The last few times we’ve been to Atlantic City, New Jersey, the weather wasn’t very cooperative. It rained so hard one day that if we hadn’t been driving an SUV with high clearance, the floodwaters would stopped us in our tracks. But this sunny, mild day in early November is a perfect day for a stroll on the boardwalk. Taking in the glorious sunshine followed by an IMAX 3D movie is a perfect way to spend a vacation day.
Atlantic City, on New Jersey’s Atlantic coast, features miles of white sandy beaches and an iconic boardwalk. High-rise hotels provide magnificent views of the coastline. Casinos and nightclubs offer a variety of entertainment. Shoppers will find an array of stores from high end boutiques to factory outlets. Restaurants of celebrity chefs include Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri, Wolfgang Puck, and Bobby Flay as well as other renowned steakhouses such as Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris. And yet, with all Atlantic City has to offer, when I mention going there to “outsiders” they tend to say things like, “Do people still go there?” It’s like the Rodney Dangerfield of resort cities; it gets no respect. That’s o.k. It’s a good thing that we keep all to ourselves.
Our long walk in the fresh air and sunshine has primed us for happy hour. At the center of the boardwalk, located on the second floor of the Pier Shops at Caesar’s we have our choice of four different restaurants with happy hour menus. Buddakan, with its $5 appetizers, cocktails, and wine, is our bar of choice. I’d pay twice as much for one of their specialty cocktails like Blossom, made with gin, Cointreau, honey syrup, and orange bitters. The drinks are always delicious and well-balanced no matter which bartender is on duty. Scrumptious appetizers include edamame ravioli, various dumplings and spring rolls, and tempura vegetables.
As happy hour progresses, we strike up a conversation with strangers at the bar. This evening, we meet two ladies, one a local, and the other, her visiting friend from New York City. After a bit of small talk, the conversation turns to politics, not about the upheaval of the presidential election, but an elected office much closer to home.
The local lady, Hazel, tells us that her husband was supposed to join them, but that he was upset over the anniversary of a past event. She goes on to say that her husband is a good man who served his country in the Vietnam War. He was a lifeguard and eventually became the beach patrol chief. With pride in her voice, Hazel tells us that he never lost anyone on his watch.
We’re surprised by the candor in her next self-revelation, since we’ve only just met. She and her husband are an interracial couple who married in the 1960s and his family was very much against the union. Little by little they came around, even her father-in-law whom she helped care for in his elder years. Despite the hardships, Hazel expresses no regrets about her marriage.
As the conversation returns to Hazel’s husband, her friend comments that he never should have run for mayor. They both agree that nothing good came of it. Being out- of-towners, we’re not aware of the incident to which they are referring but finally Hazel says, when you read what they say about him in the newspapers, remember my husband is a good man.
In our hotel room that evening, we find Hazel and her spouse, former mayor of Atlantic City, Bob Levy, on Wikipedia. According to Wiki, Levy resigned as mayor in 2007 after admitting that there were false entries on his official military service record which he did not correct and that he used these false entries to obtain benefits. He pled guilty in court, was sentenced to probation, fined, and ordered to pay restitution.
There are (at least) two sides to every story, but we don’t often get to hear one as personal as Hazel’s.