Thursday, February 23, 2012

First Family Atlantic City

Strollering in Public
Ramblings and Gamblings
Atlantic City has, oddly, become one of our frequent family mini vacation spots.  Since we barely gamble, taking advantage of semi-regular discount offers is cost effective, providing us with a couple days away from life’s normal chaos for pool swimming, ocean strolling and general relaxationing-aning. (Sorry, that one got away from me.)  The first time we tried this plan, however, our lack of experience, coupled with a general focus away from family entertainment in many areas almost killed this tradition before it started.

The initial impetus was simple:  we wanted our one year old daughter to experience the ocean for the first time, leading us to drive down one summer Sunday with an overnight room booked at Resorts.

As my swimming is almost exclusively contained Up the Lake, I was very concerned that a marauding band of giant, fang toothed, rabid, radioactive, Mongolian sea monkeys were going leap out of the waves and snatch our child away.  However, this didn’t happen, and she enjoyed kicking and splashing in the moving water.

Our first glimpse of the lack of kid friendliness was when we tried to go to one of the restaurants in the hotel for dinner.  The lines were long and completely unmoving, with no fast food type place where we could walk in, and grab food quickly.  We ended up feeding the baby on the boardwalk while we had funnel cake, and the wind sugar coated all of us. I also got to play the "chase the napkins" game repeatedly. Rosa and I tried to eat real food later when it was less crowded.  Even with no line we waited several years to be acknowledged.  Shortly after allowing us in, they immediately told us to go out again, because we had a baby. Apparently they thought I just borrowed her when I held her up to look in the window into the restaurant and they all waved.   Also, apparently she was growing faster than I thought because there was room for us, but not her.  We said we didn’t need a high chair, because she was full and could stay in the stroller, but that was illegal too. Instead of waiting, we gave up. (As anyone who knows me can figure out if I didn’t start walking, I would have invented some new profanities that would have caused even the victim of the largest gambling losses to blush. Crazy-Hungry Jeff does not play well with others.)

We decided to order a snack in the room later on instead.

The guy came in, vest and all, and even had a slight flourish when he lifted the cover off of Rosa's Grilled Cheese sandwich, and a second one as he replaced it.

While he didn't say "Behold...the sandwich", Richard Jeni's whole "Sir Robin of Room service" stand-up bit was running through my head, meaning I couldn't stop laughing...the poor bellhop probably thought I was laughing at him.

We discovered the height of the un-kid focus of Atlantic City the next day.  There were no changing tables in any restrooms within the county (even in the diner we stopped at right before getting on the Parkway as we left). By this point in history, even the men's room of Home Depot had them.  We smelled Anabelle's need to be changed on the boardwalk, and went into our hotel.  We had already checked out, leading us to search all the possible places we could change her.  Most of the people we asked looked confused as to what we could possibly be talking about.  By the time we figured out that there weren't any official changing tables, all the benches and other flat surfaces we had considered had tired senior citizens convalescing on them.  This left us the only option of bringing her up to our truck in the parking garage, but by then she was out cold. You have to pass through the casino to get anywhere, and she apparently viewed it as a giant electric flashing mobile filled room, and fell asleep several times passing through it the two days we were there.

Rosa really liked some of the nickel slots in the Taj Mahal, which is next door to Resorts connected by a walkway on the second floor. She went over to play a little, and I read in the Bronco while the baby napped.  By the time Anabelle woke up, after all the running around on our pointless search and moving in her sleep, her surprise for me had migrated out of the diaper and all over the inside her outfit.  This led to a lot of crying and yelling on both of our parts, while I changed her diaper, entire outfit, and the lining in the back of our truck. 

While that fun was happening, Rosa left me a fuzzy message (there were also no good cell phone signals in the whole town, most likely due to the electronic slot machine control jamming devices). She was done and waiting for us "outside the Casbah" which is a cafe' in the Taj.  I called and told her we were on the way.

