January 23, 2004

Rituals

In the movie Rounders, Edward Norton's character, Worm, arrives at the Taj Mahal to meet his poker partner, played by Matt Damon. The first thing Worm does is to ask X for some money so he can go "take care of something". X asks him how much she's going to cost him. $200, Worm replies. He needs to blow off some steam so he can focus on the cards. I remember thinking--how cool is that, and that if I ever went to Atlantic City I'd have to play poker at the Taj Mahal and "blow of steam".

In a recent interview, Marlon Hill was quoted as saying he'd like to make it a pre-game ritual to "get some pussy". If it comes from Marlon, it must be a good idea, I thought, and I figured that Atlantic City was as good a place as any to start. How hard could it be to find a working girl there?

I try to avoid buying anything expensive without looking it up on the Internet, and a woman's services was no exception. Anxious for some Scrabbling, I left work quite early and stopped at Starbucks to do some research. Right away I found an ad advertising a special rate, and I jotted down the number.

After some soulful food from Amifika's, in one of Trenton's 'hoods, and picking up three cases of the heaven-sent Tradewinds tea in Bensalem, and giving up on I-95 in Philadelphia to instead backtrack to the PA Turnpike out to the NJ Turnpike, I finally called the number. A perky-sounding girl named Amber answered and immediately started asking if I wanted to come over. I told her to hang on a moment and tell me how much it was. $180, she quoted me. Not out of the real of possibility, but I'd have to think about it. As she was telling me about a half-hour rate of $100, a call came in from a recruiter about a possible contract, and I told her I'd have to think about it.

A while later I decided a half hour was really all I'd probably have time for, and I called her back to get more specifics. I asked if she had any reviews, and she said she didn't because she was new. For some reason, I began to get suspicious, but I decided to take it a bit further. She gave me a more specific location, and I told her I'd call her when I approached.

After a stop a Starbucks to pick up a DoubleShot for the morning, as there were no real Starbucks in Atlantic City, I called her back and said I'd be there in about 30 minutes.

My suspicions doubled as soon as she opened the door. She was extremely pretty, blonde, and wearing a top that revealed her ample bosom. Just how I would expect a cop to look, I thought.

She beckoned me into the bedroom, sat on the bed, and asked for the fee.

I avoided visible wincing every time she said the words blowjob and sex, but the explicit terms made me very uncomfortable, and it seemed to me that her side of the conversation would make a great tape for a jury if this ever went to trial. In fact, it seemed to me like she was deliberately enunciating these words for maximum clarity on the recording device I was starting to suspect was hidden somewhere. It would certainly have fit between her ample bosom.

I stalled for time to think by protesting about paying the fee first. She insisted that she had to be paid first, and kept talking about how she gave a really good blowjob. That was it--I made up my mind. I needed to get out of there. So came on with some smoke and mirrors and consented to giving up the fee. Thankfully, I had wisely left my wallet in the car and stashed the money in my sock. I patted around my pockets and looked puzzled, telling her I had left my wallet in the car and that I needed to retrieve it. To distract her from thinking I was planning to bail, I repeatedly insisted that I had not intended to rip her off by not paying her, and that I'd be right back. For some reason, before heading back downstairs, I stopped to look at the cute little parrot in the cage. I asked her about it, and wondered why a police sting operation would include a parrot. But as good looking as she was, it just wasn't worth the risk, and I scooted back to my car. As I walked across the parking lot, I noticed somebody pulling into a parking space next to her apartment and getting out with a bag. Maybe it was one of her accomplices, or maybe it was just a neighbor returning with groceries. I was in a fairly paranoid mood at that point.

As I headed towards the tournament venue, the Holiday Inn, I called one of the cheap motels on the list I had pulled off the Internet. Cold as it was, I almost booked a room for two nights, but just as I was about to give the attendant my credit card number, I flaked out and hung up, deciding to try for something cheaper. Closer to the city, on US-40, Albany Ave, I spotted the Hi-Ho Motel advertising a $29 rate. I figured that was just from Sunday to Thursday, and I was right. But I talked the attendant into a flat $80 for two nights. I was about to pay when he made the mistake of giving me the key and having me look the room over. I misread the number on the key and tried to unlock the wrong room, prompting shouts of "Mommy!" from a little girl inside. I scooted back to the office, fearing a big burly father opening the door and coming after me, and got clarification from the attendant, then headed to the correct room. I was hit up for a cigarette by some dude standing out on the sidewalk. Then I noticed the light wouldn't come on. I looked around, and decided $40 a night was too much for this dump, and that I didn't want to leave my car in such a dubious area, and that I'd take my chances with the cold. The attendant looked disappointed and offered me a different room, but I insisted I'd find something else. He reluctanctly return my ID and credit card, and I nearly slipped on the ice getting back into my car.

