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Christmas Eve in Atlantic City

Posted by evankessler on January 10, 2011

Bally's Casino

Image by Paul Lowry via Flickr

Christmas time brings about a dilemma for many a Jew Yorker. Though there are heaps of our ilk spread across the five boroughs, the Christian holiday is still often regarded as an opportune time for many people, chosen or not, to spend a few days visiting the lands from whence they or their significant others came in order to be closer to family or just warmer/different environs.

So with the holiday frost nipping at my heels and the prospect of being a lonely Jew on Christmas cooped up in my Brooklyn apartment with no one to play with–as many of my faithful and faithless friends took the low road out of town– I pondered my own brief escape from the frigid prison of cinema and Chinese food. I came up with a plan that amused me so.


I wasn’t so sure that the East Coast’s Las Vegas of depression (the west coast’s being Reno) was even open on Christmas Eve, but the more I pondered this plan, the crazier and more enticing it became. The last time I’d been to that particular stretch of the Jersey Shore, I’d emerged a winner to the tune of $800 (thanks Donald Trump!).  Being recently unemployed, I figured that kind of luck might do me some good in the wallet department. Plus, as someone who enjoys new and odd experiences, I figured you couldn’t beat a Casino on Christmas Eve in terms of depravity.

With two days ‘til Christmas, I spent a large portion of my evenings brushing up on Blackjack situations with digital outings on Yahoo! Games. And just when losing fake money began to cast serious doubt, my faith in the probability of reward was restored when both a TV show I was watching and a song I was listening to mentioned casino situations. These were sure signs that fate was calling me to that boardwalk without ill intentions.

When Christmas Eve morning came, I had a few things to sort out before I could make my AC run. Feed roommate’s cats, check; file unemployment claim, check; Stop at the bank and take out $200, check; turn off irresponsibility sensors, check! Atlantic City here we come!

Now one can’t magically teleport to Atlantic City just yet, but I’d be willing to invest any future winnings on the furthering of such technology as it would help to avoid the encounter with the cavalry of the downtrodden that line up for the buses that leave every half-hour from the Academy bus gates at the Port Authority of New York. It’s an assemblage of various financially-strapped but morbidly obese, blue-haired elderly, and faux-high rollers that spend $35 round trip hoping to meet the tattered-dress-wearing, cigarette-dangling, bleached-blonde version of lady luck who spends most of her time– be it summer or winter– on the Atlantic City boardwalk courting the lonely and desperate for one night stands. She may not be the sexiest girl in town, but you wouldn’t kick her out of bed–at least until the nicotine stench started to attach itself to your clothes and everything else in the room.

With teleportation yet to become an option, I endured the two-and-a-half hour slog down the 130-mile stretch of highway towards destiny. Contrary to popular myth, this bus ride wasn’t all sweet dreams and rose petals. The requisite discomfort that accompanies even the briefest stints on public transportation became apparent even before leaving the station as several passengers took the opportunity to relieve themselves in the bathroom. Not that this is the improper place to do so; it’s just that doing so that early into a road trip tends to give the recycled bus air that not so pleasant aroma with an undesirable immediacy, to be coped with throughout the entirety of the journey.

Not to be outdone in the malodorous bouquet department, the woman sitting next to me unveiled a fully dressed Subway sandwich reeking of pungent processed meat and vinegar; several strands of dried out, confetti-like lettuce hanging out from a compressed region of submarine sandwich siphoned the scent towards my nostrils, like an excited toddler shooting down a waterslide.

I knew what I was getting into before choosing to make this trip, but the accompanying misery of transportation had somehow presented itself as appeal. That misrepresentation was now abundantly clear. To combat my foul-scented surroundings I turned my focus to literary matters, having a copy of Mark Twain’s “The Innocents Abroad” at my fingertips and an iPod full of 9,000 plus options blasting distraction into my ears. My pilgrimage to personal gain had been gifted with a certain amount of tunnel vision, lest an unforeseen distraction should arise. The only thing resembling such a distraction were the two reasonably attractive ladies seated behind me, whose presence seemed quite the heavenly apparition in a bus full of degenerate gamblers hellbound for the holidays. I would’ve attempted to engage them, but they were enrapt in conversation from the get-go and they presented nary an entry point, so rather than butt-in, I minded my own.

From my previous experiences on the road to Atlantic City, I had always remembered the trip as being a straight shot without any stops, but this route suggested otherwise. The bus took refuge at a few New Jersey rest stops, the most amusingly named being the “Cheesequake” rest stop. The naming powers that be must have run out of inspiration while conjuring names to honor with fast food commerce for in the midst of such notable historical contributors as Vince Lombardi, James Fenimore Cooper, and Clara Barton they took a moment to acknowledge and appease the gods who might rain such a dairy natural disaster upon unfortunate turnpike travelers. Though, personally I may have gone with the more likely to occur Dark Chocolate Hurricane.

After more than 2 hours of cramped travel, the signs were encouraging. We could be getting closer to our destination, and just like came an actual physical road sign that alerted us that Atlantic City was nigh. The shame of it was that I had to put my book away mid-chapter, but the excitement and fortune that lay on the horizon were certainly worth it. The gambling haven was in plain sight. Our bus was scheduled to make the Showboat Casino its ultimate destination. I had never been to this particular establishment and was looking forward to it, if only because I spent the entire trip trying to figure out which song that I like contains a mention of “the Showboat Casino Hotel” (that would be Cracker’s “Happy Birthday to Me”).

When the bus pulled into the Casino’s individual station, the crowd sprung excitedly from their temporary perch ready to take the slots and tables (but mostly slots) by storm. Unfortunately, before anyone leaves the bus in this situation a Casino representative must be fetched so that they may present individual visitors with their $25 gambling coupon to be used only on slot machines. One young man–who had only taken the bus as transport to family for the holiday– was reprimanded by a few silver foxes when he tried to leave the bus for fear that he might get first dibs on the coupon. The prospect of one person gaining a gaming advantage had turned this cooped up bunch into a pack of petty, ravenous animals.

