14 September 2009

The First Steps

I got up later than I usually do on Monday, mostly because I went to sleep a little later than normal on Sunday night. The season finale of True Blood wrapped up in exciting fashion and left us with a cliffhanger for next season (natch), whenever that might be. The pay cable stations don't adhere to the usual television seasons and it may be six months or a year until the next episode.
I can wait.
I decided that today was the day to get back on track. I'm starting with small steps but they are steps nonetheless. I just hope they lead in the right direction. I worked out again, not my full workout but most of it. I have been neglecting my routine and it's showing. There are a few pics of myself that I have seen recently that I have seriously cropped because I'm too vain to show how out of shape I've gotten. That also goes for my food intake. As much as I love dear Helene, she has been fattening me up like I'm Hansel in the candy covered cottage. And truth be told, I love to eat! When I was going to the gym on a regular basis, it was so hard to gain any significant weight. Yes, my muscle mass was getting bigger but I had the hardest time getting the weight on. Eating is not the problem, it's my metabolism and energetic lifestyle that burns the calories so fast and adding a gym routine five times a week didn't help (and walking the two miles to and from the gym). Now that I am out of work, I've become very sedentary but I haven't stopped eating. Actually, I've increased my food intake and it's not been all the good stuff. Ice cream, Devil Dogs, chocolate chip cookies, deep fried items, pizza three times a week, chips, M&M's, you get the idea, junk on top of junk. And I started drinking soda again and not the diet version. It's disgusting and I'm getting a little belly. Time to change that situation. So, I had my morning oatmeal, one bag of peanuts (high in protein), a salad and then tuna fish with fresh lemon juice, no mayonnaise. Plus, I worked out and then took a nearly seven mile walk (3.24 miles each way) through my island of love.

And what a walk it was. I don't dawdle on my walks, I plow through the city like a man on a mission. It was great to not have so many shoobies to dodge and I extended my route all the way down to the Tramp Touch My Hole...err...Trump Taj Mahal. I also added my usual routine of entering Caesars and running up the three flights of steps and then back down through another exit out of Ballys. By the time I got to Taj, I decided that I had had enough sun and trekked through the city itself. When I passed the Albany Avenue bridge, I decided to wander along the back bay, an area of the city I'm not familiar with. It's quite nice back there, full of little, well-kept homes and it's very quiet. Strangely so. There's no traffic to speak of and hardly any pedestrians. Aside from me.

09 September 2009

Of Homecoming Queens, Backpacks And Boogie Nights

We walked into the Foundation Room (which is next to the Diamond Club, where Joe used to take me before he dumped my ass...again). This area of the Showboat is considered the House of Blues and reflects the image of that chain of party places. The entryway was empty and we wandered right into the main room where I immediately ran into Michelle and Mike Ray, who I worked with at the Studio Six. Michelle went to school with Lance and her hubby Mike was DJing the event. We hugged and quickly caught up and then Lance and I made our way to the bar to start tanking up on the free booze! As we waited, I scanned the room looking to see if I knew anybody else and Lance was trying to recognize his former classmates. Of course, I was filing away catty remarks to say about the people there but withholding them until later, I didn't know which ones were Lance's friends and didn't want to make a faux pas.

We got our drinks and then the evening began. Lance started reuniting with friends and others and I was the dutiful arm candy. Michelle came over and took some pictures of us and we kept drinking to fortify ourselves for the night of revelry. I was introduced to everyone and quickly forgot them, by now I was in a fog of too much of...well...too much. I took in my surroundings, looking at the decor (very nice and eclectic) and the spread. They had a nice buffet but I wasn't all that hungry. Besides, it's hard to look good chomping on food when my job was to "S & M" (stand and model). Sitting on the couches in front of the bar were the "jocks", a group of guys who still kept their looks and shape, looking tanned and wearing the standard white button-down shirts to show off said tan. The women were circulating like sharks through the crowd, homing in on old friends and every once in a while you'd hear screams of "Oh my God!" and other surprised greetings as people recognized each other around us. There was one pretentious gentleman with a yellow bow tie (which he made sure to untie later just to point out it was an actual bow tie and not a clip on). He took my attention for a while, and I his. Even with the wedding ring on his finger, I could tell there was something a little light in his loafers. Things were going well, I was enjoying myself and so was Lance and then I met...her. Yes, the bane of my existence for the rest of the night. The one who, on first sight, I knew would be trouble. Yes, hot cats and cool chicks, I met...


This nicely turned out chick comes over, squealing in recognition of Lance (he squealed in return) and they hugged, kissed and did the usual "you look GREAT" party patter and then I was introduced. She was the former homecoming queen and I thought she looked nice, she's obviously kept her figure and had on a nice dress and good hair (compliments to the stylist) but I could tell she had been hitting the wine for a while before we got there. As a bartender, you learn to quickly size up the crowd and I knew I should stay away from this one but I was having a good time and thought, since she doesn't know me, I had nothing to worry about. I should have trusted my instincts.

After a quick bathroom break and then back to the bar, Lance was whisked away to yet another group of friends and I stood there, watching the people and doing my usual game of making up lives for those around me. I was deep in thought when, suddenly, I felt cold liquid all over my left side, the side that was leaning on the bar. I was shocked and looked over, thinking maybe the bartender accidentally spilled something. There was no one behind the bar where I was standing. I then feel an arm on my shoulders and look to my right and there she is...


Only this time, she's completely drunk and has an empty wine glass in her left hand. The empty glass in the hand attached to the arm that was around my shoulder. The empty glass that drained all over my neck, jacket, shirt, arm...everywhere. She had come up behind me during my pensive moment and tried to be chummy but instead, she showered me with a glass of white wine. Luckily, it was white wine so the stain factor was not an issue but...and this was the worst part...the wine was bad.

Class is now in session: Open bars present a unique opportunity for bar owners. Although it depends on the bar, as a rule most bars don't sell that much wine. And once you open a bottle to give that rare wine-drinking customer a glass or two, you usually don't serve another glass for quite a while. This is a problem because, unlike other liquors, wine spoils over time. It spoils to the point where it can actually undergo a chemical transition and turn into a very nice vinegar. It happens.
This is where opportunity knocks. When there's an open bar, all the open bottles of wine are used in order to get rid of the old stock. Drunken high school reunion people are not usually connoisseurs of wine and wouldn't really know the difference.

But I do.

And not because I am a some sort of a Paul Masson or Inglenook or Sutter Home, I am a bartender and salad eater. I know vinegar when I smell it and I had white wine vinegar all over my left side. It stunk to high heaven! Lance had come over by now and then the brouhaha ensued, the apologies (on her part), the gracious acceptance (on my part) and then the heartfelt apologies (on her part) and the continued magnanimous acceptance (on my part) and then the annoying and continuing drunken apologies (on her part) and the continuing gracious and magnanimous acceptance (on my part). It just got to be too much. I finally told her that, as a bartender, I have been thrown-up on (Club Tru story!) so a little spilled wine is no problem. Her friends finally herded her away and I ran to the bathroom to pat down and try to salvage my dignity and sense of smell.

Once that was over, Lance and I made our way through the crowd, saying hi here and there and watching the people make damned fools of themselves, laughing when yet ANOTHER chick fell on the dance floor. It seems these housewives can't hold their liquor, wear heels and dance at the same time or maybe there was a pothole on the dance floor that tripped them up but all during the event you'd see another girl fall on her ass. At one point, Lance took over the dance floor, dancing in the middle of a group of girls as the screamed in delight! I stood by, dutifully beaming at my date like Nancy Reagan zombie-staring at her beloved Ronnie.

During a break, Lance and I were sitting on a banquette chatting with his friends and making fun of the people around us. By now, I was feeling no pain and let loose with the tongue. We were laughing and having a great time when we noticed this chick walking around without shoes.

People, this is DISGUSTING. You DO NOT walk around a nightclub without shoes on, EVER! It's dirty. It's gauche. It's dangerous. It's Just. Not. Done.

And here she was, doing it. Right in front of us.

So we went off. Lance called her over and chatted her up and we tore into her, being way cruel and not caring. But then she hit us with the line of the night. When Lance asked where her shoes were, she replied, "With my backpack!"


Why the hell did you bring a BACKPACK to a nightclub?! We busted out laughing, dismissed her and went on the dance floor where we danced the last of the event away, it was over shortly afterward.
We still wanted to party so we decided to go to Boogie Nights at Resorts. It's a weekend party in one of their ballrooms that has a seventies theme and plays music from the sixties, seventies and eighties. I had heard it was a blast and I have friends that work there. I contacted them and got us on the list and we wandered over to Resorts from the Showboat, stopping quickly at Le Grand Fromage to see Lucy, who I haven't seen in a while.

