Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia’

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.

2014-07-04 03.31.15

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

Ah, the lost city of Atlantic. For those not fortunate to grow up in the tri-state area, Atlantic City is a tourist trap that has gone through several changes in its long history. It began as a beach getaway at the turn of the 20th century, attracting hard workers from Philadelphia and New York City. However, when that pesky airplane was invented, people chose to see far-away lands, rather than the quaint city that Monopoly was based off of. When it looked like all hope was lost, in that ugly decade known as the 1970’s, New Jersey threw the dog a bone and legalized gambling. And like that, the city was back on solid-ish ground.

With my mom and grandmother being solid gamblers (the former on roulette, the latter on the slots), I would spend many a weekend there in the summers of the beautiful decade of the 1990’s. Back then, Atlantic City was working on being “kid-friendly”. The Showboat had a bowling alley, where my brother, my cousin, and I would whip the bowling balls down the alley with reckless abandon. There was the Pier One shops, which had a fantastic assortment of arcade games in the back. Tropicana had Trop World, an amusement park with rides located in the casino.

As I grew up, the trips to Atlantic City were less frequent. However, I still had the itch to return there. Not as a boy, but as a man – able to drink alcohol and lose money (or vice versa) at all times of the day, and however frequently I wanted! I turned 21 in 2005, but did not make my first official trip until 2007. And man, things have changed. The bowling alley in Showboat? Replaced by a high-end buffet. The Pier One arcade? Replaced by a high-end mall with fancy clothes and stuff. Trop World? Replaced by another high-end mall with fancy clothes and stuff. Sensing a pattern here?

So, while my trips to Atlantic City have been good for indulging my sinful side, it has left me wanting in the nostalgia department. Even the favorite casino that I’ve visited over the last five years, the Wild Wild West Casino, is getting a make-over to become, what else, but a high-end mall with fancy clothes and stuff. Allow me to question Atlantic City’s marketing techniques for a second.

Atlantic City seems to be positioning itself for two demographics. The first being their bread-and-butter – old people. Let’s concede this, as long as there are slots that you can play in denominations of $0.01 per spin, old people will show up. The other demographic in Atlantic City’s sights is the beautiful 25-year-old millionaire. If you look at all their advertising, you see young, beautiful people playing and drinking with reckless abandon. Fancy clubs with names like “Dusk” and “Casbah” are ready for you to make reservations and have ridiculously expensive bottle service.

Now, chasing the beautiful 25-year-old market is all fine and good, but I just have one question: how many beautiful 25-year-olds can there possibly be? In the past five years (god I feel old) that I’ve been visiting Atlantic City, I’ve yet to run into any. More frequently, I see creepy old millionaires talking to beautiful 25-year-olds, but you don’t see that in Atlantic City’s marketing. And now we have two casinos catering to the high-end youth market (Borgata and Revel), as well as the aforementioned renovations to Caesar’s, Tropicana, and Wild Wild West.

Basically, there are two key points I’d like to make to sum up this long-winded rant. First, it is about time that casinos in Atlantic City stop taking themselves so seriously. You are in New Jersey, and your clientele is 90% old people. No matter how “swanky” you promote yourself, nobody is going to buy it. And secondly, there are a plethora of people like myself – people who are in their 20’s and 30’s, who have a solid income and aren’t extremely rich or extremely poor, who would love to visit Atlantic City more often. These people want to come down and blow $300 over a weekend, not $300 over a couple hours of bottle service. However, you are constantly limiting our options for fun, whether it be increasing incredibly high table limits on weekend nights (even $15 tables seem to be going the way of the dodo), removing cheap bars (rest in peace, Wild Wild West 24-hour happy hour), or having ridiculous hotel room prices (the cheapest hotel room for this Friday is $110 a night in a crummy motel off the boardwalk, whereas in Vegas you can stay at the Imperial Palace, located in the middle of the strip, this Friday for $63).

Despite these complaints, I still love Atlantic City. Yes, I am a gambling addict, but despite its warts I always go to Atlantic City with a smile on my face (whether I leave with that same smile is a different story). These Atlantic City Diaries will give you a taste of AC through my eyes, as I try to have the most fun without taking out a second mortgage or being confined to the penny slots. So tune in next week – I’ll be visiting the Orion Music Festival this weekend and will have a full report.