acmarathon2

Last year, life was grand in Atlantic City.  I ran a half marathon, and the city had 13 casinos.  Since then, we’ve both downgraded: I’m running half the distance, and Atlantic City has nearly half as many casinos.  This is my first trip to AC since the massive bloodletting of September, where Revel, Showboat, and Trump Plaza closed their doors.  All reports I’ve heard about Atlantic City the last month made it sound exactly like the town Bruce Springsteen sang about on Nebraska.  But, still, I had to go down there and see it for myself.

Friday

9:00PM - Let’s set the stage for this trip, as many things are quite different.  First, let’s introduce the main players.  There’s me, my girlfriend, an already intoxicated Keith (not so different from previous entries), and Keith’s friend Realtor, a long-time AC Diary fan making his diary debut.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a fan of the AC Diaries and then, one day, finding yourself IN it.  It must be like turning on The Simpsons and seeing yourself drinking at Moe’s.  Yes, it must be exactly like that.  We are lacking OB, who was called away on official duty. (I can’t go into the details, but it has something to do with Albania.  Am I serious?  I don’t even know anymore.)

We are also not staying at a casino, but at the Chelsea Hotel, a funky hotel with pink neon lights, situated right next to the Tropicana.  It was easily the cheapest hotel I could find in AC that didn’t look like I’d find a severed head in the toilet.  My room had a cracked mirror and a wine bottle in the mini-bar that looked like it had been opened then resealed.  So, yes, I’d give the Chelsea two thumbs up, and would stay there again.

Keith Stone: After a bus trip filled with the usual drinking of liquor out of soda bottles, practicing blackjack on my phone, and old ladies politely ignoring our inappropriate conversations, Realtor and I had a little less than half a bottle of vodka left upon arrival at the Chelsea. We agreed to meet Rory and Mrs. Rory downstairs in about 20 minutes. I’m not exactly sure where all the vodka went but it was gone by then. My high school cross country coach always did stress the importance of hydrating the night before a race.

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2014-08-02 21.09.38

In the last edition of the Atlantic City Diary, I was just there for less than 12 hours.  Summer wouldn’t quite be complete without another trip to AC.  However, due to boring household maintenance issues, this was another short affair.  Let’s get started:

7:00PM – We (my ladyfriend and I) arrive at Bally’s, with a bus ride that was the exact opposite of the trip from Chapter 17.  The bus was brand new, the seats were comfortable, the smell was unnoticeable, and the traffic was fantastic.  Departing around 4:30PM, we made good time on a Saturday afternoon, arriving in just under 2.5 hours.

Upon arriving at the Bally’s terminal, we were greeted by a man named Kirby, who worked for Bally’s, distributing the bus vouchers.  Mr. Kirby wasn’t taking any guff from the ornery bus passengers, scolding them like children each time they tried to hurry them for their bus vouchers or try to cut the line.

In the line for the bus voucher, a poker player with a Seven Stars card was regaling us with tall tales, such as 16-hour poker sessions, winning $6,000 last time he was here, and staying for 5 consecutive days on comped rooms.  Upon swiping his Seven Stars card and receiving his bus voucher, Kirby gives him the stink-eye.  “What’s wrong, my man Kirby?” I ask.  Kirby just responds, curtly, “That wasn’t his players card.”  Oh, Atlantic City, never change.

Finally, we check in, and head to our room on the 25th floor.  On our floor, a boisterous drunk gentlemen greets us, bellowing, “WELCOME TO THE FLOOR!”  We respond in kind, of course.  So, for those of you keeping count, we’ve already met three strange characters on this trip, and we haven’t even entered our hotel room yet.  In terms of entertainment value, I’m already playing with house money this weekend.

8:00 – We went to have dinner at Harry’s Oyster Bar, which was a huge hit with my ladyfriend.  I stuck with the lobster, while she got a half-portion of the raw bar sampler.  But, more importantly, Harry’s Oyster Bar is one of the few places that serve beer from the Cape May Brewery.  We discovered it during a trip down to Cape May earlier in the summer, and have been itching for it since.  Unfortunately, the brewery is still in its early stages, and hasn’t migrated much north of AC yet.  But it was definitely a great compliment to the wonderful seafood.

