Snapshots of Atlantic City

I’m in America now visiting and travelling with family. I would have written sooner, but lately I’ve been addicted to making mistakes on the violin and playing with my five month old baby sister.

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I’ve also been occupied by my four year old cousin who is so spoilt that he has demanded to pee in the car half a dozen times and championed in doing so. Refusing this wish is suicide for your eardrums. “I WANT TO PEE I WANT TO PEE I CAN’T HOLD IT IN ANYMORE.” So he uses one of my legs which is propped on the front armrest for buttock support as he urinates into an unused Starbucks translucent frappacino cup the water and juice he drank about twenty minutes ago.

Jesus, it’s like, a teaspoon of pee. This abominable little boy can’t even keep in a teaspoon of pee?!

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Atlantic City is full of visual, textural and edible pleasures. The visual starts beyond downtown. On approach from the highway it stands like a standard modern skyscraper city. Each ash-blue peak glimmers, hovers, and lacks a distinct identity until a certain distance.

“It’s like Las Vegas,” says my Dad, “a casino town, a Sin City, but with a beach.”

I see a wind farm and then a word, Caesar, mounted on sandy concrete in large Roman-esque font. Gamble with us and you’ll dine like an emperor and ride a five-horse chariot. More like a burger banquet and five Mercedes, and an addiction to being greedy. 

A casino, despite it’s purpose and flashing coloured lights, is not a very exciting place. The gambling boxes bleep, chatter, and whirr simultaneously, like hundreds of excited people in one conversation. You don’t really understand what they’re talking about and finally get bored and leave.

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Some folks stay and try to understand, though, by watching pictures spin, inserting money into the machine and pulling a lever. Wild West Winnings, Lucky Loot, Egyptian Gems, all claim to satisfy your hunger in a different way.  By retirement, any promise of success in exchange for the little amount of physical and mental effort to tickle curiosity. An order is written on a banner outside: “Don’t just sit there, win something!”

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The beach is almost pretty. What I like best is the temperature of the air where the water meets the sand. There is a breeze which wraps itself round your shoulders, arms and legs, like a weightless band-aid, cooling and disguising your invisible but very existent sunburn. The sand is soft. It oozes between your toes like warm, ground sugar. It’s a shame that its complexion and texture are flawed somewhat by cigarette butts and beer caps. The Atlantic sea is indeed blue, but looks as stale as washing up water. It’s not warm either and I always jumped when it collided with my legs.

God, I sound so cynical. I did in fact have a lovely time by the sea.

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At 2:00pm our bodies needed to refuel. Dad searched Yelp to find a restaurant, and we finished the day trip at the Barbera Seafood & Produce Restaurant a couple of blocks away.

The building was a tiny pink cube. From glancing at the high reviews I expected an establishment much larger and busier, one with its own car park perhaps.

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We walked in a smelt fish. There was space for all four (and a half, counting my cousin) of us, but no more. The owner greeted us at the counter. Beside him were two glass cases (cabinets, fridges? I don’t know the name) of every type of seafood under the sun. Red snappers, bass, clams, salmon, mussels, prawns, shrimp, sea cucumbers, clownfish, jellyfish (okay now I’m being silly).

You can buy fish and cook it at home, or have a meal cooked for you.

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This couple like to dress the same as each other.

And oh man, the food was SO GOOD. Most of the seafood platters, including the one below, cost under $10. On top of that you can order 6 crabs for $10 as well. My Dad and Aunt ordered two lots of those.

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The problem with eating seafood is that unless you dine at restaurant in say, the Meatpacking District in New York City, you have to scavenge for your own meat. That means getting your hands covered in king prawn and crab juices. That means picking the strands of meat out of each osseous crevice with your bare fingers. That means placing your mouth on whatever and sucking – sorry, explicit is the only way – out whatever there is that can be sucked out.

Even writing about eating seafood like this makes me feel uncomfortable, indecent and inappropriate. Now I understand why people would prefer to spend $50 a dish in NYC for a clean, elegant gastronomical experience.

Maybe one day…

I should go to sleep. It’s after 1am, and I have to enough strength and willpower to tolerate a tiny, whiny incessant urinator in the not too distant future.

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