I write this as a tribute to the Atlantic City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. My thoughts are with the East Coasters I love, those whose magic paths I crossed, those strangers whose eyes have ever absently caught mine for a brief still moment, those Alley Cat Allies cats who live under the boardwalk.
Atlantic City and I have always had an unspoken romance.
And one sided.
But after twenty-nine years of daydreaming, I awoke October 20th in a cushy queen bed in the Trump Plaza Hotel with a mighty hangover and fuzzy neon memories of the night before, of Atlantic City’s seedy streets unobscured by an underbelly.
Amber and I had ventured into the World’s Favorite Playground the evening before. On the drive I told her of my unfounded longing for AC, spurred only by an early childhood love of the song Under the Boardwalk by The Drifters.
It’s such a lazy summer song, but the tone in the chorus sounds like a warning.
UNDER THE BOARDWALK.
It sounds dangerous, like a gang straight out of The Outsiders is standing waiting for you, and as you approach, they all draw their switchblades in time to the word “WALK”. Either that or a shark’s fin is circling you in the sand.
But really, the song isn’t about much. You’re out of the sun, having some fun, and making love while tourists walk overhead, which I suppose is dangerous in its own way. I always loved the simplicity of the scene it evoked, and saw it in pastels. A girl in gingham, eyes closed, lips parted. Her hair in perfect pin curls. Her lover is tanned, handsome. Tiny stripes of sunlight from between the boards above them dash across bare skin. They are holding their poses like mannequins, softly awaiting a directive that will allow them to resume their caresses. But this is my daydream, and I want to pause it here for eternity, let nothing change, let these lovers never part, let the sun never set.
So basically I figured that in Atlantic City, it is always the 1950’s.
This assumption, I’m afraid, faded upon our arrival. We piped the song via youtube through the car stereo on repeat, 2012ing the shit out of it as we pulled into one of the multilevel parking structures at Trump Plaza.
What followed was several hours of sensory overload: a flurry of flashing lights, dings rings and bells, cheap drinks, free drinks, giant buddhas, racist slot machines, hot wings, felafels, more drinks, walls of dollar bills, fountains, strippers, and so much more.
As we walked arm in arm down a windy street, a gentleman suggested his friend “get those girls”, to which his friend replied, “Dude, I don’t have any money.”
I had a secondary modern daydream of winning big on the penny slots, maybe buying us a couple of diamond rings, but alas, at our best we cashed out with $.04.
So upon waking the next morning, I resigned myself to the fact that Atlantic City’s boardwalk is, just as I was told, a quainter Vegas with a real beach. At least now I knew. At least I was no longer living a lie.
We made our way down to the hotel pool, where we swam and discussed Singing in the Rain and the nature of love vs. self-preservation. At some point during this conversation, it became the 1980’s and we smoked imaginary Virginia Slims as we gazed out at the ocean through the floor to ceiling windows.
We glanced around and decided it was the 1920’s as well.
Venturing out onto the boardwalk in the October sun only fed our time travel greed, and by the time we made our way under the boardwalk to snap some photos, the fact that we were youtubing the song again was inconsequential, as the 50’s had overtaken me. A singular iPhone was no match for this desaturated seaside dreamland.
As if to show us we were doing something right, the song came on of it’s own accord minutes later, streaming through the House of Blues speakers as we stood beneath them, and I soaked up my little present from the universe. Not a week later, a Spanish-language version blessed my ears in a NYC taqueria, and last night in Marina del Rey, CA, a live band played the song as the reunited Taco Yacht Pleasure Crew gobbled down several metric tons of seafood.
Yep, I finally made it to LA. And as long as The Drifters surprise serenade me weekly, I’m going to assume that I’m right where I should be.