Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Bubble Bath, Part 5

  Editor’s Note:  Bubbles has just docked her rocket ship in the parking garage of Caesar’s in Atlantic City…

  Much to my terror, Bubbles realizes that I am not dead in the back seat, so she pokes me with a stick. “Get your ass up. We’ve got places to go and things to drink.”

  Wiping away tears, I climb out of the car, clutching my laptop against my chest as a protective shield. This proves to be a mistake on my part. “You are NOT taking the laptop,” bellows Bubbles. “Put it in the trunk. You are not going to blog when you are supposed to be entertaining me.” I reluctantly comply with her decree, tucking the laptop into the trunk (next to a kayak, of all things; this is a very busy girl), giving it a final loving caress and hoping that I might see it again some day.

  Bubbles leads the way as we march into the Caesar’s hotel lobby. I briefly consider alerting the desk staff that we may all be in danger, but I let it pass. Hopefully, they have been fully trained in survival skills and/or speedy building evacuations. Besides, it’s entirely possible that Bubbles may not decide that someone must die until after we’ve been here a while and made a few friends. There’s still time for children and the elderly to be whisked to a safer location.

  We enter the casino and parade about, trying to decide how best to waste our money on games of pure chance. I’m certain that I don’t want to do anything that involves a “table”, because that would mean I have to talk to people, and I’m never really interested in that. I briefly eye the nickel slot machines, because they speak of solitude and anti-social defiance. But I’m not really feeling it.

  Turns out, none of us are. In one rare moment of complete agreement, the three of us decide that we really don’t want to gamble. Which partially defeats the purpose, of course, of having driven all the way to Atlantic City. Then again, it only took us 15 minutes to drive from Philly, so no real harm done.

  Instead, we’re just going to hit the Boardwalk, and see what’s what. Terry and I have never been here, so surely there are exciting new thrills to be found. And if not, we can drink until things seem to be more interesting than they really are. (This is a fallback life plan that I firmly believe in, and probably should just get t-shirts made with this slogan.)

  Bubbles shifts course and we head into the sunshine.

  The first thing I notice is that there are some really aggressive birds around here. They will come at you like a horny goat, only with wings. They are not afraid of people, at all. And you can’t try to shoo them away, because they will interpret this as a “food-throwing” gesture, a screech of discovery will be transmitted along the avian network, and suddenly 20 more kamikazes will show up, intent on joining the feast.

  Interestingly enough, there are signs all over the place proclaiming “Please don’t feed the birds.” Apparently you do not have to be literate to join the festivities on the Boardwalk, because every other person is hurling food at the creatures as if there’s a prize for doing so. Chunks of bread, bits of fruit and entire burritos fill the air.

  Now, if you aren’t immediately killed by an attitudinal seagull, or felled by a surprisingly large splash of bird poo, you might be able to make it a few feet down the wooden boards before your encounter your next obstacle. This would be those pushcart things driven by men who yell a lot. They want you to sit in their little carts, and then hand over money so you can be shoved along for a few blocks.

  I wasn’t handed any literature concerning the rights-of-way on the Boardwalk, but apparently the carts rule supreme. The pushers do whatever they want. Sure, some of the guys are nice enough, veering out of your way with their lazy cargo, but many of them do not, barreling along with an apparent desire to decimate the population. It’s up to you to perform gymnastic maneuvers if you want to live.

  If you survive the initial onslaught of flapping wings and rumbling carts, you will soon develop the necessary skills to actually calm down enough to enjoy your stroll. As long as you keep one eye on the death-dealing carts, and keep in mind that you must instantly start running if you hear cooing, you’ll  be fine. And there are many things to see along this famous boardwalk, some of them intentional, some of them not.

  There are shops everywhere, selling everything. Much of it is crap, designed to instantly break before you can even drag the thing back to your over-priced hotel. There are tons of restaurants, with holes-in-the-wall mixed in with palatial establishments. Any type of food that you want. Well, any type of food that is normally available on the Eastern seaboard. Didn’t really see any Mexican or Barbecue joints. But that’s fine, because I’m not really invested in eating either of those things unless it’s served by someone with a Southern drawl.

  And the most common establishments to be found? Massage parlors.

  Seriously, it seemed like every third storefront had advertisements shilling things that could be done with heated rocks or petite women who could do aerobics on your back. What’s that all about? Are people in New Jersey really that tense?

  Speaking of people, there were tons of them, all kinds, with one overwhelming trend: blue-hairs. Nothing against our beloved senior citizens, we obviously wouldn’t be here without them. But why do so many of them flock to Atlantic City? In fact, that’s the one major difference between Las Vegas and Atlantic City. In Vegas, there’s a fair balance across the age spectrum. In Atlantic City, it looks like half the people showed up when the Boardwalk first opened in the 1880’s and then never went home.

  But all of that aside, it’s the architecture that fascinated me the most.

  Granted, there are quite a few newer, gleaming buildings that, to be honest, don’t really fit the style. But thrown into the mix are quite a few period structures that have survived. Terry and I were dancing around, trying to get all the pictures that we could, somewhat rapturous with our finds. They have these little placards every so often on the ocean-side of the Boardwalk, and they tell the history of the immediate area around the placards. Really good stuff. As soon as either of us would spot the next one, we would race up to it and devour the details.

  Bubbles was not interested in doing such.

  In fact, her main goal in life seemed to be perpetual movement. She rarely slowed down for anything, much less faded signs with historical tidbits. She scampered along at a consistent pace, apparently intent on reaching Boston in the near future. I guess she’d been to Atlantic City enough times that she just wanted to get the walking part over with.

  So Terry and I tag-teamed, one of us reading the signs or taking pictures, while the other kept an eye on Little Eva as she trudged across the tundra. This resulted in a lot of mad sprinting at points when we realized she was about to vanish in the distant crowd, and if we lost Bubbles we were screwed. We nearly died several times trying to keep up with her, what with all the grenade-like bird poo making things slippery, the pushcarts determined to hurt people that could walk on their on, the skateboarders and bicyclists with their obvious disdain for people without wheels, and the sugar-rush urchins dashing about madly, waving sharp objectss that their neglectful parents had allowed them to possess.

  Suddenly, Bubbles slammed to a halt outside a building. Breathing heavily and sweating buckets, Terry and I gasped our way over to her and reviewed the sign above. “The House of Blues.”

  “Time for a cocktail!” announced Bubbles, and in she went.

  Well, that sounded just dandy, so we trailed along, completely unaware of what would happen inside…

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

Click Here to Read this story from the beginning.

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