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      Porn and Free Sashimi and My Wedding in Las Vegas

      January 28, 2013

      By Amie Martin

      First we got our wedding out of the way. The AVN convention was in town and we were on the lookout for porn stars. We’d checked into the hotel at noon, eaten the sorry brunch, and now we took a cab to the Las Vegas Weddings Bureau. It was 30 minutes from the hotel. We each filled out a one-sided form. A sign above the forms said they would not marry people who were “overly intoxicated.” Three clerks were operating at five windows, and two other couples were getting married.  We went to the open window and showed our IDs.

      “Your name is Clancy W. William Martin?” the woman behind the counter said.

      “It’s William,” Clancy said, and I added, “They made a mistake on the ID.”

      “Do you have another form of ID?”

      “My name is Clancy W. William Martin,” Clancy said.

      The woman rolled her eyes and typed it in. She read my form. “Your father’s legal name is Mike?” she asked.

      I shrugged and nodded.

      “Not Michael?”

      I shook my head. She typed.

      “Have you been married before?” she asked, and I told her no.

      “Then where’s Barrodale come from?”

      “It was my mother’s first husband. She and my father weren’t married.”

      She typed it in and gave us our license. We’d already been married in India, in a ceremony that I thought was beautiful and perfect for me, because it was simple. We didn’t have vows or any of that nonsense. But to make the wedding legal, we needed to go through this process, so we went to the chapel of the third tout to approach us on the street outside the Weddings Bureau. He offered us a $60 package that included a limo ride back to the hotel. That cut $30 off the price. “Sold,” Clancy said.

      The chapel was small and grimy. A Hispanic couple was being married before us. The man used a walker and the woman wore a traditional white wedding dress. They had about 30 guests. One of them turned to us and said, “They wanted to elope, but we found out about it. We just surprised them.”

      We said those traditional vows and went back to the casino. By this time, Las Vegas was having an effect on me. I’m a grifter by nature, and I was going comp crazy. When I was younger this part of myself was expressed through stealing. I went to school at Barnard, where I never paid for a single course book or meal. Once, when my luck started to run out, I was leaving Whole Foods with food piled in my arms above my head (I used “The Purloined Letter” method) when the siren went off. I stopped, resigned to the inevitable, and turned to face the cashier. Bored, she waved me through, saying, “It always does that.”

      So, what I mean is that on the day of our so-called wedding—because it was not our wedding, it was the formalities—I was dedicated to securing comps. We intend to have a reception for friends in about a year, when I am out of grad school and we live in one place, but I felt we’d had two beautiful weddings—one in a thousand-year-old Shiva temple on the Ganges and one in the Himalayas—and so it seemed to me like it was comp time. While we waited for the couple before us to complete their wedding, I emailed press departments at the casinos, introduced myself as a VICE writer, and asked for free things.

      Clancy asked, “Roupus, what are you doing?”

      “Comps.”

      He was resigned.

      It was 4 PM when we got back to the hotel. Two heavily made-up blonds with tight ponytails and bodies were standing in the valet line. I nudged Clancy and whispered, “Porn stars.” At 5 PM, I got an email from the press director at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. She offered the buffet and drinks at their bar, the Chandelier. I had insanely told her we were in town getting married, hoping for sympathy.

      We walked up the strip to the Cosmopolitan. It feels like a boutique hotel filled with Las Vegas air (no air) done in the style of a casino property (it’s way too big). We didn’t have trouble finding the bar because it occupies three floors. It does not have walls, but is partitioned by three stories of strung crystal. The effect from the outside is that of a chandelier, and from the inside, for a moment, it is like being inside one. Then you start to say things like, “They should have hung more crystal.” It’s the Vegas mindset: more, more, more.

      We entered on level two. Our table was on level 1.5. The people there were around our age and they were dressed pretty well. It was the first time since we’d gotten to Las Vegas that we were around people who seemed normal. Later I would meet a few more in the elevators of the MGM, but at that moment it was new, and I thought, “Maybe this is OK.”

      We were led down to 1.5. It was furnished differently, with couches like the ones you find in airports, and the crowd was like Swingers-style Las Vegas.

      Our waitress explained she’d be bringing us some of their signature cocktails. I leaned forward and said, “Um, we don’t drink. I’m sorry for the trouble.”