As I made my way to the Holiday Inn, I must have hookers on the brain, because every girl I saw on the street or in the elevator prompted me to wonder if she was a hooker. This being a gambling town, I figured there had to be hookers all over the place. But when I reached the playing room I decided it was unlikely that any of our fellow Scrabblers were moonlighting in such a manner. I don't know why, but I'm guessing the Scrabble-playing mentality and the hooker mentality don't overlap much.

Holy crap, but the intermediate division was large, and loaded with high-rated players. 1784 was the highest--my best opportunity to crack 1500, or even approach 1600, if there ever was one. 60+ players! But the names on the tally board were in alphabetical order--I didn't like this, because it made it time consuming to determine where I was in the field.

Pairings were handed out instead of posted, which took a while. Shouts of "can we start!" echoed throughout the room. My first opponent was Jay Strieb.

I left the playing room pleased that I had won two games--better than I expected. My satisfaction was short-lived, however, as I reestablished my position as the clumsiest man alive by dropping my laptop while in front of the elevators in the hall. D'oh! I quickly booted it up to see what the damage was, and I immediately discovered the LCD screen was shot. I hope at least the computer itself had survived, and I was relieved to discover that I could boot it up and shut it down even without being able to see the screen, indicating that the operating system was working. I shook my head at the folly that is my life as I headed back to the parking garage.

Suddenly I was really fatigued, and, though hungry, I did not feel like searching for a restaurant, so I just settled on Dunkin Donuts. I had to resort to pen and paper to make notes about my trip--like being back in the stone age. The clumsiness continued as I shook the juice without fastening the top securly, spilling it all over my papers. Then, when I take a sip, the juice spills from my mouth onto my pants, and I'm feeling truly retarded. As I sat there, I looked through the AC Weekly and noticed the escort ads. Another possibility, but the loss of my laptop had really gotten me into a funk, and I didn't feel like doing anything. After a quick donut, I abandoned plans to try my hand at the poker table, and I set out to find a place to crash. At some point I remembered that I was supposed to call a prospective employer in the morning, and that his number had been on my now-inoperable laptop--d'oh!

Without my computer, I had no good map of Atlantic City, which made driving around frustrating. Still, I got a kick when I suddenly remember Monopoly, and that this was the town the properties were named after! I found my way to the Atlantic City Expressway easily enough, and I discovered a welcome center just up a few miles, but the restrooms were closed, and I could find no dark corner affording any privacy. So I moved on to the next exit and a town named Pleasantville. How could I go wrong in Pleasantville? I quickly find a small, dark parking lot behind a laundry, with an alleyway where I could do my business. Snow fell throughout the night, providing privacy. With my three blankets, I slept fine despite the bitter cold, and the only untoward effect was the maddening persistent thirst, which I understood to be because the colder air was drier. I had to keep drinking water to avoid a headache, which meant I had to keep stepping out into the cold air to relieve myself. All in all, the experience of sleeping in 15-degree cold could have been worse.



January 24

I decided to get up when a van belonging to the laundry parks next to me. I headed over to the Wawa, where I had to wait quite a while for Ron to get out of the bathroom. While I waited, I noticed that the logo Wawa has chosen for their brand of espresso looks an awful lot like the Starbucks logo, and I wondered why I hadn't heard about a lawsuit yet.

At the toll station on the way back to Atlantic City, the attendant gave me two receipts. I guess he thought he was doing me a favor, allowing me to get reimbursed for an extra 50 cents, at the cost of my soul.

FLOAM On map Jay Strieb Lunch wasn't as filling, cuz all of a sudden really hungry. VIREOS Fully excepted to lose against Verna Berg. Fortunately, got OXEN when she played ASSUAGED to keep it close, and she game me 48 points. Glemm Filzer & richard III Wolfberg's 673-point game



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