Once in Boogie Nights, we got our drinks from my friend Ike, who was wearing this big Afro wig (silly), and my friend Yomira (Ike's girlfriend) seated us in the VIP section in one of the booths. I looked around at the cheap decor and the interesting mix of people and marveled at the concept, envying the fact that such a simple idea was so successful! Lance remarked about the mixed crowd, both young and old dancing together and having a ball. The vibe of the place is amazing, everyone is there to have fun and it was palpable in the room. We sipped our drinks and then decided that the music was too good and went up to the dance floor and danced the rest of the night away!

One quick mention: Not one person cared that two guys were dancing together. I love my city!!!

Inevitably, the night had to end and ours was no different. Lance had to open the Continental in the morning so we hailed a taxi and made out in the back on the ride to his home. I finally got home and literally passed out on the couch until Helene woke me up and put me in the bedroom to sleep off the very long, very fun, day.

31 August 2009

The Past Is Now!

I was a little bored on the Thursday before the reunion party so I decided to stop by Tara's place to hang out, just to say hullo and then go home. Helene had scheduled the carpet cleaners for the morning so I had to be home to help move the furniture and stuff. While I'm at Tara's, laughing and gossiping about everyone, her phone rings and it's some friends on the way over. Well, the next thing I know, it's daylight of the next day and here I am, still laughing and gossiping with Tara! People stopped by now and again during the night, our friends are nocturnal, and I was sipping on tequila and time just flew by. But by now, I was in NO condition to move furniture and I was dog tired from not sleeping. There would be no way to sleep at home with the carpet cleaners there so I crashed at Tara's until later. When I got ready to leave, I had to borrow a tie from Tara since I had planned to get one out of storage to wear.

That didn't happen!

I quickly got up and dashed home to get ready, feeling woozy and still a little (okay...a whole lot) drunk. My mobile had died so I turned it off and plugged it in so it would charge fast while I took a shower and tried to look human. Luckily the outfit looked good so that helped (photos of my ensemble can be seen on my Facebook). When I turned my mobile on, it was ringing off the hook! Lance had gone into a mild panic, wondering where I was. I assured him that I was on my way and got to his house, where I hadn't been to in forever. After a quick hullo to his parents (and his mom's insistence on taking our picture, like we were going to prom or something) she gave us a ride to the Showboat. Lance kept apologizing for her...umm...we'll say "erratic"...driving technique but I loved it!

We got there in one piece and I guided him to the room where the event was being held. I travel through the casinos on my regular walks so I know them pretty well. I'll finish this tomorrow.

Prom Night (Plus Twenty)

I think I have more than proved that I am a VERY social person. Not only am I an attention whore, my years on stage and in the workplace testify to that, but I thoroughly enjoy social settings like parties, gatherings, reunions, barbecues, weddings, you name them, I'll be there. I love meeting/observing people. One source of disappointment I've had to endure was the loss of the social atmosphere that used to reign at the Studio Six. Back in the day (I find that I say that phrase way too often now-a-days), you went out to the club to meet people. Yes, there were the sexual hook-ups and the meat-market aspect that all clubs have but one of the things that people have often remarked upon, especially those people that went there years ago, is that they met the best people at the Studio. It was like a common living room, an ongoing cocktail party that friends and neighbors went to on nearly a daily basis. And everyone was invited to join in on the fun. The primary object was to meet people and have a good time. And along the way, we met some of the best friends of our lives, friendships that last to this day. It was unlike most other clubs that were primarily places for people to meet for a one night stand. Cheap and abundant and anonymous sex.
And then the culture changed. So many alphabet drugs came around and before you know it, the music got too loud and intense, the people were too fucked up to engage in anything but getting more fucked up and the rapid degeneration of that wonderful era ensued and the primary function seemed to be about isolating oneself through excess.
It's hard to be social when you no longer speak the language. In this case, Crackinese.

Lance had asked me to attend his high school reunion a while ago and I had forgotten about it. I also was working at Le Grand Fromage at the time and on the day of the reunion (a Friday) so the possibility that I could go was slim to none. Then, as it often does in life, things changed and I was free on the day of the event and I agreed to go with him. He was surprised and kept asking if I was sure I wanted to go. I told him I was looking forward to it and I couldn't wait for the day of the party.

Now, some people would not want to go to someone else's high school reunion. I mean, it's a bit awkward being the perpetual outsider at the event. You have no touchstone with these people except for the music of the time period. Other than that, they have their stories and inside jokes that you can never be a part of. And, as an added wrinkle, it was Holy Spirit High School, I went to rival Atlantic City High.

But I'm not those people. I really couldn't wait to go! The week before, I went to the M.C.B.A. mixer at the Chelsea Hotel, it's our local businessperson organization and political meet-and-greet. I know most of those people but, honestly, I have no real business being there. I'm not much more than a professional party guest. Wait. I guess that gives me (tenuous) credentials. I had a ball hobnobbing with the Atlantic City elite and keeping my skills finely honed. It's a bit like Dorothy Parker and the vicious circle when you attend these little shindigs and you have to be on your best game. Politicians aren't the nicest bunch of humans although with all the fake smiles, you'd think they were actually enjoying themselves.

I found a dark blue, two-button Ben Sherman fitted jacket at a second-hand shop the weekend before and I decided that was what I'd wear to the reunion. It fit me to a T and with a crisp white shirt and nice tie, I thought it would be sharp. The day approached and the Thursday before, a slight wrinkle was thrown into my plans.

That wrinkle's name is Tara!

Next: Hurricane Tara and the Homecoming Queen

26 August 2009

Wedding Bells

We had a wedding to do recently that was booked rather quickly, giving us very little time before the actual day. We found out why during the weeks that passed as we prepared for the event.

We met with the groom at The Chelsea Hotel (see: Cafe Companion). At first, I thought he was the wedding planner, since he had a clipboard with reams of paperwork and was being followed around by the hotel staff (and my gaydar went off a little bit). Lo and behold, he's the groom and he was planning the wedding, an oddity in this business. We usually have to deal with brides who want flowers way out of season or ones that don't actually exist in nature. But that wasn't the case and here he was and off we went with him on a tour of the property and he began describing what he wanted us to accomplish. It seemed to be pretty straightforward, decorate the stairwell with tulle and bows, set up simple arrangements in the ballroom where the ceremony would take place and then the usual standing bouquets in the cocktail area. Nothing too extraordinary.

Then we got to the deck where the pool is. Here he began to explain what he wanted and things got a bit out of control. Floating arrangements, reorganizing the cabanas for the dinner, covering lighting, adding lighting, hanging a hundred paper lanterns, balloon bouquets with lights inside, bringing the items from the ballroom and distributing them around the pool, adding more flowers. It began to dawn on me that this was going to be a HUGE job. We discussed some of the details and talked with the Chelsea staff and we went back to the shop to confer amongst ourselves.

So far so good. We waited to hear from the groom and we'd write up the proposal and everything would be copacetic!


From that moment until the wedding day, we suffered through countless emails, changes, radical rethinks, colour schemes, different flowers, you name it, we heard it. Then there was the problem of glass. It seems it's a law (city, state, hotel, whoever) that you can't have glass around the pool. Our groom was insistent that we have glass containers for the arrangements. It was a battle between him, the hotel and us because we had to buy the items and it would have been cost prohibitive to keep them in our
inventory and not use them. Then there were the arrangements themselves. The floral staff wasn't thrilled about the design. It's a common problem, the brides want something that's not exactly...how do I explain it...it's not what you would do as a floral designer. Mixing the wrong shapes like square bottoms with a round ball of flowers on top. You do things that repeat a theme in floral design, not mix and match.

It's just not done.

But, since they were paying, we did what they wanted. Then there was the issue of the chuppah. A chuppah is a traditional arch used in Jewish ceremonies. We have one that's quite big but comes apart rather easily. The bride and groom weren't Jewish but they saw a picture in a Martha Stewart magazine that had an arch with flowing fabrics and candles floating in glass tubes lining the aisle. That's what they wanted.

People, florists HATE Martha Stewart. HATE HER! She is the anathema of floral designers everywhere. She needs to be stopped.

So, here we were with this picture from Martha's rag and we had to come up with some sort of way of copying it.

The weekend of the wedding came (we also had two other smaller weddings that week, of course) and we went into battle mode.

