Monday, May 19, 2008

Atlantic City

There was a strung out woman in the last row of the Greyhound Bus, white lady of the type you don't encounter much in New York City, though in my pasts, in Virgina and Florida, encountered plenty. She was asking everyone that came out of the bathroom, including Niki and I, how much longer until we arrived in Atlantic City, a kid in the backseat with their Are we their yets. And she would follow that question by disclosing unasked for information, a type of talk that I don't understand, talking about how she just did the AIDS walk, about her kid, divulging an excess of information, none of it particularly interesting, and it's a type of chattiness where I don't get what the motive is, but which seems to occur with seemingly crazy people, them and also with people who I guess/assume have some sort of drug problem.

I didn't know how long and she didn't seem to believe me, asked how many times I had ridden this bus before, and how long it seemed then. And there are questions with answers to them and how much longer a trip should take is certainly one of those. There are also questions without answers and about those I pondered as we passed industrial New Jersey right outside of Manhattan and then the state's wooded parts and then its marshes and waterways, it all beautiful in distinct ways and in the same way, that general beauty, a place's ability to provoke something in you. Pasts were evoked, past car rides, those as a kid, driving through similar scenery and on this journey, this time past decaying industry I wondered what happened to those past car rides, to that person who looked out the window then. There were questions and thoughts picked at then and they don't seem to have changed and still don't seem to have answers.

The bus pulled up to Showboat. We collected our casino cash and made our way in the rain all the way to the other end of the boardwalk, to the Tropicana, where we had found some incredibly cheap travel deal. A bit put out by the rain, by the long walk, by Niki slipping all over the boardwalk, by a general exhaustion, we collapsed on to our bed, took in the view of the city, a bit sad looking, and the ocean, looking like the ocean always does, expansive in an incredibly quieting way because there is not much to say in the face of such vastness, water stretching back to the end of your line of vision.

We had some cocktails with the bottle of Boca Chica, ten dollars for a giant thing, that we had bought back in Bushwick, went swimming, and then sat in the hot tub, starting to feel like we had hoped to, why we had ventured to this city on the Jersey coast in the first place, to feel relaxed, and despite the gray rain, the shuttered boardwalk, and other things, we were feeling nice, relaxed. We then went to go see a revue show entitled "Best of Broadway," in which they performed a bunch of Broadway songs, mainly Andrew Lloyd Weber and Disney stuff. It was kind of bad, kind of good, but decontextualized from their original plays and performed one after the next, the songs began to annoy me, as did the performances and staging, which didn't measure up to New York standards, but being a casino show, one probably shouldn't expect too much. For what it was, it was good.

We were then ready for another attempt at the buffets of Atlantic City, having researched beforehand where the best cheap buffet was - the Hilton for $10 we learned. However, when we got there, the buffet was already closed, as were all the other buffets. We were a bit wasted by this point thanks to the Boca Chica. Niki fell hard on to the boardwalk, it still slick from the rain and her shoes having no traction. Rather than walk further and her fall more, we stayed in our hotel, eating at Hooters, which was only mildly absurd and actually just what I wanted - fried food and beer. The fall seemingly made Niki even more drunk and she was a total mess at Hooters, spending an hour and a half tearing apart crab legs, spilling butter, her face covered in butter and crab goo and she tore at crab legs with her teeth. It was such an absurd sight to behold.

Finally, we left the dude restaurant and played some slots, consumed a lot more drinks provided by the roving cocktail waitresses trying to make us stupid and bet all of our money. Instead, Niki ended up going up to the room to pass out and I hopped in a cab and went to the West Side Bar, the one gay club in Atlantic City, a slightly sad bar a couple miles from the casinos. Right before I went in to the bar, some man, another person I assumed to have a drug problem, seemingly strung out, was carrying around a black case, and asked me if I wanted to buy it, its contents containing a beard and mustache trimmer. And it felt like performance art, like something that surely must have some symbolism, because who, really who, would purchase a beard trimmer at one in the morning on some lonely street outside a divey gay bar?

It was Latin Night and the place was a small town gay bar, taking in all the gays, a wide range of ages, body types, and ethnicities, though mainly black and Latino, it being Latin Night. I danced a lot, talked to some folks, none of whom seemed to particularly like Atlantic City or their gay bar, but sort of resigned to it. There was a Spanish drag show, which was interesting, and the entire night and most of the songs and mic talk being in Spanish made me really excited about Mexico and led to thoughts about my own ethnicity and my own identity, about how in New York, I spend too much time with white people, in bars that mainly attract white people, and that I need to be more adventurous and spend some time in some other scenes.

Outside, waiting for a cab to take me back to the Tropicana, I started chatting with three guys, who it turns out were in the Broadway revue show I had watched earlier in the evening. I talked to them about their lives, they all being from Canada and part of this troupe that travels here to perform for a few weeks at a time. Their lives fascinated me, as did the symmetry that seemed to be provided with meeting these people I had seen perform as lions, Greasers, and even the phantom of the opera himself earlier in the evening. We shared a cab back to the hotel and I passed out in my bed, enjoying the comfort of a mattress, something a little more touchy feely than a futon.

We ate at a buffet this morning, played more slots, played some skee-ball, and got on a bus back to this city, to New York. And the weather was a bit sunnier today than on the trip down here and things looked slightly different and yet looked the same as they did on drives from years ago in completely different locations, different states. There were these landscapes by the side of the road and the question of what exactly the dimensions of the frame were, whether there even was one, consumed me yet again.

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