Put your makeup on
Fix your hair up pretty…
Visiting Atlantic City on New Year’s Eve is a lot like being at a sleazy cathouse in Bangkok except, in “Vegas by the Sea“, the women are cheaper looking and there’s more Asian people running around.
Atlantic City (“The Queen of the Resorts”) has always been the poor man’s Las Vegas. Now, the town is more like the guy who has to clean that pauper’s toilet.
My god, I miss the Catskills.
Admittedly, my lover Simone and I visited off season. There was a ghost town quality on the streets after dark. The casinos were surprisingly full, but it came as an absolute shock. Like a diner parking lot with four cars, yet every booth is packed to the gills with eaters.
There tends to be a hubbub, a mingling of people, a chattering of plans and laments outside the doors of casinos elsewhere. In AC, you could barely tell if the place was open for business. Few lights, no grand entranceways, a lack of confused housewives from Iowa and very little of the external pomp and grandeur that graces other gambling palaces of the world.
Don’t be fooled however, by my geographic vitriol. There is a lot of money changing hands here every minute of the day and night. It is still a place of high stakes, rich cuisine, pricey accommodations and vulgar displays of financial immodesty.
Atlantic City had its beginnings as a resort idea from a local doctor named Jonathan Pitney who united like-minded businessmen to establish a railroad charter from Camden in 1852. Finished in 1854, the $1.2 million project connected the newfound city to the growing number of people in the northeast who desired vacation getaways. The name “Atlantic City” was proposed by Richard Osbourne, a civil engineer from Philadelphia, who designed the town’s layout.
A few AC fun facts:
- The first Boardwalk was opened in 1870.
- The first ever picture postcards (in color) were of Atlantic City, premiering in 1883.
- The boardwalk is over four miles long.
- The “Monopoly” board game took its property names from actual streets in this town.
- The city has over 32 million visitors per year.
- The term “airport” was coined here in 1919 for the city’s flying field.
- Gambling was legalized in the city by a state referendum and the first casino, Resorts International opened in 1978.
- The first Miss America pageant was held here in 1921 and continued through 2005, when it shifted to Las Vegas. The first woman to be crowned was Margaret Gorman.
I ran into Margaret on the boardwalk during one of my morning constitutionals. She’s aged well, still has that twinkle in the eyes and has kept that adorable figure. She was selling salt water taffy and blowjobs at one of the corner shops. I asked her how business was.
Margaret Gorman: It’s slow, Asshole. Whad’ya think? You know anyone who eats salt water taffy anymore? It’s gone the way of ribbon candy. All goddamn chocolate now. Add to that it’s the off season and my fellatio contacts are all out of town. Christ, I’m freezing my fucking tits off over here.
Always the charmer, that Maggie. I flipped a plug nickel her way and sauntered off. She began singing something about Bert Parks and Chlamydia but the quick insertion of my earbuds reduced her to memory. I continued to stroll like an actor down the boards.
I eyeballed the palms at the Tropicana, admired the cut of Trump Casino’s jib, howled with laughter at the decadence of the Caesar’s Palace décor (They had Santa hats on the statues! Oh, the temerity!) and stared puzzled at Bally’s “Wild Wild West” themed casino, wondering what jackass would travel to the shores of Jersey to blow money in a saloon motif.
And there is indeed money here. Lots of it. Despite the town’s sedate mood and lack of bustle.
And that was the interesting juxtaposition for me; having just driven 50 miles east to get here from a little slice of crushing poverty called Camden, New Jersey. The disparity, particularly in these down times, was not only striking, but garish and rude.
I left the second highest rated city of crime and poverty in the United States, where people do not know where their next meal is coming from, for one of the most financially frivolous spots in all of America. In one hour, I went from homeless people stumbling across Main Street in a drug induced stupor, nearly being struck by traffic (wanting to be struck by traffic) for a morsel of food, to people stumbling over themselves to shop at a Liz Claiborne outlet and fighting to claim a seat at the $1 per spin “Wheel of Fortune” slot machine.
I am not about to get on a soap box or a high horse or any other elevated platform for social and economic justice here. I indulged my better capitalist angels quite shamelessly for the better part of three days. The fact that there is no sports book in Atlantic City (particularly during the current NFL playoffs and bowl game time) prevented me from sinking even lower into atavistic hedonism. I am always one to eagerly suck the teat of Lady Luck when football gaming is afoot. But I chose restraint without my game of choice at hand.
In the long run, I played a little Blackjack and draw poker and came out $19 up. Not bad considering I absolutely hate card playing and despise those who are obsessed with it.
I mean, poker tournaments, ON TELEVISION?!
What’s next, “dancing” making a comeback?
We must be in the end times.
And I hope we are. Because my lover Simone has nearly ruined us. Allow me to explain.
I am a man who loves a wager and enjoys the jolly, rosy cheeked capering of a good bet, handsomely played.
Simone is a diseased, degenerate, sick gambling fuck who needs counseling.
With a sports bet, there is a 50% chance that even the dumbest, most ill informed douche bag will win money. A little knowledge raises that significantly to where a reasonably astute gentleman or lady can post a profit simply by consistently picking two out of three games correctly. It’s not easy by any means, but you have a fighting chance. And I need that because I am the most luckless son of a bitch you will ever meet.
In basketball, I have had 15 point underdogs up by 9 with 6 minutes remaining who ended up losing by 22. I lost money on the New England/Oakland “tuck” rule game. I took Clemson in the infamous “Punt-rooskie” fiasco with FSU.
In the assassination of Ronald Reagan… I had Hinkley and the points.
So, when Simone sits down in front of a goddamn slot machine (her ridiculous fetish) to give the family fortune away, you can bet (heh) that I watch incredulously. Her ploy is to get up big early, thus reducing me to an “I told you so” jag off. I watch as her inexplicable luck blossoms like Ringo Starr’s. She’s downright whimsical as she tugs on the bandit. Multiple losing spins only harden her resolve and produce further cackles of good time revelry. She becomes drunk on her luck- and twelve Remy Martins.
Then, oh dear people, then the losing streak hits. She begins shuffling from machine to machine. She sporadically changes the amount of the bet without rhyme or reason. She chooses different denominations of machines, playing quarter slots here, nickels there, multiple betting on them, off and on, without the sense god gave a savvy, gambling dog who really knows their stuff.
This is when I kvetch. When she views the former winnings as mad money. I tell her that she can, actually, leave with the cash she’s won. It’s not a zero sum game here with the house. You don’t owe them anything for winning early. It is not a price of admission for the pops, bells and whistles funland that she seems to view it as.
I get angrier. I have had much drink at this point and my usual sense of Buddhist tolerance left around the time I switched from Blue Moons with an orange to extra filthy Grey Goose martinis. I am so angry, in fact, and acting like the biggest tool in the universe that I fear I am actually becoming Henry Rollins.
Simone gives me the speech she always does. That it’s the experience, not the money, that is truly rewarding. And I agree, to avoid punching her in the jaw and having her disproportionately reciprocate by cutting off one of my prized testicles in my sleep.
Love. Go figure.
Highlights of New Year’s Eve in the Big AC! Stay tuned.