Sunday, June 03, 2007

Atlantic City - A City of Pleasure

I am a very quiet and peace loving person. Which, in common language, is translated as 'I am quite a boring person' because I do not go to pubs or clubs etc and I find pleasure in the pages of my favorite books. This time when my friends here decided to go to Atlantic City which is a miniature version of Las Vegas in terms of Casinos and night life, I was highly skeptical of joining them.

Niki, a friend of mine always says you should try new things and experience different worlds, other than your own. This time I thought, 'Not a bad idea!'. And thus I made up my mind to go to Atlantic City which I call A city of Pleasure.

It is about 100 miles from the place where I live in New Jersey. We started the drive at about 6 in the evening and were there by 8. We visited a few places in which prominent ones were Trump Taj Mahal, Balley's Casino and Kasbah Night Club.

Kasbah - The place where even the inanimate would spring to life and dance

This was my first experience in any kind of discotheque/nigh-club/dance-floor. My decision to go to this place in Atlantic City was partly out of curiosity and partly out of the fact that I had nothing else to do at night and nowhere to stay. So I decided to join the band-wagon and went to the place with my friends.

The moment I stepped into the place, I felt an acoustic attack on my ears by the loudest possible music playing on the dance floor. The whole place was dimly lit or not lit at all with dizzying lights flashing over my head. For those who are familiar with dance floors, this might be a usual setup for you but it was a first such real world experience for me as till now I had only seen such places in movies and on television. Initially the place was quite empty and not many people ventured to the center stage where the show was about to begin! There were 3-4 dance girls showing some amazing dance steps from their specially built stage.

As the hour hand of the clock neared 12-12.30, people started stepping into the dance floor with their dance partners or in groups and set the floor rocking by their steps and movements of their bodies. We were a group of boys and unfortunate enough not to have any dance partners. So after initial few minutes, I grew tired of dancing alone and took a seat at some distance from the floor and started observing people (Ofcourse from a journalistic point of view!!)

The place was oozing euphoria, like any dance club would do. People would get drunk, move away from reality for a few hours and dance till their feet ache. Here there is no sadness. If world was to comprise of such people, you would think that we have achieved eradication of sadness and problems from the society. Everyone is in a sheer bliss. The alcohol has taken over the mind. If not, it is the music which does that job with equal efficiency.

I wonder what energizes people and enables them to keep dancing for hours together. Is it the magic of alcohol? Or it is the magic of the atmosphere as a whole. Whether it is the head-banging beats of Linkin Park or wine like smooth hip-hop of Akon, the music sets the mood for dancing. Smiles all around. Laughs here and there. Corners filled with private meetings. Center stage filled with euphoric youth. Alcohol flowing everywhere. Is this heaven? Where people, at least temporarily, forget their problems and difficulties of life and shake their bodies to the beats of music.

I see people of every age, class and region of the world. Young ones who have just got a permission to enter this place as they have turned 21. More mature players who frequent clubs weekly or even more. Middle aged people who are still young at heart. People who come from the class of financially creamy. Salaried people who work for hours during the weekdays and earn a lot to spend during the weekends. People like me who are there for no good reason. Asians, Americans, Chinese and others.

Every person has a story behind him. An Indian couple where the lady is extremely uncomfortable with this whole concept and is there just because the cosmopolitan husband asked her to come there. A Mexican couple where the lady is very enthusiastic and dancing with amazing grace but the husband has absolutely no interest in the activity. A group of young girls who have drunk to the limits and are posing for photographs in not-so-decent poses. There are heavily built security personnel who are dressed in absolute black with ear phones and wireless instruments with them. Their job, to keep the trouble makers out. I witnessed one such ugly incident of one person going out of control and 6-7 such security personnel grabbed the man and threw him out of the club. The main attraction was a 4.5 feet tall chinese/nepalese fellow of age at least more than 50 who danced like a pro and was immediately adored by the girls!

People somehow love to move away from reality and lose self control. Getting high is fashionable and fun. One fellow was not even able to stand on his feet when he entered the place. I am sure he will be the one taking least effort to dance. His brain cells are going haywire anyway! He will just dance to the tunes of stars in front of his eyes.

Along with pleasure, there is beauty every where here. Where ever you turn your head, you will see personification of beauty. Beautiful girls in black dresses. Handsome young men in party coats. Even if you have not been blessed by the nature with a beautiful face, the cosmetics will do the job. America has everything to offer to everyone. Weight control pills for the horizontally challenged, body building capsules for the weak, tonnes of make up chemicals for not-so-beautiful people and so on. You have to name it and America will give it to you.

Finally at about 3 o'clock at night, we came out of the Kasbah. Moving from sheer ecstasy to the real world. My friends who danced to the most of their capacity stuttered with their legs shaky, head jittery and ears playing the tunes of violin. Though my body did not have to go through what theirs had to while dancing, my ears were definitely ringing. They had grown comfortable in that loud noise burst. They were demanding for more. Like a drug addict would demand for his stuff.

Late night errands for finding a room to stay

When we came out of the club finally, it was almost 3.30 at night. It was a big mistake not to pay attention to the need of booking a room earlier. Therefore the victims of our own foolishness, there we were, wandering on strange and unsafe streets of Atlantic City at the darkest hours!

