Filet Oscar, Cochiti and Champagne

I spent this last weekend at a cabin near Cripple Creek, Colorado, about an hour west of Colorado Springs. In the Central City/Blackhawk tradition, it’s a mining town that has been converted to a gambling one (albeit with all-too-few table games). This in and of itself is unremarkable. We were expecting a relaxing good time.

Saturday evening, we decided to head into town for dinner. My diabetic son had had a snack earlier, so we weren’t in any particular hurry to decide on which place to go, but I was under the impression we were going to go into the closer town of Florissant to get a cheap burger and a beer. I was wrong.

We instead went into Cripple Creek, found a place to park, and we proceeded to follow our hosts and fellow cabin-dwellers down the main street, through a Starbucks, down 2 flights of stairs, and into a restaurant by the name of Winfields. Two of the women we were with were quite a bit ahead of us, and by the time I reaached the bottom of the stairs, they were speaking with an older gentleman in a baseball cap with long gray hair spilling out beneath it. It was my understanding that we had been invited to dine with him and his group of 3, as they’d had a good night at the tables or slots and he felt like sharing it.

We politely declined, and I took the kids to check out the fishtank.

A few minutes later, we were sat at our table and I realized it wasn’t far from our new friends from the bottom of the stairs. Some polite words were exchanged, but I really wasn’t paying attention, what with figuring out who was sitting where, whether the kids should next to eachother, etc.

We ordered drinks, appetizers and dinner. It is at this point that I should mention that this restaurant was relatively pricey, ranging from $15 for chicken dishes with pasta to $33 for Filet Oscar. I said fuck it, I’d lose this money gambling anyway, bring me the $33 dish. My wife figured the same and ordered the Lamb Chops. Between the salad course and the entrees, one of our waitresses started placing champagne flutes in front of every adult’s place setting. We looked up, confused, and asked about why we were getting these.

“They’ve ordered you a bottle of champagne,” the waitress responds, with a slight smile and nod in the direction of our apparently new-found friends.

We were flattered, of course, and tried to decline. No dice. The husband of one of my mother’s friends decided that since we were being treated so well, that we’d return the favor and instead of a simple thank-you, we should toast him and his group for “new friends and good neighbors.” Not the kind of thing I’d normally do on my own, but I’ve only had complimentary champagne once in my life, and that was by the hotel on my wedding night when we both were under-age. I have very little experience in toasting people.

So we all stood up, walked the short distance to our benefactor’s table, and toasted them for their generosity and kindness.

“The world needs more people like you,” he said. “People need to show eachother more hospitality. This is going to make me cry,” he said.

We then exchanged some glass clinks and kind words, and returned to our table and meal. The rest of dinner was pleasant and delicious. When the checks arrived, I was a little perturbed at our portion of the check, some $120 worth. No big deal, again, I would have lost it at the tables anyway.

As I reached into my wife’s purse for our cash, the bill mysteriously disappeared from my hands. I looked up, astonished. “He’s got it. It’s taken care of,” the waitress said.


“He has many points and comps from the casino upstairs, and he’s taking care of your bill for you.” All 6 of us were floored. What? Someone taking care of our meal? Easily a $200 bill? Sure enough, we didn’t pay a dime toward our food, only toward the tip. I asked to buy them a round of drinks. “It wouldn’t matter, he’d only get them comped anyway,” was the response.

We thanked him profusely, and starting getting engaged with a recently-arrived member of their party, a man clearly Native American and clearly very proud of his culture, sporting 2 long braids and strong Native American facial features. Upon learning that a few of the people in our group work at a school named “Cherokee Trail” in Denver, he opened up to us that he’d worked at Denver’s East High School in Native American studies and as a counselor for the NA kids there. My mother, ever the diplomat, asked him where he was from. “Santa Clara pueblo in New Mexico,” he responded. My mom replied “My sister’s husband is from Cochiti.” Which happens to be a few miles from Santa Clara. And he’s got an aunt in Cochiti. We’ve probably attended a ceremony with her.

Suffice it say, we had a long conversation and a wonderful evening. Sometimes when you’re too tired to be nice to people you don’t know, maybe it’s best to be nice anyway. You never know what might happen.