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You.  Are Being Rude To Me.  In The Lobby, of the Bally are being.  Rude. Tropicana Casino In Atlantic City:
Carpets, Chickens, Hobos, & Michael Jordan.

Matt - 2.11.02

This past week I went to Atlantic City for a few days to celebrate my 23rd birthday. It's one of the few times in my life I actually sought to do something on my b-day - it's an event I usually shy away from and don't tell anyone about. I'm not sure why, I think it has something to do with growing up in a house that had so many people living in it. The birthday cake candle blowout sequence really put me in the spotlight. Here I had always over a dozen people staring at me, shouting this song, taking snapshots, and all I could do throughout the whole pitiful ordeal was curse the good lord for including Intense Stage Fright into my many brain nuances. I couldn't take the pressure of blowing out the candles. Wow, I've said it aloud. I'm afraid of being the focus of the birthday song. I admitted it. Maybe this is a step in the right direction - maybe someday I'll overcome the personal odds and be able to sit through a 20-second song directed at me without getting shingles.

Not this year though - instead I just escaped and drove off to the land of casinos, sloppy hookers, and street names from Monopoly. In X-E continuity, the last time I was in AC was in July of 2000 - you can check out the report on that by clicking here. That trip had a major plus going for it - we went during the summertime, when the city is far more alive than it is this time of year. In February, there's really only two things you can do in Atlantic City. #1, Gamble, or #2, go out onto the freezing cold boardwalk and jog off your depression from losing all your money gambling. It's one or the other. Plus, it seems as though AC adores senility in these winter months, as I don't think I saw more than five people under the age of 263. The casino hotels there give out a lot of free offers for breakfast buffets in the hopes to lure more people in on the weekdays, and Christ, these old folks would sooner skip a week of Wheel of Fortune than pass up the chance to cash in on a free omelet.

This time, Sprite and I stayed at the Tropicana, which isn't my favorite hotel there but remains palatable because the name is a constant reminder of great, fresh juice. I'm more of a Bally's guy, mostly because it's the only casino which doesn't treat my wallet with extreme and total prejudice. Anyways, I didn't win a dime the whole weekend, and between the both of us we left with 150 dollars less than we came with - which is doubly surprising considering that we only went there with 50 to spend on gambling. Gotta love the ATM machines conveniently placed at every 10' interval on the casino floor. I wasn't really planning to do an article about the trip, but three things kept popping up in my head:

1) If I did an article about it, I technically could write the entire trip off as a business expense the next time I do taxes. It's really just an excuse to keep the receipts from the all-night Tropicana newsstand as mementos of the trip, but it's still a good point.

2) Trop was hosting a new gambling endeavor that featured a live chicken.

3) I got a great picture of a giant metal flamingo on the boardwalk.

These three holy notions kept eating away at me until right now - 5 AM Sunday morning. So here's your dog and pony show, a vicarious trip with me through Atlantic City - at least in the places they actually let you take pictures in. I've tried to point out some things that'd be high up on the importance list for those of you out there considering a vacation in the city, and one of the biggest questions on all of your mind's I'm sure is this: what kinda carpets do they have goin' on down there? I'll tell you what kind: ridiculous carpets.

Wandering around Atlantic City's hotels will leave you feeling like you just missed a really great all-night party where the girls get wild and the drinks ain't mild. After a while you realize that it's just because of the gaudy, multicolored carpets. Some look like the debris of a New Year's party, while others are reminiscent more of those three-layer Italian cookies nobody ever eats. Either way, splashes of color this bold are segues to epileptic fits, and serve as just one more reason to always walk with your head held high. You'll look esteemed and won't have to worry about going into a seizure when the devilish patterns of the casino floor start grinding your brain's gears to madness.

Combine the carpets in with the fact that the casinos are absolutely full of blinking lights and weird beeping noises, and it's amazing the old bats wandering around with rolls of nickels and souvenir t-shirts don't drop dead from heart attacks more often. No offense to the old bats - I'm just bitter because they're always the ones who win. I guess the casinos realize that if they can persuade older folks to sign up for a monthly payment plan on the jackpots, they'll never end up having to pay in full. Perhaps I should broadcast my diet and smoking habits more clearly - surely then I'll hit a progressive on Trump's Quatermania.