First wrinkle: The weather.

Everyday that week the weather was nice but the day of their wedding, the forecast called for late afternoon showers. Not to mention the fact that it was raining cats and dogs all morning long (when I say morning, I mean between seven to nine, we do things very early in the shop). We were told they would make the decision at noon, the one deciding if we were setting up the pool deck or totally re-doing the ballroom for the reception dinner. We got the vans/trucks/cars packed and began bringing everything over to the hotel. We get the chuppah into the ballroom and notice a stage. There was to be no stage because our chuppah is so big that it wouldn't fit. Luckily, Jack had preplanned for this occasion and had a way to shorten the arch to fit. But, that required power tools. We hurriedly got the room ready, setting up the glass jars, adding water to them (a long and tedious process, each one required nearly four gallons of water) and getting the stairwell draped and the hundreds of other things we needed to do. We set up the cocktail area and began preparing the pool deck since we didn't get the word yet if they were canceling the outdoor area because of the weather.
I had run back to the shop for round two (three...four...I don't remember) of hauling centerpieces and bouquets and everything else. While I was there, the word came down from on high: The deck reception was canceled. This meant that the dinner would be held in the ballroom.

Where the wedding was taking place.

This also meant that we now had NO time to spare. Before, we would have been setting up the pool all during the day with plenty of time to get it finished before the reception. Now, we would have an hour to totally transform one room from the sparse yet beautiful wedding chamber with a chuppah (that we jury-rigged) into a paper lantern dripping dining room with a totally different look and scheme.

Battle mode turned into total panic!

But we adapted and got to business, barely getting on each other's frayed nerves and focusing on the task at hand. We had to be out of the way right before the ceremony started so we finished up and took a much needed break. A break that included martinis! We ate at
Teplitzky's (Jack and I think the name sounds like a concentration camp in Poland) and watched up through the windows at the wedding party. They looked GORGEOUS! Usually you see some pretty fugly bridesmaids but everyone was stunning! We watched them enter the ballroom and finished up our dinner and cock...tails, knowing that we had to get our asses up there to scramble that room into shape.

The wedding party exited and went to the cocktail reception and we got to work. Insanity reigned during that hour, with the hotel staff and us madly whipping that room into shape. We even had valet boys hanging the paper lanterns over the dancefloor, which was being installed right underneath our ladders. It was controlled chaos and by the time we finished, the room looked AMAZING! You'd never know that they even got married in the same space. It was totally different. We got out of there just in time, taking some pictures before leaving. Downstairs, we waited for the van to come collect us and off we went back to the shop and then home.

Luckily, the venue change meant that we got everything out of there earlier and didn't have to go back at midnight to pack up. It could wait until morning.

The next morning I got to the shop early and Jack and I went to the hotel to gather our stuff. It was pretty painless and the hotel staff made it easier by putting everything together.

We did get the greatest compliments from the bride and groom, they were eminently pleased with everything. That was nice.

Considering he's the son of a senator, it's VERY NICE!

Next up: High School Reunion

15 August 2009

Major League Mortimer!

My long-time friend and I have recently been communicating on a fairly regular basis. Which is a good thing. It often happens that when someone becomes romantically involved with someone else, you tend to focus on the object of your desire and the rest of us fall to the wayside. It happens. That's not said as an insinuation of any wrong-doing, it's merely said as a statement of fact.

It happens.

But through mediums such as MySpace or Facebook, you can reunite with long lost friends and loved ones and my friend Stephen and I did just that!

We have been talking about this and that over the past few months and catching up here and there, looking at pictures and reliving the past (it seems the past is all I have anymore). And over that time, he began formulating a plan, unbeknownst to me. One day he asked if I was busy on a certain date, I happened to be free (cue Mr. Humphries: "I'm FREE!") and he never mentioned a thing for quite a while after that. Then, as the date got closer, he began to mention it again, making sure I was off and hinting that he wanted to get together for...something.

The date got closer and closer and he began dropping hints although I didn't know it. They were careful hints asking his Facebook friends who their favourite Phillies player was (so he could find out who mine was) and stuff along those lines. Finally, the day before, I was at the Art of Flowers (where you should get all your floral needs) and I happened to notice that the next day's Phillies game was in the afternoon. Hmm...the puzzle pieces began to fit and I suspected that this is what the surprise was.

I got up early, as usual, and the day was very overcast. I got dressed and ready, forgoing the sunblock three thousand since there was a threat of rain for the entire day. Stephen pulled up and lo and behold, he was wearing red. That confirmed my suspicions! I knew then and there that we were going to the game! I was SO DAMNED EXCITED!

Off we went up the Atlantic City Expressway, me chatting excitedly the entire way. I was a bit concerned about the weather but the forecast said that the area along the Delaware River (where the stadium is) would be rain free but overcast. Most of the rain would hug the coastline of New Jersey, where we just left. Before I knew it, we were going over the Walt Whitman Bridge and were traveling through South Philadelphia and the next thing I knew, we were pulling into the parking lot directly in front of the stadium! I love star parking! We got out and got changed. Stephen had thought ahead and bought me a Jayson Werth Phillies shirt and I put that on over my shirt and off we went into Citizens Bank Park.

Amazement! That's what I felt! Wow, I was amazed at the spectacle. First, we stopped by the front entrance and met up with Stephen's family. I had to make a pit-stop, as usual, and mark my territory. I was impressed with the bathroom facilities. Very big, fairly clean and easy to find. They were everywhere. We walked over to the edge of the outfield and I saw the entire field. I voiced my wonder out loud and one of the workers overheard me and divined that this was my first game. She informed me to go to the Customer Service desk to get a special certificate that says it's my first Major League Game. Off we went!

Stephen first took me for a tour of the stadium. And what a tour it was. The smells of the food were driving me mad with hunger, the vendors were all working their booths with trained efficiency, the calls of "cold beer" and "programs" and "souvenirs" with other hawkers adding to the controlled chaos. My eyes darted everywhere at once, trying to take in the entire scene before me, my nose caught every odor, my skin tingled with the excitement of the upcoming game. We made our way over to where we were to sit, right by third base and then wandered through the crowds of people to the main food area known as "Ashburn Alley". Suddenly, Stephen stopped short right by Bull's BBQ and reaches into his bag and pulls out two MLB baseballs. He then directs me to a little corner area past the kids playing games to a little booth where a gentleman was sitting, signing balls and other memorabilia. It was none other than baseball great
Greg "The Bull" Luzinski! We got in line and quickly made our way to the front where Mr. Luzinski was gracious enough to take a picture with me. His World Series ring was incredible, by the way. We looked over the memorial wall and the bullpen where the pitchers warm up. Off we went back around and then stood in line for a sausage sandwich (he a soda, me a beer) and then got to our seats, which were ABSO-FUCKING-LUTLEY AMAZING! We were seven rows from the field, right next to the visitor's dugout and looking directly at third base. I was in awe and the pictures show it! I ran and got peanuts, because you GOTTA have peanuts at a baseball game, and we stood for the National Anthem. The singer was good, if a bit young, and she hit the notes at the end. A rousing applause and then it was PLAY BALL!

Our vantage point was great and very different from the view from the cameras on television. From where we sat, I could see the pitcher's throw which looks WAY faster than what you see on TV as well as the batter's stance, which is far different than the front view. The Phillie Phanatic did his shenanigans everywhere you looked and I was just astounded at how much fun everyone was having.

I was also a little jealous.

Yes, jealous. Everywhere I looked, there were kids and they had all obviously been there before and it took me twenty-nine years to see my first Major League game. Okay, in my parent's defense: I was the LAST kid you would ever think to take to a baseball game. The art museum, the theatre, a fashion show, something like that maybe but a sporting event...NEVER! I had no sports skills and was certainly not interested in watching them. Back then, I found them boring but now, I get to enjoy them on so many levels. One being the art of the game itself, the other being the HOT BASEBALL PLAYERS! And hell, with being gay, the names of the positions in sports have double entendre written all over them!

