I was up early. Anything before noon is early for me. My flatmate had been up, although for him, it was late. It's all about perspective, I guess. He's transitioning jobs and for the past week or so, he's had the chance to sleep in past five in the morning. He was cooking when I stumbled into the kitchen and before I knew it, I had a compleat breakfast in my lap whilst watching Alec Baldwin on The View. Cheese omelette, hash browns, crispy bacon and toast with butter. Coffee and orange juice as well. I think I may decide to live here, I thought, although I have lived here for nearly eight years. We both discussed election results and watched the news and decided on our day. The weather was not cooperating. Rainy, foggy, dreary but warm. Warmth is unusual for November in this part of the country but, I'll take it.
I decided to get ready to go to the office and pick up my salary and dose of gossip while he had interviews to do to for his new job. I did the usual things one does to get ready, taking my time hoping for the weather to break up a little before I head out. I took more time. Waiting and bouncing around the penthouse, walking back and forth from my walk-in-closet-with-a-bed to the kitchen, opening and closing the refrigerator, contemplating eating yet again, mostly to waste time, not out of hunger. Finally, I realize the folly of eating on top of the hearty repast La Chunk made me just an hour before and I threw on a light jacket, grabbed an umbrella and off I went, raindrops be damned.
Once outside, I am shocked by just how warm it is. Living on the third story, it's hard to gauge the temperature on ground level when I stick my head out on the porch. In this town, there is a temperature difference just from street level to the boardwalk. Where it would be very windy and downright chilly on the street, it would be warm and breezy on the boards. It must have something to do with the ocean. The actual temperature was in the mid 60's (around 18 for my birds in the U. K.) and much warmer than I realized. I was making my way to the jitney when I decided that I could walk. The rain had let up and the clouds seemed to be breaking up as well. A good sign. I crossed over through a parking lot and saw, in the next block, a group of young men playing football in an abandoned lot. They were all muddy and wet, heaving and cursing with the bravado of young men. For a second, I envied them. The reckless abandon, the sheer enjoyment of getting wet and dirty and making the most of this surprisingly warm day. Their youth. I watched them as I walked up to the boardwalk, listening to "hut, hut, hike!" and them breaking formation, tossing the ball, someone getting tackled and then rolling all over the soggy ground. I heard them laughing and cursing again. Yes, it's their youth I think I envy most of all.
The fog gripped the city, but not the thick and heavy fog of springtime. This was like the mists that enshroud the fabled land of Avalon, hanging low over the island. You can still discern shapes and patterns, see the buildings and people and cars that dart throughout the city but, in the far distance, you can't make out much more. There was a momentary break, the sun burst through and behold, the boardwalk, wet and slick with the recent downpour, was as crystal clear as a polished mirror, the skyline of the casinos perfectly reflected along that famous walkway. For a second, I wondered if I would fall through, as Alice in Wonderland, to another Atlantic City. Then it hit me, there are too many characters in my actual city. Too many Mad Hatters and anyone I meet through this "looking glass" would be a disappointment. And most boring.
The clouds swallowed up the sun and I continued my trek through my Avalon-by-the-Sea. I marveled at the changes the boardwalk has gone through, changes that happen on a weekly basis. Yes, to the casual observer, it still looks like a boardwalk, much like any you see in any coastal community in this country but, I can see the changes. I can tell where the rainforest wood and old wood planks are. I can tell when a store puts up a new sign. I can tell when they change the flags. I can tell when a store changes hands. Simple, subtle things. It's an intimacy you have with a city, the rhythms and beats that you instinctively pick up on, that make a city a home for you. Sometimes, when you travel, the beat is off. You feel out of touch. Then, it's just a city. A place to visit. Here, Atlantic City is in my blood and I feel the pulse quicken and slow with my very own heartbeat. I feel it with Philadelphia and Chicago as well. They are in my blood.
I wandered to my office, passing through the soon-to-be-torn-down Sands Casino, lamenting the eventual loss of one of the original casinos that built my city. The Brighton, named after the park that it sits next to. Sad.
Once in my office, I find out there are more changes. Our liquor store was being shuttered. Wednesday was the last day.
So many changes. Ahh...youth. To just be concerned with a pick-up game of football. To travel the mists, oblivious to to everything. Only to be faced with the reality of life once the mists clear.
My walk home was through a torrential downpour. The fog was beaten out of the air by the big, warm and heavy raindrops. Avalon was no more, the looking glass was shattered by those drops. All that was left was my Atlantic City, wet and dreary. And warm.
A fitting ending to my journey.