After 5 minutes more of waiting on the bus, the Showboat Casino representative arrived and people began to disembark, but with one new wrinkle– the bus was now stopping at Bally’s. Half of the passengers had had enough and made their cash grab where the bus stood, while the other half stayed on at the prospect of being let off at Bally’s. I was to be counted among the latter. It’s not that I necessarily had a preference towards one over the other, rather in my previous experience at Bally’s I remembered the coupon being recoupable for cash, which I preferred over having to spend $25 on slots. And if you’re playing 5ç slots with $25 to spare, that amounts to something like 500 slot plays, so you’d much rather have the cash.

Once the bloodlust for Showboat Casino coupons came to a close, our bus was cleared to make its final descent into Bally’s, where the coupon anticipation act repeated itself in a more civilized fashion, the only disappointment being that my remembrance of a $25 cash prize was, in fact, a mirage.  I entered the building with a Casino card and a ticket for $25 that I was told was to be slipped into the slot machine with an accompanying card. Despite several tries to convert my ticket to slot credits in the vast archipelago that is the Jackpot Islands, I was more or less lost in a sea of casino card technology. I took my leave for the cozy confines of a card table.

Scouring the Blackjack Table minimums I came upon several $15 tables that bookended those with $25 minimums. I found an end table with an open seat to my liking and peeled $120 out of my wallet. Mumundkumar, the friendly dealer, accepted my cash challenge, exchanging it for a fresh batch of $5 and $10 chips.

I can’t say things went bad or good for the first stretch. My tablemates and I were in a perpetual state of equilibrium; you win some, you lose some. Though there was a tender moment between myself and my immediate neighbor–a Plaxico Burress look-alike with a blinding diamond ring on his right hand– when we both hit on hands on 14 and 16 respectively only to be rewarded with a 7 and 5. The result was a celebratory high-five that was not at all awkward.

Excitement and camaraderie aside, the hands that Mumundkumar–or Mac as he preferred to be called– weren’t that kind to us. I was probably down $40 when his replacement, Xiao, took control of the card shoe. I didn’t fare quite as bad with this new dealer and I was somewhere around $30 in the black when Mac came back. The charade of false hope went on for another several minutes before I was down to my final $5 and had to dig out another Andrew Jackson in the hopes he’d veto the Impending Poverty Act of 12/24/10. But Mac’s next two hands pushed the bill through anyway.

Dejected and unsure of my immediate gambling future, I took to the boardwalk to suss out a food option and ponder the value in making further get rich quick attempts versus deciding to pack it up and cut my losses . Remembering that it was 6pm on Christmas Eve, I knew I’d have to scramble back towards a casino-sanctioned eatery to fill my poor belly. Luckily, I happened upon a Nathan’s and indulged in some of their famous fare before pulling myself up by my bootstraps and back onto the road of Atlantic City triumph.

I contemplated a move to the Taj Mahal, the site of my previous successful outing and took a stroll through Caesar’s Palace, but in my obsessive compulsive heart of hearts, I didn’t want to leave with the feeling that I had let Bally’s beat me. It didn’t hurt that I knew somewhere Bally’s had $10 minimum tables and those might stop or at least slow the hemorrhaging of money from my wallet. I decided to seek them out.

My search took me from the plain, classy wing of Bally’s to the gimmick-laden Wild West Casino extension, where there was a bar charging for $2 drafts just feet from any table where your alcohol was guaranteed free. I managed to locate the precious $10 tables in this region, but such tables were popular with other hard up folks. Instead, I plunked myself down at another $15 minimum table complete with a sexy-wild west lass emblazoned on the façade as Tim McGraw’s “Indian Outllaw” blared through the speakers.  I couldn’t see my dealer’s name, as her hair covered her nametag, but I figured I had plenty of time to be sociable and learn.

Mystery dealer was relatively friendly when it came to leaving my small fortune in tact; she may have even tacked on a 20-spot or two. All I know is that I had more than what I started with when I first cashed into the table and that made me less count conscious. Instead I was able to enjoy the ebb and flow of the game. You win some, you lose some; you don’t get too far down. After 40 minutes or so of ups outweighing downs, my new, somewhat profitable acquaintance took her leave never to return. In her place, arrived a somewhat more attractive dealer of Southeast Asian descent, with an overly friendly disposition.

Seated at a nearly perpendicular angle to her, I could not spy her nameplate and strike up conversation. I was waiting for her to spin towards me so I could grab a glance at her tag, only when she finally did she resembled her predecessor in that there was a stream of hair flowing over where I would normally spy her name. I did however catch a B and two L’s interrupted by her black strands. I assumed her name was “Belle” but couldn’t get over the thought that she didn’t look like a Belle or Bella or anything involving a B and two L’s.

As “Belle” continued to deal, my pile of chips began to look about as healthy and wealthy as a pile could look when using the wisdom of playing by the blackjack book. I had easily gained back my losses for the evening, if not broke into the black yet again.

The vibe of the table was an extremely positive one. Seated along with me were three African-American men of varying ages. One heavyset 20-something year-old that had the demeanor reminiscent of the local aged wise man whom had seen it all before. The next man was the actual elderly man, who while maybe not wise was certainly sleepy, and the third just a calm, cool and collected middle-aged guy who kept quiet but wasn’t above the occasional excitement. During our time together at the table it felt as though we were all amassing small fortunes. The table sage kept a running commentary of encouragement in a gentle, assuring tone throughout our tenure together even during tough hands.

“That’s okay. You played the hand right. It’s all gonna come back to you.”

“There it is. As long as you do what you’re supposed to do you’re going to come out a winner.”

“Alright, nice play. You got it, I told you.”

“You can’t help what happens with the dealer. Just play your game.”

With his positive demeanor, consistent flow Confucius-like wisdom and tee-ball coach encouragement, you’d think he was doing much better than he actually was. I didn’t notice it through the haze of good vibes he was sending everyone’s way, but he was actually losing. I soon realized he was betting more than the $15 minimum despite having at one point warned against going too high above it.  He ducked out for a few hands and exchanged another $20 for chips before saying his final goodbye to the table.