I found myself totally wrapped up into the game, though, and barely noticed the hot guys sitting all around me (especially the one in the red shirt right in front of us, right Stephen?). I definitely needed the seventh inning stretch. They had everyone up and standing, twisting this way and that, getting the blood circulating out of our butts. I also didn't notice that the sun, although hidden through many layers of clouds, was slowly burning my vampire skin. At one point, it drizzled so I thought I'd be safe. Later, I'd find that I got a hellacious sunburn. I bought a few (way)overpriced beers from the vendors that walked up and down the stands and cheered when "Light's Out" Lidge came out in the ninth and won the game for the Phils! I loved the camaraderie of the fans, all patting each other on the backs and smiling as they funneled out of the stadium. We had a munchkin with us, although he sat in another section, and they were doing a special promotion for the day. The kids got to "run the bases" and whilst our little guy got in line, I ran up to the concession stand to get a souvenir hat. I wanted a T-shirt but they didn't have them in anything other than super huge and I like to wear them out and about, not sleep in them. Back down near our seats, we moved up to the visitor's dugout and sat on that, waiting for the little kiddle's base run and took pictures.

Once all that was done, we packed up and off we went, back out to the car and the drive home, which I barely remember since I was on cloud nine...ten...eleven the entire time!

In the parking lot, Stephen gave me the Werth jersey and a T-shirt to boot! I also got a free pic of Raul Ibanez when I first walked in, the First Game certificate, the signed baseball and so many happy memories.

Stephen, thank you SO MUCH for giving me this amazing day! I owe you big time.

Next: Groomzilla!


Many recent events have come and gone and I have been remiss in not cataloguing them here. It's a shame. Over and over again, I hear the same lament concerning J-Land. The loss of our not-so-little community was (and still is) deeply felt throughout the larger blogger world. Time and again, I get comments and emails full of sadness and pain, wishing for those halycon days of not-so-long-ago when we regularly shared our lives with each other and felt genuine friendship with, essentially, total strangers. The J-Land Summit will forever be seared into my memory, that fleetingly special chance to meet so many of our little group and to act and interact like old friends. I still can't believe it's all gone. Well, not compleately gone, there are still a few of us holding on but that special moment in time is forever lost and I will forever wince whenever I hear the letters A, O and L spoken in my presence.
I know that I am still leery of posting these missives, fearing to lose them all once again, as the AOL Overlords so blithely did when they shut down the Journals. I have tried to save my newest entries on various sites (since my computer is currently in storage) in the vain hope that if (gods forbid) Blogger should shut down, I'll have them on MySpace or another site where I keep information. Our beloved J-Land may have been destroyed but the memories of everyone I met, got to know...and love...will never be forgotten.

On to better things...

My mother came to visit me recently! We had a wonderful day together. First, there was the coordination issues, which should have been fairly easy but with the two of us involved, problems always arise. The first wrinkle happened with the actual day of her arrival. She was supposed to come on a Wednesday and I made all the plans, getting everyone on board when I got the notice that she forgot an appointment and needed to push our day back one.



I text messaged Miss Patti about the changes and made some adjustments to my plans and everything was set. Thursday came and I hardly slept, I was excited to see my mom (and I won't apologize for it!), and I got up and got ready, running first to the Art of Flowers to kibitz and have some coffee. Of course, I get the phone calls from mom about the changes and I'm getting the impression she's never been to Atlantic City in her life, by the way she's going on and on about it! She has been here before, many times, and she has a GPS system as well but come on...it's not like every highway and road in the tri-state area doesn't have signs pointing you to Atlantic City!
I had intended for her to meet Miss Patti and I at the Irish Pub because she reads about it in the Cafe and I wanted her to experience one of my favourite haunts. I kept texting and ringing Miss Patti over and over trying to get a hold of her to no avail. Finally, her boyfriend answered and told me that she had worked late the night before and was sleeping in. I was livid! My mom hadn't seen her since before the surgery and really wanted to see her in the flesh, before she finally shrinks away to nothing! I grumbled and tantrum-ed for a bit, pulled my self together and got a ride from Lee uptown. I wandered down to the Pub and sat out on the boardwalk awaiting my mom's arrival. I didn't wait long, surprisingly, because she drove up five minutes later and parked and we went in to eat.

After some Bloody Marys and cheeseburger platters, we were stuffed and feeling good. I had had her drive to the Pub with the intention of giving Miss Patti a lift to the Borgata because she was on the earlier shift on Thursdays but, since Patti blew us off, we drove to Caesars where I had her park. I have Joe's Diamond Club Card so we wouldn't have to pay the five dollar fee. I took her through The Pier and then all around The Walk, window shopping and talking about everything. I took her to The Chelsea and showed her the area where we were doing the Gormley wedding (and the hotel itself, it's very nice). We then took a Jitney bus back to Caesars and went to The Continental to see Lance (whom she had never met but heard a lot about). A few martinis and some delicious food later, we decided that she just HAD to see Miss Patti and we got our acts together and took the Jitney over to the Borgata.
Once there, and after a brief tour of the casino, I found out where Patti was working and they finally got to see each other! I was happy. Patti had to go back to work and I took mom over to The Water Club to see the new hotel and we took pictures (which can be seen on my Facebook under Photos/Visitation). After that, we were back at Caesars and night was falling and it was time for her to get on the road. Sadly, we bid our farewells and off she went, following the sun, due west.

I went home and slept. Soundly. It was a very good day.

Next up: My first Phillies game!
After that: The Gormley wedding.

04 August 2009

Where The Hell Have I Been?

It's funny, I started posting like a madman on the Cafe and then...nothing, for quite some time. There's a reason.

There's always a reason!

My reunion with my Ex has cooled to the point of ice-age. There are a lot of reasons for that but I am not comfortable listing them here, even with my now limited audience. Fancy that! I used to bare my soul, evil and all for the entire world to see back in the J-Land days but now, after a few lessons learned over the years, I have been schooled in the art of discretion. Oh, I'm sure a few items will slip out here and there but for the moment, where Joe is concerned, the less said, the better.

On the work front, I have been at odds with my manager concerning my Friday nights. He's been unhappy with the turn-out (as have I) and he wants to sit down with me to see if there's anything we can do to salvage the event. Now, while all this has been going on and I haven't been behind the bar, Friday's have gotten better and better, as I had thought they would. It has taken time to build a crowd but they are coming. Of course, now I am on the outs with my boss so who knows what's going to happen.

I do! (But it's another thing I am not at liberty to say. Don't worry, you'll all be the first to know!)

My mother came for a day trip to the island of love and it was WONDERFUL! I'm going to write about the trip later today, I just wanted to post something to remind myself that I'm alive.

Off to the flower shop.

16 July 2009


The Press of Atlantic City published my letter (edited to death): http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/opinion/letters/article_9bac705d-5b2f-5a0c-b6a3-d4488d14c2e6.html

14 July 2009

True That!

