Thursday, June 29, 2006

The jewel of the Atlantic coast: Atlantic City

Today I drove to Atlantic City, with the intention of seeing the aquarium. It was the smallest one I've been in, but at $7 I didn't feel ripped off. I got to see turtles copulating. That's money's worth for ANYBODY, aged 9 to 99.

The boardwalk in AC is half Las Vegas, half Philly. There are the usual boardwalk tee-shirt shops and steak joints, but you can also get your needs met at one of the many massage parlors or palm reading shops. I swear that at $1-$5 admission, the palm readers are supplementing their offerings with other services. By the looks of the tarted-up tramps lounging about inside, you could probably get a pretty nice deal on a "happy ending". *DISCLAIMER: I really can't confirm any of these suppositions. * I was half-hoping I could find some beat-up attractions on the pier, but I didn't have any luck. It was the same factory-stamped, cookie-cutter rides as the other piers in New Jersey. The barkers at the game booths were a bit more aggresive, but other than that it was standard fare. We found a nice italian-style buffet, and had at it. I forgot just how good shore pizza was.

The casinos are encroaching on whatever old-style charm Atlantic City has left. The Trump Taj Mahal is completely obscene. It's probably one that "the Donald" would like back, what with 9-11 and all. If Al-Qaeda is hiding out on the beach, this is where we'd be likely to find them, knocking back a few shooters and peeping the showgirls.

The most offensive monstrosity along the beach is Bally's faux western stage set. It's like the most low-rent model train platform storefronts blown up to larger than life-size. The colors of the facade are garish and unnatural, and along with the blaring country tunes, would make the most iron stomachs a bit queasy. Maybe their strategy is that if they make their exteriors unbearable, than passersby will run for the bathrooms inside, and end up staying to throw a few bucks in the slot machines. Somewhere recently I read a foreigner's take on the US... that American refrigerators have no real food, but hundreds of condiments... the tactics the casinos use to draw customers somehow seem to naturally appeal to ketchup and mustard lovers.

Atlantic City is definitely worth seeing once. The disparity between the glistening new Vegas-style money pits and the substandard ghetto housing a few streets off the boardwalk tell the real story of the USA today. I'm just waiting for the barbed wire fences that will split these two demographics forever.

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