I was in Normal Rockwell's America tonight, at the Calistoga Firefighters Association Bingo & Raffle fundraiser.
Held in a large exhibition hall at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga, Bingo Night is an annual event that has been going on for 71 years. Hundreds of people show up to play bingo, try their luck at the dozens of raffle prizes, support the fire department, and simply have a good time.
The firefighters are all on hand, verifying bingo winners and distributing raffle prizes - good looking young people in uniform is definitely part of the draw. There is food for sale, ball park fare - hotdogs, hamburgers, nachos, beer. Plus, of course, lots of wine - this is the Napa Valley, after all.
My grandmother Gladys and I joined my four co-workers. My boss unexpectedly treated the six of us for the night, purchasing our bingo cards. That left us free to pool our money into the raffle baskets. My hope was to win at least one prize, since my grandmother is a gamer at heart, and winning makes her very happy. We lucked out, and won a $75 gift certificate to a women's clothng store in Calistoga. That counts for double fun, since it means an afternoon outing sometime in the coming weeks, when I can pick Gladys up in Santa Rosa, and bring her to Calistoga to shop and have lunch. None of us won any bingo prizes, but we certainly had fun trying.
It was a raucous crowd. I'm not sure if it was the wine and beer, or the nature of the evening, but people were laughing and talking loudly, feigning bingo wins, and wadding up their used game sheets and hurling them through the air from table to table. I was bonked on the head twice by flying paper missiles. There were children in the room, but it was the adults who were keeping things stirred up.
But, it was so small town, so Americana, so infectiously fun - who could resist?
I was able to attend the festivities because I managed to find a "babysitter" for Houla and the rest of the gang. It was pretty comical, actually. She was an older woman, who doesn't drive, so I had to pick her up and drive her home. I left her with written instructions on feeding, emergency phone numbers, microwave popcorn and a frozen pizza in the freezer. I felt just like a mom leaving her kids with the sitter! (A new experience for me, since I've never had "human" children.)
And I have no idea how to relate all of this to a Zen concept. Any ideas? (I promise to be more focused tomorrow....)