Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't stay in Atlantic City

...and don't believe Donald Trump when he says he does everything "first class."

Seduced by a great hotel rate, I'm sitting very near the famed boardwalk. It seemed like a good idea at the time...

My last visit to Atlantic City was over 30 years ago, as a kid, with my family. In 1977, the New Jersey legislature approved casino gambling, and I figured, with 32 years having gone by, the influx of casinos would have restored luster to at least part of Atlantic City. In one sense, it was a good idea--if Atlantic City ever flourished (maybe it was always this seedy?), it was as a playground.

Well, it doesn't seem to have worked. I suspect the crooks take too much of a rake-off--and no, I don't mean the Soprano-set; they would know to keep the resort and boardwalk area clean and spiffy, and keep the "cash for gold" stores (I counted at least 10 just walking and driving around) well out of sight.

I stayed at the Chelsea Hotel, which is nice enough; I'm in the old section, which I--the fool that I am--thought would be "charming." It's clean enough, but it's not charming. Threadbare--that's the word for almost everything around here, even the Trump resorts: as I drove by one, and walked by another, I noticed several places where things had been allowed to go to pot.

Now, maybe Las Vegas has changed, but I don't remember this sort of thing being allowed to happen there. When I worked in politics, I used to travel a lot, and I visited Las Vegas several times. As I recall, the old downtown was not as decrepit as this is--and since then, they spent a bunch of money and put a semi-dome over it. Again, it's been many years, and maybe Las Vegas has slid backward.

So, I figured--if Atlantic City is anything like Vegas, it should be nice. I know all the dings against Vegas, but my point is, one thing Vegas excels at is providing comfort and service. Back in the day at least, they really scurried to cater to you.

Anyway, walking down the boardwalk this morning, I thought about why this might have failed. I realize this is a bad economy, but this doesn't look like a place that was overly prosperous before 2008. As mentioned, the crooks probably are greedier here, or at least, they probably have more layers of graft, so the skim is skimmed, and skimmed again. Also, the climate is against Atlantic City. And third is Big Labor power. Nevada is (tenuously) a Right to Work state, and New Jersey is pretty much at the farthest pole from that.

Now, I expect someone in the comments to scream with outrage that I don't genuflect to union power, but if you want to do that, how about trying to defend this? As I drove into town, I saw several billboards with a slogan very close to this: in giant letters, "everyone loses at Name and Name Casinos"; in much smaller print, I saw something like, "if workers aren't given their due." Later, I discovered this was part of a campaign by the United Auto Workers to win a contract with monopoly bargaining rights over table dealers (yes, really, the UAW).

Now, yes, unfairness to workers is a bad thing. Of course, "fairness" is not defined by union-representation. Although the workers may indeed be better off with union representation; I doubt it, but that should be their individual choice. But please note how the union chiefs did this: they are attempting to get their way by damaging the business prospects of the employer. It's like something a friend of mine did, many years ago, standing outside a restaurant he left in anger (we'd been too noisy) as people walked in: "did you see that rat? boy, that was a big one, bigger than the last one!"

A union apologist will say this is just an exception, caused by a few bad apples--except it happens pretty often, and those billboard were hired by "bad apples" obviously running the whole show. It reminds me of what happened some years back, at the Frontier Casino in Las Vegas (Nevada being a Right to Work state hasn't prevented vigorous union activity, contrary to what furious opponents of Right to Work always claim), when some "overzealous" union-hired picketers actually assaulted customers of the casino as they dared to walk past the picket line.

That said, there is some of Las Vegas here. Last night, I walked up to a little mini-mall on the boardwalk, in front of Ceasars, and had dinner at an "Irish pub"called "the Trinity," which supposedly was disassembled in Ireland and shipped over! The beer was very good, and the place was well kept and the service good; the burger was average. I missed the water show that takes place every hour on the hour in the front of the building; if I'm walking by later at the right time, I'll check it out.

But wait till you get a load of this: I'm walking through the mini-mall, and I notice these beach chairs lined up along the south side, facing the evening sun coming through the window. Palm trees are planted there, very nice, just like the beach, even down to--get this: beach sand! I watched as people carefully shook the sand off their feet, put on their sandals, and stepped back onto the polished floor of the mall. All they needed was to pipe in purified ocean water so you could dip your feet in the ocean in climate-controlled comfort.

Then there were the fires in the fireplaces--first in the pub, then in another restaurant I walked by--yes, in late July, as it's 85 and humid outside, and the insides are cooled surely below 70.

So there's one upside: the hotel here is not hectoring me with little cards about saving the planet by reusing my towels and sheets. Not that I mind resuing my towels and sheets, but the whole idea that this meaningfully helps the environment is risible.

Oh, and the homeless people are perfectly nice here--no problems.


Anonymous said...

Ah, good Fr, you have slipped again, falling into one of your right wing republican diatribes. You must have finally found a place to buy beer and had one too many and forgot that you are talking as a Roman Catholic priest, pastor of a parish, on whose official website you advertise your blog. Tsk, Tsk.

caite said...

Gee Father, I live just 15 minutes away. I would have driven over and bought you a beer and suggested a dinner better than an ok burger if I had know you were in town.

Personally, I enjoy a nice right wing

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry about the comment on the top, Father. That's the risk of having a blog on the internet. Anyone can leave a comment, including someone who is obviously not a Catholic. Well, as a certain seminary professor once commented, the non-believer is a miserable judge of the one who does believe.

Father Martin Fox said...

Methinks Anonymous doesn't like me criticizing union officials. There are those who think being Catholic means the union is never wrong, or is always less wrong than "management."

On the other hand, I consider too much power a problem, regardless of who we're talking about...

Unless it's God. He handles it just fine. The rest of us? Not so well.