You know where the real South Jersey is.. Its the island, and you know you are from there if:
1. You live on Absecon Island.
2. You know that summer is not a season, it is a process.
3. You know what a shoobie is, you can point them out, and you hate them and wish they would go home.
4. You’ve been shit on by a seagull.
5. You've called some dumbass shoobie an asshole to their face for feeding the seagulls.
6. You don't, for any reason whatsoever, feed the seagulls.
7. You know which beach is ‘your beach’ and you know which spot is ‘your spot’ and you get angry when someone takes your spot.
8. When you were in high school, you didn’t see anything wrong with going through metal detectors and bag checks every morning.
9. In high school, you skipped class and wandered the halls, talking to the security guards without them questioning why you weren’t in class.
10. You know that Atlantic City High School marching band can lay down some phat beats.
11. You know what a Wawa is and know the location of at least 15 of them.
12. You go to Wawa almost every day.
13. You’ve been out of the area and missed Wawa.
14. You know that there is only one road out of Brigantine and that if you ever happen to be there when there is a catastrophic storm, you are fucked.
15. You don’t think the casinos are anything to get excited about.
16. You rarely go to the casinos and if you do, it is usually when people that you know from out of town are visiting.
17. You know what became of the 13th Leeds child.
18. It is the BEACH and NOT the SHORE.
19. You hate the phrase ‘watch the tram car please’ and are upset that they don’t slow down when you stand in front of them.
20. You’ve had arguments over cheesesteak quality.
21. You’ve also had arguments over whether Tony’s Batiimore Grille or Mac and Manco’s makes better pizza and are a diehard fan of one of the two.
22. You know how to properly navigate a traffic circle
.23. You know that just because someone has Jersey tags doesn’t mean they are not a shoobie. 24. You think South Jersey should secede from North Jersey and create its own state.
25. You say water weird.
26. ‘Jeet yet?’ makes sense to you.
27. You know that any snowfall of more than three inches is considered a blizzard and all schools will shut down immediately.
28. You have ‘beach feet.’
29. You've never actually bought a beach badge and if you see a beach badge checker who looks like she is going to bother you, you just go into the water.
30. You have an EZ PASS but just hold it up.
31. You know that you need to get the hell out of Camden before dark.
32. Your car is covered in yellow-green dust in April and May.
33. You can smell and know when it is low tide.
34. You don’t go to the Ocean City boardwalk because there are too many shoobies.
35. You know that Salt Water Taffy is not made from salt water and can name most, if not all of the flavors.
36. The Eagles/Giants rivalry has started fights in your school and/or bar.
37. During the air show in August your house shakes and car alarms go off is your neighborhood.
38. There is a specific ice cream man that you always buy ice cream from on the beach, and do not like to buy it from anyone else, even if they have the same stuff.
39. You have eaten at restaurants with locations I II, III, IV, and V.
40. You get excited when you see Chopper 6 and hum the Action News song.
41. You’ve had sex on the beach, and I’m not talking about the beverage.
42. Honesty, sincerity, and courtesy are things you once saw happen in Ohio.
43. You know that you don’t put ketchup on boardwalk fries.
44. You think Olive Garden is a bunch of crap and should not open restaurants around here.
45. In the summer you do not go to the store for tomatoes, you go to your backyard.
46. You know that we have the best tomatoes in the world (seriously).
47. You’ve counted the number of strip clubs and Cash for Gold stores in Atlantic City.
48. You know which Cash for Gold stores you can get a ‘fake ID’ at.
49. You always went to the Franklin Institute when you were a kid.
50. You know where to get the best bagel, and know that a bagel is much more than just a roll with a hole in the middle.
51. Donald Trump is mentioned daily in the newspaper.
52. You’ve called someone an asshole to their face at the Philly airport.
53. You say ‘yo’ and ‘dude’ and say it often.
54. You’ve lived through hurricanes, nor’easters, and fires, but have never experienced a tornado, earthquake or volcano.
55. You get excited when the hurricane season names come out and your name is one of them.
56. You get sad if ‘your’ hurricane doesn’t do anything or, worse yet, they don’t get to your name that year.
57. You know that Acme is an actual store, and not just a Warner Bros. creation.
58. You know what a Whippoorwill is and know the sound of them.
59. You have mandatory recycling, enforced by law.
60. You are still pissed off that they had the audacity to move the Miss America Pageant to flippin’ Las Vegas.
61. You think Atlantic City’s slogan ‘always turned on’ is stupid, and possibly a reference to strip clubs and prostitution. And you miss the old slogan of ‘America’s favorite playground.’
62. You know all of the police in your town, and possibly surrounding towns as well.
63. You remember DARE with Lt. Biagi when he was a bike cop.
64. You don’t have to go to Red Lobster to get fresh seafood and feel the same way about that restaurant as you do Olive Garden.
65. You know how to pronounce Buena on route 40.
66. You know New Year’s is all about Mummers and the Polar Bear club.
67. You’ve waited for the goddamn drawbridge for more than ten minutes, and then had the operator come out and tell everyone that it is stuck, and then had to turn around and go ALL THE WAY back and through Atlantic City to get to where you are going.
68. You know that only people from North Jersey say it ‘Joisey.’
69. You don’t like the people from North Jersey.
70. You know it can be 70 degrees in January.
71. “Anyone who makes bad pizza can go to hell” is your attitude.
72. Somewhere along the line, someone really screwed you in a business transaction.
73. You know that you are the only group of people who really know how to drive properly.
74. You know that 65mph on the expressway is merely a suggestion.
75. You don’t take any shit from anyone.
76. You don’t think you have an accent.
77. You know that no one really lives in Longport.
78. One time, when you were drunk, you dropped your phone in the ocean.
79. You remember when Rowan was Glassboro State and TCNJ was Trenton State.
80. You can count the number of people in your graduating class who did not go to Rutgers, Stockton or ACCC on one hand.
81. You remember when there was a fire in ACHS and the principle turned off the fire alarm system.
82. In high school, while eating lunch, you were always completely aware of your surroundings, just in case..
83. You know who Mrs. Arsenis is, and your biggest fear sophomore year of high school was getting her for chemistry.
84. In high school, you wrapped things in aluminum foil and put it in your lunch bag so it wouldn’t get confiscated when you got your backpack checked in the morning.
85. Clear backpacks are a bunch of crap.
86. You’ve driven to school, walked in, said hi to your homeroom teacher and then left through the gym doors and still gotten credit for the day.
87. You saw at least one fight almost every day in high school.
88. You were a lifeguard.
89. You complain about South Jersey all the time, but when you leave you miss it.
90. Taylor Pork Roll.
91. You have a bucket of Johnson’s Carmel Popcorn in your house, somewhere.
92. You don’t think ‘what exit?’ is funny.
93. You’ve had to mail relocated friends Tastykakes.
94. You know what scrapple is, but eat it anyway.
95. You’ve gone surf fishing.
96. You know that the game Monopoly is based on Atlantic City (except for Marven Gardens).
97. You don’t pump your own gas.
98. Your junior and senior proms were at the casinos.

99. When you graduated high school you had to walk through a casino in your cap and gown to get to where you were graduating.
100. You know what ‘jimmies’ are and refuse to call them anything else.
101. You’ve been drunk on the jitney.
102. You know who Lucy the Elephant is and where she is located.
103. You’re female, not gay, and not a stripper, but you have been to strip clubs.
104. Many of the people from your high school are in prison now.
105. You go offshore to get gas because everyone knows its too expensive on the island.
106. You know that if you go 2+ mph above the speed limit in Longport, you will get pulled over, because the cops have nothing better to do.
107. You refer to the Black Horse Pike as ‘the pike’ and assume that whoever you are talking to will know you mean the Black Horse Pike and not the White Horse Pike.
108. You use the monument as a landmark/reference point for everything in Atlantic City, but you just refer to it as 'the monument' and not what it is actually a monument of.
109. When you were a kid you would play the dollar trick under the boardwalk and thought it was absolutely hilarious, but now when you see little kids doing it you want to strangle them because you think they are obnoxious.
110. Empty Wawa coffee cups litter your car floor.
111. When someone asks you where you are from you say South Jersey and not New Jersey.
112. You've gone kayaking down your flooded street during a hurricane or nor'easter or, if you haven't, you've always wanted to.
113. There is NEVER parking anywhere near your house in the summer.
114. You do not consider the 'shore mall' an actual mall.
115. You don't have a basement.
116. You went to Storybook Land as a kid and thought it was the coolest place ever.
117. You've been to Maynards more times before you turned 21 than after.
118. You have to cross over water to get to the rest of the state.
119. You think Wawa gift cards are fantastic and one of the best gifts you could receive from someone.
120. At least one person in your family works at a casino.
121. You went to Mino's bakery when you were a kid.
122. Formica bread.
123. You've sat down on an empty beach only to have some idiot sit smack dab next to you and wanted to kill them.
124. You remember, or at least are aware of the fact that the the casinos unsed to close at 4/6AM and reopen at 10AM.
125. You worked at, or knew someone who worked at the Ocean One mall.
126. When you drive down Pacific Ave at night you always point out the prostitutes that you see.
127. Bloodsucking is a way of life here, mosquitos, ticks, leeches, greenheads, lawyers....
128. You know what Top Gun sauce is.
129. You know that Charlie's makes the best hot wings.
130. Taco Tuesdays at Gregory's.
131. You know where chicken bone beach is, and why it is called that.
132. Holy Spirit and Atlantic City rival games are major holidays and not just high school sporting events.
133. You remember when Atlantis was Playboy and some of the hottest fashions were anything with a Playboy bunny on them.
134. You remember when Ventnor had an ice skating rink and a gas station.
135. You remember when the Margate Bridge Toll was only .50 cents.
136. You've been to Birch Grove Park.
137. You remember when we used to actually get significant snowfall.
138. You know the names of all the casinos, old and new, still there and no longer in existence.
139. You think New York is over-rated.
140. You remember Maloney's.
141. You know that the White House is not just where the US president lives but also a famous sub shop.
142. You think that whatever city you live in/grew up in, A.C., Ventnor, Margate, Brig, etc, is better than the other cities in the area.
143. You used to get hot dogs from Lenny's at 6AM after leaving the bars.
144. You've blocked off your parking spots with things like beach chairs or children.
145. You know that before it was The Pier it was Ocean One Mall and before that it was Million Dollar Pier.
146. You pronounce Arkansas Ave in AC 'R-KANSAS'
147. You know that "Night in Venice" is not any evening in a historic Italian city, but does involve Ocean City, lots of boats, decorations and costumes, and not a small amount of alcoholic beverages.
148. You know that you do not want to be anywhere near Ocean City on "Night in Venice" weekend.
149. You remember Brownie's.
150. You remember 7 beers for a buck and kamikaze night at Anchorage and/or 10 beers for a buck at Merels.
151. You know that there are no bars in Ventnor and think that there should be.
152. You prefer our cheesesteaks to philly cheesesteaks.
153. And for God’s sake, it is a SUB and NOT a HOAGIE.