      The mixologist was named Nichole Villerot. She had big, Brigette Bardot blond hair, and she was sexy and nervous. I think she was the first outwardly nervous person I’d seen in a long time. I am nervous. I usually hide it in situations where I think it’ll make others uncomfortable, by taking pills. I used to do it by drinking. So it was funny for me to see that a nervous person is a person who is good-hearted, kind, sensitive and—since I’m talking about someone other than me—brave. All she had to do was take a belt or a pill, but she didn’t, and she shook as she talked about the four mocktails she had made up for us, on the fly.

      One was a lowball glass with a spherical piece of ice the size of a baseball in it. The icecube was cherry-wood smoked and did not reach the glass’s bottom. It was big enough it sat halfway inside, propped by the glass’s edges. She dashed the ice cube with Aztec chocolate bitters and poured a Mexican Coke over it. The second cocktail was a Thai drink inspired by her favorite soup, which she’d had when she lived in Thailand for six months as a kid. It was soda with kefir lime leaves, coconut milk, lemongrass, and chili syrup. The coup de grace was the Verbana. It was a bright, gingery drink with two Verbana leaves balanced across the rim. On the leaves were two yellow berries. Nicole told us they were Szechuan Buttons. They looked like chamomile buds. She told us to each eat one, and then we’d see. In Vegas, you want a drink that makes your tongue tingle and foam.

      The buffet at the Wicked Spoon is listed on a lot of top tens. It’s pricey but has small portions served in little skillets and fancy ingredients like bone marrow. I had heard about bone marrow, because I have a handful of extraordinarily wealthy friends who went through a big bone marrow craze about a decade ago. I had always wanted to try it. But it wasn’t any good. It wasn’t bad either. The kale salad was very good. Probably all the food in this buffet would have been good, if it had been served in a restaurant. But I was disgusted by the quantity, and by the waste all around me. In a buffet, you’re basically expected to fill a plate, peck at it, have the waiter take it away and fill another. One small piece of this bone marrow served as a part of a five-course meal might have been delicious, but rows and rows of bones full of gray pudding of varying degrees and age—while very Las Vegas—is not my idea of fun. But maybe I’m a crank. Looking around, I saw people so happy.

      My grandfather—a friend of Earl Long’s, a politician, and a self-made-man who made millions by building chemical plants and oil refineries in Louisiana—loved Las Vegas. He also one Christmas gave me 30 Cabbage Patch dolls, when it was impossible to find one. I felt then like I felt at the buffet: like there is no happiness to be found in things. Don’t get me wrong. Take me to New York, and I want the shoes, and the white wine, and all of it. But part of the reason I want it in New York is I can’t really have it. In Las Vegas you can have—and you don’t want—everything.

      We walked home. We were staying at the MGM Grand, which is hell on Earth. A roulette table caught my eye. Clancy got $100 in chips. We bet, were up, were down, then were at $100 again and we said, “Let’s walk away.”

      The next morning, we went down for Starbucks and lost our $100 at roulette. We’re not rich people, and we’re not thick-skinned people. We felt and looked like Masaccio’s Adam and Eve. We got lost in the winding casino, walking in circles, trying to get out on the strip to get a cheap lunch. 

      Another comp came through—spa treatments at Hard Rock Hotel. Unexpectedly, their spa is listed among the best bathhouses in the world. It is also a porn star favorite. The Roman bath (the big indoor swimming pool) had two swimming around in it when we walked in, and in the ladies dressing room, I saw a third. Unlike the MGM porn stars, these were of the newer Sasha Grey variety.

      We got the Rainforest Vichy Massage. Vichy means the thing that has eight showerheads and washes you. The scrub was good, but it had nothing on the scrub I had months earlier at Spa Castle. The attendants at upscale spas go to too much trouble to cover the fact you are naked. They spend ten of your 50 minutes arranging towels to cover your privates. I prefer the attitude at Spa Castle: Get naked beside four other naked women, shut up, and do what I say. Also, Spa Castle uses the best exfoliant: soap and an acetate mitt.

      Clancy and I met in the Roman bath. It was empty. It was nice and we swam around. I had expected Hard Rock Hotel to be like Hard Rock Café, but it’s got a minimalist aesthetic and it is peaceful. There is space to move around and fresh air. The crowd is young. It does have a casino, so it’s not one of those Vegas hotels with no Vegas, but it’s a fun-looking one—what I would call a dangerous one. And yes, in a way, because of the comp I sold my soul for, I have to say all this. But it is also true.

