Thus far, the arrangement has been quite practical. The past three Christmases my wife and I have been alternating between my parents and hers. This year we spent Christmas with her folks in lovely, rustic, bucolic, Rockwellian (the painter, not the singer) Essex, Connecticut, home of the Griswold Inn and its "hunt" breakfast. The air was cold and snow was lingering in little mounds around us, but inside the house, friends and family feasted on a robust Christmas turkey, mashed potatoes, and a string bean casserole, among other festive fixings. It rained a good bit, though it didn't really bother me--not when you have a Dewar's and soda or three. On Tuesday we loaded all the booty into the car and wistfully departed the Nutmeg State, feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. (Perhaps it was the Dewar's.)
Then it was off to the Jersey shore for a few days with my parents. Less than 24 hours after we arrived, we found ourselves flying down the GSP. Destination: Exit 38B, the Atlantic City Expressway. What a touching way to end the holiday season, at a craps table inside the Tropicana, hoping the shooter hits a 6, 8, or 9. He was a burly man, the shooter, looking much like B.B. King (complete with tinted glasses). The table had been blowing hot and cold all night (or was it day?), no one quite getting on a run. But now was the moment, I recalled. He was throwing well. A 6, 8, or 9 was all I needed. And the shooter sported a t-shirt auspiciously emblazoned with the words "Natural Born Player." The dice flew. "SEVEN!" yelled the croupier. Mr. Natural Born Player had just crapped out. Naturally.
Everything you've read and heard about the newly renovated Tropicana is true. It really does feel like a Vegas casino inside, the shops all connected by one of those passages with the fake blue sky above. They've got Carmine's and P.F. Chang's and the Palm steakhouse. In front of the Red Square Russian restaurant stands a towering statue of Vladimir Lenin. (Was Stalin unavailable? How about Beria?) All of these venues were booked solid, thereby exiling us to the "beachfront" buffet, where degenerates try to cover their losses by piling their plates high with crab legs.
On our way out, my father played a few rounds of poker. Video poker. The kind that doesn't even reward you for two pairs. The minimum hand for an extremely minimum payout is three of a kind. And yet people continue to play these machines. I scolded my old man who then landed four of a kind.
P.S. According to a bartender at the Tropicana, sports books are still illegal in AC. I had always assumed, having seen the horses on the jumbotron, that other betting was also legit. Turns out you still have to place that bet in Vegas. Or online. Or through your local bookie.
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