11 July 2009

Shoobie In Reverse

I had decided to go to Philadelphia on Thursday and I am so glad I made that decision.

The morning was spent getting my act together, showering, deciding what to wear, what I needed in my little shoulder bag. I did my workout and then waited around for my unemployment check to arrive. I planned on taking the twelve forty-one train and my check came just in time. I walked down to Dover Check Cashing and got my money and then walked across the street to the little shop where I get my mobile minutes and once that was done, I stood on the Jitney stop for three seconds and caught the number four to the train station. That was serendipity and it looked like the day was going to go my way!

Until I got on the train. That's when the conductor explained that we will be disembarking in Hammonton to take a bus to Philadelphia because of track repairs. Just ducky. I nap a little and then get off the train and find out which bus I'm supposed to get on. There's general confusion between the passengers and NJ Transit crew. Neither knew what the hell we were doing and to top it off, there were wheelchair passengers so they had to accommodate them. More time wasted. Once everything got sorted out, we were off and I was texting Miss Patti pissy little messages about everything. Then I realized that the bus was brand-spanking new and quite comfortable and before I knew it, I fell asleep and woke up as we were pulling into Philadelphia. We made great time, actually better than if we were still on the train. My mood brightened considerably, that is until we had to do a rather lengthy jaunt around the damn train station, stopping at every light and negotiating the dense traffic surrounding the building. I didn't let it bother me and patiently waited until we stopped and I could get off the bus and into the city!

First things first, though and I bee-lined for the bathroom in 30th St. Station.

Once nature was taken care of, I exited that beautiful cathedral of transportation and began my adventure in the city of brotherly love.

First, I began ringing up everyone I knew in the city to see where my day might take me as I wandered down towards center city (pronounced: cennercity). Gary was working a double so I was miffed that I wouldn't be able to see him. After a brief conversation with my mom (she was busy cleaning and organizing the garage, of course) I found myself near my friend Charlies hair salon but I couldn't find him. I wandered through Rittenhouse Square and then began trekking down to old city and South Street. I got near my old address so I zigzagged through the streets until I hit Ninth and Pine and took a photo of my former residence. A flood of memories came back (I fell in love with Joe in my living room there) and the ghosts of times past followed me down South Street until I hit Manny Browns where I ducked in, bellied up to the bar and ordered a margarita! The cute, tattooed, pierced bartender made me a delicious beverage and I had a hankering to ring up my sister. Surprisingly, she answered the phone and even more surprisingly, she was also in Philadelphia, working at the preschool! I quickly downed my cock...tial and off I went back to Rittenhouse Square where I was going to meet here. I took a different route, one through Washington Park, a favourite place of mine for years. Revolutionary soldiers are buried under the flagstones and I remember their sacrifice every time I walk through that hallowed ground. I took Walnut Street all the way down to meet her. She and the teachers were taking the kids to Rittenhouse to play. When I got there and looked around I couldn't find them so I sat for a bit and listened to the jazz trio that was playing near one of the entrances. They were quite good and very, very young! I was impressed and I enjoyed sitting out on the benches and taking in the spectacular day. The park was crowded and my sister finally arrived, with all the little ankle-biters walking hand-in-hand down Locust Street. They were so damned cute! I re-met the teachers my sister works with and we stood by watching the kids play and making sure none of them wandered away. One of the little boys, Cooper, has a crush on my sister and was NOT happy seeing some guy chatting with her. He kept giving me the evil eye (well, as evil as a five year old can give) and I did my best to befriend him. Danielle and I caught up with the family gossip and I told her that our mom was thinking of coming to Atlantic City so maybe they could come together and we'd do the town. I walked them back to the school because I decided to visit my friend Shannon who lived a few blocks South from there.

I said good-bye to the kiddles, gave Danielle a peck on the cheek (much to Cooper's dismay) and wandered down to Catherine to see my girl. I haven't seen Shannon for a while so I couldn't wait to spend a little time with her. Even though she was a bit under the weather, she looked stunning, she is one of the most beautiful women I know and I just love her to pieces! We lounged around on her bed and talked and gossiped and hugged. I played with her cats and they played back, cats love me for some strange reason. I had, by now, made plans to meet up with some other people at Bump down in the gayborhood so, regretfully, I had to say goodbye to Shannon and we hugged and kissed and said farewell.

I was running late so I power walked straight down South Street to 12th Street and up to Locust to the bar and met Mark for the first time, even though we had chatted on Facebook and text messaged for a while now. He was very sweet and cute but he couldn't stay long because he had had a very busy morning and was feeling a bit tired. After a nice conversation, he and I said our goodbyes and I wandered across the street to see Sandy Beach at Camac. It was great to see my old friend and we chatted and gossiped about everyone in Atlantic City and I ordered and ate a pizza and fries, both tasty and delicious! While I was there, my mobile buzzed and it was a text from Gary. He was on his way to see me!!! That made me so happy! He got there and we had a martini (by now, I was feeling no pain) and off we went to Bob and Barbara's for their weekly drag show. Normally it's a college bar but they do shows there on Thursdays. I've performed there back when it was half the size. I got to see everyone, Lisa, Brittany and many others and Gary and I had a blast flirting with all the cute boys. By now (and three mojhitos and some other drinks I can't recall) I was too twisted and we staggered over to another place (insert name here 'cause I don't fucking remember) and had more martinis and flirted with the hunk of a bartender. I only did it because I was WAY plastered and he was WAY outta my league. I was finally done and we hailed a taxi and stumbled into Gary's place in University City where I promptly passed out on the couch.

I woke up to an enormous hangover and hunger. Because Gary's getting into some serious bodybuilding (he looks AMAZING, I am so jealous) there was nothing bad (but oh so good when you're hung) in his flat. I chomped down a peach and some celery and got myself looking fairly human and left his place in search of better (and badder) hangover medicine. I was passing a cute little outdoor cafe and was admiring the cute waiter when I realized it was GARY! After that little shock (I hate cruising my friends, it's so embarrassing) I said hullo to him and continued my trek, he was way busy. Of all the great restaurants in Philadelphia, the only thing I wanted was the one guaranteed hangover food, McDonald's! Since there's one at the train station, I though I'd kill two birds with one stone and eat there and then get on the next train for Atlantic City.

The food was manna from heaven and did the trick, I felt better immediately. Although my mood was quickly tested because I had to take the bus back to Hammonton and get on the train again. Ugh! This time, the NJ Transit people were totally clueless and it took forever to get us loaded and underway. When we finally did, things were better and I slept on the bus and then the train, only waking up now and again to look at the cute boy sitting near me.

Once back in the city I got home to Ventnor, having had the BEST time ever!

Later in the day, Helene came in the room and began to holler at me. She was not happy with me because I didn't call her to tell her I wasn't going to be home. My mobile had died and I couldn't ring her even if I wanted to, I hadn't planned on being up there overnight. I apologized and went on my merry way.

Then it hit me. That was the sweetest thing; someone was worried about me.

It was a great day.

08 July 2009

Beach Dunes

The following was sent to The Press of Atlantic City:

Once again an issue in this city has prompted me to write and weigh in with my opinion. Why do we constantly spend money on services and infrastructure only to spend even more money on the same services and infrastructure. Case in point: the newest cause celebre, the Atlantic City beach dunes. Now we have people complaining that they are too high and they can't see the ocean. The engineers determined the height in order to insure that the dunes will do their job properly, which is to keep said ocean from washing away the beaches. Since the ocean has been stealing the beaches for years, and we have spent countless millions replenishing the sand, a final solution was agreed upon and enacted rather successfully, so far, since it seems the beaches are still here. Now, a few malcontents are lamenting their loss of an ocean view when they stroll down the boardwalk. Maybe they'll be happy when the ocean is once again breaking waves underneath the boardwalk like it had for years. I worked on the boardwalk at (formerly) Illinois Avenue. I watched the water creep closer and closer each year until it finally reached the boardwalk and I think the dunes are a wonderful idea
and have saved the beaches through many storms since they were erected.

