We are on the New Jersey turnpike, or is it parkway? I never get it right and it always looks the same to me. There are five of us in a rented mini-van and we are headed to Atlantic City to celebrate the date of 11-11-11.
Just a couple hours later we are sitting at B-bar, inside the Borgata Hotel and Casino. We are surrounded by a bottle of Prosecco and drinks. Everyone is laughing and we’re having a good time. Wait, a good time in Atlantic City? I thought I swore off this city! How did we get here? Let’s back up.
My first trip ever to Atlantic City was in November of 2003. We took a bus from Port Authority, leaving at 9pm at night. No hotel room, we just planned to stay up all night and take a bus in the morning. Initial impressions: A cold Vegas. This was a positive for a person who is very PRO Vegas. Energy filled the air that night. The casinos, the odds, and of course, the Kahlua and Coffee drinks. There were stops at the IRISH pub and an interesting roulette session that ended with the girl I was with going ALL IN. Later I would find out that this was one month’s rent, and later we would be married, twice and in Vegas. This adventure opened up a whole new world that was only a short bus trip away from the city. This was followed up by trips in 2004 and 2005. Bright lights, the bars, and always, The Irish Pub; A.C. was the place to be for a quick getaway! This would all change in 2007.
Four of us boarded a bus and headed for Atlantic City to celebrate the date of 7-7-7. For those unaware, the Port Authority Atlantic City buses offer round trip tickets for $20 and you get $20 once you are dropped off at your casino. Seems too good to be true? After a great night and good day we boarded the bus to return to New York. For anyone who has seen the opening sequence in Nightmare on Elm Street Part II, the school bus scene. It was like that, multiplied by TEN! The driver was drunk and passing cars on the turnpike (or parkway) that were going over 80 MPH. I don’t believe we won any money that weekend, but I believe we beat the odds making it home safely. Of course, it was one experience, one drunken bus driver.
The year was 2008. In New York, we again boarded the Atlantic City bus at The Port Authority. We were on the bus for approximately five minutes when it started. AUTHOR NOTE: The below is 100% the actual narrative, no fiction, no embellishment. In fact, my words do not do it justice, just read the below, and multiply by TEN!
“I am the man”. Says the black man; he is wearing a white Kangol hat. “I’m the one with the money, I am the man.” He repeats himself again to his woman. “I am the man.” It’s important to note his voice is five times the normal volume. “I am the man.”
“You’re going to see ghetto once we hit the darkness of Lincoln Tunnel if the black man doesn’t shut his mount.” A black woman with an incredible weave says, and then repeats. “You’re going to see ghetto once we hit the Lincoln Tunnel if the black people don’t quiet down.”
“I am the man.” (The bus has yet to pull out of The Port Authority)
“I am the man.” Repeated. The bus finally begins moving. “I am the man.” The only voice heard. Five minutes later we hit the darkness and on cue the black woman with a weave stands up and begins yelling, “The loud black people better shut the fuck up, or you’re going to see queen fucking bitch. I’ll get ghetto on your asses.”
Silence. Five minutes later, “I am the man.” Followed by, “I’m like leather, I’m all put together.” Ladies and gentleman, we have moved on. “I’m like leather, I’m all put together.”
The weave turns and yells something about being on drugs. The man replies, “I like drugs.” Pause. “I like drugs.” Pause. “I like drugs.” His woman interjects, “Say prescription, say prescription!”
“I like drugs, if you don’t like drugs, give me your drugs.” The man repeats to no one in particular. “I like drugs.”
The weave begins videotaping the man and his woman.
The man continues, “I’m like leather, all put together.” Pause. “I am the man.” Pause. “I’m like leather, all put together.” Another woman begins singing “Hallelujah”. At the first stop two elderly couples and a young girl get on the bus, forced to move to the only open spaces in the back, next to the man.
“I like drugs.”
“Say prescription! I’m going to pay my own rent.”
“If you don’t like drugs, give me your drugs.”
