I got a new coworker last month. When the news editor introduced him to the copy desk, Bob shouted, “Reuben sandwich!” and laughed.
I tell myself I’m not an all-seeing wisewoman to keep my ego down, but if Reuben’s expression didn’t say, “I’m humoring you, but the hate inside me exists and will one day come out in spasms,” then why has he been cruel to Bob on one…two…at least three occasions? And why does he write about the casinos like that?
Reuben writes about an industry with two defining characteristics. One: It’s the lifeblood of South Jersey. Two: It’s failing. I grew up here. You don’t hope that for your town.
As I edit out “violent” from Reuben’s sentence, “The casino industry’s violent contraction began early this year,” I think about “Roger & Me,” Michael Moore’s documentary about Flint, Michigan. Like Showboat Casino, the GM factory in Flint, Michigan was making money when it closed. The owners thought they’d make more money elsewhere. Showboat ran for 27 years before Caesars Entertainment bought and closed it to eliminate competition for its other casino. The company did the same thing earlier this year.
We all know it’s violent, Reuben. You don’t have to say that. Four casinos in a year is 20% of the industry. It’s 6,000 jobs. I don’t know if you read the Hometown section, Reuben, but I edit that, too. The Hometown section is made up of lists of South Jersey events and pictures of people smiling. There used to be a lot more events. There used to be a lot more pictures.
I can’t always think of ways to soften the blow. Take a sentence like, “Don Clark, a slot supervisor from Absecon, reflected on what went wrong — on how to explain why Revel, once thought to be Atlantic City’s best and brightest, became perhaps its greatest failure.” I could take out everything after the em dash. Reading it back now, I wish I had. I’m remembering the time that Bob called Reuben “a bozo” to get some satisfaction.
It is sensationalized, and “once thought to be” is unspecific. Who thought that? Everyone? You can’t know everyone, Reuben, if you don’t know me, and you sure as hell don’t know me. I’d say some more things about that sentence, but I can’t say it’s entirely wrong. Revel was the best casino in Atlantic City, and it had a lot of debt and a couple of false starts, and it went bankrupt. And it closed after less than three years, one day after its next-door neighbor, Showboat, and two weeks before its neighbor down the Boardwalk, the Trump Plaza.
Reuben isn’t from here, so whatever perverse joy he gets from throwing around the adjective “violent” isn’t tinted with the pain of tens of thousands of people. I wonder how he’d feel if his mother got shot in the head, and I added the adjective “violent” or “fatal,” or just added the sentence, “She’s dead now.”
Oh my god, I’m totally kidding, and it’s weird, because this never was supposed to be about Reuben. This was supposed to be about walking through Showboat the night before it closed and taking mental snapshots. The three elderly women playing slots and chatting and laughing. The men dressed in costumes playing instruments. The women dressed in costumes dancing. Everyone walking around. A lot of people smiling; some people crying. How I thought, “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact,” and then, “I’m only thinking this because the song is called, ‘Atlantic City,' and since I heard that three casinos were closing in three weeks, I haven't been able to stop thinking about death, but this isn't death. Remember when you replaced the word 'victimized' in Reuben's sentence about Showboat's place in Caesars' campaign? Casinos can't be victims, because casinos aren't alive. Casinos are buildings.” This was supposed to be about buying a chocolate milk shake and walking the stretch of boardwalk between Showboat and Revel. This was supposed to be about Revel. About Sandra's jersey that says #ACFam. About her shirt that says #HQStrong. About the club she works at in Revel, HQ, and the twenty or so times I've been there. About suites and tables and chairs and pools and seasons changing, and me changing, and the building staying the same. About the parking garage and the beds and that time Connor threw up on the white sectional couch with Atlantic City's blinking lights out the picture window. I stayed up all night that night.
This is becoming hard to write.
Yesterday I spent a lot of time reading Facebook statuses. I do that every day, but yesterday there was intention behind it. When you tag someone in a status, it shows up on their Facebook wall, so I watched statuses pile up on Sandra’s wall as her place of work closed.
Remembering the statuses about how Revel was a second home, something written on my heart as much as it is on that one sentimental Instagram post, I think about how if Revel reopened, I’d think of it as a resurrection. I think of Revel’s character and soul as if it was a person. Casinos are so tied to people’s lives. They contain so much life. They take on life of their own, infused by the words and dancing and swimming and sleeping of the thousands of people they’re caring for. For a weekend. For 15 months.
Eileen wrote, “I feel most connected to humanity on the bus.” I feel most connected to humanity at the casino. And I feel connected to myself, too. Astrology could explain this: I’m a Cancer, hospitable and cozy. I relate to an industry that wants to make people comfortable and happy.
It’s not weird that I wrote about Reuben. I wrote about Reuben because I feel no sentimental attachment to him whatsoever. I wrote about Reuben because he’s not hard to write about.
Hannah comped our last late-night meal at Relish, Revel’s 24-hour diner. Alicia gave us blueberry buckle. She wore a shirt that said, “be nice,” and a customer asked, “Does that say Bernice?” I took pictures of Sandra in HQ before and after the lights came on. The scariest picture on my phone’s camera roll was taken inside HQ. It’s me in a neon striped crop top giving the finger next to a person in a Pooh Bear costume. It’s very blurry.
It doesn’t matter what Reuben writes.