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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.

ATLANTIC CITY!

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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The Gifts That Keep On Giving

Posted by evankessler on December 15, 2010

Christmas gifts.

Image via Wikipedia

The holiday season is well upon us, and with it the practice of giving and receiving is in full swing. It’s not all Jane Seymour Open Hearts collection pendants, engagement rings from Jared, and big Mercedes-Benzes wrapped in bows; Lord knows in this time of recession it’s the little gifts that bring the biggest grins and –in some cases– the most pronounced, poorly-hidden frowns. Nowhere is this more apparent than the time-honored holiday party tradition of the Yankee/White Elephant gift swap. This convivial contemporary custom mixes the magic of the Secret Santa with the scarring occurrence of being present for a home burglary.

For those not familiar with the White Elephant gift exchange tradition, it entails that  guests of a holiday party all bring a gift within a specified price range, placing it upon arrival within the previously designated area– usually by a Christmas tree or Hannukah bush.The participating guests are then asked to pick numbers out of a hat (or similar receptacle) to determine the order in which they claim their gift. While it may seem those with the earliest numbers get the advantage this is not so. Though they may have the most gifts to choose from initially, they also have the better chance of having their gift stolen, for each subsequent gift getter has the option to steal a previous gift or open something new for their very own– that may eventually get ripped from their admiring grasp before all of the gifts are exchanged.

The most exciting aspect of this event is the potential for a rather rigorous volley of exchanges. Though some such gatherings are marred by less risky participants, the fun is amped up by those with a penchant for brazenly coveting the unwrapped prizes of others, who don’t mind crushing newfound materialistic attachments for their own selfish gain. These are the people that turn an exchange of both the crappy and cherished into a soul-crushing, rip-roaring good time.

Having been to two of these events in the past two weeks, I’ve mostly won out in my dealings, both times being bestowed with the number 5 pick. As you could well surmise, getting a good item at such a juncture would ultimately prove unfruitful, because whatever you would pick would subsequently be stolen. But even with the #5 pick, I generally managed to skirt the heartbreak of having precious items robbed from my person, mostly because I’ve not managed to secure any precious cargo despite having a vast array of shiny packaging to pick from on each occasion.

The first gift swap, which had a price limit of $5, saw me unwrap the gift of delicious foreign candy bars. While I find candy to be utterly delicious, it is entirely untrade-able as an entity of holiday cheer. With each successive pick, I attempted to entice the contestant with deliciously sweet treats to no avail. I can’t complain, I don’t think my own gift, a DVD of Roadhouse 2 starring not Patrick Swayze, was not being clamored for either.

Candy, Candy, Candy I Can't Let You Go–Because No One Else Wants You

Frankly, for such a cheap price point, the gift I picked may end up providing maximum utility, as it’s not more junk to keep around in my room that I forget I have for a year before I decide to throw it out. Rather, it gets eaten, and then it’s gone. That being said, I would’ve liked to have been involved in the trading fun.

My 2nd gift swap, which occurred this past weekend, had a slightly more substantial price point, boasting a limit of $20. I was almost assured a somewhat enjoyable gift, as the accent was placed on a “sillier the better” theme. I think my gift of a DVD boasting Police Academy movies 1-4 fit the bill rather well and would be enjoyed for the silliness by whoever wound up with it. When pick #5 came up this time around, I was fairly confident I’d wind up with the best gift that everyone would immediately be clamoring for. Despite going one pick after a well-thought out zombie survival kit, some of the contents which were not suitable for the one child in the room who eventually traded for it, I decided to roll the dice that my unwrapping skills would reveal something highly-coveted.

While my gift was a good one, it was severely lacking in humor. I enjoyed the film The Dark Knight, but was pretty sure I’d never watch it on DVD. The Batman figure that accompanied it, complete with masturbation hand movement, would just be another thing sitting in my room.

Again I desperately lobbied for a gift exchange, though I figured most of my friends already owned this movie or were in the market for something better. There was a skull and crossbones snuggie, a color-changing umbrella, and a children’s racecar driving game that all freely exchanged hands while I sadly displayed my more practical gift.