Other notes on Harry’s Oyster Bar: first, looking around, you could tell it was the dog days of the sports calendar.  With tons of flatscreens, Harry’s would be a great place to catch a game.  Unfortunately, the only things on were a meaningless baseball game, a practice for USA basketball, and some guy giving a speech for the Football Hall of Fame.  If that doesn’t epitomize early August sports, I don’t know what else does.  Secondly, Harry’s was promoting a deal where you would buy cosmopolitans and some of the proceeds would go to breast cancer charities.  It is a noble effort, but what sells it is the “lady fish” logo.  It looks like the Mrs. Pac-Man of the original Harry’s logo.

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9:00 – After dinner, the ladyfriend needed a nap (after a long Friday night), so I decided to walk the boardwalk.  It was a beautiful night, and I love taking in the bustling atmosphere that is a Saturday on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.  I stopped in to the Trump Plaza to pay my respects to the establishment in the most suiting way possible: I used the bathroom, and immediately left.

My main reason for going was to visit the Playcade arcade.  I am currently toying with the idea of starting a blog dedicated to reviewing old arcades, and I figured I’d give this place a test run.  I’m not quite in the mood to break down the Playcade after this trip, but it’s quite tiny and could use more variety.  It was mainly one wall dedicated to skee-ball, then littered with various games that are a bit too quick to play for my liking, such as coin-push games, slot machines, and crane games.  There were four basketball shooting games by my count, which seems like a bit much for just one arcade.  I played some Mrs. Pac-Man, drunkenly thinking I could set the new high score, and failing miserably.

After goofing around in there for about 30 minutes, I took my odd collection of coins and tickets and earned myself a whopping 725 points.  Normally, I like to buy a bunch of little random crap, but the girl behind the counter had taken a liking to me (I wasn’t particularly charming – this may have simply been a case of being the only guy to come into a place normally frequented by small children and mothers).  She was offering me the “big prizes”, such as handcuffs or slime.  Thinking handcuffs would be a bit risque, I settled for the slime.  Unfortunately, the slime was 800 points, but I just batted my beautiful eyelashes and ended up with grade-A slime from China.  Totally worth it.

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10:00 – I get back to the hotel room, and continue drinking and hanging out with my lovely ladyfriend.  At this point, I’ve finished about half a bottle of wine, and make the awful decision to shave my beard.  Twenty grueling minutes later, and I look like I was attacked by a feral cat.  OB and Lady OB show up at this point for more drunken revelry, and the night begins to get hazy.  Here’s the recollection of the night, as it comes back to me slowly:

  • We went to the Wild Wild West, and I ran away from the group to go to the bathroom, convinced that I was still profusely bleeding from my face.  Allegedly.
  • There was a cover band at the Wild Wild West, and I serenaded the ladyfriend and Lady OB with my tear-jerking rendition of “I Want It That Way.”  Allegedly.
  • I played table games at the Wild Wild West (a welcome return to form, WWW!), and was doing fine, but for some reason left to play games at Bally’s.  I then lost $90.  Alleged–crap, I did lose $90!

2:00AM – I’m back in the room, with just $50 in my pocket.  While I try not bring too much money to Atlantic City, every gambler knows that going down with just $50 means you’ll lose it immediately.  So, I’m ranting to my ladyfriend about how I want to take out $400.  She says that’s probably a bad idea, and convinces me that maybe I should just take out $200.  I agree with her, then immediately fall asleep.

9:00 – I wake up, very fortunate I didn’t take out any more money.  Thank goodness for ladyfriend!  That girl is alright!  If it wasn’t for her, I’d easily be $400 lighter.

I grab my favorite hangover cure, the pretzels at Bally’s, and we peruse the Boardwalk, getting some desperately needed fresh air.  We aim for an 11:00AM bus, but when that line looks too long, we decide not to risk it and get a ride back with OB and the good Lady OB.