Speaking of casinos, Trop was pretty cold to me this week. Usually they'll let you hit just enough so that you keep the faith that you have even the slightest chance of breaking even. This time, they dispensed with the formalities and just took my money as quickly as they could. There was this one slot based on a race car track that I won a little bit on - I had no idea what I was doing, but a red car appeared in the third spot on the machine and all of the sudden the thing starts blaring horns and spinning wheels and by the time everything was through I was up thirty bucks. Course, then I saw slots based on the Addams Family, and dropped another 50. I guess the moral of the story here is to trust Ford, not Fester.

Elsewhere, on the guest room floors, you'll notice a lot of 'do not disturb' door handle signs being put to good use. Don't misconstrue it - these signs aren't just up for people who don't want to be disturbed while having sex. See, once in hits morning in Atlantic City hotels, a swarm of something evil comes out to play - to knock on your doors, to scream at you in unintelligible gibberish, to flat out break the very foundations of privacy: the maids. These lovely women have a lot of rooms to clean, and they're not really patient about getting it done. In some cases, they'll actually unlock your door and come right on in if you don't answer. Now I speak from experience, there's few experiences more harrowing that having a blue-haired woman with brown pock marks all over her face scream at you in Spanish when you're half naked in bed. The only way it'd be worse is if she was yelling at you in English, because then you'd have to come up with something better than a simple 'get out get out GET OUT!' while pointing violently towards the door. I shudder to think that, by now, over two dozen Atlantic City maids know what color underwear I have.

The 'do not disturb' signs keep them out. They're like maid flypaper. It's your only defense against an underground syndicate that invades your privacy with promises of clean towels. Remember it, and use it well.

We managed to trash our room pretty good - it wasn't intentional or anything, I'm just a slob at my apartment and I figured that if I threw everything on the floor there, I'd feel more at home. Every hotel room in AC, large or small, has the most inane furniture and decor you'll ever see. It's unreal. You look at some of this stuff and swear that a Satanist who majored in occult woodshop conceived all this stuff with a pad in one hand and a pen with dog's blood ink in the other. This time, the general motif of things was kept at a succinct Eggplant Purple, a color that I'm forever banning from my home for the rest of my life. The bedsheets, however, were hot pink, and I thank whomever was responsible for cleaning them - this is one of the only times I've been to AC where the stains of previous torrid love affairs weren't in plain sight on my blanket. It's the little things that make vacations go smooth.

One of the cool amenities of the room is that you can get pay-per-view movies - but these are flicks that just got out of the theaters. Some are still being shown. I spent much of my early teenage years watching these flicks while my parents were downstairs gambling, and if it wasn't for that, I probably would never have memorized the entire scripts of such masterpieces as In The Line of Fire and Dutch. Aside from regular movies, you also have the option of playing hot new games from a hot new system: Super Nintendo. Yeah, SNES - a decade past it's prime at just 8.95 per hour of gameplay. I can't tell you what a personal glory it was for me to beat my old record of 193 lines in Tetris for just 18 bucks. Other choices included Super Punch-Out, Dr. Mario, and Super Mario World. The ratio of games that started with the word 'super' beat out all others 5:1. That's why it's a Super Nintendo.

More importantly, for the same price, you can order porn. They give you a choice between no less than 25 adult flicks, all with titles more audacious than the next. I'll be completely honest here - I haven't really watched a porn film in years. It's not that I'm above it or think it's uninteresting, it's just that if I wanted to see sloppy middle-aged people having sex with bruised purple dicks and woman portals that a car could pass through, I'd just look in my neighbor's window around 10 PM. Not that I do that. But when I was young, I was obviously thrilled with the chance to come to AC with my parents and check out free porn while they were gambling. The hotel bill never told them what movies I ordered, so I just played innocent and kept my questions about what I saw for the kids on the street corner. For that reason, I grew up thinking that women had breasts because it protected them if they ran into things headfirst.

The room had a jacuzzi, which is always nice. It wasn't a huge jacuzzi, just the size of a normal tub, but the point is your feet felt especially clean when you were done bathing, and that's all that really counts. One note of interest though - there was this big silver warning on the wall saying that you risk serious injury if you stay in the thing for more than fifteen minutes. Now I can remember quite a number of times where I've stayed in a jacuzzi well over an hour. Did I shorten my life by ten years or something? Am I gonna get some kind of weird radiation cancer from the soothing waterjet rays given off by this otherwise godsend of a machine? They don't tell you about these things in college. Or maybe they do, I wouldn't know.

Now, food is one of the biggest perks of going to Atlantic City. Whether you win or lose at the tables, you're still gonna be eating well. We had a few comp tickets for free meals, and while the restaurants down there are as nice as you'll find, for some reason every derelict on the planet who had a comp ticket decided to cash it in when we were there, so every place was booked solid. Not to be vanquished, we just ordered room service.

A comp ticket is this receipt they give you for free food based on the amount of play you've given to a casino. It's basically the hotel's way of saying 'yeah, we took your money, but we're giving you our salad back.' It really makes me wonder if the alleged 98% payout claims by these places includes potatoes on top of cash. Whatever the case, I can't imagine anyone being able to order room service from the Tropicana without a comp ticket. The prices are unbelievably high. We're talking ten bucks for a small bowl of potato chips - which by my math, equates out to roughly ten cents a chip. The big meals, like steak or salmon, cost well over thirty bucks a plate. I'm not saying these prices are exorbitant by high class restaurant standards, but when your meal arrives on a wheeled cart accompanied by small bottles of token ketchup, it does seem a bit pricey.

So while it'll cost you fourteen bucks to get a cheeseburger, at least you can take solace in knowing that it's one of the best cheeseburgers you'll ever have. They come on a kaiser roll, you know. That's eight bucks right there. Add in the sliced pickle and tomato, and by the time you're done doing the math the piece of cow only cost you a buck fifty.

To be honest, I don't remember half of what we ordered. When you got a comp ticket for a hundred bucks that's good for one time only, you buy first, ask questions later. I'm pretty sure the pile of purple leaves was Tropicana's dinner salad, but considering the color, that might just be the room's wash towel.

On the plus side, I went home with the world's largest collection of mini-sized condiment bottles. I love it. Now my dollhouse kitchen has A-1. It opens all sorts of great doors. I can have Mumm-Ra try to cook Princess Leia a steak for Valentine's Day while she's at work, calling his friends to find out if he's supposed to add Italian vinaigrette to the salad before or after mixing...picture the dinner date:

Mumm-Ra: Hope you enjoy the meal. I made it myself.
Princess Leia: I hope you were wearing gloves.
Mumm-Ra: I was. You look lovely today - that's a wonderful outfit!
Princess Leia: What are you talking about, I've worn this for the past twenty years.
Mumm-Ra: And it still seems nicer with each passing day.
Princess Leia: Can we just eat in silence? And don't think making dinner means you're gonna get any. I told you, I'm still scared of your crotch.
Mumm-Ra: Happy Valentine's Day.
Princess Leia: Same to you, Petrified Dick. Let's celebrate by me eating and you putting a bag over your head.


The boardwalk in AC has always been the pride of the town for me, but it's a much different beast in the winter than the summer months. Whereas in July, the place is bristling with people, and full of neat shops and attractions - at this time of year it's an almost-dead corpse that serves as nothing more than a depressive setting to match your foul mood when you fuck up on roulette. Most of the stores stay closed during the week, and the only people you run into are hobos, concealed hobos, and occasionally a hooker who's also a hobo. It's amazing - there's thousands upon thousands of people in the casinos, but here, thirty feet away on the shoreline, it's positively barren. The only real plus to this situation is that there's enough room for you to practice your martian robot march without drawing much attention. And even if you do draw attention - who cares?! They're only hobos.

Still, there were some interesting spots still open for us to hit - not as interesting as the guy wearing a Mr. Peanut suit from last year, but that kind of high-level entertainment is the sort of thing that passes through but once a lifetime. Here's what we found...

There was still one casino arcade open - you know, the ones where you don't have to be 21 to gamble, but instead of winning money, you win plastic spider rings and some erasers in the shape of sports balls. I really question that law. Why is it okay for kids to blow money trying to win stupid crap nobody would ever buy, but not money, which is actually useful? It's like saying 'you can gamble, but gambling for something worthwhile is a strictly adult practice.' I guess this stops kids from wanting to gamble away their money when they're finally of legal age to do so. I know I'd be a bit jaded if I blew two hundred dollars and all I had to show for it was a VHS cassette featuring the world's most hilarious golf bloopers.

Case in point - the second picture above features giant Kiss action figures, which you can win for the staggering total of 40,000 points. Now I don't know how many of you have ever participated in casino arcade gambling, but to achieve 40,000 points, you'd probably have to spend in the realm of 5-700 dollars. The Kiss dolls cost more prize points than a small television. How could anyone feel satisfied with this kind of spending? Especially given the fact that you know you're just inches from a real casino, where betting upwards of several hundred dollars can get you millions instead of a giant plastic Gene Simmons.

I guess I shouldn't complain too much though. When I was younger, we'd often go to Long Beach Island for a week, and my gamblin' addict father would drop hundreds in their casino arcade since the real ones were nowhere in sight. And that, my friends, is how I originally got a Super Nintendo. Probably only cost him six thousand dollars. (PS, the first game I got for it was WWF Super Wrestlemania - see, I told you, they all need the 'super' adjective)

The pictures above are no ordinary shots - they were taken inside one of the boardwalk pushcarts. See, there's people with these weird plastic carriages on wheels who literally plead with you to let them push you to your destination for the low, low cost of two bucks. You have to fight these guys off like yellowjackets if you're intent on simply walking. One of them was particularly annoying, and rather than argue with him that it didn't make sense for us to pay money to get pushed two blocks, we hopped on in. I've gotta tell you, it's the weirdest feeling having some poor guy struggle to push two or three people down a bumpy boardwalk in the freezing cold weather. I felt bad enough to not turn around while he was working to take pictures of his exhaustion. The guy sounded like he was about to have a stroke. After three minutes of this, we couldn't take it anymore and told him we'd walk for the rest of the trip. He would've thanked us but he was too busy collecting himself on the planks of the boardwalk, heaving what could've either been sighs of relief of the remnants of a knish he ate thirty minutes prior. Either way, the sounds he was making weren't pretty, so we went on our way and didn't speak of him again. At least until he was out of hearing range.

Finally, that takes us to Peanut World, which claims to be the boardwalk's biggest gift, nut, and candy shop. Who am I to argue with that? Indeed, the bread of their business are bags of roasted peanuts, but the fun doesn't stop there. The back of the surprisingly large establishment plays host to the largest collection of general oddities and blatant stupidity a souvenir shop has ever faced. It's the island of misfit toys mixed with the island of expired foodstuffs with a dash of the island of packaged cat dung all rolled into one impressive island of retail crap. And now, for your viewing pleasure, a sampling of the best Peanut World has to offer:

Domino's Make-And-Bake Pizza Oven: Circa 1990 - and by the looks of the box, it actually has been sitting in there for the past twelve years. The package states that it is indeed a real oven, and if memory serves, a lot of these were pulled from store shelves because the oven was a little too real. When you market anything that uses legitimate heat to people who'd usually misuse legitimate heat, you're a lawsuit waiting to happen. On the plus side, unlike an EZ Bake Oven, you'll have a lot better food to eat than some dismantled cake with gross frosting. You'll have pizza! We almost picked this one up out of sheer shock that any place would carry ten year old toy pizza ovens. But it was ten bucks better served to lose in the pinball slots. Maybe next time.

Woody Woodpecker Car Wash Kit: Probably even older than the pizza oven, and just 6.99. I don't have much to say about this one, I just wanted to point out the intense irony of using a bird as the company logo for a car wash kit. They should add a word bubble to Woody's picture so he can explain to kids what fun it is to clean off all the crap he and his buddies splat on their daddies' cars. I'm a little disappointed that Woody got the endorsement nod instead of Heckle and Jeckle, but whatcha gonna do. PS, this toy ranked as the Second Worst Gift To Give Your Kid Ever in the holiday season of '88. It was defeated only by ziplock bags full of dry ice.

99-cent Puppets: I really liked the assortment of animal puppets they were offering, mainly because they were small enough to conceal in your pocket. And there's no better way to brighten a dull conversation than by pulling out a puppet midway through your friend's sentences. Seriously - try it, it totally changes the dynamic of a bad convo and shifts the focus from whatever boring topic you were trying to avoid to whatever you make the puppet say. So if you're vying for attention during a conversation and want to spread your beliefs, just pull out a puppet and voice your convictions through him. It works every time.

Michael Jordan Trophy Treats: ...because bad candy is still marketable as long as you stick in a...a plastic Michael Jordan head! This is the candy equivalent of a fashion disaster - no matter what you think of the gross candy inside, you'll simply always look foolish holding a plastic Jordan head, no matter what your age is. 5, 10, 50 - it doesn't matter. You're the universal target of ridicule. I'd suggest that the people running Peanut World knew that, and that's why they marked them down to just .59 cents a head. Speaking of heads...

If you'll remember, in our last trip to Atlantic City, in another souvenir shop, I found a big rubber dick in the spice aisle. It was a really confusing situation, and one that's haunted me for well over a year. This week, the mystery was solved: those aren't just rubber dicks, they're Mister Penis Ice Molds. Keep your drinks chilled the old-fashioned way - by sticking a big prosthetic cock in 'em. You'd be amazed - of the five or six souvenir shops we hit, almost all of them carried Mister Penis. He's like the official product of the place. So now Atlantic City can be automatically associated with two things: gambling and plastic dicks. Is it any wonder they're so busting with commerce? They've covered all fronts!

To finalize the adventure, I'd like to explain Tropicana's newest gambling craze: The Ten Thousand Dollar Chicken Challenge. Sorry guys, they won't let you take pictures in the casino, so you'll just have to take my word on this one. On certain days between 12 and 4 PM, a long line begins to form at one very strange machine in the Trop casino. The gamblers are restless and impatient - so much so that Tropicana staff actually have to be on hand to make sure the line stays calm and collected. Everybody wants to play the chicken challenge - everyone wants to win ten thousand dollars. And how do you do it? By beating a live chicken in a game of tic-tac-toe. I'm not kidding. On one side of the machine - an electronic tic-tac-toe game. On the other side? A friggin' live chicken who beats one opponent after the next in an awesome display of tic-tac prowess.

The most incredible part about it is seeing all the people playing - half of which just have absolutely no idea that they're not actually playing a chicken. It's rigged so that the chicken has to peck at an unseen side of his cage to get more food - and that's when the computer does his work. In case you didn't know, it's impossible to lose tic-tac-toe if you go first, if you know the tricks. The worst you could ever do is tie. So here you have hundreds of idiots walking away from the machine cursing this chicken like it's some demon sent from Hell, blessed with superior chicken intelligence and a knowledge of the Tic-tac-toe board that goes virtually unmatched. Some of these people looked embarrassed, while others simply looked to the chicken with immense disdain, knowing full well that two breasts and drumsticks just cost them a shot at a cool ten grand.

Personally, the Chicken Incident, as it's come to be known, was a chart-topper for me. I knew nothing was gonna beat that, so we just head on home. This'll probably be the last time I go to Atlantic City for a while, because losing money eighteen times in a row has really gotten dull and the appeal of it wore off months ago. Maybe there's better odds in Vegas. Hell even if there isn't, the Liberace Museum still has the world's largest cubic zirconium, doesn't it? Guess I'll find out next summer.

- Matt
AIM: xecharchar

You know, my birthday just past! Links to sites that've been real cool to X-E and that are worth your time. Slushfactory - The Comic Source - IWANGF - Land of Nift

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