So, I went to Atlantic City. I didn't go with my girlfriends. I went with my good friend Marty...who Jimmy and I have known for more than 20 years. Am I spelling out p l a t o n i c loud enough? Along with us was George and June who grew up with Marty.
What do four old Jews do when they walk into a casino at noon? They head straight for the brunch. After we piled up our plates like we were being executed in the morning we dug in and it got real quiet. My stupid mind began to wander...
"What am I doing here?"
"Jimmy would have gotten the omelet."
"This is banana cake? Ugh. I thought it was vanilla."
"I don't think I brought enough money."
"There's always the ATM machine."
"Last time I went over to the ATM here Jimmy caught me. Oh, God...I remember actually
looking over my shoulder and being nervous - like I was stealing."
"Everyone took care of themselves. Jimmy always brought a surprise back for the
"Oh, there are the people who stroll around and play music - I hate that."
"A request? Yeah. Go away!"
"The flute is right in my face."
"Are we supposed to stop eating?"
"The guitar player is looking at me with pity. Oy...like Cindy said it's like I have 'widow'
stamped on my forehead."
"Wait a minute. The guitar guy sees us as two couples. He doesn't know. Wow. Maybe
when I see people give me that look - they're not. I feel like a fifth wheel.
That's where it's coming from. It's coming from me."
After that brilliant epiphany I told Marty and he said "The guitar guy WAS looking at you with pity. He assumes you're with me."
Walking through the lobby, passing the statue and getting into the casino was hard. It wasn't harder than I anticipated, though. In my mind, I had already gone through all the possible 'triggers.'
Lots of people sound like Jimmy in a casino. Loud booming voices come at you from everywhere and big guys hunched over a blackjack table or crap table are a major part of the scene. I was braced for that, but I wasn't expecting was to feel
fine at the blackjack table and the three card poker table and the slots. (I try them all and lose at every one of them -every time)
Jimmy was a bigger player and so most of the time we gambled separately and then met up and entertained each other with stories about fun dealers, lucky hands, weirdo people at the table, etc. Of course, that part was missing, but, I realized this still can be my enjoyment, kind of a hobby. Zipping over to a casino now and then is not like dancing alone.
The casino enviroment brings such a variety of people and many of them are elderly.
Seeing older people out and about doing what Jimmy loved so much brought home again how Jimmy was cheated. It makes me want to go back in time and let him know -
"You won't be old. You don't have much time. Do what makes you happy."
Those of us who loved him and are left here are doing just that these days. This is why I'm glad I went. Of course, if I had won I would have been more glad. Some things never change.