This is my life.
I mean...it's not really my life. Hell, it isn't even my picture!
Okay...let's start over: this picture epitomizes my life. Though I am not in this picture and this moment captured forever in time did not happen to me, it does represent the archetype of what I experience on an almost-daily basis.
My life is crazy (clearly). Sometimes I inject a healthy dose of insanity myself but many times--as implied by this photograph--the insanity finds me. As psychically attuned as I am, though, and perhaps somewhat ironically, I can almost never tell when the craziness will strike...
Sometimes it hangs in the air like the dewy scent of freshly fallen rain after a spring storm--so palpable that you can taste it without even opening your mouth. Sometimes, it is like the drop in pressure before a summer storm--that moment where everything suddenly feels quieter--the air itself almost charged electrically; these are the fateful, epic moments of crazy. I find that these are the best because, like with most natural disasters, you can feel them as they approach but you are powerless to stop them. They will eff your shit up but leave you with stories that you can tell for a lifetime.
I've been reflecting recently on these moments and realized that, for at least a few of them, they are indeed wild stories that I believe are worth telling. Now, my brand of craziness tends to run pretty tame: there's no drugs, sex, or booze involved. Okay...well, that's not entirely true. There IS one hooker (no one slept with her), a LOT of booze, but no drugs. While others can speak of wild Bacchanal orgies, drug-induced trips through outer space, and binge drinking-related hospital trips, I must confess that nothing illegal (mostly) and nothing truly depraved happened during any of these stories. Instead, I will rely on my storytelling ability to titillate and to entertain. My biggest hope is that, through my stories, you will feel like you were right there with us as we experienced what were, for me, the craziest nights or moments of my life...minus the hangover and/or guilt and/or shame felt upon waking the next day.
So without further ado, I present to you...
THE ATLANTIC CITY STORIES
The First Trip
Atlantic City is a place where dreams can come true and nightmares can follow in the blink of an eye. I have friends who have gone down for a weekend and who have come back a few thousand dollars poorer; I know others who sat down at one table and walked away with an equal but opposite sum. There are myriad types of entertainment available--both of the wholesome and seedier varieties, depending upon what whets your appetite for debauchery.
I was unsure of what to expect when I went down for my very first trip back in 2004. We were celebrating my friend's 21st birthday and were staying at one of the casinos. Someone she knew went down to Atlantic City on a regular basis and was thus able to get a number of things comped for us; with us were two guys we knew from school. The plan was simple: experience the casino, hang out and drink in the room, and just shoot for an overall good time.
One of the guys who had come along had all but challenged me to try to get him drunk--a challenge I was more than willing to accept. We had enjoyed playing a game called "Spoons" that, at its core, is a drinking game. The premise is simple: everyone is dealt four cards and a number of spoons (or packets...really anything you want) equal to the number of people minus one are placed in the center of the playing area. Play begins when the dealer takes a card. The object of the game is to get four-of-a-kind in order to take a spoon and secure yourself a place in the next round. Some strategy is involved though because once anyone gets four-of-a-kind it becomes a free-for-all for the remaining spoons. It's a lot like musical chairs in a sense. Anyway--you can have only four cards in your hand at a time so as soon as you take a card from the person next to you, you have to discard to the person on your other side. Believe me--the cards can come mighty quick and it's quite possible to have someone get flustered easily and thus create a bottleneck of sorts for the cards.
Since I had brought liquor with us to enjoy in the hotel room, I decided that the easiest way to get the guy drunk would be to establish the rule that for every round you sit out because of elimination you must take a shot. In other words, if you get bounced in the first round (which was the goal), you would have to take a shot for that round, the next round, and then the final round. Since a round can end pretty quickly, it would be easy to get anyone drunk as a skunk with the quickness. I figured that I had the odds with me (75% chance that any of the three of us would win that first round, only 25% chance that he would) and thus we began our play...
...and I lost in the very first round. Motherfucker. I enjoyed my apple pucker flavored comeuppance and vowed to play it safer with the next game. This time I scouted out the spoons rather than try to procure four-of-a-kind for myself. Worked like a charm. He lost in the first round two or three games in a row and could barely stand--it was awesome!