Forty-five minutes and traffic is barely moving. Not even a quarter through the trip from hell and people are being to duck, awaiting the inevitable gun play.
As predicted, the situation escalates. The woman begins screaming “Choke me! Choke me!”
“I am the man.” (We all duck a little more into our seats)
A call is made to the police. The weave continues video taping, calling out “It’s Bobby and Whitney.” Saying this causes the bus to explode like Pryor at The Apollo Theatre. The cops pull over the bus. An unlucky officer comes aboard and leaves with the man. They talk outside for an hour, until another bus approaches. After five hours we arrive in Atlantic City.
I vowed to never again go to Atlantic City.
Back to the present, in Atlantic City, and there is a buzz. A new hotel is being built, called Revel. It is expected to open in 2012 and is expected to bring the Vegas experience to Atlantic City. For those who want to “hold on” to the A.C. experience and don’t believe people are looking for Vegas, well, they are wrong. Vegas works, and the creators of this new hotel is making quite a stir.
Dinner is at The Melting Pot where we alter our personalities to include a thief, a big fan, a woman searching for the father of her child, and later an escort. A group of dysfunctional Breakfast Club stereo types; this should play well in A.C.
After dinner we head over to the Wild West casino of Bally’s. Given this is the night before 11-11-11 the casino is dead. We go to Caesars, dead, but the bar is packed. We go have drinks at the bar and then head over to Trumps Plaza where there are special drink specials that we take advantage of after losing in roulette. Do you play ‘11’ on 11-10-11? I think so, but the gambling gods said NO! Back to Borgata and everything is closed except for B-bar so we head back there for another drink and then back to room. A night of lost money and dead casinos; it was just best to order room service chicken tenders and go to sleep.
Waking up the next morning and looking out at the strip from our Water Club window, there was something in the air, and it felt good. It felt, lucky!
Breakfast would be at Sunroom at Borgata. The bartender was discussing the expected crowds and of course the new hotel, Revel, and how the expectation would be that it would blow away every other hotel.
After breakfast we head to the outlets and then the Caesar Palace shops where we find an island bar named Continental. We have many drinks while discussing the philosophical question, “Does tip count?” In the end I don’t believe there was a definitive answer. After a picture with Lucy The Elephant we cross over to Rain Forest Café for tall drinks and then walk into Tropicana casino because this seems like a good time to play roulette. Sit down. Bet 11. The ball hits on 11. Color up and out. More gambling, more winning follows and then we head to Red Square which is too dark and too Russian so we stumble into Cuba Libre for drinks and snacks and then taxis back to Borgata.
After a break to brief to sober up we meet at Long Bar and then pile into taxis and our taxi gets into an accident and then takes us to the wrong place. Was he drinking? Maybe, we were too drunk to know. Dinner was at Girasole with lots of wine and lots of drinks. We came to the conclusion this is where we had dinner four years earlier, we think. After, scramble in a full taxi to the Golden Nugget for a 30 minute Vince Neil show. When you walk away saying, “Man, the drummer was awesome!” you pretty much know you just got raped. After we find a bar in the middle of the Golden Nugget that had live singers and kamikaze shots and many more drinks. 11-11-11 would come and go with MORE shots and MORE drinks. This was followed by a gambling marathon that featured Black Jack and Roulette. A taxi ride I don’t remember brought us back to Borgata for more live music and drinks at Gypsy Bar, then B-bar for more drinks followed by more drinks. My last memory is it playing Dirty Dancing slots. It was sometime around 5:00am.
The next morning was brutal. Too much drinking, laughter, and drinking, but it felt good. It was a great night, a proper celebration of 11-11-11. It was a Vegas type night and a trip that restored my faith in Atlantic City.
See you next year for 12-12-12. I will be staying at Revel!
David S. Grant is the author of BLOOD: The New Red. For excerpt and reviews go to www.silverthought.com/blood/ Follow David on Twitter: @david_s_grant