Overall, these last two trips, when taken individually, were not enough AC for me, but together, they form a magical summer memory of Atlantic City.  We’ve lost some good friends in Atlantic City this summer: the Revel, the Showboat, my memories from 10:00PM to 2:00AM on August 2nd, my $90, etc.  However, new friends have replaced them: the Wild Wild West’s table games, Kirby, the Cape May Brewery, and slime.  Enjoy the rest of the summer folks, and I’ll see you in the fall!

2014-07-04 11.32.28

Ah, good old Showboat.  The boat of show.  Showy showy boat boat.  Am I stretching out this opening with pointless gibberish because I don’t have much to write in this chapter?  Perhaps.  Or am I afraid to say goodbye to the preeminent casino from my youth that has recently announced its closing?  Probable.

Growing up, many family vacations were spent in Atlantic City, as touched upon way back in Chapter 1 of the Atlantic City Diaries.  Due to it being on the lower end of the price spectrum, the Showboat was generally the place where we stayed (and is generally why I have frequented it many times in these diaries).  However, back in the mid 90′s, Showboat was among the more hustling and bustling casinos.  They had a world-famous bowling alley, a piano player was set up in the lobby, and a live jazz band roamed the halls.  Unfortunately, they’ve been systematically removing all the “fun” elements from the casino over the last decade and, by the end, it was just another generic casino in Atlantic City with a few scant elements of the “New Orleans” theme.  Hell, even when I started gambling down there, they used to give out Mardi Gras beads, but I guess even those were deemed too fun.

Now, I know the Showboat was still profitable, but I would advise against casinos trying too hard to reach out to the “sophisticated gambler.”  It is a very hard market to crack into, as you can see with Revel being brought to its knees.  Only Borgata seems to have done it successfully.  If I may play Monday Morning Quarterback for a moment: Showboat would have been best served by going in a completely new direction.  It seems that too many casinos are either trying to be high end (Caesars, Revel, Borgata) or just throwing up their hands and saying “Fuck it!” (Resorts, Trump Plaza).  I think Showboat could have tried to market itself as a “family friendly” casino.  Casinos are generally sketchy places, but if they had more security and kid-friendly activities, they’d be the only game in town for all gambling-addict parents.  Sure, it’s a new idea, but if there’s anything Atlantic City is short on it’s new ideas.  It’s why I love the direction the Wild Wild West is taking: the Mountain Bar was a hit, and they’ve added more fun “college” type activities around the bar, such as a new stage, beer pong tables, and a mechanical bull (and, finally, they brought back the table games!).  Keep in mind, I have no experience in running a casino, and could be way off base.  But still, I wrote it, and you read it, so that has to count for something.

Anyway, I had a trip planned to go down to Showboat this past Thursday, which, unfortunately, was only one day.  As a man who loves nostalgia, I’m glad I had any time at all to go and say my goodbyes to the Boat.  Also, I had to scratch the gambling itch – nearly three months had passed since my last outing, and we were getting deep into the summer without a trip to AC.  So, let’s start with the bus ride, which, despite taking it dozens of times, never fails to give me something new to write about:

7:00PM - Hooboy, where to start?  The bus smelled like pee.  There were newspapers on the floor outside the bathroom, like they were training a dog to be housebroken.  The air conditioner in the back didn’t work.  The bus driver pulled over on the highway, moved to the back, and tried to open the emergency hatch in the roof, thinking this would cool the back.  He couldn’t open it.  There were still newspapers on the floor, outside the bathroom, not masking the pee smell in the slightest.  On every turn, the bus shook; I’m not sure if it was bad driving or the suspension on the bus was shot.  This bus was clearly one day away from retirement.  Also, there were fucking newspapers on the floor outside the bathroom.