Unfortunately, in the process, we all had gotten hammered. It got ugly pretty quick. At one point I decided for some reason that it would be a great idea to run full-speed across the room, leave my feet, soar through the air, and spear one of the guys off of the bed when he wasn't looking. Don't worry, folks--the corner of the nightstand broke his fall. The sound of his head smashing on it had a sobering effect on me...but it also gave me the giggles in a bad way. Tittering nervously, I felt relief course over me as I watched him get up, laughing, and walk across the room.
I am proud of what happened next. Even drunk, my survival instinct remained strong. My primary concern was that he had a concussion and I knew that I couldn't allow him to fall asleep. Unfortunately, keeping him awake wasn't my most difficult task. Instead, it was deciding what to do as he stumbled drunkenly out of the hotel room mumbling, "Imagoforawalk."
"Oh shit," said I.
I asked the birthday girl if she would be okay to take care of the other guy. She assured me that she was completely sober and that she would put him to bed (he was a mess at that point--he had passed the event horizon of drunkenness where you leave behind the mirthful gaiety of "everything's hysterical!!" drunk for the pitch black turgid waters of "why is the room spinning!!" vertigo drunk). In my excited but drunken state I believed her, despite knowing that she, herself, had had a considerable amount to drink. Not wanting to lose the other guy (who had already left the room) I grabbed my wallet (knowing I would need identification), threw on my sneakers, and dipped out.
I caught up to him over near the elevator. He seemed fine and even somewhat sobered up. I explained my concern about him not going to sleep and he concurred. We decided simply to head out for a stroll along the boardwalk. At first, everything was fine. We passed by the Irish pub that we had visited earlier in the night where the really drunk guy had spilled an Irish Car Bomb on concussion guy, much to his chagrin. As we walked, though, I realized a number of things. The first was that the boardwalk was surprisingly devoid of people but those that were traversing its empty passageway seemed not to be the type that we would want to converse with.
Without thinking, we dipped down a side street and, not knowing how bad Atlantic City was in terms of its danger level, we began traversing the ill-lit thoroughfares that ran parallel to the boardwalk. It didn't take long for us to realize that we had made a terrible error in judgement, which was confirmed when we began being harassed by a hooker somewhere near one of the casinos. You see--one of the other things that I realized (thanks to the whore) was that neither I nor the other guy were really dressed appropriately for a) the weather and b) the time of night we were out. He was wearing a well-worn undershirt and flannel pajamas while I was rocking basketball shorts and a white undershirt. I should mention that it was October and, seeing as how we were in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, it was...how I can put this delicately...a bit...nipply out.
Fortunately for us the hooker had come up behind us and thus was unaware of our diamond-cutter embarrassment. Fortunately for me, she seemed to key in on the other guy.
"Heyyyyyy there...I see you in your underwear...you wanna see me in mine?"
I swear to God that's what she said. I give her points for her observational skills and attention to detail...but....yeah.
Anyway, we muttered something and then began walking as quickly as our legs would carry us. We probably looked like retarded penguins shuffling along through the darkness, trying to find our way back to the casino. Fortunately, we popped out right in front of one of the main entrances of one of the larger hotels. We sat right down beneath the lights figuring that the strumpet would refrain from accosting us further. I suppose that demonstrates the depth of our naïveté: we were dealing with a prostitute, not a vampire.
By this point it was almost three o'clock in the morning but neither of us were interested in going back into the room. We wound up sitting on a bench on the boardwalk directly across from our hotel's exit. Sometime around four in the morning I received a phone call from the friend who had stayed behind. I was amazed that I had my phone and was confused by the tone of her voice. She asked where we were and I told her that we were on the bench outside. She said okay and that she was coming down to meet us.
As soon as she saw us she burst into tears. I asked her what had happened and could tell that she was clearly inebriated. It turned out that getting the other guy to go back to sleep was quite the challenge. He had managed to survive the vertigo stage of drunkenness and had become remarkably garrulous. She tried to get him to go to sleep but he just kept talking. Finally, after an hour or so she finally succeeded in getting him to nod off. She then decided that it would be a good idea to come out to find us...except for the fact that she left her key to the room on the desk. The other guy had finally passed out so there would be no waking him and, apparently, neither of us were answering our phones...and so she wandered the casino, a drunken mess herself, until I finally picked up my phone.
