All photos by the author
This past summer, I spent 24 hours in Atlantic City, 4,000 miles away from my home in Berlin. In Germany, I live close to Spielbank Berlin, the largest casino in the city. Unfortunately, it lacks the eye-widening gaudiness of literally any of America's gambling pits. Hitting the jackpot at Potsdamer Platz just doesn't feel like hitting the jackpot. So when I came to the US, I had to get to Atlantic City. I even had reoccurring dreams about the town, in which a single machine had the potential to change my life. Call me Slot Machine Dream Queen—everyone else in my dreams did.
When I finally arrived in Atlantic City, I had $20 to play with. I hit the slots and, as my dreams predicted, I won and won and won. Within no time, I considered ringing up friends and shouting, Told ya so! An hour later, I was up to $80 and still hadn't lost. I took a brief pause and considered stopping all together. One sip of a gin and tonic later, I changed my mind and jumped back in.
Naturally, I started losing and my small fortune quickly depleted—au revoir! Suddenly, everything started becoming too much. The machine sounds, the half-naked women dancing on the bar, the countless overweight Americans who all seemed to be rubbing their palms together as they fantasized about hitting 777—Jackpot!!! I ran out of the casino to get fresh air.
Outside, on the Boardwalk, it appeared like a mirage: Donald Trump's Taj Mahal. Although ownership changed long ago, his name still appears in bold on the façade. I grabbed Trump's recent issue of Time out of my bag and held it up to my line of vision. The words on the cover echoed how I felt about Atlantic City: "Deal with it," even if I didn't want to anymore.