Saturday, November 21, 2009

Biloxi is noticeably different

Even 4+ years after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, abundant evidence of her fury may be found across the region.

Today marked the first time yours truly had returned to this little corner of heaven since the storm.

Frankly, it was shocking.

On the drive down US90, where so many beautiful old homes once stood sentinel over Biloxi Beach, only a few new facsimiles and far too many ghostly foundations remained.

I was told that all the casinos had pretty much been rebuilt. But, I can tell you that Treasure Bay (where yours truly will be spending the night) is nothing like it was before.

They used to have this really cool pirate ship permanently moored in the gulf waters. Of course, that's gone. In the mean time, they've moved all their gaming into the first two floors of their old hotel on the other side of 90. And, they've pretty much ditched the whole pirate theme, which begs the question why they even bother still calling themselves Treasure Bay. Replacing the former kitsch is a bunch of colorful art glass, like the chandelier pictured here. (Apologies for the image quality in advance, took 4 shots and believe it or not this was the best one!)

One of the first things I noticed in walking through the casino is that they have covered up all the slots where passive wagerers like myself used to drop quarters on their way to and fro. Kinda funny when you think about it, slot machines with no slots. But, I guess they are now catering to the more active gamblers who will perch themselves in front of the machines for hours on end. They don't want to be bothered with feeding coins into slots or collecting them as occasional winnings. Instead, they simply feed greenbacks and bar-coded vouchers into the one-armed bandits.

Oh, wait, you probably shouldn't call them "one-armed bandits" anymore. While most of the machines do have a little lever on the side that you would expect on a slot machine, everyone I observed was simply mashing the plastic buttons on the front. The traditional method requires too much effort and, I suppose, will eventually go the way of the coins.

I will say this about Treasure Bay: they have a great buffet. Tonight it featured Dungeness crab. And, we were lucky to have a wonderful waitress named Ok Sun who not only taught us her shell-cracking techniques but also filled our plates in the process.

Beyond recommending the buffet, I would caution any of ye socks planning to stay at the Treasure Bay hotel on two points. First, request a room above the 4th floor, or your only view will be of the maintenance decks. Second, bring your own blanket, as the comforters weigh approximately fifty pounds and the unwitting slumberer could potentially break an arm just rolling-over.

More tomorrow on the changes in Biloxi as this mini-vacation continues.

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