May 30-June 1
Last Sunday I fell asleep under twinkling fiber-optic stars in the chrome sky of a white stretch Hummer driven by a man from Staten Island named Tony. I woke up scant hours later at the Staten Island ferry terminal, having hitched a ride from Atlantic City (AC as the kids call it) after a late night of partying at a friend’s bachelorette party. A pink dawn rose over Brooklyn as I struggled to stay awake on the boat ride.
Five hours earlier I’d been rolling the dice at a craps table at the Borgata, living the life of a Bond girl on the arm of my banker friend. We were playing with her money at the $10 high roller table. Later on I was guilted into buying my own chips by a surly casino croupier but came out ok in the end—only a net $5 loss. I’d never gambled before, so the novelty of the casino was entertaining. They are bizarre places full of false promises and “free” things that encourage people to drop loads of money. It also amazes me how gender-biased the places are; women working there wear barely anything, and the major selling point is the free drinks. Okay, you caught me, I enjoyed the free drinks too.
It was a pretty fun night out, all drama considered, and I can truly say that I’ve painted the town. I’ll tell you though, I was pretty psyched to see hthe sun cume up over the Long Island horizon telling me I was almost home. Tony was quite the gentleman for agreeing to give me a lift from our host’s house on the Jersey Shore back to NYC (I always forget that Staten Island is one of the boroughs…oops!). Sleeping off the evening’s entertainment on the undulating leather seats, I barely noticed the highway zooming by beneath me.
In an odd turn of events, the most fun that I had that weekend was in transit to different locations.
I barely caught the train out of the city due to a last-minute lingerie search in Time Square. I’d forgotten to buy a present for the bride-to-be, and the blasted web filter at the office wouldn’t let me look up Victoria’s Secret locations online. Running frantically around 42nd street I settled for Gap, which had surprisingly cute sleepwear appropriate for a bachelorette.
I met my fellow VaBeach ladies at Penn Station and had just enough time to grab a butter pecan ice cream cone before joining the mad rush down the moving stairway to board the NJTransit Shore line 3:55 train to Bay Head. My ice cream barely survived the horde of sweaty commuters but I defended my afternoon snack with pointy elbows.
The three of us scored great seats on the train and piled into two sets of opposing chairs with a load of luggage. We giggled like high schoolers as we caught up on the gossip from home, local politics and our recent personal lives. My two best friends are both in serious long-term relationships and we know a lot of people getting married. It seems to be the thing to do in one’s mid-twenties.
Shamefully the discussion turned to rings—you know, the kind with diamonds? Large ones? The scandal being that a friend of a friend recently became engaged to a man she’d known for about six weeks and he bought her a 2.5 carat ring. Me being the gauche idiot about diamonds had about zero knowledge of what that meant. My banker and publicist friends did and tried to explain to me using various metaphors and size equivalents, my favorite being “T, if R [banker friend] bought the ring herself with six months’ salary it wouldn’t be 2.5 carats.” I was about ready to let the subject drop and surrender to incomprehension when a burly blonde man across the aisle took a small waxed-paper envelope out of a nondescript black backpack and passed it over to us. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation—just professional curiosity. You can show your friend, this is about what it would look like.” R’s eyes went wide as she unfolded the envelope. Mine did the same when I gingerly unwrapped a 2.8 carat light blue diamond approximately the size of my thumbnail. This stone (without a setting, mind you), retails in Point Pleasant NJ for $35,000. They love their bling in the Garden State. That’s a whole lot of money. Can you imagine carrying around the value of a luxury automobile on your ring finger? And it doesn’t do anything but sparkle! It can’t even vroom-vroom or speed by someone on the highway. Madness. That’s a year’s college tuition and well over half my salary. Crazy shit.
We learn through our subsequent conversation that this guy—about 5’5 mid twenties with lots of tattoos—works in his dad’t jewelry store on the shore and makes runs to the Diamond District in Manhattan every few months. He buys the stones wholesale and then takes NJTransit back with almost half a million dollars worth of diamonds in his backpack. Apparently he also flashes them around to impress girls. Hilarious. That made my fucking day, man, what a character.
That was my Jersey weekend: diamonds, neon, gambling, the beach, cheese-spiraled pizza, copious drinking and a limousine ride home. If only I could have stopped at the mall too.