Atlantic City

My story “A Palace of Wisdom” has appeared in SPEAKING OF ATLANTIC CITY, Janet Robinson Bodoff and Leesa Toscano, eds. (History Press. 2022). Bob Levin scholars may recognize the incident at the story’s core and be fascinated by what I made of it this time. Or they may yawn, “Oh, that again.”
I found the volume fascinating myself. (I skipped my story and, not being a poetry reader, most of that, and only glanced at the photos.) It is a tribute to Atlantic City, words and pictures, past and present, fact and imagination, from Whites (of various ethnicity), Blacks and Hispanics, gays and straights, summer visitors and year long residents. From my visits, child, adolescent and adult, Steel Pier, Hi Hat Joe’s. the White House, Baltimore Grill, Knife and Fork, and Resorts International resonate. So do the beach, ocean, boardwalk, jitneys, salt water taffy, Skee-Ball, Miss America, Veg-o-matics, and prize fights at the Convention Center. (About all it missed from my immediate world were Lucy the Elephant and, less inexplicably, the schoolyard where, in 1954, I socked a home run, winning respect of the locals.) From outside my circles of contact came informatives about the 500 Club, Club Harlem, junkies, whores, female impersonators, and burlesque. (I wish the editors had included a page of Contributors’ Notes. Many of the authors cried out to be identified.)
I liked this book. I liked its lack of pretense. I liked how it simply took people’s stories and set them down, one next to another, a mosaic of simplicities establishing a complexity of time and place, a compendium of hopes and dreams, some crashing to earth, some soaring into the sky, some being looked at even now with wonder. I read about what I knew and what I didn’t and felt expanded by it all.