Somewhere in that final stretch of the near 2 hours spent being peppered with affirmations an older white gentleman joined the table, best described as a cross between Larry David and Alan Arkin, only severely lacking in affable nature and good humor. Upon the previous table cheerleader’s exit, he tried to assume the throne of table morale raiser. When 10s, face cards, or Aces were handed out to any player, he’d shout “that’s the name of the game” before the dealer displayed that players second card in the hope they’d been dealt a blackjack. It was an admirable attempt, but not exactly inspiring. And after hearing it two to three times during every hand it began to be somewhat grating–you might say slightly more grating than the Casino’s soundtrack of outdated pop songs, none of which post-dated early 2003.

Also joining the table, in the vacant middle slot, were a duo of older white southern gentlemen. I use the term “gentleman” loosely not to represent mannered men, rather to denote their being most likely in possession of male genitalia and on the verge of incoherent drunkenness. One of the pair was actually engaged in the game of cards, the other undertook the brotherly duties of propping him up and explaining to him that he couldn’t take action on other people’s hands. Their demeanors were also quite different. The soused and skinny senior Private Pyle was angry and unfriendly, while his bald and bearded buddy was a regular good time Charlie, laughing whole-heartedly at his friend’s expense in guttural bursts and exclamations in my general direction each time he chose to stay on 8 or hit on 19.

Their act grew tiresome and somewhat uncomfortable. The drunker and more ornery of the two frequently threatened violence against his friend if he didn’t let him play the way he wanted to play, while the more jolly one just got obnoxiously louder and more prone to pointing out his friend’s inadequacies. At one point a space opened up next to the drunker southerner and a young woman volunteered her chips to play there, but the Pyle shooed her away because he didn’t want the distraction of having to see her cards in his line of vision.

The uncomfortable vibe continued on through the alternating of two dealers. The lovely “Belle” with the pleasant demeanor was temporarily replaced by Anthony, a tall, crooked-toothed, salt-and-pepper jheri curl wearing dealer who wore his daddy issues on his sleeve– as evidenced by the fact he introduced himself by saying, “You can call me Anthony, or just call me a bum like my father used to.”

Anthony was a little clumsy with the cards, but he still did a somewhat admirable job. He may not have been the ideal casino dealer, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t effectively and consistently gather chips from the losing hands he doled out. My recently amassed fortune was slowly depreciating under his watchful eye, but had been cushioned enough and was periodically replenished so as not to induce panic. Anthony’s dealing inconsistencies caught up with him on one hand as “David/Arkin” decided he was going to split a pair of 9’s against the dealer’s 7. But before he could get to show his intentions, Anthony passed over him assuming he would stay as he was showing a winning hand. It wasn’t unjustified as most of us at that table wouldn’t have split that hand. It’s not what the book says to do and aside from drunk and disorderly to my right, we were all pretty much using that standard.

His presumptive split skipped over, un-fun David/Arkin let his displeasure be known in the most passive of manners, despite the fact that he had won the hand. Throughout the next hour-and-a-half or so he was a master of passive aggression, continually dropping hints that he would be a whole twenty-dollars richer if not for Anthony’s blatant disregard for his unlikely maneuvers. I believe there was even another dealing stint with “Belle” before Anthony returned and the entire situation came to a head, As the pit boss came to welcome another player to the table, Arkin mumbled something about Anthony owing him twenty bucks. The mumble grew to a grumble and ultimately to a roar.

The game was stopped and a debate raged with Anthony and the pit boss for ten minutes. The table all but cleared out and the grumpy gambler had won the day as he received a voucher for twenty-whole-dollars! The commotion managed to clear out most of the table including the pair of belligerent Dixie drunkards and the game resumed with Anthony still dealing. The instigator of the commotion was so utterly proud of his self, but realized that everyone else still present was mighty perturbed at the interruption. He tried to lighten the mood, justifying his actions as a means to an end for clearing out our unruly neighbors and wearing that like a badge. But at least they had created some laughable, if frightening entertainment.

“Belle” returned soon thereafter and proved to be a boon to my profits. I had managed to go from just above even to close to about $105 in the red for the evening under Anthony’s reign. But “Belle” bought back an air of calm to the table along with good fortune. When it threatened to be just me and the complaint department at the other end of the table, a boatload of Korean tourists quickly filled up the seats keeping us company for quite some time, followed by a Darius Rucker look alike that somehow managed to look younger while having a sprinkling of salt in his hair.

The latter sat with his girlfriend who when one of the Koreans dropped out found a spot at the table. It was during this relatively prosperous time I noticed “Belle’s” nametag again. I realized a “P” peaking out from behind her hair, ultimately coming to the realization that the dealer I’d come to know and love as “Belle” was not in-fact named Belle. I had only been reading the blanks surrounding B and L-L that went on to spell B-A-L-L-Y-‘S. It was a good thing I hadn’t felt comfortable enough to ask “Belle” any pertinent questions while mentioning her name. Then again, maybe I would have learned her actual name.

Despite my newfound lack of knowledge as to my friendly dealer’s first name, I pressed on in my quest to become more acquainted with an increasing amount of hundred dollar bills. My ultimate goal for the evening was to earn four-hundred-dollars or enough money to buy a new camera– preferably a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 or Canon Powershot S95, prior to my upcoming trip to New Zealand.

The David/Arkin hybrid soon left the table as did the Koreans and I found myself seated with Darius without his girlfriend to my right. The only wrinkle here was that Darius was not playing. He was watching me play, constantly applauding my decisions. It was a very awkward game of me vs. “Belle” with an enthusiastic audience of one.

Supremely confident in my blackjack skills, Darius started betting on my hands. If I bet $15, he’d put $15 more in my little circle. If I had to double down, he’d contribute to my double down pile. We were doing pretty well together. He continually used his winnings to tip the dealer and tip me. We regularly engaged in high fives and fist bumps when the thrill of victory arose and optimistic chatter when it didn’t. It was simultaneously thrilling and degrading. We were a team, but I was his lucky horse.  After a lengthy winning streak, I urged him to return to his own place at the table, as it was really awkward to play the dealer one-on-one like that. He did for a few hands and then said goodnight.

