Indiana Daily Student

The Last Break

Chapter 8: Population 6,790

There were two things in Carruthersville, Mo.\nThe casino and us. After about 30 seconds it was clear that neither belonged.\n"That's all there is," Stacey said, who navigated the trip.\nWe were all looking for some place to stop, eat and watch the IU basketball game on television. "There's got to be something there," Dave said, acting as Stacey's second-in-command.\nAs soon as we got off the highway, we should have known better. It was nine miles to Carruthersville. This was already out of the way.\n"Can we just get back on the highway?" Luke asked, ready to end the car ride as quickly as possible. Though we told the first car our hunger and eagerness to watch Hoosier basketball could wait, they kept going toward Carruthersville.\nOn the trip south on Interstate 64 we had seen all sorts of signs promoting this small town. They were all for the Casino Aztar, but surely there was some urban sprawl built around it.\nThere was, but not quite what we had in mind.\nAs we entered the town I was on the cell phone with Amy and through the garbled lines in southern Missouri you could hear all eight people laughing (especially Jamie. Her laugh is impossible to miss).\nYes, we were in the Birthplace of Bedrock passing the strangest row of bars we'd ever seen. I was so shaken with laughter I couldn't even write down their names, but they were something like Joe's Bar, and Happy Day Bar. There might have been six lined up on the border of the town in little stucco huts with mosquito-tinted doors and something-stained exteriors. We weren't sure where we were, but the IU game seemed secondary at this point.\n"Let's just turn around," Luke said again.\nBut we had already gone eight miles and the casino was just through town. Carruthersville was totally empty, not a soul in sight, until we hit the casino. Casino Aztar sits on the edge of town up a slight ramp bordered by American flags and welcoming signs. It's America in the middle of, well, America. They were welcoming Pat Boone that week. \nLuke, Jarrett and Toby didn't even want to be welcomed at all. They were perfectly happy to stay in the car.\nOnce convinced, the eight spring breakers sat in an empty bar in the casino's what-would-be-lobby. They had eight TVs mounted along the wall, all playing basketball, none playing IU.\nThey couldn't get the game. And they didn't serve food.\nTen minutes later, we'd left the bedrock and dilapidation and eeriness of an out-of-place riverboat casino in the dust.\n"That was bizarre," Toby said.\nYes, but we had weirder things to see.

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