8:30 – After checking in, my fiance and I head to Scarduzio’s for our last supper.  Joining us tonight: OB and his ladyfriend, Polar and his ladyfriend, and a newcomer to the Atlantic City Diary universe, Drew, accompanied by his ladyfriend as well.  Steaks are served all around, and I enjoy a prime rib of cartoonish proportions.  The thing would have tipped over Fred Flintstone’s car.  I usually stay away from Scarduzio’s because it can be a bit pricey, but OB has the dinner covered.  Not only that, OB is a man who never skimps on the tip, but is disappointed that the waiter doesn’t come over and shake his hand afterwards.  Note to all waiters: should you ever serve OB, make sure to shake his hand at every opportunity.

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11:00 – I’ve bitched about gambling at Showboat repeatedly in these diaries, but I had to gamble one last time.  I play blackjack next to OB for a bit, and both of us tread water.  I take a breather, get some drinks, use the bus voucher with my fiance (to little success), and head back to the tables.  I manage to win a few bucks, but OB takes a beating.  The problem at the table: we had a screamer.  Now, mind you, I love an enthusiastic blackjack player.  However, this guy was just a screamer, and he only screamed one thing: “ACES!”  If you are going to scream, you gotta mix it up, and commit to screaming all the time.  All Mr. “ACES!” does is give us a splitting headache.  After OB took his licking, we headed to his room in Revel.

12:30AM – It is now July 4th, so we decide to put on some patriotic tunes and order up room service.  Unfortunately at Revel, they refuse to bring up alcohol to your room after 11.  Is this a joke?  No wonder they are going out of business.  I understand closing a kitchen, but they seriously can’t have a staff member open a fridge and bring up a bottle?  So I travel back to Showboat to get the bottle of vodka I brought, OB took care of mixers, and the Revel staff brought the cups.  You read that right: Revel will give you cups for free, but they refuse to take your money and give you alcohol.  I will shed no tears when Revel closes.

3:00 – After reciting Bill Pullman’s speech from Independence Day, we head back to Showboat.  My fiance and I are a little bit incredibly drunk, and we decide to call it a night.  My fiance goes to get a late night snack at the Earl of Sandwich, and I have to stand down the hall to escape the awful smell of that place.  The Earl of Sandwich has a sickening burnt cheese smell that grinds against the soul of my nose.  And then, to bed.

And….that’s it?  Really?  Yes, nothing else of note happened on this last trip to the Showboat.  Much like the actual casino, the trip ended too soon.  God speed, Showboat.  I will always have the memories, but it is time for both of us to move on.

2014-07-04 03.31.27

2014 NHL Awards Show Running Diary

Posted: June 24, 2014 by Keith Stone in hockey, NHL
Tags: , ,

NHLAwardstogether

Every June, hockey fans look to a special night (as long as there’s not a lockout) when the best athletes in the game are celebrated amongst their peers as the whole world watches. No, it’s not the Stanley Cup Finals, but the NHL Awards Show. Coming to you live from the Wynn in Las Vegas, get ready for the greatest mix of humble Canadian athletes and C-list celebrities you could ever imagine! As for this Rangers fan, I’m ready to get over the disappointment of the loss to the Kings and this is the first step to moving on. Let’s drop the puck…

7:01- We open with a list of the celebrities (dare I say stars) scheduled to appear. David Boreanaz! Eric Stonestreet! Michael Vartan! This is going to be great.

7:02-Who is our host? George Snuffleupagus? Seriously, I don’t know who this guy is.

7:03-Snuffleupagus is doing the thing where the awards show host arrives for the ceremony. He drives up on a zamboni and interacts with celebrity impersonators in the dressing room area. Get it? Cuz they’re at a hockey awards show in Las Vegas LOL! Michael Jackson is holding the Lady Byng Trophy, the first lady he’s been with in a quite a while. With jokes like that, maybe I have a future hosting the NHL Awards.

7:05-First Stanley Cup sighting. Trying not to cry.

7:08-Gary Bettman glances awkwardly at the camera from his seat in the audience. You know what this means!?!? GARY BETTMAN DRINKING GAME!

7:12-A commercial for the Kings’ Stanley Cup Champions merchandise package. Grabbing some Kleenex.