All the places had 'No Vacancy' boards put up outside. The car was also parked at a far distance and thus we kept on walking. The streets and alleys were full of loafer type guys and girls. Many of them high on something much more powerful than alcohol. Men gathered around nude dance clubs. People stoned and lying on footpath. A girl comes to us and offers a room and tries to make 'an indecent proposal' too. We swiftly move ahead and luckily spotted a motel which looked pretty decent. The guy at the reception was an Indian. Initially quite stubborn, he finally gave in and agreed to give us a two-bed room. Finally the hunt ended and we slumped on beds and without realizing, drifted to sleep in a moment.

Bally's Casino - Try your luck, but I will make sure you never win

The wise have said. An average man never walks out of a casino with more money than he entered. Chances of coming out with same amount of money are as slim. We entered this Bally's casino. What we see defies imagination. Extravagantly ornate halls. Multitudes of Slot machines. Hundreds of tables of Poker, Blackjack, Roulette and Wheel of Fortune and so on. We see happy faces and sad faces. Some tables have roars of the victorious. Some have low moans of the loser.

Gambling is an art. It's not about how well you play. It's about when you stop playing. Because in the long run, almost everyone ends up losing. One friend who was with us had a very nice explanation. It's very simple. The more you risk the more your chances of winning big. The casinos have unlimited supply of money. We do not. They are willing to risk what we can not even imagine. Therefore if you continue to play at some table, even if you are riding high on your luck initially, you will end up losing at some point of time. And that blow will be a lot heavier than what you have earned.

I didn't want to try anything heavy. I have full confidence on my luck. It does not click when expected. Thus I tried something simple and with low bets. I put my money on Wheel of Fortune. It follows the 'Bell curve'. My money grows, reaches highest point and I start loosing. The bell curve is not satisfied at touching the horizontal axes. It dips even further. I lose all my money. Plain and simple rule. You win, win, win and lose everything. I am glad I restricted myself to a very small amount and considered it not as a gamble but more like a game fee. (I know it is euphemism! But it doesn't pain much to say you paid entry fee for some game as it does to say you lost in gambling.) I also tried my hand with a few dollars at a game called Keno. We Indians call it Housey. The numbers which claimed to be my friends, all my lucky numbers turned hostile and I lost money there too. My loss of 17 dollars in total looked minuscule in comparison to other guys who lost in three figure numbers.

The run to hunt down luck ended in a while and we finally exited the casino before further damage to our pockets.

I can't help become a little philosophical at the end. Why don't people ever think that a 25 dollar minimum bet at Roulette can buy a day's meal for a hungry family. A 100 dollar bet on a Poker table can save someone's life in an emergency room. There are people who have more than they can spend. There are people on the other extreme of the economical spectrum who can hardly save for their second meal of the day. But honestly I also didn't have this conscientious thought while I put my money on a wheel of fortune. Can I blame other people? Aren't we all the same?

I have not taken any of these photographs. And they are just here to visually enhance my post!

[Image sources:

Friday, June 01, 2007

An eventful day

Yesterday was a little better than usual days in terms of feeding me some excitement and momentary stimulus of adrenalin.

It was a little incident on the train which became one of the marking events of the day. I was traveling from NJ to NY as usual on NJ Transit train. And as usual the stations passed one by one. All of a sudden, while the train had stopped on one of the stations, there was some disturbance and movement in the passageway between cabins. And in the blink of an eye, some 4-5 cops entered the cabin from both the doors and shouted at us to get out of the train right then. I could not figure out what the situation was but no sooner had the cops entered than we got down the train and luckily there was another train on the other end of the platform which we could take and safely reach NY. Some action to start the day with!

In the evening, I had my team dinner which was at a steakhouse. One of my team members had organized the event and he was feeling quite uncomfortable when I told him that I do not even eat eggs. He specially asked the hotel manager to arrange for some vegetarian dish for me. We reached there and the restaurant was a very posh setup on 46th street of downtown New York.

The menu had only two types of items mainly. 2 pages full of wine varieties. And one page full of beef varieties. The price range of wine was astonishing and was suitable to people from most varied financial backgrounds. The range started from somewhere around $40 a bottle to the maximum which I could locate - $2000 a bottle. Such luxury and class.

My stubborn intolerance and dislike for alcoholic beverages prevented me from tasting the delicious looking drink which was smoothly making its way from the bottle to the glasses like a creek of divine liquid. Enticing and luscious.

And that 'special' vegetarian food item which was brought to me is beyond description. It was a mixture of various vegetables, some hardly recognizable by an average Indian, all of them in their most raw forms.

The funniest looked potatoes. It was called mashed potatoes. And the item was made out of one potato. Without exaggeration, it was literally plain boiled potato, and that too with the skin intact. Without any alternatives, I tried to eat something called asparagus and broccoli. The other half of the plate had mushrooms which I dislike from the bottom of my heart, spinach leaves and a few unknown (wild looking) vegetables.

Somebody had ordered a dish called creamed spinach. It did taste like the curry of our own Paalak Paneer. But by the time it had arrived on our table, I had lost all the enthusiasm to try anything at all. Thus I just had a spoon to make that fellow feel good who had organized this party.

The bill per head was around $150 dollars. I can state with confidence that this is the most expensive place I have eaten at. Or attempted to eat!

While returning it was quite late and people say it is not very safe to travel late in NY subway trains. I took my usual train from 53rd street to Pennsylvania station NY. There were not many people on the train. And once again I found myself in similar but much less thrilling situation like morning. Again the train stopped at a station and I heard the announcement that the train I was on will stop at the next station so whoever wanted to go to Penn Station, would have to change the train from that station. Once again people got down and we had to wait on a very threateningly quiet, small and dingy subway station. Finally I reached home at about 9.30 or so at night and it was the end to a 'not so normal' day.