Road Trip to Atlantic City
I was in Atlantic City recently for the first time in decades. I had been there as a tow-headed kid, then after I got back to the US after the Army with a woman I'd met in Germany, then for a trade show verrrrrrry early in the history of the PC industry, where the talk was of CP/M and transient memory. Later, in a new century, I came back as an IT company guy for a convention. I was no longer a towhead, Summer-bleached hair replaced by a respectable remnant, much more than a tonsure, I assure you.
I hooked up with my folks at the Trump Marina, where they were staying after driving in from Mercer County. We all went to Bingo. After that, I walked around a bit all three days I was there. Here are some observations and photos.
One indication that you will soon be 'down the shore' is the presence of seabirds, although they are also found far inland. Some of my favorites are ruddy ternstones, and plovers. This photo of a seagull is taken at one of the southerly rest areas in the Garden State Parkway.
Down here, the exit for the rest area is often in the left (high-speed) lane, which can be a bit challenging. I was able to survive an unwanted convergence of my itinerary with that of a bare-chested teenage pickup truck driver in that deadly left lane at speeds nearing 70 MPH. Talk about margin of error-I had about 100 yards to get it right, or be forced off the road, or (unlikely), making the young fellow take his lead foot off the accelerator---but I can remember the lure of the shore when I was young, and the hormones raging through my body at the time. Outta the way, old man!!!
First stop was to meet my folks for Bingo. It's much as you remembered it if you haven't played it in a casino, as I'll recount.
First thing to report is that I was actually not normally entitled to get in to the game. The reason? Because none of the players have to pay a thing to play, yet there are thousands of dollars to win each time. Those who have been patronizing the casino and have an account are able to get in. When I asked my Dad why he and his cohort were about to get in for 'free', he just snorted in laughter; I guess in retrospect it is obvious that you don't just drop in to these casinos. Most folks overnight in AC, and the actual bingo game is only on for about an hour, so there's all those one-arm bandits right outside the ballroom. And there are a lot of people who like to gamble, (or who maybe gamble, and need to gamble, even if they DON'T like it anymore).
This is the empty ballroom. It starts to fill up about a half-hour before the event. My Mom made a plea for them to let me in, or else I wouldn't be allowed, even as a new card member.
Everyone gets four cards. There is a little translucent red 'door' that you can pull over a number if you have it called.
My folks, veterans of the circuit, and occasional big winners
The caller, with a board behind indicating how many numbers have been called already, the pattern you must match ('cover all', as opposed to 'line' or 'frame'), and the numbers actually called. When she calls a new letter-number combination, that lights up and flashes, so that you don't even have to understand English, or have to be able to hear to play.
The pattern shown here is the 'small frame', whereas its big brother is the frame composed of all outer edge boxes.
Contrary to my childhood experience of the game, this version is VERY forgiving, as you don't have to be the first to call out 'BINGO' when you match the desired pattern. As long as one person has called out, a process starts where the staff member walking the floor is called over to the 'winner', and confirms that the combinations are valid. All during this period, you can take your sweet time, and if you also have a winner, just call out, and you and the other(s) split the take.
The room clearing. I was one of the youngest people in the room of 1000 or so, and I'm near 60 myself. There were a number of people with what I described as 'life support systems' jokingly to my parents. Coming out of the ballroom, many shuffled to the elevators, to go to their rooms for various reasons. My parent's generation has been described as one which is characterized by a higher degree of sociability than others; maybe it's due to having to pull together as a nation during the Depression and World War II. I don't know, but it was remarkable to me how readily and often they entered into conversation with one another, even though they were strangers. For example, at our table were a number of other couples, and they were constantly remarking on how they just missed that one, and only needed one more number to win that one, and repeating what the caller had said (I just looked at the big board). Going to the elevators, many of them shuffling with walkers, there was more of the same chit-chat about mundane things, much grabbing of the elbows, smiling, deferring to others ('after you'); they were positively gabby. Very interesting. And endearing.
From the Trump Marina parking deck. The Marina is about a mile or two from the boardwalk, not a pleasant or safe walk, as it's mainly highway with some overpasses.