No one to play with, but the dealer and still with a goal in mind, I continued to battle “Belle” for my ultimate monetary reward. But the light sting of the occasional glass of bourbon and the heavy intake of above average oxygen levels began to have its effect on me. My eyelids, despite being told otherwise by the piping in of refreshing elements, had a heaviness about them– and a slight tinge of pain began pulsating within my temples.

I saw the money on the table, counting it at $380. That was $120 more than I had changed for chips. It wasn’t $400 plus, but it was a good haul. I pushed the entirety of my chips towards “Belle” signaling to her that I was done for the night and the morning– seeing as the clock at somehow managed to crawl to 2:53am.

“Changing $330!” screamed the friendly dealer to notify her pit boss.

Confused, I looked down at my chips certain I’d divided them into even piles and calculated the amount correctly. Then it hit me. At some point in the course of the evening the pile of 10 $25 chips suddenly morphed from $250 to $300 in my brain. She was right. It was only a $70 takeaway. While it was better than nothing, it was a definite disappointment.

I bid my new friend adieu and cashed in my non-fortune and headed towards the Bally’s bus port, reflecting on the past 12 hours. Had my AC outing been a success?

Well, let’s see; I had come in search of bizarre characters-check; holiday desperation-okay maybe a little bit; and a positive flow of cash into my wallet­–$70, could be worse. It would seem all my goals had been met, but a strange thing happened as I strolled through the last stretch of slot machines– I caught my a glimpse of myself reflecting on a flat stretch of metal illuminated by a dim, blinking display. I saw a tired, disheveled wreck of a 32-year-old whom traveled two-and-a-half hours to a casino on Christmas Eve to revel in the sadness of others and win enough money in order to buy a camera only to come up well short of his goal.  I was the exact person I had come to see.


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No Party In The Desert

Posted by evankessler on May 6, 2009

After a blazing hot summer-like weekend to close out April, things cooled off quite a handsome amount last weekend.  Shorts were briefly sent back in storage as temperatures plummeted into the high 50’s and everyone more or less wondered where the super happy fun park weather went.

This self-contained blogging apparatus didn’t exactly have the most eventful weekend, due to somewhat damp and cool conditions, but things started off promising and maintained a relaxing pace all the way through…and there was a derby.  Friday was cause for celebration as Andrea P celebrated hitting the big 3-0 in style.  I took the subway into the city around 8:45, despite VP Joe Biden’s mass transport warnings.  I have to admit, everyone on the train looked beat down and full of suffering as they could’ve been carrying some sort of disease that may or may not have swine flu…and the two who did not were young ladies dressed loosely enough to cause me to ascertain that they might also be candidates for a disease of another ilk…if you know what I mean.

I met a bunch of my friends including the birthday girl at around 9:45pm at Jadis where a slew of folks had been enjoying a dinner and fancy wine type get together in the early evening after-work hours.  I decided to stroll in fashionably late as to avoid taking part in a hefty bill situation opting to miss out on the heaps of champagne in favor of a few Stellas from the bar.

There was plenty of discussion afoot of our hopefully upcoming video project which is currently on the QT even though people reading this might know something about it and there was also a heaping helping of action film discussion spearheaded by Ajay, Suli, Andy, and Jason.  The main topics in that discussion were the Transformers movie, the Star Trek movie, and GI Joe…all hitting theaters this summer.  I have to say, I am excited for GI Joe as I had an odd animated attraction to The Baroness as a child.

From our cozy beginnings we made way for a hot and  happy underground conclusion to the evening, spending the last several hours dancing to the straight up rock and soul sounds at Home Sweet Home.  This was the 2nd time I had been to said establishment in nearly a month and it was even more entertaining and energetic than the last.  The largest difference in going this time around is that the elevated dance floor had been removed, which is probably for the better since it was a bit of a hazard having people onthe closely cramped riser fall on top of those one foot below them.  Either way, shoes were shuffling and body parts were twisting and turning all around to the great soundtrack.  When the night ended I had danced and sweated up a storm, which I know is highly unlike me…but the music was that good.

The Birthday Girl Mid-Dance Move

The Birthday Girl Mid-Dance Move

Lina Wants Peace On The Dancefloor

Lina Wants Peace On The Dancefloor

Saturday morning there was no plan.  I knew the Kentucky Derby was that day, but that was about it.  I was tired from a late evening the night before and really had no motivation to conquer the world.  It was mostly overcast with slight periods of sunnyness at a semi-pleasant…but slightly cool 62 degrees.  At around 1:30 or so I decided to take on the outside world for a brief spell and work myself down to the OTB on 5th ave and 14th street to place a bet on what I thought could be a winning horse for the derby.

After picking up a NY Post to read their assessment, I lined up amongst the most obvious crowd of degenerate gamblers, who in their steadfast dedication to the thoroughbred had obviously built up quite a hatred for the tellers who had handed them one too many a ticket for a losing exacta.  There were mutterings about how slow each teller was and how all of the people in there for the derby didn’t know how to bet and were obviously affecting their ability to bet on the 4th race at Yonkers and the 6th at Meadowlands on time.  Old men who had most likely pissed their life savings in this place yet came back everyday to salvage some rent money or enough for a few beers, but really knew how to pick a winner scurried about.  The audible field was a sea of haggard mumbles and I thought to myself that this might be an interesting place to spend a day.  Sure, I liked Atlantic City, which was it’s own cesspool of negative currency sadness…but this was probably the end all be all of degeneracy and it was oddly appealing. I sort of wanted to hang around, but had no knowledge of any of the other races…though it’s not as if I would have picked winners based on that knowledge.  I just go by names and so the name that sounded like the derby winner to me was “Desert Party.”  I could almost hear it now reverberating through the speakers on my TV “…and down the stretch they come Desert Party takes the inside and stretches his lead to two lengths.  He’s got a few challengers, but looks to be widening the gap…And it’s Desert Party by two lengths to win the derby!”  At 15-1, that all had a nice ring…so I place my $5 bet with my dream scenario floating around in my brain.  I also placed a $5 one for Arby on Friesan Fire.  That wasn’t a bad name either but it had 9-2 odds and not so great payday potential.

