Friday, October 31, 2008

Goodie, the weekend!

Thank God it's Friday. Not just TGIF, but the whole shebang.

Every Friday night for about 20 years, Howard and I have had "date night" at Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City. Even with his mother living with us, we have managed to get her settled with her dinner, good books and tv and off we go. Our cars know the way so we almost only have to point and put the gear in "Drive."

Each time we make the trip, I realize all over again why I love living in New Jersey. We drive through a little road that's lined with the prettiest trees, particularly in fall when they are dressed out in yellows, reds and oranges. We pass a glistening lake and then ride on a long, perfectly straight roadway for 15 miles or so until we reach our first turn. Along the way are deer alongside the shoulder, towering pines that gradually give way to stubby scrub pine so characteristic of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. A lot of the landscape is scarred from fires that burned huge acreage last year. As we go along, it's evident we are nearing the shore as the exposed ground turns from reddish topsoil to white sand. Trails for dirt bikes and ATVs snake off on either side of the road and the sky takes on the azure dotted with white that tells us we're close to the ocean.

The Garden State Parkway takes us all the way to Atlantic City where we hook up with the Expressway, a crowded six-lane parking lot on most weekend nights. We are usually early enough to avoid the crush; often we watch the traffic snaking slowly into the city from the Top of the Trop where we end up for dinner on weekend nights. We know the back roads into the city but this is usually the fastest. Most of the time, Howard drives and I snooze, always managing to wake up before we make the final turn into the glitz and neon of the casino row at Atlantic and Michigan Avenues.

As a child, I took a weekly bus ride into Atlantic City to the orthodontist. Starting at age 12, I hopped the bus in Egg Harbor, rode to A.C., had an adjustment on my braces and made the reverse trek. By the time I was in high school, my stepfather had gotten me a job at the Hotel Roma on Florida Avenue, right next to the parking lot for the Convention Hall. The Roma is gone now and an extension of the Hall fills what was the lot. But as we pass Florida Avenue on weekends, I never fail to remember the good times spent behind the front desk there. Atlantic City was a mecca for entertainment, family fun, movies, restaurants and, of course, the Boardwalk back then. I miss those days, especially in light of what the city has become.

But I digress. We usually get to Trop, have dinner and then seek out our favorite poker machines for a night of fun. Trop has been very good to us over the years and we usually either break even or win (the same thing, as far as we are concerned).

We stay late.

Very late sometimes, often pulling into our driveway at home after 2 a.m.

In the casino, there is no sense of time. The flow of adrenaline makes you feel as though you are never tired. The lights are bright; the crowd noisy. We know a lot of people there, more, really, than in our own neighborhood. We feel at home.

Each week, we work, do what we have to do and mark time to the weekends. Without the casino, we would undoubtedly preserve date night. We enjoy movies, going out to dinner with friends, Real Time with Bill Maher or a show we've DVRed for later viewing.

But it's the casino that gives us our fun, that makes up for the stress of the week that goes before it.



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