Wednesday, January 5


A carefully edited collection of highlights from New Year’s weekend in Atlantic City:

After 300 miles of interstate, the George Washington Bridge and NYC appear through the trees from the Palisades Parkway before a tangle of concrete canyons and sharp merges lead to the Turnpike . . . Brad, Ray and I exit Newark Airport underneath the steam covered red neon eye of the Budweiser Factory (New Jersey’s way of saying ‘Welcome to Hell’) . . . two hours on the Garden State Parkway to Margate, from a bridge we see the Casino Strip in the distance, Atlantic City is reflected in the still waters of the inlet, obediently presenting itself as a mirage: exactly the cliché it is supposed to be . . . Friday morning I walk to the beach, there’s no surf . . . in the afternoon we make the brave move from Starr’s parents’ house to our room at the Red Carpet Inn, it’s as bad as we feared, even Miller High Life (‘the Champaign of beers’) can’t hide the smell of moth balls and the damp carpet . . . deafening Arabic pop music plays in the cab to the Casinos and the driver takes every turn so hard that we are thrown from side to side . . . we start at the Trump, it’s mostly old folks sitting at the pokies, Caesar’s is a little better and has a good bar on the casino floor, next is a pathetic western-themed place, we keep moving . . . dinner is at a buffet, pieces of chicken like giant McNuggets, dry fish and as much soft serve as you can eat . . . back through the casinos we stop at Caesar’s and the three of us sit down at a $15 dollar minimum bet blackjack table, we each buy a hundred dollars worth of chips and wonder how long we’ll last . . . we play for over an hour, I have the best of the early luck, face card after face card comes my way, I pay Ray my share of the hotel bill with chips and Ray loses them . . . as it gets later, more young people are showing up and the old folks are thinning out . . . sitting at the bar Brad and I (who are both ahead) argue over who gets to buy the first round of drinks, Ray encourages us . . . back at the tables my luck turns to shit and I lose $100 in less than ten minutes, I finish $50 down for the evening, Ray who was enjoying his sympathy drinks sits back down and wins $250 . . . they raise the minimum bet to $25 and we take our cheap asses back to the bar . . . a girl gives Brad a silly hat that makes him look like Abraham Lincoln . . . we fight our way through the crowd to get Champaign before midnight . . . it’s 2005, there’s yelling and screaming and we’re picking the confetti off our suits . . . Ray buys another round and I’m really starting to get drunk . . . . . . at 4am we’re back at the Red Carpet Inn and we crash in the squalor . . . at 11:30am Brad drives us back to Margate, we put on Springsteen’s Atlantic City for the only time (‘So they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night’) . . . it’s a fucking beautiful day, must be 70 degrees and we walk to the beach in T-shirts and sit around reading for over 2 hours in the sun . . . walking on the beach we reflect on our lives, Ray says “As I see it, until recently we were part of the leisure class. I would like to return to the leisure class.” Brad and I concur . . . we are too lame to go out again and we sit around watching the Rose Bowl, Mean Girls and Ghost World . . . Sunday morning its back in the car to Newark Airport and Budweiser’s all-seeing eye, I say goodbye to Brad and Ray . . . they fly back to the Windy City and I have 350 miles of highway ahead of me . . . it starts to rain . . . it starts to get cold . . . I start to worry about ice . . . Alison calls my cell and tells me that Burlington is covered in a sheet of ice, my weekend isn’t over . . . I have to spend Sunday night in a motel in Glenns Falls, New York . . . I drive to Burlington in the morning past the car accidents caused by last night’s ice . . .


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