We got back into the room around 5:30 and all attempted to go to sleep. I had gotten a second wind (my third or fourth of the night) and was lying listlessly in the bed, watching the clock creep towards and ultimately surpass 6 o'clock. I knew that the sun would be rising soon and I thought that watching the event on the beach would be an awesome way to end the night. Sadly, I was the only one who wanted to go and thus I headed out with my disposable camera in hand. I stood on the beach, watching as the night slowly released its grip as the first blush of dawn bloomed above the horizon. It was at this point that I noticed someone walking along the deserted beach some distance away. In my drunken, overly tired paranoia, I was convinced that he was some sort of creeper stalking me. My attention vacillated between the rising sun and the approaching pervert. I didn't want to miss my photo opportunity...but nor did I want to find myself suddenly diddled on the beach near the Sands casino.
Finally, as the sun passed beyond the horizon, so too did the beach-walker pass by me. We exchanged a nod (as if being up that early/late was clearly a pedestrian affair) and I returned to my photo-taking, relieved that he was just out for a stroll. When I had had my fill of the breathtaking panorama laid out before me--indeed finished contemplating the insignificance of my existence before the vast expanse of rose-kissed sea and sky--I returned to the hotel room to get some sleep.
Two or three hours later, we awoke and had to attend my friend's birthday breakfast. We were going to IHOP on the dime of the woman who had covered our expenses. Let me tell you--never in my life have the commingling aromas of bacon, eggs, pancakes, waffles, and french toast induced in me such a desire to vomit as they did at that moment. I felt terrible because our peckishness would have made a Milanese model proud; between the four of us we barely consumed an eighth of what was laid out upon the table.
Later in the day we moved over to the then-brand new Borgata Hotel and Casino. I found out that the casino had a paging system available in a community meeting area called "The Living Room." You could use a courtesy phone to ask an operator to summon a member of your party by name over the casino's PA system to the Living Room. Never one to miss out on an opportunity for mischief, I excused myself and quickly used the phone. This is the conversation that ensued:
Operator: "Hello? How may I help you?"
Me: "Yeah, hi, I would like someone paged to The Living Room pleased."
Operator: "Certainly! May I have his or her name?"
Me: "You sure can. His name is Samir Nagheenanajar."
Operator: (Silence) "Umm...can you spell that for me, please?"
Me: "No problem--Ess-Ay-Em-Eye-Arr."
Operator: (Confused silence) "Okay...Samir Nay-ee-nah..."
Operator: (Giggling) "Na-na-nye-yah...oh God..."
Operator: "Okay...one more time. Nay-ee..."
Operator: "Okay, got it! I'll page him right away."
Me: "Thanks a lot--have a great night!"
I hung up the phone and headed back to meet up with the group. Everyone was waiting patiently for me and, fortunately, did not press me for a reason for my absence. They probably thought I had to use the restroom, which was fine by me. I was worried as we exited the Living Room that the operator was not going to be true to her word or that I wouldn't be able to hear the name be called. Music was pumping through the casino...and then, all of a sudden, it cut off and was replaced with the static crackle of a phone being picked up.
My breath caught in my throat. One of the guys we were with turned to me with an eyebrow raised.
"Why do I feel like this is going to have something to do with you?"
The fact that I was clearly giddy and nearly jumping up and down in anticipation and excitement probably gave it away.
I listened like Moses at the burning bush for that woman to speak and, when I heard her clear her throat...I nearly wet my pants. Somehow, I could just tell that she was hesitant before she even started!
Operator: (Over the casino's public address system) Attention attention, will Mr. Samir...ugh (no joke! She ughed away from the microphone before contiuing!) Will, uh, Mr. Samir...Nay-ee...Nay-ee-nani...Nay-ee-nana...jah....please head to the Living Room, yourpartyiswaiting."
She rushed through her final words as she tried to stifle her laughter before flipping the switch and letting the music come back on.
The best part was that most of the activity in the casino had cessated for a moment as if everyone was listening to this message. Since the casino was still relatively new, it was probably a novelty for everyone to hear people being paged as such. Once the message was done, though, everyone returned to their previous activities. No one had any idea what the reference was--except for one of the guys and the birthday girl. They both looked at me with an "I-can't-believe-you-just-did-that" look on their faces as we headed towards our dinner and the anticlimactic conclusion of our weekend.
I'd like to think that, somewhere in that casino, someone was inspired by my handiwork to watch kung fu movies or a breast exam on television that night.