Atlantic City Short Stories
Note: Here are a few stories from my last two weeks spent in the lovely garden state paradise of Atlantic City, New Jersey….
Atlantic City Short Story #1: For Whom the (Fire) Bell Tolls
What do you do if you’re staying in a nice hotel and the fire alarm suddenly goes off in the middle of the night?
Let’s be more specific.
You’re exhausted and have just climbed into a warm cozy bed at 4:15 am. It’s 26 degrees outside. You’re slumbering in your birthday suit.
Alarms are ringing all over the place and some annoying-ass recorded voice over the hotel loudspeakers in the hallways are all blasting evacuation instructions.
This is precisely happened last Friday night here at Caesars Atlantic City.
Worse, fire engines were roaring outside.
So — what would you do?
Me? Well, I didn’t smell any smoke. So, I did what any rational person in the universe would do. I rolled my snoring ass over and went back to sleep.
Of course, the Atlantic City Fire Department had its own agenda as did the 85 assorted drunks and apparent rejects from the cast of “Jersey Shore” who were right outside my 5th-floor window screaming incessant profanities.
After 15 minutes of hopelessly trying to tune out the madness, I finally came to realize the error my ways. I should have proceeded outside and taken refuge outside with the rest of the panickers. Sure, I knew I was probably right in my original assessment – that we were facing the problem of nothing more than some drunk bunch of bitches yanking down the fire alarm at 4 am and emptying out a 2,300 room property ful of hotel guests onto the cold, dark streets of a northern city during the end of winter.
But even if I could be certain I was 99 percent right, there was still a one-percent chance I could have been singed like some stale marshmallow over a campfire.
Since the incident, I’ve had time to reflect. I’ll have to give this one more thought as to what constitutes a mandatory exit from a building. Seeing flames or smelling smoke would probably do it. Anything short of that gets judged on a case-by-case basis.
So in the event you hear news that, ”Nolan Dalla got scorched in a hotel fire,” at least you’ll understand the justification for my actions.
At least I didn’t freeze my ass off standing out in 27-degree weather in my bathrobe like those other fools.
Atlantic City Short Story #2: Santa’s Blitzen Snowfalkes
Weekdays are dead. But weekends are an absolute madhouse. That’s pretty much the scene in Atlantic City, nowadays.
But the element of people that now floods into this town — mostly from Philadelphia, New York, and places in between seems vastly different than it was when I made my customary 3 to 4 trips here every month during the 1990′s. The crowds are much younger now. Or, maybe I’m just older. Lot’s of partiers jam into hotel rooms and party all night long. And given the desperation of this city for visitors, any living and breathing souls, the partiers pretty much turn some of the hotel wings into Animal House. Think “Jersey Shore” and put that repulsive scene into the hotel rooms and hallways, and then add 2,386 derivitives of the word “fuck” echoing down every cooridor, and that’s pretty much the scene in Atlantic City on Saturday nights.
By my eleventh day and night in town, nothing had come to shock or surprise me anymore. I’d seen almost every conceivable scene — from drunk girls passed out on elevators to (presumably used) condoms tossed onto dirty dishes on the room-service cart out in the hallway.
But nothing could have prepared me for the bizarre evening when I passed down the hallway of the fifth floor and ran into “Santa Claus.”
That’s right – Santa Claus.
Now this might be normal were it December or atound the holidays. But this was March 9th. And Santa Claus was holding a bottle of beer and was intoxicated.
His hotel room door was wide open. A fraternity party seemed to be going on. This was perhaps 7 or 8 pm. I nodded at “Santa” and passed by without eliciting much of a reaction. Even I was jaded. This was normal.
Several hours later, I walked down the same hallway again. It was about 3 am. This time, there was quite a different sound coming from the same room. Santa (or his elves, perhaps) seemed to be enjoying some female companionship. The sounds were unmistakable. Let’s just say that from the decibel level to the unique combination of creative utterances, the lady guest of “Mr. Claus” seemed to be enjoying herself immensely. Moreover, from these unusual vocalizations I was able to deduce that either Mr. Clause was a man of either extraordinary size or talent. Or both.
As tantalizingly voyouristic the notion might have been to be serenaded by Santa blizening his snowflakes, I proceeded to my own room. The cries of ecstasy down the hallway were by then drowned out by CNN and a repeat showing of Piers Morgan.
Atlantic City Short Story #3: “Are You Talkin’ to Me?”
On the batshit crazy meter, I’d score the average Las Vegas cabdriver at about a “6.” New York’s cabbies score an “8.” New Orleans taxi drivers rank a “9.” And Atlantic City’s yellowmen zip the needle off the chart to new territory that we’ll just call an ”11.” Then, there’s the special case of a remarkable Atlantic City cabbie I encountered in the middle of last week. I couldn’t tell if this driver was — (1) a foreigner (2) had a serious drug problem (3) had a speech impediment, or (4) was certifiably insane.
