Atlantic City, NJ -- August 26, 2007

Arrive Atlantic City 2:45 pm----Depart Atlantic City 10:30 pm----Arrive Port Authority 12:30am
Depart Port Authority 3:30am----Arrive Hartford 6:00 am

A tough leg but, in my entire trip, no where did I meet a group of readers as diverse as the readers I met on the beach and boardwalk of Atlantic City. I spoke to people with backgrounds different from my own--teachers, an ultra-marathoner, and a Muslim and Hindu woman who told me about their religions. The Hindu woman listened to my story as well and gifted me two delicate red and gold bracelets.

Beaches, as I learned from my experience on the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, are reading paradises. And, on Sundays, when downtowns clear out, and the only other option seems to be long hauls in taxis and public transportation between Barnes and Nobles and shopping malls, I was excited to have a beach.

When my mind was swimming from everything I'd learned, there was....

no, not the casinos--I didn't have any money to throw away--but the roller coaster.

It is the roller coaster that I credit to giving me the punch to continue my trip. I hadn't ridden one for over a decade, when my little cousin Ben and I tested every single last one at Great America (Top Gun was the best).

I threw my hands up and, at every whiplash turn expected to be hurled into the ocean. It made facing rejection by readers, in comparison, a lot less intimidating.

Later that night, sitting in the House of Blues before heading on to Hartford, I ordered a steak. On my trip I was constantly craving meat and I didn't deny myself. Usually it was truck stop hot dogs, but sometimes it was, as it was that night, steak. As I nestled my fork into the medium-rare flesh and as I began sawing with my serrated knife, the bracelets on my wrists began to jingle. I put the knife down. A trail of blood ran across the bright white china and into my pile of mashed potatoes with its minaretlike scalped wisps. I felt nauseated, remembering what the Hindu woman had told me: "The cow is holy," she'd said.

I removed the bracelets, put them on the far side of the table and looked up to the ceiling for guidance. Clouds and angels aback a light blue sky…and, as I examine this further, one of the angels is a wearing sunglasses, striking a dance-like pose, kneeling with an index finger pointed upwards. There was no guidance there. The atmosphere at the restaurant is actually kind of disturbing. I didn't know what to do. I really felt like I needed the steak for my health.

I finished my steak, all but the remaining three bites which I wrapped up and ate at Port Authority later that night.

I wrapped up the bracelets, too, and stowed them away for when I was ready to wear them again.

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