I’m writing this from the kitchen of my friend Peter’s condo in Ventnor City, NJ. Honest, there is a Ventnor City, NJ… just down the road from Atlantic City. The people here call it Ventnor.
My journey started after work Friday night. Knowing I have no organizational skills, or willpower, going home after work would have just meant an extended period of putting off going to bed… so I set out for Peter’s house, in Cherry Hill, NJ at 11:35 PM.
That was a good idea because traffic was light and I made it in just under three hours. Not bad. EZ-Pass is good on the NJ Turnpike, making the trip even easier.
I didn’t relish the idea of a long drive but I had my cell phone along with the earpiece I seldom use. I knew if I got my Cousin Michael on the phone from California… well, let’s just say Michael is never at a loss for words.
That’s a good thing because I enjoy talking with him. Between Michael, Melissa and Max (their son) I kept busy through the Bronx, over the George Washington Bride and well into New Jersey. Finally I gave up because my ear was getting sore.
I also decided to run a ‘science experiment’ during the drive. I put my laptop in the front seat, powered by an inverter, working off the car’s battery so it would last the whole trip. The laptop had a wireless network card and GPS receiver hooked up and ran a free piece of software call NetStumbler.
As I drove along, sometimes every few seconds and sometimes only a few times an hour, a little sound went off and the computer would log the presence of a wireless access point. Some were password protected while others would have gladly (OK – gladly is overdoing it) allowed me to connect to the Internet or anything else behind their firewall!
After I return to Connecticut I’ll try and publish some lists and maps to show you what got logged. It was very interesting to me and I tried disparately not to look at the computer screen as I sped along at 70 mph.
I made it to Peter’s house around 2:30 AM. For me that’s the shank of the day. For Peter, it’s the middle of the night. He woke up and let me in. He even nuked a few burgers for me!
Saturday morning started with a visit to his nephew’s baseball game, breakfast at a deli and then a trip to the Jersey Shore. Peter recently bought a 2005 Acura RL and we felt it was necessary to test all the buttons¹.
Some parts of the car, like the XM Satellite Radio, were interesting. Peter and I agree the XM ‘decade channels’ play too many marginal songs (not hits) – probably an effort to avoid repetition and there’s no real ‘oldies’ channel as such. I did find the comedy channels interesting and am envious of his ability to hear every baseball game… though as a non-sports fan he will listen to none.
When a car is packed with gadgets, as this one is, there are things which seem superfluous or a little over the top. If, instead of touching a button, you’d like to wait five or ten seconds and hope your command is understood, you can tell the car’s climate control system to turn down the fan or adjust the temperature. Using the button is easier!
Mostly this is a sweet car and I enjoyed the ride to the shore.
Though sunny, today was blustery and cool. Still, we decided to take a walk down the boardwalk. The water was rough with spray coming off each breaking wave. The beach, as you might expect for April, was empty.
As we walked the beach, we ran into a flock of tiny birds. Though they do fly, most of the time they scamper on the sand, chasing the waterline in and out with the waves. They’re looking for food, I’m sure, but they were fun to watch because they’re totally in sync and choreographed perfectly.
There is no outward sign of communications between these birds, but they must know what the others are going to do. They change direction on a dime and never bump into each other!
Tonight we had dinner at the Tun, near the Atlantic City Convention Center. I’m on Atkins (again), so I told my waitress I’d rather not have the potatoes with my meal. Could she substitute something else? “How about French Fries,” was her reply.
The steak was very good and there was plenty of it. There was no Splenda for my coffee (a recurring theme of late), so I pulled a pack from the stash in my wallet. This is what 54 year old guys carry in their wallets instead of condoms.
After dinner we went to the Tropicana to see a comedy show. The Comedy Stop at the Trop has been there for at least 25 years. Recently it moved to nicer quarters in the hotel’s new wing called The Quarter. In fact the whole addition is very nice, somewhat reiniscent of the shops at some Vegas casinos.
We stopped in the Spy Store where I found some items going for many multiples of what the same thing sells for on EBay. I wasn’t expecting bargains, but this was a little ridiculous.
The comdey show itself was good and the comedians fine… at least that’s my impression from the audience reaction. Maybe I just wasn’t in a comedy mood tonight?
¹ – There is a button that Peter just can’t figure out. If you have any idea what the “DISP MODE” button does, drop me a line.