Before returning home with my potential I.O.U. from OTB, I stopped by 7-11 in the hopes of grabbing a cherry slurpee.  Unfortunately, the sad look on the fat eleven year old’s face attempting to drain the icy treat into his super-sized cup told me that wouldn’t be happening.  So instead of having a tasty cool beverage to enjoy as I strolled on the sunny side of the street, I was empty handed.

I didn’t head straight home after that, I swung by Jenny P’s place to pick up a notebook I had left over there on Monday and then accompanied her all the way to 7th ave and 9th street to latch onto Robert, with whom she was going shoe shopping with.  From there, I stopped at Louie G’s for some ice cream to satisfy my cool treat fix and eased on down the road back to my abode to catch the beginning of the Mets game.

I didn’t spend too long by my lonesome enjoying baseball.  At 6pm, I headed over to watch the end of the game and the  Derby with Arby and Steph with a 6-pack of tallboys in hand.  Once the gates opened and the jockeys did their jockeying and horseys did their thing that horsey’s do when they’re getting whipped and steered or whatever happens down there, things looked promising.  At first I didn’t hear the words “Desert Party” very often but then at around the midway point I caught wind that my 15-1 champ was pacing himself in 4th place primed for a stretch explosion.  Unfortunately, another horse got into colossal spring seemingly coming from all the way back.  Mine That Bird weaved his way through the equine competition and won by well over a nose.  My ticket was worthless.  I wanted to go commiserate with my beaten down brethren at the OTB but that would’ve been too far of a walk.  Instead I continued drinking with Arby and Steph and continued watching the baseball game.

There Would Be No Partying In The Desert on This Evening

There Would Be No Partying In The Desert on This Evening

From our sporty perch in Arby’s apartment we moved the weekend festivities to La Taqueria for some delicious nachos, tacos, and ice cold beers with the helping hand of our lovely bartender Kayla.  The tacos were tasty while the nachos were disappointingly soggy, but I was hungry for them anyway.  We drank our fill and the time flew.  Before we knew it it was 11pm.  So much for making any night moves, it was time for bed.

I woke up pretty early on Sunday, kind of unaware of the fact that I had passed out on the early side for the weekend.  The majority of my final day of the weekend was spent inside, deterred from tackling the outside world because the outside world was wet and wholly unappealing.  Rain persisted throughout the day and the chair in my room got a work out if supporting my smallish expanse can be deemed a workout.  The weather’s been more or less crummy ever since… but there’s always next weekend to look forward to.  C’mon mother nature, give us some sun…and maybe add a little more heat in there this time around.

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Money for Nothing

Posted by evankessler on August 4, 2005

48 hours ago I was $180 dollars down in Atlantic City. Today I find myself in a slightly better financial situaion but not a drastically improved one. Monday afternoon at 4pm Steve Miller and I jumped on a Greyhound bus to Atlantic City for a little spontaneous gambling action by the boardwalk. I’m not a big fan of taking the bus and I discover why this is every time I do. Now, I’m not a germophobe or anything like that but there’s something disconcerting about having the woman in the seat in front of you hacking up her lungs for the majority of a ride. You start to wonder what disease we’ll all be diagnosed with as soon as we get to our destination. Perhaps, I should get tested for Tuberculosis tomorrow.

The bus rolled into the Sands Casino in Atlantic City at around 6:30pm. It seemed like as good a time as any for our meeting with lady luck. Due to my June experience in Vegas I expected nothing less than she should be greeting me with open arms as soon as I sat down at whatever table I chose. Several hours and many hands of blackjack later I was down $100. I wasn’t sure how Steve was doing but I think he lost at the Sands too. At around 11 something we decided to grab a Philly Cheesesteak on the boardwalk. I thought it would be almost as good as the one’s in Philly since we were in close enough proximity to the Cheese Steaks place of origin. This wasn’t exactly true. It was good but they didn’t make it with Cheez Whiz, which is the real way. I like Wogie’s in the West Village better.

After our culinary excursion, we headed back to the Sands to finish off our complimentary $22 for playing the slots before heading to another Casino. I have to say I’m not a proponent of the new fangled slot machinee. Instead of pouring out coins if you win, you get a printed out voucher. As if the population of grandparents occupying the majority of slot machines wasn’t enough to deter me from playing, the absence of the whole romantic notion of hitting the jackpot and being showered with tons of coins did the trick. Anyway, we came away from the slots with a couple of bucks in vouchers, cashed in our chips and headed to Bally’s in hopes of having better luck.

Bally’s was about three times bigger than The Sands and had multiple themed Casinos. They blasted horrible catchy pop music designed to make people continue to lose their money but enjoy every second of it. Some of the songs sounded oddly at home in the casino. Whoever selected the music to subliminally influence the gamblers was somewhat of a genius. In between songs by Matchbox 20 and the horrible new Jessica Simpson cover of “These Boots Were Made For Walking” they slyly slid in Rod Stewart’s “Some Guys Have All The Luck” and Lisa Loeb’s “Stay”. I was expecting Tom Petty’s “Even The Losers Get Lucky Sometimes” to come on. Anyway, only an hour or two at Bally’s my deficit had increased sufficiently to the tune of $280. I went over to Steve who was raking in the dough at another table. I was secretly hoping he was ready to go because I didn’t think it was wise for me to keep gambling seeing as luck wasn’t exactly working in my favor. I think I was even working as a cooler since the second I showed up at Steve’s table he started losing. I told him I would walk away for 5 minutes and we’d see how he was doing then. It was only a matter of seconds before I decided to throw caution into the wind like a complete moron and take out another $100 and try to make a dent towards earning back what I had lost. Two hours later I had decreased my debt by about $100 and felt good. Slowly but surely I was gambling my way out of the red. Seven or eight hours later I was done gambling, it was 10am on Tuesday and I was up $20 after about 15 hours of Blackjack with maybe 45 minutes of downtime we really had to get the hell out of dodge or rather, Atlantic City. If we didn’t, I’d have almost surely missed my UCB theatre class at 7pm due to a gambling addiction.

