Filler Road Kill

Notes From A Summer Vacation In Hell--Well, OK, Atlantic City And The East Coast.
By Tom Danehy

THINGS SEEN, LESSONS learned from the Danehy Clan's annual trip to States-As-Yet-Untrod-Upon (the kids' new rallying cry: "Touch all 50 before Dad turns 50!"):

Danehy All that talk about the weather along the East Coast being brutal in late July-early August is apparently just a myth. We landed in Washington, D.C., got off the plane and it was about 75 degrees, no humidity and a light breeze.

Last year we got to Boston near the end of what locals were calling a "killer" heat wave. It was 80 degrees. The next day it was 62 with rain.

I think the people in Washington made up all that talk so they could take long summer vacations and nobody would come to town to check on them. You would've thought the summer tourist boom would have ruined their gig, but since 98.3 percent of the tourists don't speak English, the secret is still safe.

Q. What's the difference between Atlantic City and Hell?

A. Hell smells better.

What a dump! You're talking about a community where the arrival of Donald Trump actually made the place classier. That's not a good sign. I'd be willing to bet that whoever wrote "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" did so while sitting on a bench along the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

They've got signs all over the place that a $2-billion renovation and improvement is planned for 1997. Heck, you could do $2 billion worth of improvements by dropping a bomb on that place.

There was a sign along the Delaware Turnpike which read "Decoy Museum: 2 Miles." I was tempted to check it out, but was afraid it might just be a plywood facade of a museum.

Or if it was real, the tour guide would be Steven Wright.

The immaculately preserved Ford's Theater, the site of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, is right next door to The Hard Rock Café. Sad, but true.

I drove in New York City. I know, I know, I'm not supposed to, but we had this rental car and I don't know how to speak Pakistani, so I wouldn't know how to argue with the cab drivers over fares. Besides, I figured if I could make it there, I'd make it anywhere.

The traffic is absolutely brutal. People double- and triple-park with complete impunity if they look like they just got here from Afghanistan and are unloading furniture or produce. But if you're a tourist who pulls up next to the curb in front of a landmark and stops for 3.2 seconds, a traffic cop comes out of nowhere to tell you to "Move it along, Buddy."

They have lane lines on the streets, but virtually no one pays any attention to them. There are no lanes, just a sea of cars, each trying to get 1/2 an inch in front of the other so they can make an illegal lane change.

They cut each other off mercilessly and honk a lot, but there is almost no animosity. They don't swear or make hand gestures. They drive crazy, but they all drive crazy the same way.

If people drove like that here in Tucson, they'd be exchanging gunfire. Heck, they do that, anyway.

Our time in New York City consisted of my driving up to the Empire State Building, letting Ana and the kids out, then driving around the block 30 times while they took the elevator up to see where "Sleepless In Seattle" was filmed.

Then we'd drive to the next place and repeat the procedure.

I considered parking the car in a lot, but then I thought of the Seinfeld episode where George parked the car and then couldn't get it until the next day.

Even then I was tempted to try to park the car, but the cheapest parking lot in Manhattan charges $10.86 for the first half-hour!!

See, strict anti-gun laws in New York City prevent criminals from robbing you at gunpoint, so they just use the parking-lot scam instead.

Everybody in New Jersey looks like Billy Joel. Even the women. Actually, the better-looking ones look like Ken Wahl.

They all look like they're half-Italian, half-Jewish and half-something else.

While we were at the U.S. Capitol, we wanted to sit in the Senate gallery. In order to get a ticket, you have to take the tram to the Senate Office Building to visit the office of one of your state's Senators.

When the guy asked which Senator we wanted to see, I had to pause and think about which name to give. You know things are bad in your state when "John McCain" pops in your head as the less-embarrassing.

We then stopped by Jim Kolbe's office. I asked if he was in. The receptionist said, "No, he's out."

He certainly is now.

We've passed the halfway point in our attempt to see all of the states before Darlene gets out of high school. It doesn't look like we're going to make it, however. A lot of the easy ones are out of the way now and despite three trips to the East Coast, we still haven't been to either of the Carolinas. Maybe they could secede again.

We went to see the home of my favorite writer, Edgar Allen Poe, in Baltimore. It's in the absolute worst neighborhood I've ever been in in my life.

There's probably a punchline in there somewhere, but I was driving by too fast (with the windows rolled up) to think of one.

Next year, Washington State. Maybe I'll run into a bunch of people I grew up with in L.A. TW

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