All casinos had signs about children requiring parents with them, and most that the parents must be hotel guests.  However, the only thing security said to us in our hotel or any other hotel or casino we passed through, shopping or just looking (including one that has no hotel) was how cute Anabelle was (because she was, in fact, that cute).

While trying to find the connecting walkway, one of the guards in Resorts told me it was easier to go outside where I was (on the ground floor, as the garage dumps you out into …surprise, the casino) and cross the street, than to go upstairs.  This put me into the (wait for it…) casino of the Taj. Roughly every ten feet I traveled some security person stopped me to look for Anabelle's "bracelet" proving that we were staying in that hotel.  The "anti-child" discrimination in that hotel had apparently reached Chitty Chitty Bang Bang levels. (Can you tell I was glad when they filed for bankruptcy?) I explained (frequently throughout the whole trip) that I needed to meet my wife outside the Casbah in order to take our child out of their hotel.  One of them gave me directions upstairs to the Casbah. When I got there, no Rosa.  The two of us kept leaving messages (due to the lousy signals) saying, "I'm here, where are you", in between the constant badgering from people detailing the anti-baby laws of the land.  Finally...after talking to a ridiculous number of people, all of whom would like me to leave, one of them dropped the hint that the Casbah is, in fact, on two floors. 

With this information, which would have been very nice to have when I first entered the Taj, on the first floor…y'know NEAR THE CASBAH!!!!, we worked our way strollering back to the elevator to get downstairs. With all the running about, Anabelle, now clean and fed, was having a fun old time as she found herself rolling faster and faster, as I kept my temper away from my mouth and contained in my legs. Of course the elevator deposited me right in the middle of the casino again. I told my sad tale once more and the guard grudgingly pointed me in the "right" direction.  Unfortunately, instead of telling me to go around the outside of the casino area, she sent me directly through the room with the "high end" slot machines (up to a hundred dollars a pull).  Here two guards, who didn't care about my story or how cute my daughter was, simultaneously stopped me. They told me I had to go back the way I came and leave. 

On the boardwalk, I started to work my way in the right direction, hoping to add to our trespassing record by sneaking in another door.  Luckily, we had taken so long, that Rosa was starting to walk back to our hotel and we met outside the Boardwalk entrance to the Casbah.

At this point it was late and time to leave.  To end on a happy note: since I only gambled about forty cents the whole two days, I put a ten dollar bill in an Evel Knievel dollar slot we passed on the way out. In the past I'd played only quarter ones, but I liked the dollar one better.  As I wasn’t going to bet any more money, I could be finished quicker that way.   Anabelle crawled around happily by the elevators with Rosa, while the guards told her how cute she was (because, as I said, she was that cute). 

I hit for sixty bucks on my second to last spin, finished betting the original ten, then cashed out and went home.  ("Experienced" gamblers have suggested that I should have continued betting with "their money" but at that point I was much more in the mood to drive the heck out of there with "our money.”)

After that initial disaster, we got much better at finding family friendly pursuits and areas returning to Resorts for multiple enjoyable trips.  More recently, however, we’ve switched to the Tropicana, since we suspected the changes at Resorts which led to the firing of all the cocktail waitresses who didn’t fit into their new, “Stripper in a Speakeasy” costumes, and the hiring of the "naked circus" may indicate a reduction in family friendliness. More importantly, the Trop has near continuous Latin music piped in (for Rosa) and a magic shop (for me).  Anabelle being genetically predisposed to both approved the switch.


Bruce Fieggen said...

Reminds me of visiting Vegas when I was 17. I was unwelcome everywhere and this left an unpleasant taste in my mouth to this day. I've never gone back.

Jeff McGinley said...

Luckily we learned from our initial experience, and with better planning AC has become one of our family's regular vacation spots.

longbow said...

If you're going to drive that far you might as well check out Ocean City just to the south. Fantastic boardwalk and the whole place is family friendly. More of a vacation rental apt or B&B place than room service hotels.

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx for the suggestion, but to quote the Great Gonzo,
"Sure, if you want to do it the easy way!"