Category: Family

To Connecticut

Saturday, May 26th, 2007 | All Things, Family

In the summer of 1998, the Powerball jackpot approached a then-record $200 million dollars. J and I were at Mom and Dad’s watching the local news coverage of Powerball fever, when we were both struck almost simultaneously with the same thought: We have to win this.

Problem was that New York was not one of the 20 states in which one could purchase Powerball tickets. Taking our 1 in 80 million shot would entail cross state lines into… Connecticut. Did the idea of jumping into our car and making a beeline for the Constitution State – for the sole purpose of gambling — give us any pause that night?

It took about five minutes for me to find the car keys and to scrawl out an explanatory note to Mom and Dad.

We ended up in Stamford, Connecticut that Saturday night – calculating that Greenwich, right over the border, would be hit with the brunt of the out-of-town onslaught (we were right) – but still ended up waiting on line for over an hour. During that time, most of which we spent comparing notes on how we would spend the untold riches, we got to witness some of the basest of human instincts at play: avarice, envy, and most of all: rage. Powerball rage. By the time J and I bought our $10 worth of tickets, the line of would-be multi-millionaires stretched around the block, many of whom we quickly realized were not going to see the inside of that newsstand before the 9PM cutoff. Sensing an impending riot, we hopped into the red Duster and vamoosed home, our hearts wild with hope.

Throgs Neck Bridge

And yet, alas, we did not win.

No, we did not drive into Connecticut this afternoon to purchase lottery tickets. But thinking about that night still makes me smile.

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The Linden Place

Monday, February 19th, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Family

There is no shortage of excellent dimsum places in Flushing’s Chinatown, but with J and J in town for the Chinese New Year weekend, Mom and Dad wanted to try someplace special. Or at least someplace different. That place was The Linden Place.

The restaurant space once housed a 25,000 square foot warehouse, nestled along a dreary stretch of road lined with parking lots and auto glass repair shops, a couple blocks east of the Van Wyck Expressway. Today, The Linden Place is one of the largest catering halls in the area. As we pulled up to the parking lot, we could not miss the fancy attempt at an entrance, featuring a banner frieze emblazoned with the restaurant name in Gothic font, and a set of similarly imprinted stairs leading up to the heavy double doors. Not my taste, but knowing that such weirdly gaudy touches will sometimes pass as shorthand for “upscale” in Chinese restaurants, I was willing to keep an open mind. But nothing could have prepared us for what lay within.

All I could say was: Yikes.

Linden Place

Linden Place

Linden Place

Linden Place Ceiling Mural

Inside was a gold-red explosion of faux tapestries, gilt-framed “paintings,” granite pillars, pasted-on ceiling “murals,” hollow resin-cast statues and urns… and the pièce de résistance, a disco-balled dance floor, over which perched a huge projection screen and Juliet terraces strung with multi-colored Christmas lights.

I’ll say it again: Yikes.

Dad explained that the aesthetic was probably a misguided attempt to recall the glamorous, colonial-era Shanghai, with its meshing of European-style décors.  In the years following the end of the Opium War, enclaves — concessions — of the city housed concentrations of British, French and Americans (also Japanese, Germans, and to a smaller extent: Italians, Belgians, Russians and Austro-Hungarians) who built up the area in the styles of their homeland. With the treaty-mandated opening of the city to European trade, Shanghai’s foreign population grew from 10,000 in 1910 to 60,000 by 1940. It was during this period that the great buildings that still line the Bund were erected. Once the most famous street in Asia, the Bund is comprised of 52 buildings of varying architectural style, including Art Deco, Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Neo-classical, Renaissance – though I would venture, never all at the same time, as on display here.

The over-the-top décor, though, was incidental to our lunch, and if nothing else, it served as a topic for animated table conversation. Together, we toasted in the Year of the Pig with dimsum (which was fine, but pricy) and J’s favorite nian gao — Chinese New Year sticky cakes.

New Years Pigs

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On the boardwalk

Sunday, January 14th, 2007 | All Things, Family, Travel

An unseasonably warm Sunday in Atlantic City, on the longest boardwalk in the world:

Steel Pier

Steel Pier

Atlantic City Stand

Atlantic City Stand

Boardwalk Seagulls

Atlantic City Boardwalk

Fralingers

Atlantic City Boardwalk

From New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., Greyhound offers Lucky Streak service to various Atlantic City casinos with fare reimbursement incentives. The refund amounts differ by casino (AC Hilton, Bally’s, Caesars, Resorts, Sands, Showboat, Taj Mahal, Tropicana, Trump Plaza or Trump Marina), and by the time and day of the trip. In NYC, riders pay the full price of the roundtrip ticket (about $30) and receive a casino coupon for some portion of the Greyhound bus fare. Upon arrival, casino representatives distribute coupons for gaming credits (or cash exchange).

Gambling has a long history in China, with some evidence suggesting that wagering on games of chance originated there over 3,000 years ago. Today, social gambling in the form of mahjong playing is common in China and among Chinese overseas. Government-approved lottery games are available to 95% of China’s cities and counties.

Gambling addiction is widely recognized as a major problem in the Chinese and Chinese-American communities. Statistics are difficult to come by, but by some estimates, 2 to 6 percent of the mainstream population are problem gamblers; among Chinese, where gambling is often an accepted practice at home and at social events (even among the young), the numbers are considerably higher. For an immigrant community, gambling offers a form of cross-cultural entertainment with no language barrier.

Many casinos recognize the Chinese love of gambling and market aggressively to that sector. Chinese-language newspapers offer their Asian patrons even better deals than the ones available through Greyhound. Several Atlantic City casinos work with Chinese bus companies to charge their patrons a discounted price for the roundtrip fare, and offer more significant rider reimbursements in chips, meal discounts, or in our case: cold, hard cash. The roundtrip bus fare from Chinatown was $15; upon disembarking at the Showboat Casino at boardwalk’s end, we each were handed envelopes with $25 in cash. So yes, even after discounting the mandatory tips to the bus driver, we still made money on the trip.

That is, before factoring in our buffet lunch at the Taj Majal‘s “Sultan’s Feast.” Ah well. When in Agra…

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