My Little Homage To Atlantic City

Atlantic City is anti-Vegas. In Vegas, like at Venice masque-ball, all the life’s drudgery is hidden away; in AC it’s on open display, with not even a half-hearted attempt at disguising it. Vegas is a high class prostitute with silicone breasts and facial injections and perfect ass that will charge you a fortune and will leave you disappointed. AC is a 45-year waitress at Harrah’s, too old and unattractive to flirt, too weary of life, with saggy everything. Happy to have a job. At this point, AC doesn’t even try to sell you anything, because it knows it’s in the gutter and doesn’t have the money or desire to put on a mask. You get what you see. If you don’t like what you see you can go fuck yourself. The heart of AC is its authenticity. No city in America can command such connection to reality as AC. Well, maybe Detroit or Camden. Atlantic City is a Steinbeck-worthy shithole where all those polished, self-assured story-telling billionaires giving us lectures on CNBC wished they came from. Oh, what a perfect place to put on one’s resume, beefing up one’s down-to-earth, up-by-the-bootstraps, common man credentials! There’s just something irresistible about AC’s decrepitude with its boarded-up houses and hard luck and real-world sensibility. Even AC remaining patrons are symbolic of decline and loss. You see some retiree named Morty in the poker room all the time, and then, one day you realize you haven’t seen him in a while. He stops coming to the game. Maybe he got tired, or maybe he ran out of money. Or moved to Florida. Who knows. In the surviving casinos you will find a fine vertical slice, as they like to say on Wall Street, of society: at the poker table you have a smart-ass Asian guy to your right making fun of your Blackberry and to your left you have a grandpa with a flip phone. But still the slice is heavy on the down side: it’s full of hustlers and lowlifes and Jesse Pinkmans, and small businessmen with garish gold jewelry, hairy chests and oiled hair. In Manhattan such fashion choices would be considered good for Halloween. Here’s it’s the real deal. Cab drivers are grateful to give you a ride and are especially appreciative of an extra dollar you throw in as a tip. “50 dollars a day, on a good day,” one chatty driver told me about his daily haul. Maybe he was fishing for sympathy, but maybe not. It’s hard to imagine making much more driving people around this town: customers are scarce. AC is pristine in its realism; is ugly and beautiful as life itself. Pampered Manhattanites, desperate for a real, unstructured adventure, secretly nostalgic for good old times when Times Square had hookers and Washington Square Park had drug dealers, commute in a zombified state between the City and the Hamptons, without realizing what haven – not heaven, but haven – they have just 150 miles to the South. But fuck them. Let them suffocate, let them look in vain for thrills in the sterilized, anesthetized, risk-free Manhattan Green Zone. I don’t want them to contaminate my own little untouched, ungentrified playground with their Starbucks and yoga and irony. Oh, irony. How sick I am of irony. Irony is the last refuge of someone who has nothing to say. Atlantic City is devoid of irony. That’s what I like about it. It’s an antidote to all those effete, overeducated, self-conscious ironic types. It’s been down on its luck for too long to care anymore. It’s too battered to even pretend to keep up appearances. It shows the world a big fat middle finger and then goes about its business. If you come it’s nice, if you don’t – it don’t give a shit. It already lost all its family jewels. Revel was AC’s last attempt to live large, to splurge and to go down in style. It’s that Pontiac Firebird that Lester Burnham bought, on a whim, before leaving this shitty world. Now, when you approach Atlantic City it stands there, beautiful and dead, towering over the skyline, reminding us all of the eventual demise.

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