Then it happened. With one more pick left to made there was an endless gift exchange flurry. Save for all of the presents that had reached their exchange limit, it was a free for all as contestant after contestant decided to swap for already existing gifts rather than open that last wrapped enigma. The turn was in the hands of a ten-year-old and the crowd eager for the game to go on urged him to swap for something. I held out my Superhero-themed present, but made sure not to be naggy about it. Just like that, The Dark Knight disappeared from my grasp and I had a somewhat limited choice of things that had exchanged hands less than three times. That being said, I knew what I wanted.

Our host had been sadly trying to pass off what I thought were the best gifts of the evening. He sat there throughout the proceedings trying to coax each person to snag his newly acquired reading materials and in one fell swoop from my hands, that was achieved. I was now the proud owner of George W. Bush’s Decision Points and Sarah Palin‘s America By Heart, both “signed” by the “author.”

 

Consequently, My Least Favorite Photo I've Ever Been In

 

The final gift was gone a few minutes later and while mostly everyone was pleased with their takeaway, my bounty was quite the unexpected treat. Now, I’m not sure if or when I’ll get around to reading these shining beacons of American literature, but I suspect a conservative book club night at a local bar is in order.  Chapter 1: Quitting.

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Don’t Be A Bad Santa

Posted by evankessler on December 23, 2009

The final hours are dwindling down to that magical moment when you and your family will be gathered by the tree on Christmas morning, eagerly awaiting what rewards being on Santa’s “nice” list and continuing your strained familial relationships hath wrought.  We know you don’t want to spend too much loot on those who rarely factor into your lives– even if they are family.  But it is Christmas; so while you’re naturally inclined to wait to the last second to fill the stockings of those that matter the least, there are some lame gifts that defy poor judgment as shining beacons of just how little effort you felt like putting into the giving season.  The following are a few examples of gifts that no one will be thankful for receiving:

Internet Address Organizer- In the postal age, address books were thoughtful tokens for those less-organized friends who you couldn’t stand to be out of touch with. Nowadays buying someone an Internet Address organizer hints that not only are you wholly unfamiliar with the Internet and its ability to save information such as email addresses, but you probably haven’t the slightest idea– nor do you care– about any of the likes and dislikes of said gift recipient to buy them something so impersonal and pointless.  Nothing says, “I didn’t really want to get you anything” quite like an Internet Address Organizer.

Fancy Coat Hangers As someone who has received the gift of coat hangers as a holiday present, I can unequivocally state that they are in no way worthy of the feigned “thanks” you’d ultimately have to bestow upon he/she who was convinced by QVC hosts that they were a wonderfully practical idea for a present. That being said, I still have my coat hangers, I’m just not happy about them as a gift.

A Spoon Pillow– People who fancy themselves cooking whizzes often find themselves awash in kitchen amenities. To our minds there’s nothing more pointless than this one- a pillow…for your spoon. You know, for when your cooking utensil needs a rest and a paper towel blanket just won’t do.

Any Item of Clothing That Says Merry Christmas On It- Talk about gifts that allow for minimum utility.  Giving someone something that they’re only able to break out on the occasion that it is Christmas, provides for the ultimate guilt trip.  If said recipient is not wearing his/her Santa sweater next year, I know a certain relative who’s going to be very upset.

Alright OneRioters, time’s a dwindling. Go forth and get your last minute gifts. Just try not to waste your hard-earned cash on some of these holiday clunkers.

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A Range of Mangers

Posted by evankessler on December 15, 2009

As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate the birth of their lord and savior less than two weeks from today, many have set up manger scenes of the Baby Jesus.  Though this denotes a joyous occasion, it’s important to note that not all cultures see Jesus as their lord and savior. For Star Wars fans, the savior is Luke Skywalker; for Tom Cruise it’s L.Ron Hubbard; and for some Colombians, Jesus is the newborn son of the local druglord who was showered with gifts such as guns, cocaine, and myrrh (though whomever brought the myrrh was shot out back and fed to the wild dogs) upon birth. Seeing as the Internet is a melting pot of any and all cultures; a front lawn for the tech-savvy, it’s a more than reasonable expectation that there would be various permutations of Christianity’s famous manger scene depicting the three wise men’s visitation co-opted to fit the beliefs of other cultures or by those with entirely too much time– on their hands.  Here are a few favorites we found:

This manger scene by Flickr User Larry Lars provides a double dose of dorkyness (the good kind) combining Star Wars Fandom with Lego ingenuity.