7:15-Sidney Crosby wins the Ted Lindsay Award for Most Outstanding Player as voted on by the players and talks to our guest interviewer for the night P.K. Subban backstage. They are surrounded by the celebrity impersonators. Surprisingly, Sidney doesn’t try taking a dive on Elvis.

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Finally, after years and years of winter, springtime is starting in the Northeast.  What better time to go down to Atlantic City for a quick run?  This diary features my mom’s birthday celebration, the return of OB (last seen singing “Surrender“), the return of my gambling ways, and a trip to a heart-shaped bathtub.  Onward and upward!

Friday

3:00PM – This weekend is set to be extremely packed for me: multiple dinners to attend, a 7K to run, and tons of gambling to partake in.  However, a miscommunication between my mom and I puts me in my Showboat hotel room with about five hours to kill until dinner at Scarduzio’s.  It would be way too early to start gambling, especially since I’m staying the entire weekend.  So, I kill time by doing a perusal of the boardwalk.  To spice it up, I decide to stop in a bunch of those stores selling corny t-shirts and various other crap.  From the outside, they always appear to me as adding to the whimsy of the Atlantic City Boardwalk – these tiny, cheap shops serving as the ying to the giant casinos’ yang.  However, on the inside, they reek with the same depression you find on the slot machines at 5AM in the morning (not to mention, the smell of these shops is overwhelming – it’s like when you visit someone else’s grandparents’ house, and you can tell that everyone else there has gotten used to the smell, but you haven’t, and you start to die inside).

The disappointment of these stores is augmented by the terrible weather.  It is cold, windy, and rainy, and the report does not look great for tomorrow.  I had briefly entertained switching from doing the 7K to the 11K, but that notion got killed by my walk along the boardwalk.  Feeling a bit depressed, I decided to just grab a six-pack and go back to the room and do some reading.

(Just to note: many casinos have now adopted a strict rule that you cannot bring your own booze.  Pro-tip: this rule is circumvented through this trick — I put my beer in a black plastic bag.  I know this sounds complicated and tricky, so I’d recommend bookmarking this page so you can remember how to sneak booze into a casino the next time you are in AC).

8:30 – With my mom and her fiance checked in, we head to Scarduzio’s in Showboat for some pre-race steaks.  As always, Scarduzio’s does not disappoint.  It is my personal favorite steak place in Atlantic City, beating American Cut in Revel.  After dinner, we part, as my mom has to get some gambling in, and she only gambles by herself.  Unfortunately, she learns the same lesson that I have learned time and time again: the Showboat is a horrible bitch.  I, too, have to get a bit of gambling in before I go to bed; the Showboat devours my bus voucher, but I hold my own in about 15 minutes of blackjack.  And with that, I’m off to bed for the 7K tomorrow morning.

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atlantic-city-casino

Last month, tragedy struck the Atlantic City Boardwalk as the Atlantic Club, formerly known as the Atlantic City Hilton (among other names), closed its doors.  While in recent trips I haven’t been visiting the Atlantic Club, it still held a special place in my heart.  In my first trips down to Atlantic City, I frequented it regularly due to its plethora of cheap rooms, cheap tables, and cheap drinks (although it wasn’t the same once the Dizzy Dolphin removed their signature Dizzy Dolphin cocktail, which was basically cirrhosis in a cup).  It is sad to see such a place go, and I can’t help feel bad for the poor alcoholics in their early 20′s who are now down one less place to go in Atlantic City.  I truly regret neglecting the Atlantic Club in these past few years, and am remiss that I couldn’t even say goodbye.

With a heavy heart, I vowed never to let this happen again.  For too long, I’ve leaned too heavily on old faithful casinos like Harrah’s and Showboat, while neglecting to give my love to the Golden Nugget or Resorts.  So, on a random Sunday in February, Keith and I attempted something done by few bloggers/drinkers/gambling addicts/poor decision makers have done before: visit all 11 Atlantic City casinos in one night.