I finally made it back to my apartment at 2pm and needed a nap as I had obviously not slept the night before. I woke up at 5:45pm had some dinner and then headed to class. We finally met our teacher this week as we had a substitute last week. It was another fun evening at class if a tad different. In place of the sounds and action exercises we actually did some improvised scene work. Some scenes were three lines and some scenes at a bus station, as well as some roommate scenes and other assorted situations. It was really interesting to see some of the stuff people came up with. However, it was somewhat intimidating because some of the people are exceptionally talented and quick thinking. You realize in the middle of a scene just how hard it is to be on your feet when you have no idea what’s going on. Hopefully, I’ll get better. I don’t have any misconceptions about my abilities so far. After class we went out for a beer at the Blarney Stone on 30th and 8th. It was nice to actually try to get to know some people better though it was rather brief. I left after one drink to meet up for Adam Starling’s birthday.

When I arrived at Adam’s birthday at ICU on Washington St. mostly everyone was gone except for Zoran, Emily, Stacey Angeles, Mike Haigh, Anna Mikelson, Kim Rowe, Dustin Millman, Joe Saunders and his sister Cori who was visiting from Colorado. I had one drink at ICU and then the majority of us headed over to the White Horse Tavern for a beer. Most people left directly after, but Kim, Joe, Cori, and myself went to a bar on 14th and 1st for a couple of drinks. I got home at 3:20am.

As a result of my late night last night I wasn’t feeling too good today. I couldn’t sleep in my bed, so I was passed out on the couch between 8:30am and Noon. The rest of my day was spent moping around feeling completely hazy. However, I did pencil in some time to go see The Aristocrats at the Union Square theatre. The movie is basically about the dirtiest joke ever told and features about 30 comedians telling their version of it. I think my favorite part was probably Sarah Silverman’s version though there were plenty of other funny moments. I don’t want to ruin it. Not that there’s really anything to be ruined it’s just basically a movie about one joke and how everyone tells it. It’s good for plenty of laughs but if you’re at all squeamish about graphic sexual language about incests, beastiality and other completely taboo sexual endeavors you may not enjoy it so much. I wouldn’t tell my mom to go see it, though I’m sure some people I wouldn’t expect to like it would.

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Costa Rica Day 1 – Travel Sick

Posted by evankessler on June 15, 2005

San Jose, Costa Rica 7:40pm

Well, to say it’s been a long first day of this adventure would be an understatement; to say it’s been an adventure would be an overstatement. I’ve been in San Jose for only dos horas and I’m just about ready to call it a day. My day yesterday never really ended as as I idiotically decided to stay up for the car service’s arrival at 5:30am, instead of actually getting some much needed sleep.

The beginning of my adventure went off without a hitch. I got to the airport on time and I got some reading done as I plowed through the first several anecdotes of David Sedaris’ Barrel Fever. I even caught some shut eye on the two-and-a-half-hour flight to Miami. The plane arrived in Miami at 10:30am and my connecting flight to San Jose, Costa Rica was to depart at 1152am EST and arrive at 12:38pm Costa Rica time. However, as the time drew nearer to 1152am we didn’t seem any closer to boarding the plane and as 11:52am passed, the departure time on the board seemed to increase by increments of 15 minutes give or take until it read 3:45pm.

While this was happening, I was being chatted up by a Navy IT guy named Eric H. who was telling me all about his Costa Rican experiences, his navy experiences, and last but not least his history of sexual harassment against females which he seemed somewhat proud of. He even relayed a story to me of grabbing a woman’s breasts in the middle of the Chicago airport and steamily kissing her neck and making out with her. Apparently he calls her everyday even though she is married. Frankly, I was afraid of walking away from this guy, because I thought he might be a bit off. That’s not to say he wasn’t helpful on matters regarding Costa Rica. He lived here for 3 years. He also helped pass time in the midst of a 4-and-a-half- hour flight delay, seeing as he had a deck of cards and a set of poker chips. At least we weren’t sitting together on the plane.

Our plane finally boarded at 3:45pm or so and we were in Costa Rica around 5:30pm Costa Rica time. After going through customs, Eric and I split a taxi to our respective places of temporary residence, which I felt pretty hesitant about doing since he was going on and on about all of the scams he pulled when he lived here. I half-expected him to pull out a gun and take my bags though he spent the better part of our ride warning me of the dangers of San Jose. I finally got rid of the questionable midshipman and made it to my Hostel, Hostel Pangea. Oh, I forgot, to mention that Eric procured an illegal taxi, but to his credit it was pretty cheap.

Upon arriving at the hostel, I signed up for a tour group going to the Arenal Volcano tomorrow morning and dropped my stuff off at the room. I asked the girl at the counter where I could get get some good cheap food and a beer. She pointed me to a bar a few blocks away. Apparently food and beer isn’t the only thing you can get there, because as I walked in a girl asked me if I wanted anything and I’m pretty sure she didn’t work at the bar if you catch my drift…but she was definitely working. Anyway, I ate at the bar, getting arroz con pollo and a beer for $5. I also wrote this entry there as this is just a transcription of the journal entry. Ok, comment away!!!

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Vegas Baby! Vegas!

