11. Wesley Lake Section, Part 2
The Casino Arcade
On their way to or from the village of Ocean Grove, Boardwalk strollers would pass through the Casino's Arcade. They could also enter the Casino Crown through here. Naturally, the carousel music and all the cheery pandemonium from the Crown tumbled in. The Arcade is similar to the one that separates the Paramount Theater and the Convention Hall, only more compact. Its light was even more diffused and glowing. The effect resembled the illumination seen in the cinematography of Vittorio Storaro or in a Merchant-Ivory-like film that depicts a romantic 19th Century location. The radiance was from the hundreds and hundreds of copper-framed windows that form the north and south triangular sides of this reverberating hollow.
Image 1.11.1. Inside the arcade, looking north, in winter.
The Arcade, like the Crown, is a masterpiece of copper-work on the outside, but with an appealingly patchy mixture of red brick and concrete. Columns and the gothic-looking lanterns atop them recall embellishments of the Convention Hall and Paramount Theater. Griffin-like seahorses (sporting halos) decorate with a soaring pinnacled pattern the uppermost angles of the window-filled facades.
Image 2.11.1. Some copper-work on the Arcade Facade. As you can see, I took this photo after the "mildew" set in.
A few stands and shops resided in the arcade; and you could see the whole Bumper Car arena; but primarily it was just a grand place to amble through. It delivered the pure, wide, tranquil joy of simply being in an unusual but friendly place. It was friendly and familiar not only because we grew up with it, but also because it glowed with a European sensibility. For one thing, it always reminded me of a French railway station, a little bit like the one that Claude Monet painted, the "GARE SAINT LAZARE, PARIS." I am convinced that Monet and other artists would have liked to paint the Casino - and several other places in Asbury, particularly around Wesley Lake.
The Casino Arcade was great in winter also, when the beachfront was empty and you alone were strolling through. Whistle, and hear each tone drift slowly to the rafters where seagulls flitted and pigeons nested cooing. Filling the dusky hollow was the low rumble of the ageless Atlantic. Everywhere the Arcade's gentle, familiar scent reminded you of time and your place in it: musty old wood whose sea-salted paint never fully dried, the delicate touch of motor oil from the bumper cars and carousel, perchance a pinch of popcorn, and maybe a smidgen of a jelly apple grandpa ate in '38. Somehow the whole of one's Asbury life - all the years of school, home-life and every sweet season - whispers inside here.
The exterior of the Arcade, in particular, has a beguiling "futuristic" aspect. It is futuristic by way of the past. I mean that it looks like something out of a Flash Gordon movie. The Arcade could have been a 1930s spaceship garage. I can imagine those plump, chrome-trimmed vessels lined up inside like bumper cars. They float through the doors and then rocket straight up on a mission to Pluto.
Image 3.11.1: The sign outside the auditorium is still there.
The Casino Auditorium
The Auditorium forms the east side of the Casino. You entered through the Arcade. I do not remember ever being in there, though my elders tell me that I did attend a few of its events as a child. I think it has been closed for most of my adult life. For some time it was an ice-skating rink. What a perfect place for such an attraction! I have heard that it hosted boxing matches for a while.
Image 4.11.1. Interior of the Casino Auditorium.
The Casino at present
In 1985, the antique figures of the carousel were sold and replaced with new fiberglass ones. Actually, these were still rather attractive. In 1992 the new ones were removed. As I write these words the Casino remains in tremendous decay. Large parts seem past rescuing (though I'm told that the pilings are sound). The auditorium section is rot-gutted and trees grow inside. For safety reasons, the Arcade has been closed for several years now. The Carousel Crown (without the carousel) appears in pretty good condition on the surface. It is occasionally open and has become a skateboarding arena. While I'm sure that the kids have fun there, the place strikes me as dark, makeshift and seedy. Gives me the creeps...
But wait! Update: The skateboarders have gone! Click HERE!
But enough of the unreal present! Let's return to our trance. The summer day is warm and vast and sweet. The carousel sings again; the Arcades are packed with locals and tourists as they pass through on their boardwalking adventure.
Now let's exit the Casino by way of its Crown. You wanna have fun? Well, We're on our way... But first let's just hang around the on the sidewalk for a bit.