The writer gives a tour of his favorite local establishments.

Six places.

1. I do not gamble much. I have addictive tendencies, so I try to keep my vices to a minimum. A little Keno if I happen to be in a Roosters with some cash on me is about all I manage anymore. If I opt to pick up a baker’s dozen from the family owned dough-slinging shop on my way to work, I have to do different math. I can play Keno at 7 in the morning while waiting on a sausage and cheese sandwich, reminiscing with sleepless customers about the old album covers plastered over all the walls. You can’t even find a place like that on campus anymore, where records used to roam free. On this side of town, it isn’t an aesthetic wrought from playful irony. It is a proper shrine, and its gods are still real to us.

2. A woman celebrating her birthday with dollars pinned to her shirt walked into the neighborhood carry-out, an investment matched by patrons of the store, random dollar bills given in celebration. It is easy to think such a ritual might be a hustle, but that’s not how these places work. You don’t run game in the carry-out. The parking lot, yes. The alley behind, perhaps. But inside? No. You need too much of what it offers too often. We celebrated her birthday earnestly for a weekday morning, between the lotto ticket bank and the candy rack, wishing a better day for her into existence. This is a place where paying it forward beyond the always empty penny cup is viewed with great suspicion. By contrast, this custom is understood to be safe and true.

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