9:00AM – That’s right, we took a bus to Atlantic City at 9AM on a Sunday.  For those curious, the bus was about 40% full (Keith and I each had two seats to ourselves), and we made record time heading down (arriving in just under 2:25).  To set the mood: I was packing light (just a toothbrush in one pocket and a half-dozen casino players cards in the other), and downing orange juice and vodka on the ride down (it was before noon, so I had to keep it classy).  We arrived at Bally’s, where we would be staying that night, but the check-in line was too long, and as per Rule 3, we had to gamble immediately.  The first stop: Trump Plaza.

Keith Stone: I, of course, packed a full backpack and forgot my toothbrush, which was really the only thing I needed. I was drinking a copious amount of vodka poured into a liter bottle of Pepsi I got from a bodega the night before. Towards the end of the ride, I dropped the bottle cap and it rolled a few seats behind us. I decided to leave it since I’m lazier than Eddy Curry after signing a contract extension. Little did I know, I would keep refilling this Pepsi bottle with vodka and spilling it the entire night. I was like a wild animal marking my territory — gamblerus alchoholous — and my territory was the funnest place on Earth (in southern New Jersey).

As for this “class” thing that Rory talks about, I’m like school in the summertime.

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Cheap Trick

How does seeing Cheap Trick at Harrah’s in mid-November sound to you?  Mildly entertaining, with a slight chance of being horribly depressing?  Me too!  Let’s dive right into this bad boy:

11:30AM - You know, every one of these diaries start out with a bus journey, and I figure it is all old hat by now.  Nothing new would happen.  In fact, this is exactly how I started Chapter 13 before being proven wrong.  You would think that this would easily be the most routine and ho-hum part of the journey: riding a bus on the Garden State Parkway for 2.5 hours.  But, there’s always something to report.

In this case, however, it was pre-bus.  This trip was just the dynamic duo: OB and myself.  As loyal readers know, OB has begun the last few trips (starting with Chapter 11) by ordering a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich in Port Authority, and stuffing it down before it has had a chance to cool, ceremonially burning his mouth in the process.  I’m not sure what the point of this tradition is, but it seems to give OB so much pleasure (and pain) that I can’t help getting excited when it comes time for it.  If there are two things that will be mentioned in the first line of OB’s obituary, it will be his love of extremely hot eggs, and his highly controversial Springsteen-based political rants.

Anyway, we come into a situation where the man behind the counter had just finished dealing with an unruly customer.  This situations can always be a bit dicey, but OB’s charm had the man laughing in no time (I would describe it as “charm”, OB would describe it as “general happiness in anticipation of a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich”).  The man even feels comfortable to boast that his soda prices are the lowest in town, and has no problem laughing at OB’s last name, calling him a mick.  It is this demeanor that has made him the greatest man at reheating sandwiches in the basement of Port Authority.  One scalding hot sandwich later, and we are on the bus down to Atlantic City.

3:00PM – The bus flies down to AC without a hitch.  The crowd on the bus is sparse and quiet, and combined with the weak traffic, I was anticipating that the city would be fairly dead.  Which wouldn’t be too surprising, given that it is a random weekend in November.  However, upon arriving at Caesar’s, we find the place is bustling with activity.  This is a good sign, but would the same hold true at Harrah’s, in the distant Marina-land of Atlantic City?  At Caesar’s, we quickly blow through our bus vouchers (after an unsuccessful search for the legendary KISS slot machines, we settle on Star Wars slots and last about as long as Jek Porkins) and head to Harrah’s.

5:30 – It has been a great couple hours in Harrah’s.  Check-in is a breeze, the room is clean, the beds are comfortable, and the room service, which we are now devouring, is delicious.  OB and I have been listening to happy music for the last hour (beginning with Leslie Gore’s “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows,” naturally), and couldn’t be in a better mood.  I must say, we don’t head to Harrah’s that frequently (the only Harrah’s appearance was in Chapter 9), but it is slowly growing on me.  With our bellies full and our livers boozed, we head down to get some pre-Cheap Trick gambling done.

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