Some people subscribe to a school of thought that Dinosaurs and man co-existed.  This manger scene is for those people.

German Minimalist nativity scene or missing Jenga pieces?  You decide. (Made by Oliver Fabel http://www.oliverfabel.de/)

The Baby Jesus in this nativity scene made bath time so much fun.

No Christmas Is Complete Without A Sighting of the Robot Baby Jesus (via Robot Porn )


We’re sure there are plenty more bizarre interpretations of the nativity floating out there on the world wide web.  Much to our chagrin we were unable to locate a “Sexy Manger.” “Chanukah Christ” or any scene depicting the amount of body thetans Jesus was born with. These will just have to suffice for now. If you have any creative manger scenes send them our way and maybe we’ll show them off.  Otherwise, just carry on happily with your holiday proceedings.

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OneRiot’s Guide to Holiday Parties

Posted by evankessler on December 2, 2009

December is at long last upon us and though we here at OneRiot can feel the icy chill of winter wafting towards us through that drafty window, we’ve already had a few days to wrap ourselves in the Holiday season‘s snuggie-like grasp . ‘Tis the season to throw a major rager full of yuletide cheer and crisp cool beer–or if you prefer, hot toddies. If you’re concocting a party plan to go along with some holiday punch with extra kick, we have some suggestions on how to make your annual winter gala one for the ages.

  • Dress for the occasion- We all have that one horrible sweater with reindeer on it that needs considerable dusting off in mid-December before it succumbs to the annual wear and tear of egg nog spills.  Break it out.
  • Make A Proper Holiday Mix- Start your evening off with some classic winter tunes along the lines of Dean Martin‘s “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and around an hour and a half in when people are starting to get antsy and dancy spring “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and Run DMC‘s “Christmas in Hollis” before it turns into a full on 80’s dance party.
  • Rent A Copying Machine- If you’re having a holiday party and don’t have a copying machine, you’re really missing out. The room where the copier is is the equivalent of a bedroom on MTV Cribs. It’s where the holiday magic happens.
  • Ice Luge- With the winter Olympics coming up, what better way to pay tribute this holiday season than by having alcohol sled down your throat?
  • Living Nativity Scene– Convince a few of your friends to dress as the three wise men complete with a manger and baby Jesus. Have everyone else at the party place bets to see how long you can get them to stay in their positions before they get sick of it and are compelled to just join the party.
  • Don’t Forget Your Jewish Friends- They may celebrate with a hannukah bush and by lighting candles, but just because they’re not caroling doesn’t mean they don’t know how to cut loose.  Playing spin the dreidel can be more fun that spin the bottle because it has levels of hooking up.  Land on “gimmel” and you could have a very happy holiday.
  • Have A Bag- Everybody loves presents.  Give everyone a ten dollar limit for a grab bag and enjoy the disparity in gift quality as some party-goers end up with wondrously inventive gadgets and others wind up with total crap.

Most importantly, make sure to invite all of your best friends to the party.  After all, the holidays are about spending valuable time with the ones you love and maybe some you’d like to get to know better under slightly less inhibited circumstances.

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Take That Hippie!

Posted by evankessler on July 30, 2009

Official seal of the National Organic Program

Image via Wikipedia

A crushing blow was dealt to the neo-hippie movement recently when a study by the British Food Standards Agency, examining food data over the last 50 years, concluded that the health value of organic food was neither greater nor significantly different from that of that which is considered non-organic. The announcement didn’t prompt the immediate shutdown of specialized grocery stores with monikers touting their earthiness, but nonetheless there are some immediate positive effects as a result of the report which has since been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study severely hinders your favorite restaurant’s ability to overcharge you for “organic Cobb Salad” and you’ll no longer have to deal with that uppity hippie friend who continually hints that their own moral and ethical superiority is somehow linked to the fact that they “only eat organic.”  Thank you British Food Standards Agency, we owe you one.

update: The author of this post has since seen the documentary Food Inc. and doesn’t necessarily feel this way anymore.