I needed a lift over to the Borgata. This is an 8-minute ride and a $10 fare. It was dark. The cab was pitch black.
Cabbie asks where I’m going, in a broken and slurred dialect that’s difficult to understand. But I figure what else in the hell could be be asking?
By the way, this is the largest casino in the city. Not like asking for some obscure pizzeria on a tiny side street.
“Whhhhhat do you wwwwwwant to go?’
“I said — Borgata.”
“Whhhhaaaat you wwwwwwant to go?’
“Yes, I knowwwwwwwwwwww Bor-ga-ta. Wwwwwwwaaaaaat you want — tunnel?
“I say, Wwwwwwwaaaaaat you want — tunnel?”
What the fuck? Translation please?
Fortunately, I know Atlantic City’s history a bit and understand there’s an express tunnel that’s a bit faster, but I believe it’s longer and costs more. The tunnel allows you to miss traffic on the tiny sidestreets which are tougher to navigate.
“Yeah, the tunnel is fine, Let’s go!”
Unfortunately, this exchange sets off additional questions and prospective dialogue.
“You from wwwwwhheeeeeeeeeeeeere?”
Oh shit. This is now turning into a job interview.
“Cherry Hill,” I answer — pulling a town located near Philadelphia completely out of my ass. Why answer “Las Vegas,” when that would only encourage more indecipherable dialogue, I figure.
“I know Cherrrrrryy Hiiiiill.”
Oh my God. I picked the only town on the fucking map that the Cab driver apparently knows.
After a few more odd questions and affirmative “yes” and “yeah’s” from me without having any clue as to what I was agreeing with, the ride was mercifully over.
Atlantic City Short Story #4: An Expert’s Guide to Three-Card Monte
Wanna’ know how to beat a Three-Card Monte dealer?
This is the oldest and most common bait and switch game in the Northeast and I’m astounded that there really are people alive in 2013 who still fall for it.
Of course, setting up a Three-Card Monte Table is illegal along the Boardwalk. So, the hustlers work in teams. One carries the bottom of a cardboard box with the tools of deceit — three simple cards and a pile of $5s, $10s, and $20s. When patrol is nowhere to be found, the cardboard box magically appears alongside curious passersby strolling lazily in the gentle breezes. Hark! A “lucky” confederate keeps on guessing the right card over and over and starts fist-pumping that he beat the dealer out of his money. Easy money, Greed is infectious and bites those with the venom of curiosity.
Finally, a sucker approaches. Of course, this stupid motherfucker is so outclassed he’ll never know what hit him.
In the case where I saw the scam pulled, the smooth operator was between the Tropicana and Trump Plaza, right along the Boardwalk. Three college kids had come upon the cardboard box, and I couldn’t help but watch in awe at a master at work.
The cards were flipped back and forth over and over. All the one kid needed to do was paw the joker from two aces, and the twenty bucks would be his.
You won’t believe this.
The dealer won.
The kids looked at each other, laughed, and walked off. One of the kids hit the other in the arm and said something to the effect that he was an idiot.
I couldn’t help but approach the court jester of con who had worked his magic to the tune of a quick $20 — earned with about 45 seconds of slight of hand. Multiply that times perhaps 40-50 suckers and day and this “craftsman” is making twice what a blackjack dealer earns.
“I can’t believe people still fall for that shit. It’s really unbelievable,” I said.
The man smiled.
“Do you really get many people that still go for that game?”
The man continued to smile.
He folded up his cardboard box and put the tools of his trade into his pocket and darted swiftly away, down the Boardwalk, presumably to the next victims who could be found aplenty.
Atlantic City Short Story #5: “Ooops, I Did It Again!”
One week ago, I posted a rather lengthy list of embarrassing errors here at the site. The post was a chronicle of mistakes I’ve made when writing and reporting about poker events over the years. My list included several typos that produced unwanted extra attention.
Well, I did it again.
One thing is for sure. At least when I make a mistake, it’s usually one for the ages.
Recall that last Saturday night, timeclocks were to be set ahead by one hour. Accordingly, I posted a blast to the official website of the World Series of Poker at a convenient place for all to see. My intent was to remind all players not to be late the following day, since we would lose an hour of sleep. Action was to resume the following day at noon.
Fortunately, our very talented WSOP.com Editor Jessica Welman caught the error with her hawk eye and yanked it down – but not after the following blast had been up at the official website for several hours.
So, let’s now end this segment of “Atlantic City Short Stories” with the following screen shot of what actually appeared: