In Praise of Atlantic City

Helen, Char­lie and I just spent anoth­er won­der­ful week­end vis­it­ing our friends Frank and Suzanne in Atlantic City. That’s right: Atlantic City. It may not be the ide­al set­ting to try and raise a fam­i­ly, but it’s a com­plete­ly under­rat­ed week­end spot, if you ask me.

Sure, we’re lucky; we’ve befriend­ed a cou­ple who invite us reg­u­lar­ly to stay at their amaz­ing arts and crafts home on the south end of town, far from the casi­nos. Need I men­tion it’s just a block off the beach? Yeah, we’ve got it tough, but we man­age. But even if you set aside our good for­tune, the Atlantic City we like to vis­it is a far cry from the Atlantic City most tourists see. When we vis­it, it’s like step­ping back in time. The tree-lined streets are cool, the hous­es are enor­mous, beau­ti­ful and unique and the beach is tran­quil and free.

If Helen and I are going to see a show at the Bor­ga­ta, we take the Jit­ney, which may be one of the most amaz­ing ways to trav­el in Atlantic City. You trav­el at about a mil­lion miles per hour through the dens­est traf­fic known to man and yet some­how end up at your des­ti­na­tion in one piece. It’s been in use since 1912 and I hope it’s nev­er replaced by the dull mass tran­sit we’ve come to expect in most munic­i­pal­i­ties, unless Atlantic City ponies up for a mono­rail. (Yes, I’m halfway seri­ous. It would be amaz­ing.)

Atlantic City is hard­ly per­fect, but it’s got­ten a bad rap thanks to the des­per­ate mea­sures under­tak­en to replace the tourist econ­o­my that made it so pros­per­ous. I’m hope­ful that the upcom­ing series Board­walk Empire on HBO sheds some light on what made the town the hotspot it once was and not just the gang­sters who ran all the rack­ets under Pro­hi­bi­tion.

Sure, I’m a suck­er for the hey­day of the Rust Belt, but it’s a far sight more inter­est­ing that any­thing the Sun Belt has to offer as far as I’m con­cerned.


Mariah Carey in Atlantic City

It’s been almost two years since I went up to New York for Mari­ah’s Com­cast com­mer­cial shoot. Back then I was pret­ty opti­mistic about the direc­tion her career was head­ed. It’s been pret­ty amaz­ing to watch the bal­loon deflate.

I man­aged to get tick­ets to her recent Atlantic City show at the Bor­ga­ta. The seats were amaz­ing. The per­for­mance? Not so much. I think Helen summed it up best when she said her per­for­mance was more Atlantic City than it was Vegas, that it was more kitschy than cool. I’d say that was spot on.

After I read Jon Cara­man­i­ca’s ter­rif­ic review, I was look­ing for­ward to final­ly see­ing her per­form. Man, was I ever dis­ap­point­ed. It was a bru­tal com­bi­na­tion of bad sound, bad dancers, and an over­all lack of enthu­si­asm from Mari­ah, who seemed to just go through the motions. The back­up singers (and back­ing track) were so loud I often could­n’t tell when she was singing and I feared that might have been done inten­tion­al­ly. Over­all, it was just a lack­lus­ter per­for­mance by one of the few remain­ing super­stars in music.