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A Dog Eat Dog World

Posted by evankessler on October 14, 2008

Chihuaha x Paris Hilton = Please Help Us Canada

Chihuaha x Paris Hilton = Please Help Us Canada

I’m not quite sure what this fascination is with talking dogs, but it seems after 2 weeks filmgoers are still captivated by Beverly Hills Chihuahua against all rhyme or reason. The film raked in another $17.5 million this week. Maybe this is all just a bizarre form of escapism from our current economical woes. People probably just want to see dogs talk because they know it’s a lot less real than the prospect of losing everything they own when the volume of the Dow Jones Industrial inevitably reaches zero sometime before Christmas and The Royal Canadian Mounted Police invade the US in order to create the Socialist States of America, handing out health care to everyone who stands in their way.

I’m not really sure I want to live in a country where a movie about a Beverly Hills Chihuahua and a show where Paris Hilton searches for her new BFF are mutually exclusive anyway.  And who’s to say the Canadian takeover didn’t begin long ago.  What with the National Hockey League having been in existence since 1919 and the league’s slow but sure encroachment on into some of our warmer environs; I say the non-hostile gerrymandering of country lines was set in motion well before Pamela Anderson replaced Farrah Fawcett as the standard for pin up models and began to repeatedly marry our rapidly depleting stock of hepatitis c addled drummers.

If John McCain wins the Presidential Election on November 4th, that will be the last straw.  I will outstretch my open arms towards our nanooks to the North, entreating them to join our two nations together.  And if they respond favorably to that moment, I will greet them as liberators, eh.

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What’s your Holideal®?

Posted by evankessler on December 25, 2006

You Can Get A Great Holideal On This Bedspread at Fingerhut.com

Hello, heathens and holy folk. Ye are all welcome to sit at the table of EvanKessler.com holiday cheer and jeer. There’s not much to report this weekend since I last reported on my goings on, whereabouts and listenings. At last I left you, I had rented both Beerfest and Clerks II on Friday Evennig/Saturday morning. I’m happy to report that they were both finished that evening by 3:30 in the am. I have to say, I was not impressed by either of them, though I do think Beerfest was the funnier of the two. Clerks II seemed too much like the first one only the jokes were more contrived, less funny, and with less attention to detail which really pushed the first one over the top. It was 10 years later and Randall and Dante hadn’t changed and were in similar situations but at a different store and had an annoying kid who liked Lord of the Rings alot working with them, a point of plot that was completely overused and bothersome. In any case, I’ll give my holiday jeers to Clerks II even though it was not a holiday movie.

After my solo Friday movie night I woke up at around 11:30am and was utterly bored by 12:30pm. Luckily for me, Andrew Morton would soon call and we went to Blink 182 for lunch down the street. After our lunch where we got our usuals and had trouble figuring out a rather simple check I decided to kill time with Andrew as he got his holiday gifts at the hell hole that is the Atlantic Center mall. As we walked over we were walking behind a bunch of trampy 14 year old girls which is always worrisome. And upon entering and walking past Victoria’s Secret, I saw an 8 year old girl grab her mom and say “Mom I want to something in there”, which was also quite worrisome. I fear for the future. Depraved 8 year olds aside, there were long lines, bothersome children, impatient adults, and plenty of sales. You know, the kind of things you’re wont to see at a mall two days before Christmas. At first we made the move to Bath & Body Works so Andrew could get gifts for his sister but the line was far too long. We would decide it would be better if we went back later.

Next stop was Circuit City, for the many many gifts for male siblings and nieces and nephews. Mr. Morton has quite the large family. I think he’s the last of 10 or 11 children. He’ll most certainly read this so he can correct me. In any case, he bought a bunch of gift cards there but while we were waiting in line near the XM and Sirius satellite radio display I had a battle with a young teenager over the proper radio station to blast. The young teenager was playing with the stations and was blasting some really loud obnoxious hip hop (that doesn’t make me racist right? white people rap too) and then walked away after he had been fiddling with the XM for quite some time. It was my turn to play but since I didn’t feel like fidgeting with all of the buttons I just stopped when I came to Jane’s Addiction “Jane Says” because it was a good enough song, but just innocuous enough to play in a public place. So I stopped there because I didn’t want to play anymore. However, we were not moving in the line and every few seconds the kid from the previous hip hop malady kept poking his head around the corner to see when we were no longer standing near the radios so he could just change it back. We weren’t trying to play enforcer but we just found it funny that the kid kept spying on the radio to see when it would be okay so I just sort of hung by the display.

