During the summer, Marissa was invited down to Atlantic City for our friend’s bachelorette party. With child inside, she didn’t feel that is was best to partake in all of the late-night festivities (evidence A of good mothering), nor did she think that any of the other girls would want to score her as a bedmate (evidence A of good social awareness skills). (I should mention here that there is a lot of pressure to sleep next to a pregnant girl. One night, after coming back from a bourbon event, I had rolled in my sleep and more or less kneed our baby-to-be. It’s hard to sleep when your riddled with guilt.)
But Marissa did not want to miss her friend’s party. So being the _______ husband that I am, (feel free to fill in this blank with an adjective of your choice down in the comment section, as I don’t want to seem too ________), I drove her down for this day of sober debauchery. The question was, however, what would I do with one day in Atlantic City? The only people that visit a place like AC are gamblers, members of a bachelor/bachelorette party, locals with nothing better to do, and those who find joy in tourist traps.
So I packed my car as if forced to entertain a child for the day, stuffing it with surf gear, literature, and a beach chair, and sat in traffic with Marissa.
One Day in Atlantic City
After dropping Marissa off at the casino, I began my long afternoon with a surf, which happened to be the first time I–a New York surfer who had surfed most of the States with waves–had ever attempted to catch swell in New Jersey. The waves were unimpressive, as most summer waves are along the East Coast, but I did have a great time watching about fifty members of a local church baptize one another in the Atlantic. (These days, I seem to be running into many religious ceremonies at the ocean.)
If you’re a fan of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, you’ll inevitably reference or think of the show while down in Atlantic City. Watching the mass ablution reminded me of the scene when deranged Prohibition officer Van Alden drowns his partner during an ostensible baptism. I wasn’t the only one thinking about the show. When I walked the boardwalk that evening, four guys were in a heated debate. They took their question to the pushcart men who line the strip like tuk tuk drivers in Cambodia. “Do you think it was acceptable when they killed off Jimmy Dougherty?” The pushcart drivers shrugged and instead waited for tourists to hire them for a five-block-for-five-dollar ride. (For that price, you could rent a tuk tuk for half a day in Cambodia.)
As I waked Atlantic City in search of a restaurant not affiliated with any of the hotels, casinos, or chains that littered the boardwalk, I had the joy of overhearing a multitude of inane conversations and witnessed some very bizarre and ironic happenings.
I saw a seagull dive bomb for a stray French fry on the Johnny Rockets’ patio, but instead of nabbing the fry, the bird smashed right into a silver pole. (I had seen birds fly into transparent windows before, but never straight into metal poles.) I overheard the most accurate pitch for a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not attraction: “You walk around and it shows you nasty things that happened to people.” I stood to the side and watched dozens, yes dozens, of Indian families line up to take pictures before the Taj Mahal. (In case you’re not familiar, this is the casino/hotel that stole the name of the famous mausoleum in India, though, I’d venture to guess, people are slowly dying inside Trump’s Taj Mahal as they lose most of their income.)
I walked from one end of Atlantic City to the other before stumbling upon a restaurant that looked like it had promise: Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern, which nearly reached back to the Nucky Thompson era, opening up shop in 1935 and overseeing most of the atrocious evolution that has become modern day AC. I figured that any place that had withstood the test of time in this town, would be dishing up some incredible food.
While the seafood and pasta components to my dish were tasty, the fra diavolo sauce was about as thin and bland as water. Plus I had one of those annoying waitresses who repeat their rehearsed, trite greeting to every table in the room–Hi folks, my name’s Gwen and I’ll be taking care of you this evening. How about I start you off with something to drink?–and you’re forced to listen to it every single time.
My walk back to retrieve Marissa was less humorous. In fact, it was the opposite of funny. Hundreds of people had circled around two ambulances parked on the boardwalk. I don’t know what happened exactly, but I imagined a drowning. To make matters worse, one ambulance driver couldn’t handle going in reverse with the crowd behind her and they actually had to switch drivers. The crowd circled like hungry barracudas eating up tragedy that they were probably posting to Instagram or Facebook. Or worse, they floated the boardwalk like indifferent jellyfish, brainlessly drifting in front of the exit ramp, preventing the ambulance from rushing away.
“Chill. Chill,” one lady shouted at the ambulance driver who had had the nerve to suggest that she move from the ramp so that the victim in the vehicle could be rushed to the hospital and potentially saved. The fat pedestrian added, “Jeez.”
Before heading home, where drunk drivers nearly ran us off the road and where we were forced to politely decline invitations to drag race, I waited for Marissa in the casino. The men’s room on the casino floor, which was lined with four stalls, had the longest line I had ever seen for men expecting bowel movements. In fact, I had only ever seen a line for a men’s room before a marathon race, which makes a pretty interesting statement about gambling and addicts, I guess.
The best part of my one day in Atlantic City was receiving a phallically-shaped cookie from the bride-to-be. Thanks R.
Have you ever been to a terrible place where you were forced to kill a few hours?
Photo by Moment Captured