Posted by evankessler on June 3, 2005

The one picture I took of Vegas lights was ironically during the day

Sorry for the clichéd blog title. Blame it on the movie Swingers. Anyway, last night I got back from 48 hours in Las Vegas, Nevada, our nation’s capital of vice. So what did I do for 48 hours. Well, let’s see, I gambled…um…sat by the pool…gambled…walked to another casino…gambled…ate at a casino buffet…took a taxi to another casino…gambled…gambled…ate…and gambled. I guess that’s not a very detailed synopsis of my time being spend so I’ll pepper this entry with some more description and perhaps a money gained/lost log or just the regular linear order of how things happened. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Tuesday morning, New York City, I meet Greg “the brother” Kessler at his apartment in Tribeca and we headed to the airport via A train to the Skytrain in Howard Beach. I have to say, the Sky Train is the most futuristic looking thing in all of New York. If they build that new Jets Stadium they might have to put it next to Sky Train so it could be it’s own future complex complete with flying cars and time machines. Our flight was on Jet Blue so we didn’t even have to check in once we got to JFK. All we had to do was scan my credit card and our boarding passes came out. THE FUTURE IS HERE!!! The plane was on schedule and left at 1:45pm. While in flight I watched episodes of Trigger Happy TV on Comedy Central and read some of Angels & Demons. Somewhere over Colorado or Utah I looked out the window and thought that we might as well be over Mars. I’d recently seen some footage of the red planet and this view was nearly identical. We arrived in Vegas around 4:15pm Vegas time, which is 7:15pm in New York. After exiting the Jet I went over to a garbage can to get rid of some trash and as I discarded an empty water bottle into the receptacle the receptacle spoke to me. “Thank you.” What? Talking trash cans? Completely useless innovation #1- The Talking Trash Can. THE FUTURE!!! After I was done processing the absurdity of what had just occurred, I called Jess Smith since she was the entire reason we had embarked on this excursion. About 2 weeks ago at Noelle Stehman’s birthday party, Jess came out drinking with me and in the midst of conversation she told me that she’d be in Vegas for two weeks for work and that if I wanted to, I could crash in her room. I was originally a little hesitant to take her up on her offer but she insisted that it was fine.

So, when we arrived we met Jess at Caesar’s Palace where she was working at some sort of Jewelry convention. She supplied us with two room keys and sent us off to bring our bags to the brand new Wynn Hotel & Casino, which would serve as our home for the next 2 days.
As soon as we got to the hotel, all I wanted to do was gamble but Jess had recommended we try out the pool. So despite my urge, I sucked it up and headed to the pool where I sat out in the 95- degree heat for a short period of time and my brother and I went for a swim in the Wynn’s monstrous pool. Actually, it’s big, probably not monstrous. It wasn’t very deep either. It was nice, I hadn’t been swimming in quite some time.

Afterwards we headed back to the room to get rid of our chlorine scent by taking a shower. My brother went in first and upon finishing the shower he walked out into the room naked as if we were in a gym locker room and he was a 78 year old man who just got out of the Sauna. I’m not completely uncomfortable with nudity but if I had the choice between seeing my brother nude and not seeing him nude, I’d pick not seeing him nude any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Anyway, so I took a shower and we headed down to do some gambling at the Wynn.

Upon reaching the casino, I went straight to the ATM and took out $200. First, I went to a $10 minimum bet blackjack table and cashed $100 in chips. Several hours later I had turned my $100 into $175 (+$75). Things were looking good and I was pleased with my winnings. Greg and I decided we needed a change of scenery so we decided to walk to the Rio Hotel & Casino because Sean Maddison had recommended the buffet there. On the way there, I ran into Lauren from MTV in front of the Treasure Island casino. I didn’t recognize her at first but she recognized me. I didn’t really expect to see anyone I know in Vegas, and I don’t know Lauren very well so I was a bit confused. After a bit of a chat Greg and I pressed on towards the Rio but the closer we got to it, the further away it looked. It probably took us at least a good 45 minutes to walk there.

When we got there we headed straight for the buffet because Sean told us we had to check it out. This is where I learned my lesson that most buffets in Vegas are overpriced and generally aimed at huge fatties. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but the food is pretty average and it’s about $25 per person so you immediately feel and obligation to eat $25 worth of food just so you get your moneys worth, despite the mediocre fare.

To compensate for overspending on dinner we decided to win our money back at the Rio Casino. I cashed $100 in for chips and stepped up to the Single deck blackjack table. Apparently there’s a lot more rules to the single deck game because I was constantly berated by the mean lady dealer for not tucking the cards in exactly right and putting them on the wrong side of the chips. She even carded me for being old enough to play. She made me nervous to be sitting at her table but I stuck it out and came away with zero dollars. That means I lost the $100 I cashed in. (-$25).

Greg and I didn’t like the vibe at the Rio so we made the switch to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. I really liked the vibe here. I sat down with $150 and immediately started wining back some money thanks to my friendly dealer Jason. He kept giving everyone tips the entire time and we all started doing well because of it. I was having a great time until Jason left the table and Shae-Love took over. She immediately started taking my money. She was somewhat helpful but in a more blunt fashion. If you wanted to hit on something that she thought was stupid, she’d let you know. That being said, that approach didn’t help me much. My $150 soon dwindled down to about $75, just in time for Jason to return and change my luck for the better. I was back up to about $175 with Jason’s help and when Shae-Love returned I knew I should’ve left the table but I was on a roll. There was this one guy at my table who was getting killed. He was an orthopedic surgeon from Denver. How do I know that? He kept saying it every five minutes. Shae-Love the sassy black jack dealer from the Bronx kept calling him on it. He also had just lost $4000 at another casino, but according to him , “it’s doesn’t matter how much money you lose as long as you have fun.” He kept saying that too. The thing about the Hard Rock Casino is that they play really good music, so you could be losing all of your money but Tom Petty is playing in the background and all you can think of is, “I Love Tom Petty. This is awesome” Pretty soon I had $45 left and got away from the table. Greg was still playing some blackjack nearby so I went over to the $15 minimum table and met another cute and friendly dealer named Jennifer who was from Indiana and was also extremely helpful in playing each hand. I went from $45 to $150 thanks to Jennifer and another dealer named Mark kept me going strong. I was feeling great and when Jennifer came back to the table and I felt my luck could only continue, but I’ve been wrong before and I ended up back at $50 when I called it a night at the Hard Rock. That’s another $100 gone (-$125).

