quote: EvenBob

For a self admitted jock, you have the best writing style
of anybody on this forum. If I didn't know it was you I
would think this report was written by a professional
writer. Well thought out with lots of depth. Your talents
are wasted in a casino, Face..



I am flattered, EB. Very glad you enjoyed it =)

On your last part, I can only hope that my thinking proves true. While I've been told by a few people that I have a talent for writing, or am too smart to be in a casino, or whatever, I like to think that just because I'm not getting paid doesn't mean I'm "wasting" anything. "Compensation" comes in many forms, and often kind words of thanks and enjoyment, such as you've just provided, are better than a paycheck. The $100 I might have gotten writing this as a professional isn't even a week's gas money. Your kind words will last much longer and have much deeper meaning. They have more worth and will take me farther than $100 ever could.

Also, just to put it out there, I've been out of Surveillance since June.
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Face
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Face
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August 23rd, 2013 at 10:51:47 AM permalink
Day 2

I woke at 5:20a, just as I always do whenever I hit the bottle too hard. I suppose it’s one of my quirks, just another part of me that’s ass backwards. A text from a coworker came at 5:30a, and upon getting up, I bounced off the wall, over the corner of my bed, and back to the floor again. So far, so good =)

A cold shower later, I was all cleaned up and fresh as a daisy, suit on and ready for work. It was then I realized I forgot to pack just one thing – my dress shoes. As one who’s always marched to the beat of his own drum, I rocked my Adidas sneaks in full suit, confident I could pull off the Dr. House look. Honestly, I might push to make this a thing. The comfort level was over 9,000 and totally worth the odd look and several comments I had to endure.

While I occasionally share training stuff here, I’ll spare you all this time. It was all Federal regulations that no one would wish to read unless you were getting paid for it, and even then you’d only do so because you had to. Really dry stuff. The only thing some may find interesting was the opening address, given by the Chief of the Mohawk tribe. It was a customary prayer to the Great Spirit whenever large events occur and lasted nearly ten minutes, spoken entirely in fluent Mohawk. As someone who’s followed Wiz’s “Spanish Word of the Day” thread purely for the interest in etymology, I was floored. To hear a lost language that has none of the typical sources or familiarity we’re all used to was very moving, and I’m glad to live in a time when it’s still alive. As a recent death has taken the number of fluent Seneca speakers down to only 3, I suppose I’m more grateful and appreciative than most. We’re right on the cusp of losing these forever, and most people marvel at cultures a world away without even realizing those that are literally at their feet, or care to understand the history of the lands their homes lie upon. It sort of makes me sad and grateful at the same time, I guess.

As is customary for these types of events, vendors were present and of course hosted a soiree on their dime. The location for this was the Brass Horse Grill, a dark and smokey dive joint just down the road from the casino. Still sweating out the night before but not wanting to pass it up, I took a quick power nap and made it there by 6p, ready to be social, network, and take it easy.

“Easy” must be the most maleable word in the English language.

Dinner was a buffet of good, greasy bar food. Hot wings, garlic wings, egg rolls, calzones, and some authentic Mohawk dishes. I also had the opportunity for a once in a lifetime dish – smoked Lake Sturgeon. Sturgeon are a “threatened” species with strict catch and release laws making their harvest all but impossible. However, similar to all other DEC rules and regs, they don’t apply to the various Nations of American Indians, who are free to hunt and fish their ancestral lands outside of American influence. It was a very interesting and meaningful moment as there only 4 people who prepare these fish, and was presented in a respectful and interesting fashion. The meat was very dense, nothing like the typical flaky fish found in most restaurants. It was something you needed a knife to cut and was very rich in flavor, and I was glad to share the experience with my northern cousins.



After three dinner drinks, the phrase “free drinks” completely eclipsed “take it easy” and I was feeling good. The bar was the perfect mix of dirty, dark, local and rough, and I just let go. This place was full of interesting traits. Bingo was played at the bar. Bingo! There was some guy behind the bar pulling numbers, a guy on the mic calling them out, and patrons throughout the joint daubing away. Behind them a dance floor where the drunkards (See also: my coworkers) shook their groove thing whenever a good jam came on. In the way back, large, comfortable leather couches and recliners surrounded a hardwood table outside of a humidor, where one could just walk in and help themselves to all manner of cigars. And, get this, they even had a cigarette vending machine! I haven’t seen one of these since I was about 6 years old, but there it was. It wasn’t the old-school “insert coin and pull lever” type, rather it was a modern, “insert bill and push button” digital version. I didn’t even know they made those things anymore.



Little by little my coworkers thinned out, and soon it was just me, the CEO and Commissioners of the casino, and a Tribal leader left. I spent the time getting to know them and sharing similarities and differences of culture, historical points of significance, and random fish stories with the people of the north. I usually find chatting with big suits to be compulsory, but this was a time that I enjoyed, that I was glad to be at. As I told them, I’ve been to Vegas thrice for similar stuff, and my time at Akwesasne was more fun than all three of them put together. My kind of people, my kind of place. Perhaps that night will pay off if I ever do decide to ditch the Rust Belt for greener pastures…

After we closed the bar out, I returned to the casino for some recon. The games were standard fare, if a little on the light side. They had BJ, Craps, and Roulette of course. I noticed their Roulette ball was what I would consider “gigantic”, roughly the size if not a little bigger than the ball you’d find inside a computer’s mouse. My foggy brain put it at damn near ¾ of an inch. While you may think I was drunk and have no idea, remember, I was drunk. If that little ball caught my attention, it had to be big indeed. They had Let It Ride, Four Card, Mississippi Stud, and a high limit room that appeared to be all BJ. I never made it into high limit nor the other row of games because that meant passing by Cascades, and like a moth to a candle, I was drawn in again.

