Sunday, November 13, 2011

Things I Learned in Atlantic City

I recently took my first trip to Atlantic City for a convention. I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that the streets on a Monopoly board were named after streets in Atlantic City. I kind of pictured a mini Las Vegas, but at the same time remembered my former hairdresser telling me that she found a dead body while walking home from work at night in Atlantic City. The latter turned out to be closer to the truth. Here are a few observations I made while visiting.

1. Atlantic City is NOTHING like Stone Harbor - It’s amazing to me that a beachside town that is so well-known could be so, well, scary. It makes Seaside Heights look downright classy!

2. There is a reason the rent is low on Baltic Avenue – I can’t honestly say that I thought ANY part of Atlantic City (except maybe the convention center itself) is pretty, but I can promise you that there is a reason the purple and light blue streets on the Monopoly board are considered the “low rent” district. Baltic Avenue is actually a main thoroughfare, and it is NOT pretty.  We also happened upon Mediterranean. The name might conjure images of an exotic European sea, but reality will shatter that image really quickly. Even Boardwalk - the most prized address on the Monopoly board - is nothing to brag about. Yes, it runs along the beach (which is probably nice in the summertime), but most of the businesses lining the Boardwalk are like (decent) tourist repellent, as you will see below in Lesson 7.

View from my room at the Courtyard Atlantic City
(two blocks from the beach!)
3. Pacific Avenue may be a green street, but it is not safe to walk along at night – Our hotel (which was really beautiful) was located on Pacific Street, just a couple of blocks from the Boardwalk and the beach. Now, Pacific Avenue is one of the green streets on the Monopoly board, so I assumed that it would be pretty nice. Not really. Our two-block walk to the Boardwalk lead us past a couple of (what appeared to be) deserted apartment buildings, a “gentleman’s” club and some dumpsters being ravaged by pigeons.  Our stroll along the boardwalk that night was engulfed by thick fog (which made an already shady place downright spooky - I kept hearing "Thriller" playing in my head), so we decided to try and walk back along Pacific Avenue. Let’s just say that the Pompano Beach equivalent of Pacific Avenue would be Hammondville Road - err...MLK Boulevard (which, by the way, Atlantic City also boasts). Within two blocks, we came across a young lady who I’d bet all my chips was a ‘ho. Numerous “gentlemen’s” clubs advertised “Live Go-Go Girls” (I’m not kidding).  Bob and I realized pretty quickly that we were out of place, so we decided to cut through the Trump casino…

4. Casinos are the Oases of Atlantic City – It was very strange to step out of Skid Row into the over-the-top opulence of the casinos. Wall-to-wall Italian marble, crystal chandeliers, gleaming brass fixtures, and the clink-clink-clink of slot machines.  It’s hard to imagine the amount of money that went into building these places, yet they are surrounded by poverty. Sad, because many of the old original homes in Atlantic City could be beautiful if renovated. I’m sure that the idea behind the casinos was to bring life back to the economy, but they were virtually empty when we were there.
Casino at Trump Plaza

5. If you want to feel young, go to a casino – I would say the average age in the Atlantic City casinos was 70. All I could think of was Grandma Mazur from the Stephanie Plum novels. 

6. The preferred mode of transportation in Atlantic City is a Rascal – It seems like everywhere we went, people (both young and old) were driving around on Rascals. Considering the amount of walking Bob and I did, it was kind of understandable. Pedicabs are also very popular on the Boardwalk. A mode of transportation that is no faster than walking yourself seems pretty pointless to me.

7. There are more massage parlors on the Boardwalk than any street in the U.S. – I have honestly never seen more massage – more specifically – Asian massage parlors in my entire life. There had to be one sandwiched in between every five to ten cheesy shops (one of which sold Preparation H and bongs!) along the Boardwalk. Funniest part about it was, I got Bob to look into the window of one of the massage parlors, and the little old Asian lady gave him a finger wave. We were tickled.

Casinos at Night
(This is the nice part of town...if there is one.)
8. New Jersey people are GOOD people - Hey, I already knew this - my Dad and his family are from New Jersey. I'm from New Jersey, for goodness sake! However, Bob had heard horror stories about NJEA from other vendors who refused to ever do the conference again. They said that the teachers were rude, they took anything that was free and even would come INTO the booths and snatch extras from under the table, etc. Let's face it, New Jersey does get a bad rap. Every single person I encountered in New Jersey (even the ones on Pacific Avenue who scared the bejeezus out of me, but completely ignored me) was pleasant and friendly. A stack or two of mousepads may have disappeared off of our table, and a few teachers took five or ten at a time, but they ASKED if they could. The ONLY time I encountered Jersey attitude was in Toms River when Bob was shipping our stuff at FedEx, I heard all this honking and yelling. Some little old lady had accidentally turned into the lane that came IN to the shopping center instead of going OUT. These gorilla juiceheads were honking at her and yelling. Poor thing! Other than that, everyone was great and I'd love to go back to Jersey...just not necessarily to Atlantic City!

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy

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