We probably got back to the Wynn at 2:30am and I looked in my wallet to see $75 sitting there. I wasn’t content to let my night end on a down note. So from 2:30am to 5am, I was busy turning those $75 into $225 (+$25) thanks to the help of dealers, Marlene and Nicky.
I felt good as I crawled into bed at 5:15am up $25 after my first 12 hours of gambling in Las Vegas.

Wednesday morning, Greg and I did some pool sitting and I placed a $25 bet at the sport book on the Spurs- Suns game. I lost that bet ($0). I and then in the afternoon we headed to the old casinos of downtown Vegas. We ate at a place called The Upper Deck which is home to the famous 9lb. Cheeseburger. If you eat it within 24 hours it’s free!!! We didn’t get the big one but our cheeseburgers were good. Afterwards we went to the Golden Nugget and I picket up where I left off at first. I cashed in $100 in chips and thanks to my dealer and the pit boss’s wife Maggie, I was up to $130. However, just as I wanted to leave Greg was still busy with his poker game, and though I was half asleep I went back to the tables to partake in some more fun with chips that make you feel like you’re using play money. An hour later I was at another table and only had $30 left. So I went from $100 to $130 to $30 (-$70)

I was exhausted when we got back to the Wynn and I needed a nap. Jess came back to the hotel room after a long day. She wanted to go out with us but she had to go to a cocktail party for the jewelry convention so we told her to call us when she got out of the party. As I relaxed in the room I watched my sports bet not come to fruition and got ready for another turn at the tables. I had $90 lett over in my wallet and went for another go at it at the $15 minimum table. Pretty soon those $90 were gone (-$160). I was pretty pissed off but I went to the ATM and took out $100 and marched over to another table where a lovely asian woman by the name of Yoon was at the helm. I don’t know what transformed me but I had become the blackjack master. Every decision I was making was the right one. 3 hours later my $100 had been transformed to $430. $330 was the most I had ever won (+170). In celebration Greg and I went to get dinner in the hotel and Jess called us to tell us she was going out with friends to a club in Treasure Island called Tangerine.

At Tangerine, where my hair blocks one of my eyes and half of Jess’s face

When we got there, there was a huge line. There was an MTV party at the club. We were not about to wait on line but then Jess showed up with a girl named Sophia and we all just sort of walked in. It was a lot of fun and Jess finally got to have a good time after working constantly since Sunday. After 2 drinks Jess, decided she had to go home because her heel had broken and her feet were killing her, and she also had to wake up early. It was about 1:30 or 2 and Greg, Jess, Sofia, and I headed back to the Wynn. Sofia had said she wanted to win money so Greg enlisted me to teach her how to play blackjack. I went up to a table with $100 so Sofia could watch. Minutes later my $100 was $30. I decided this wasn’t the table for us. We went to another table. I had $30 in chips, Sofia and Sofia changed $20 worth of chips. After a couple of hands, our dealer Greg had gotten me back up to $110 and I coached Sofia on each hand. She came away with $90. She exclaimed, “Sweet, now I can go shopping.” Glad I could help. (+$180)

Greg with Sofia, who we don’t really know, so who’s to say if we’ll ever see her again.

2am-4am Wednesday night/Thursday Morning = Debaucherous (not sure if that’s a word, spell check doesn’t seem to think so) activity at a place called the Spearmint Rhino. That’s all I’ll say.

We returned from said debauchery at 4am. Greg went to sleep and I was determined to make back some money we spent on said debauchery. Despite the pleasant demeanor of Greg and Otis at my table I had only $5 by 6:51AM (+$185). Oh well, at least I didn’t lose anything. I had already made some solid winnings.

Thursday morning rolled around, (that’s the same as saying I napped for 3 hours), and Greg and I got some final morning breakfast at the same place we ate dinner the previous night. Greg headed straight to the pool and I went straight to the blackjack table. I had a $100 bill but couldn’t decide which table to go to. I usually just pick based on the most sedate looking table, where the players appear most curmudgeonly. However, I had a dilemma seeing as most of the tables only had one or no people on them and I don’t like being the only guy at a table. However, I did notice that the dealers on two of the tables were cute girls, and it’s much more pleasant to lose money to cute girls than a withered old man. So I sat at Kerri’s table with $100. At first there was one guy at my table but he didn’t last too long. I always felt strange while betting because the other person was always betting with much more money than me. I thought perhaps if I bet less conservatively I’d end up with better results. In the end I decided against it because I’m not rich. Anyway, I was doing quite well and I was up about $100. As soon as I was at the table alone my luck took off but not before it took of a hit. Kerri left the table and Kathleen started dealing me pure gold. At one point I had three blackjacks in a row. Before I knew it I was up to $350. Kerri came back after a break and chips were piling up in my corner. I swear at one point I must’ve been up to $700. When all was said and done, I had turned $100 into $625 (+$710). I think over the course of two days I really learned how to deal with every blackjack situation and it was really reflected in my end run there as well as all of my gambling at the Wynn. All I did at the Wynn was win. Ouch, that was bad.

Greg and I ended our stay at the Wynn around 3:30 when we jumped in a cab for the airport. Greg insisted that I pay for everything. I promptly reminded him that I am currently unemployed and that since I bought the plane tickets, he owed me. Also, once we got to the gate I had to find something to throw out in Future trash can just to hear it say, “Thank you.” The trip back was okay. There was a crying baby, the majority of the 4 and a half hour flight, but I had a whole row to myself and watched several episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on the TV on my seat as well as two episodes of The Daily Show. I got home at about 2am Thursday night/ Friday Morning, quite the whirlwind adventure.

Vegas is sweet and so is gambling. Three cheers for gambling. Hip, Hip Hooray!!! Hip Hip Hooray!!! Hip, Hip Hooray!!! Anyone want to go to Atlantic City or back to Vegas for that matter? Just kidding. Or am I? Next up Costa Rica, June 15-24.

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