      Clancy wanted some sun, and so we went out onto the deck chairs. We laid in the sun for an hour. It was cold out, though sunny, and so we were alone. After about an hour, I asked Clancy to go to the locker room and get his phone for me.

      “Roups!” he said, perturbed that I was interrupting his peace.

      “If you get the phone for me, I’ll be quiet, and you can get more sun.”

      When he came back, I realized it was too late to email. I got on the phone and cold-called the ten best sushi restaurants in Las Vegas, as identified by UrbanSpoon. We bathed a little more in the Turkish bath. A porn star got in, and we got to talking with her. I told her about my comp problem, and she mentioned Sushi Roku.

      “I wrote them,” I said.

      “A group of us is going over there tonight,” she said. “Maybe I’ll see you.”

      Clancy and I returned to the locker rooms to clean up and get dressed. When I came out of the women’s side, Clancy said Sushi Roku in Caesar’s Palace had agreed, and we had reservations for two. While Clancy got dressed, I sat on the bed and sent out about 11 queries, trying to get free brunch.

      I’ve had sushi at a lot of places. I’ve had it at the fish market in Tokyo before dawn. I’ve had it at all the big-name places in New York, and a couple little places that I liked, and a lot of mediocre places. I never had it at that one place where it’s on the second floor of that mall, in New York, where it’s supposed to be the best in the whole world. In short, having sushi at one of the best sushi places in Vegas is a bit of a thing. We ate mackerel flown in from Japan that day. We ate duck fois gras wrapped in fish with shaved truffles. We ate a type of salmon that had been slow-cooked over several days, so it was still just this side of cooked (still basically raw) but melted in your mouth like chateaubriand. I told our sushi chef Haruhiko Takeshitathat we liked strange things, and so he used elaborate unusual ingredients for our starters, and then served us seven pieces of the best sushi I have had in my life.

      In the cab home I said, “Hey! Where were the porn stars?”

      “Those two old men at the other end of the sushi counter looked pretty slutty,” Clancy said.

      We came back to the hotel and lost $40 on Roulette. The woman from the Four Seasons had written to politely decline. I wrote back, saying something friendly.

      In the morning, Clancy said, “Oh, hey.”

      He showed me the screen of his iPhone. We were booked at 10:30 AM at the Four Seasons.

      If my account of our legal wedding has a curious sadness, what can I say? I am not really a Las Vegas person. I feel like Las Vegas exacerbates the fundamental problem of being human. It is boring. Las Vegas, with all its lights and flash, extends the promise that it could be otherwise. But of course it can’t. Exhilaration ends. Love ends. And it doesn’t matter how much money or light you throw at the problem. Life is boring. The lights made my old longings keen. It made me want to get drunk or something, and feel exhilarated, however briefly.

      The Four Seasons brunch was a return to the planet earth. The buffet did not occupy an airplane hangar. It didn’t need to. It was actually even tastefully screened from the tables. This would be unnecessary anywhere else, but in Vegas, at the moment, buffet spreads gave me a migraine.

      We were seated. The hostess was pretty and she was sweet. Our waiter gave us space, and he talked to us politely, but like normal people talk. He kept his hands folded when we spoke, and seemed comfortable in his skin, comfortable standing. While these sound—written down—like ordinary qualities, they are not.

      “Let’s order a la carte,” Clancy said. I nodded. I got the market fruit and he got eggs benedict. The fruit was fresh and ripe. The eggs benedict was done properly. It was not done in the Las Vegas style, and while I enjoyed the sushi from the night before a great deal, and know that the chef could have done any style, and had simply done the style we requested, I also enjoyed the simplicity of fruit, and poached eggs on English muffins.

      At the airport, Clancy told me about the time he and his brother came to Vegas each with $5,000 to gamble. They lost it all. They had agreed that neither would go into ATM cards for cash, but at the airport his brother found a dollar in his pocket. He put it in a slot and hit for $7,280.

      I ate two ice cream cones, sat leaned back in a chair with my legs propped on a pole, and said, “I’m sad.”

      -

      Topics: clancy martin, amie martin, weddings, vegas, love, literary, porn, comps

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