To recap the events; we paid for
constant beach replenishment and then we paid for the current dune project and now we are being asked to pay for their reduction and then we'll have to pay for beach replenishment once again when the beaches wash away. Please don't let the dunes become a money pit like the bus terminal was. As many may recall, the city repaired the old bus station for several million dollars even when they knew it was to be torn down, only to move it to one location and then have to move it YET AGAIN to another location. That was another case of our city fathers spending good money after good money after good money all at the expense of the taxpayers of New Jersey. Can someone, ANYONE, say the buck, literally and finally, stops here?

I can't afford another dollar!

Keep the dunes and keep the beaches!

Mortimer Spreng

Atlantic City, New Jersey.

07 July 2009

I See The Future And It's Horrifying.

ABC's World News Tonight just spent nearly half their broadcast on the death of Michael Jackson.

I find the above statement offensive.

Yes, the man was a talented entertainer. Yes, he had his problems. Yes, there will be questions concerning his death.

Does this sound familiar?


My problem is: Elvis is STILL being talked about/referenced/impersonated. He died in 19fucking77! That's thirty-two bloody years of having to deal with everything Elvis. And it's still going on.

That's my problem. Now Michael is NEVER going to go away.


Toss And Turn

The past two days have seen me once again in the grips of insomnia. I can't seem to sleep and my dreams are vivid, coming complete with a soundtrack! That's a new thing, having music play in my head behind the images I see in my dream state. The dreams were good, though, not the usual nightmares that haunt me time and again.

Today is the Michael Jackson memorial that will be broadcast all over the telly. I find this outrageous. Whilst he was a phenomenal entertainer, this outpouring of media and spectacle is horrifying to anyone of sense, scruple and good taste.

Time to workout and then plan my day although I still only have on wrinkled dollar bill in my wallet.


And my unemployment does not come until Thursday.

06 July 2009

To Finish My Story (Quickly And Without Fanfare)

I was wandering the boardwalk, one rather chilly night, ducking in and out of the casinos for warmth. I had just finished work and it was slow so I didn't make all that much money. I had no where to go. Joe finally called me and told me to just go to his mom's place in Ventnor. He said she was waiting for me.

I walked to her place and there she was, with a couch, a pillow and a blanket.

I am forever grateful for that.

So here I am, and have been since my brief and scary foray into homelessness ended. I have lived with Joe's mom before and we get along famously. I only hope that I can repay her for her kindness and generosity for taking me in and giving me a roof over my head (and Internet access, lol).

Now, to find gainful (and more secure) employment.

Outcast And Cast Out

No place to live. That's a scary prospect. I had counted on the kindness of friends and found that in a clinch, there's few people you can count on. What's the line from that blues song, "nobody loves you when you're down and out"? Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of help and good intentions but that don't put a warm bed underneath your ass when you're homeless.

I also didn't want people to know just how desperate I was. Pride is a double-edged sword.

The day finally came and thankfully, Joe went above and beyond the call of duty and helped me move. Unfortunately, my move date coincided with Mother's Day weekend and both he and I had to work through the weekend delivering flowers as well as move my things. It was a grueling weekend and it was made even more hateful when my psycho-mate took off the entire week to be there and hover over me as I packed and moved. I also can't end this entry without mentioning two friends of mine who came and helped enormously during my move. Jenn and Jeff were a godsend!

I was amazed, though, at just how much stuff I actually had packed away in my little room. Thankfully, Becky offered her shop so I could store my stuff in the back workroom. It's huge back there, you can park five cars in the area and there's still enough room for a hotel. The move up and down my steps to the penthouse was torturous and I vowed to NEVER live in a walk-up again.

Once the weekend was over and everything was moved (to a point, there's a few items left in the attic that I have to make arrangements to get) I handed over the keys and I officially had no where to live.

A week later, I was still, literally, wandering the streets and boardwalk of Atlantic City.

More to come...

Falling Farther In

I freaked, of course.

And did nothing. I folded up the white, green and goldenrod copies and put them in my little shoulder bag and continued on with my life, a life now getting more and more desperate.

I wandered around in a fog, immobile, not knowing what to do and not having a way out of my rock and hard place. About a week later, another tri-copied eviction notice was left on the front entryway to my building, informing everyone in my little neighborhood of my current woes. This time, I actually took the paperwork up to my crypt and actually read the thing, detailing when and where I needed to be in order to be thrown out of my home. So precise, so surgical, so impersonal.

This is where my
I finally decided to see if I could get some relief from the great state of New Jersey and logged online to their unemployment site. I answered all the questions and I had to wait for the determination, which would be sent by mail (although they ask for your email so they could have sent it that way). The day before my court date, I got the determination. YES! Although my weekly allowance was a pittance, at least it was something.

I told no one about the eviction and continued on with my life up to the appointed day. I go up and got dressed, wearing a nice white shirt and tie and got to the flower shop where I finally informed everyone there as to my predicament.
Here's where another heroine came to my rescue. My good friend, Jenn, met me at the courthouse and was my rock. She had done this particular thing innumerable times (she had worked for a rental agency and had to go to court for deadbeats like me time and again) and I don't think I could have gotten through it without her help. After the roll call and the "So You're Getting Evicted" video presentation, there was a chance to talk between the opposing parties. Jenn counseled me beforehand and we approached my landlord. Things were going well, he was very nice about the whole thing, repeating how much he liked me and, aside from my deepening rent debt, he didn't want to throw me out. Then my psycho-mate came in, out of nowhere, and starts ranting and raving how he "wants me thrown out" and "he's tired of it all" and I "need to be gone", it was embarrassing (more for him than me). Once he stormed out (lucky for him he left before gaining the attention of the authorities there, his actions are considered an act of contempt to the court), Jenn grabbed me aside and told me that I should cut a deal and get the fuck out of there. I was inclined to agree. If the psycho-mate was so insane as to get up at nine in the morning, get dressed in his early-eighties sweater set and come to the courthouse to scream at me, I didn't need to be living with this man.

And, let's face it, he had the upper hand since he was actually paying his rent.

We went back to my landlord with our new proposal and, once the court clerk called my name, we went up, signed the papers and off I went.

Basically, I was to vacate the premises in two weeks and I would not have to pay the back rent. (Here's a point of dispute: My landlord said I owed FAR more than I had reckoned. I had long suspected that my psycho-mate took several of my rent payments, which were taped in an envelope to the landlord's door, and threw them out. I plan on doing a search of the money orders to see if they've all been cashed.) Jenn pretty much steamrolled my landlord into agreeing to the conditions and for that, I am SUPREMELY GRATEFUL!

I went back to the shop and told them the outcome and then I...did nothing.

I was still looking for work. There was still no work to be found.

I took boxes from the shop and began the long process of packing. I asked around trying to find a place to live but, when you have no money, no job and no savings, it's kind of hard to come up with first month, last month, security deposit and a credit check that those pesky rental agencies require. Things were getting closer and closer to the bone and I needed to come up with an alternate plan. My actual move would be easy, or so I thought. Most of my stuff fitted into one room so I figured there'd be no problem getting it all packed and ready by the two weeks time.

Moving day came and I still had no place to live.

More to come...

The Decline And Fall Of Mortimer

So, I haven't written in quite a while. It's rather complicated and, since I have you held captive, I can explain it all over a few entries and catch you all up on my exciting and painful life.

First things first. I no longer live in the penthouse. There are various reasons why and most of them cascaded like dominoes leading up to my having to move, fast. Rest assured, I have ended up, if not on my feet, exactly, at least not on my hands and knees and homeless (or worse).

Getting fired from my job at the Westside Lounge was not the beginning but it precipitated the eventual outcome. I was making decent money there but not enough to catch up on my rent and bills, the winter and the recession (which we saw coming for a year before) made it harder and harder to make the money I was used to making and living the lifestyle I was used to living. I had been getting deeper and deeper in a hole and things weren't getting any better. Getting fired didn't help matters and having my former manager badmouthing me all over town wasn't exactly conducive to getting another job any time soon. I was also fired at the worst time possible. Not only was there a worldwide recession/depression going on, it was February in Atlantic City, a tourist town notorious for rolling up the sidewalks in September and not pulling it's head out of the sea until April or May. Each day the papers were detailing the layoffs in the casinos, a hundred and fifty from one, three hundred from another, the slowdown of construction on a third. This coupled with the traditional off-season, I was, in a word, fucked.