I finished the night at a broken down bar top game downing more sweet, Canadian beer until some straggling coworkers found me. At that point, I excused myself and for the second time in a row, swayed and staggered my way back down the long hall, up the irritating elevators, and back into my room.

I made into the bed this time. Very comfy =)
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odiousgambit
odiousgambit
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August 23rd, 2013 at 11:10:11 AM permalink
Glad to hear you are having a good time.

I had to look up "NIGC"

>a cigarette vending machine!...I didn’t even know they made those things anymore.

makes sense you don't see them now ... without a need I guess I hadn't noticed!
the next time Dame Fortune toys with your heart, your soul and your wallet, raise your glass and praise her thus: “Thanks for nothing, you cold-hearted, evil, damnable, nefarious, low-life, malicious monster from Hell!” She is, after all, stone deaf. ... Arnold Snyder
Face
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August 23rd, 2013 at 11:22:58 AM permalink
Quote: odiousgambit

Glad to hear you are having a good time.



"Had". I got home yesterday.

Quote: odiousgambit

I had to look up "NIGC"



National Indian Gaming Commission. Now others don't have to use the Google ;)

It's just the Fed's arm in regulating Tribal gaming. Basically, they put out very broad and general guidlines that must be adhered to. The Tribes use them in making their "SICS" (System of Internal Controls) which are then used to make the MICS (Minimal Internal Control Standards) which are then used to make the TICS (Tribal Internal Control Standards) which are then used to make the P&Ps you see on the floor.

It's a process ><

But I have to say, I'm dying laughing, both thankful and regretful that it wasn't an IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) meeting! Google "IGRA" at work at your own peril XD
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tringlomane
tringlomane
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August 23rd, 2013 at 11:42:08 AM permalink
Quote: Face


But I have to say, I'm dying laughing, both thankful and regretful that it wasn't an IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) meeting! Google "IGRA" at work at your own peril XD



I didn't expect that to be the #1 hit, that's for sure. And hell, they are in Chicago (where I currently am) this weekend. Now that's irony!
chickenman
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August 23rd, 2013 at 11:48:44 AM permalink
delete
Face
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August 23rd, 2013 at 11:58:03 AM permalink
Quote: tringlomane

I didn't expect that to be the #1 hit, that's for sure.



I didn't even expect that to be a "thing". I mean, c'mon. Really? XD
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Face
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Face
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August 23rd, 2013 at 12:00:25 PM permalink
Day 3

I woke at about 6a, feeling like a million bucks. It was one of those days you wake up feeling rested and comfortable, and just lie there in supreme content. After an hour or so of reflection, I got up, got showered, and headed in suit and sneaks for the last day of Federal regulations.

The training was as dull and dry as the day before, and finished with a similar 10 minute farewell and thanks prayer to the Great Spirit, by a different Tribal leader this time, again in fluent Mohawk. I was just as amazed as the first time I heard it. Being Native and working for the Seneca Nation for 10 years, I’m obviously familiar with words, phrases, and songs. But to hear minute upon minute of fluent dialog,… it’s just something else entirely. It kind of makes you wonder what things were like, back when the world was small and slow.

After training and my requisite power nap, I met a few coworkers at “Sticks”, the casino’s café and sports bar. Sticks served good food and had interesting décor, I suppose I would compare it to a toned down Applebee’s. Local sports memorabilia decorated the walls, 20some TVs broadcasted baseball and preseason football, and plenty of the space was dedicated to lacrosse, which is big in Native cultures of the northeast. Murals on the walls showed the advance of lacrosse sticks and how they’ve evolved, from bent branches laced with deer gut to the composite creations of today.

After a hearty meal and despite my nap, I was ready for bed. So I headed… to Cascades, of course. I ended up finishing my trip as I had started, curled up alone next to a tornado of fire, drinking Canadian beer and whiskey until my breath was flammable. I do believe all my “hockey training” is paying dividends, as evidenced by my increased my stamina and durability ;)

That pretty much ended my stay with the Akwesasne. I was left with the impression that it’s very much a local’s joint. Plenty of the patrons I saw were obviously Canadian, and many of those were French. Very few of the plates in the lot read other than NY, ONT, or QUE, and those that did were always Maine or Vermont. Personally, it seemed like a place one would go if they were already in the area for something else. If you lived close, if you were in town for fishing the St Lawrence, if you were in the Adirondacks camping or at Lake Placid on vacation, then you of course would stop by. But I wouldn’t call it a “destination” in and of itself. That in no way is meant as a slight, because other than the elevators, I was completely pleased with everything. It’s just… I don’t know. It’s just another casino, I guess. I would certainly pick it over AC or Foxwoods because I prefer the quiet, out of the way places, and there’s more for me at Akwesasne in the form of fishing and outdoors than I would have somewhere else. But if you like the raucous casinos with a vibrant night life, this might not be the place for you.

Side note: Obama mucked the hell out of the traffic on the I-90 on the trip home. I saw 3 miles and counting of newly formed Obama haters stuck in traffic thanks to his UB and UofR visit on Thursday. What a cluster!
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