At 8:30, as the Aquasino gambling boat leaves the Miami Beach coastline, the high stakes gambling room begins to fill out. Seated at the bar next to me is Josephine Lane; “Josie,” according to her thin gold necklace.
I have already burned through my drink ticket, which got me a rum and coke. Josie wasn’t drinking. She just sat, with her big plastic purse, smiling on a bar stool. She thinks that the Aquasino is just beautiful – she remembers it when it ws the Atlantic and the Majesty.
They cleaned the boat up real nice. “I like the atmosphere, the food, the people,” she said, pulling tight the collars of her white sweater. The temperature on the Casino floor seemed to be set at about 65 degrees.
Josie has been riding the Aquasino since it opened in August.
She is so happy to be back after being laid up in bed for about two months. Her face is pale and kind. Her thin eyebrows jump with excitement beneath a wall of wavy white hair that juts up from her forehead. She glared at my notepad through gray plastic framed bifocals.
Josie grew up in Baltimore but moved to “the county” when “mother’s health failed.”
She married a Navy man who moved her all over Virginia. “I raised seven kids,” she said with a smile. “Five boys and two girls; how do you like that?”
She doesn’t know what they’re doing. She assumes they all got married and live somewhere up in Virginia. “I have no reason to go back,” she says.
She came down to Florida to live with her sister about 30 years ago. It was all bugs – “cockaroaches as big as you are,” she said. But she got used to it.
She and her husband used to go to all the wrestlin’ matches. “Rick Flair, Hulk Hogan and whatever,” she said. That’s all they used to do. Josie liked the wrastlin’ matches.
About two years ago, her husband died. She doesn’t remember exactly how or where, but she started playing slot machines.
Josephine leans forward, cups her hand over her mouth and purses her lips out into a cone of a whisper. “I wish I’d never found ‘em,” she says. “I think I’m addicted.”
She doesn’t play anything else. “I don’t know how and it’s too expensive.”
She’s right. Behind her two tables worth of Chinese businessmen finger red chips that represent their fortunes. They smoke cigarettes and speak hard and fast to one another, bodies straining forward, arms cocked out as if about to swat their listeners. Every five minutes or so, one wins big and the room booms with a loud communal cheer.
A Latin boyfriend and girlfriend sit at a $25 limit black jack table. He is dressed still in his green Papa John’s shirt. She wears jeans and a black hoodie and says nothing as he places $25 at a time into the little white circle on the green felt table.
Josie brightened suddenly. “You know what I really love?” she asked with a neat smile. “Bowling” she said with a pump of her fist. “I love bowling.”
Josie recently joined a women’s winter league. Her average is 115. “But that’s alright,” she added proudly. “Because I usually go over.” In May, her league will hold a banquet on the Aquasino. “I’m 78 now,” Josie says. “God I hope I live to see that banquet.”
And with that, she picked up her plastic purse and charged off into the slots room. But, before she went, she said this: “That’s the whole thing, in a nutshell.” --Calvin Godfrey