My home life with the psycho-mate in the penthouse had not improved at all. That was working on my psyche in ways I didn't realize until recently, now that I am out of there. I am naturally very social, I get along with most people rather easily and my relationship with my former roommate, one that spanned nearly twenty years, to have degenerated so completely affected me profoundly and in many unseen ways. I felt I was living with someone I never knew, someone I grew to fear and felt betrayed by. If there was some specific reason for his hatred of me, I have yet to find it. And those who know me personally and through my journals know that I am the first one to blame myself for my problems. I would rather admit blame, make the appropriate apologies and face the music and hopefully work it through and find forgiveness (or not, which is why I am still grieving the loss of two of my friendships that I know I detonated). Facing his relentless derision, day after day with no sign of ending made my home life a particular kind of hell.

With my lack of funds, and since I had been paid under the table for over a year at the Westside, I was also hamstrung in my attempts to get financial compensation from unemployment. My former manager would have blocked any attempt and I wasn't sure I could even collect if I tried.

A month before my dismissal, I had become reacquainted with my former boyfriend and he was generous in his support once I had been discharged, at least for a time. I didn't tell him the extent of my financial woes, but he could tell I was in dire straights and he helped when he could (for which I will be forever grateful). Of course, by this time, things weren't going all that well at his job and he was working less and less and he had his own bills to pay, as well as deal with his current boyfriend and the troubles they were encountering in their relationship (of which I know nothing about and don't want to know, it's their business).

My rent was getting paid piecemeal. I paid six hundred dollars a month and I would pay a hundred here, two hundred there when I could but I was getting farther and farther behind. I did all I could to make sure I could pay my share of the electric bill, even though I was hardly ever there and usually slept and showered and was out once again when I was home. Only the gods know what my flatmate would have done if I was late in paying it. Interestingly, I was basically paying to keep my psycho-mate's dogs warm and comfortable as well as entertained since he left his telly on for them to watch whilst he was at work. The irony is, as some of you may remember, that he disconnected my cable and told me to pay for my own instead of sharing the bill between us because I didn't put the pillows back on the couch the way he likes them. So, I still ended up paying for cable for two dogs to watch that I was denied access to.

Go ahead and laugh. I do.

My landlord was leaving sealed envelopes on my door, which I never opened. I knew what they said, "I need your rent money!", so there was no need to read them. I searched for a job, day after day, in a tourist town in it's off season, in a recession, looking for a service industry position in a town that was laying off and firing all their service industry employees. There was no money to be had and none I could give him. Joe was able to take me out for a meal now and again but things just kept getting worse. I couldn't go to my parents and ask for help, I still owe my mother a tidy sum from her support over a year ago and my father had recently undergone major surgery and was in no condition, financial or health-wise, to help me out. My pride also kept me from asking.

And the size of my mounting debts.

My mobile was kept on by hopes and wishes and the occasional borrowed buck from Becky (of the Art of Flowers, whom I also owe a big debt for all the help she has given me). I needed my phone in order to get a job and luckily Becky allowed me unlimited
computer access so I could keep up with people through the Internet. I wandered the city for hours and hours at a time, wearing a trail down the middle of the boardwalk and wearing the tread off the soles of my shoes.

Finally, one day, I arrived home to see a multi-copied letter attached to my door with my name on it.

An eviction notice.

Now what was I going to do?

More to come...

Open Letter

The following was sent to The Press of Atlantic City:

"I work in one of the businesses on the north side of Ventnor Avenue in Atlantic City, just past the Dairy Queen. The alleyway behind these businesses have been a plague on our city for quite some time. The trash piles up and, although some of the businesses pay for regular pick-ups, there are a few who don't and the kids who play in the two block alleyway, the homeless who rummage through the odds-and-ends and the birds who pull apart the trash have made it a horrendous eyesore, not to mention a serious health hazard. While we try to keep the area clean, it's nearly impossible to fight this blight day after day.

And then came Atlantic City Clerk Rosemary Adams to the rescue.
After contacting several city offices, including our district councilman, we were at a loss and couldn't find anyone to help with our problem. But today (Monday, 6 July 2009) we reached Ms. Adams who referred us to Fredrick Parker, who works in the Sanitation Department (Note: I'm not sure of his title or the spelling of his name). Shortly after explaining our plight, work crews were in the back alley with shovels, rakes, brooms, plastic bags and a can-do spirit and started cleaning from the beginning of the alley behind the Dairy Queen and continuing on for two blocks. The work crew also needs to be commended, they were courteous, hard working and efficient, saying "hello" to us and asking how we were during their efforts.
In a city who's services have been lackluster as of late (anyone else notice the Albany Avenue lighthouses that are torn apart and have been so for months), it's nice to know that some of our city officials are doing an excellent job helping to make our city a clean and safe environment in which to conduct business and provide jobs for it's citizens.
Once again, a huge THANK YOU to Rosemary Adams and Fredrick Parker.


Holiday Malaise.

Yesterday was the fifth of July and I did absolutely nothing of consequence. I think our founding fathers did enough, two hundred and thirty-three years ago, and the country didn't need me to add to their little rebellion, revolution...whatever. Actually, all I had was one Geo. Washington in my wallet and on this little island of love, that don't get you far at all. Christ, Jitney bus fares are now two dollars and twenty-five cents. I sat in the house and watched telly, I sat on the porch and read a book, I sat in the backyard and looked at the bugs and shoobies doing their thing. Both were disturbing and annoying. I weeded the little flower garden that lines the back fence, watered said flowers, grass, bushes, front yard. It was a very relaxing and a very boring way to spend the holiday.

I was hankering for a walk but the sun was out in it's full glory. Luckily it wasn't hot, just bright and I really didn't feel like slathering sunblock three-thousand all over me just to take a little constitutional. It's sticky, smelly and uncomfortable. The stuff works (and I definitely need it) but I try to avoid using it when I can. So I waited through the day for the beginning of sunset (which is around eight or nine at night) to take a nice, long healthy walk.

I also figured that waiting until later on the Sunday of a holiday weekend would also help me avoid the mass of shoobies that infest my city each year.

Boy was I dead wrong.

A bit of dumb luck was on my side for the first part of my walk. I started off in Ventnor (a block from the Wawa for those who know the area) and strolled down Atlantic Avenue, looking at the clouds in the sky, the people on their porches and dodging the cars that tried to kill me when I crossed the streets. I made it to Atlantic City in one piece and found myself on Pacific Avenue, wandering by The Knife and Fork, peering in to see if Becky from the Art of Flowers was there. It's one of her favourite haunts. She wasn't and I continued along Pacific, noting the lack of Eastern European kids in the city this year. Usually by now, you can't walk ten feet without hearing Russian or Ukrainian or Estonian or some other Slavic language. Now, there are so few in the area and I've heard it's because there weren't enough jobs so they issued far fewer work visas. Before I knew it, I was down by Caesars and I decided to cut through to the boardwalk to see how things were there.

My first clue should have been the mass of people in the casino itself. Just trying to get past the zombie slot players was a chore and I took the steps (the gods know these well fed Americans weren't going to use the stairs!) and made my way to the boards. Insane! It was like those Fifties movies where you see so many people on the beach, no one can move! I was astounded that the city was still so bloody busy! I zigged and zagged through the crowd, my years of training by working in a casino really helped and before I knew it, I was down by Resorts. That's where the insane shoobie woman was running around, screaming something about "NOOO! The fleas!!!!" and jumping up and down in a circle and ducking her friends. She was truly Ancora crazy and I somehow ended up in the middle of the crowd that began to surround her (as they always do for some strange reason). I found the nearest exit through these really cute surfer boys and ran up the three outside levels of steps and into Tramp Touch My Hole...err...I mean...Trump Taj Mahal. I wandered down the enormous hallway to Plate, the restaurant where my friend Carlos works but I couldn't find him. It was surprisingly slow in the casino but I figured everyone was outside on the boards. I took the steps down through the main atrium and made my exit out the front door, ducking the army of Asians and dashing past the little Indian lady in full sari and smoking like a fiend.

I took Pacific Avenue again, this time facing West but by now, the sun had made it's way low on the horizon and I was safe from it's evil rays. Strangely, the traffic was light along the avenue, in harsh counter-point to the crush of humanity on the boardwalk, a block away. I kept my pace brisk and sailed down the street until, once again, I was at Caesars.

Here's where I had my own moment of madness and went BACK into Caesars to the boardwalk to once again attempt walking through the masses.

I gave up rather quickly. I ducked into the Boardwalk Hall underpass that exits from the boards to Pacific because no one goes through there because it's scary and dark. I finished my walk down Pacific and finally made it back home.

Where I sat and did nothing.