After a while the kid, his mother, and his baby sister came by. The baby sister just started hitting all of the buttons and switched the display from XM to Sirius which had the Catholic Channel on. That channel was playing a sermon which was immediately frightening and when they walked away I shut it off. Though it’s good to know that if I ever want to hear a Catholic Church sermon, all I have to do is get a subscription to Sirius and I’ll have the preacher right at my fingertips.

When we left circuit city it was back to Bath & Body Works, a store that is just a complete sensory overload with more scented body scrubs than you can shake a stick at. One thing that caught my eye was the Cinnamon Bun 3 in 1 that served as a Bubble Bath, Body Wash, and Shampoo. I wondered how one thing could be good for all of those purposes. I also wondered if it could also serve favorably in the role of condiment. I wouldn’t be surprised if it does.

Several gift cards later, Andrew and I walked to Barnes & Noble on 7th and 6th but on my way there I ran into my brother’s friends from University Sven & Cammie (sp?) who live in my neighborhood, but whom I haven’t seen since I moved in. It’s always nice to know more people where you live, especially when they’re people that you like. We had a brief chat but then it was off to look at books. This was the shortest portion of our day as we quickly decided that it was too crowded. That’s where my wandering around with Mr. Morton ended.

When we split off I got my first iPod listening of the weekend starting with Cat Power’s “Hate” and moving to Lucero’s “Hate and Jealousy”. Nary a dent was made into the iPodyssey though as I only listened as long as it took me to get home from the Barnes & Noble which included only 4 more songs after that, 2 of which were Earl Pickens “Haunt Me” and the final one being Pavement’s “Haunt You Down”.

After a few minutes of loitering at home I got a phone call from Kishore to go see The Good Shepherd with him and his friend Derek in Cobble Hill. We arrived to the 8:30 show at 8:40 but since there are so many previews we didn’t miss a thing. It might’ve been better if we did because the movie was 2 hours and 4o minutes long and not all that great. I think if the reviews your showing in the commercial are Larry King saying, “The Best Spy Movie Ever Made…” then it can’t be a good movie. We also sat in the 2nd row so it was practically an IMAX film except that it was a slow moving drama.

After the film Kishore and I headed into the city to go drinking with one of his friends only by the time we got into Manhattan the party was over, but it was a good thing Kishore drove because taking a subway back would’ve sucked. We went back to Brooklyn and had a drink at Union Hall and then called it a night.

I woke up this morning excited about football but pretty sure that the Giants were going to lose and boy did they ever. The Saints shellacked Big Blue 30-7. I couldn’t really watch after the 3rd quarter. I don’t understand how a team like the Giants who is fighting for their playoff life comes into a meaningful game and plays that poorly and that undisciplined. It was really shameful. Anyway, after that monstrosity of a game I watched the World Series of Pop Culture until 10pm and ate Chinese Food. I could definitely win that show. I wonder if having previously worked for VH1 is a disqualification.

While I was watching the World Series of Pop Culture, I was talking to my friend Nina on gmail chat and made plans to hang out with her and boyfriend Dmitry at their place. I put some clothes on, grabbed the ol’ iPod and hit play and listened from Pavements “Haunt You Down” to Public Enemy’s “He Got Game” (5 songs) on the way down to their place. We drank and watched a horrible episode of Friends and some Globetrekker show. This is how lame Friends was as a show. Ross wanted to go see Hootie & The Blowfish for his birthday and half of the friends couldn’t go because they were too poor. In the end, the three friends who didn’t go are jealous because they partied with the band and one of the Blowfish gave Courtney Cox a hickey. WOW! Talk about excitement!

Anyway, I enjoyed hanging out and having a few beers with Nina and Dmitry. However, when the clock hit 1am I decided that maybe I should let them get some sleep and not overstay my welcome. I hit the road and pressed play. It took me from “He Got Game” to Golden Smog’s “He’s A Dick” (6 songs), then I was ready to write this and go to sleep. And guess what? I already wrote this so it’s time to go to sleep. Merry Christmas, Christmas celebrators.

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