Porn and Free Sashimi and My Wedding in Las Vegas
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.
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?”
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.
THE SECRET DRINKER’S HANDBOOK: FOLLOW THESE TEN RULES AND BECOME A WORLD-CLASS CLANDESTINE ALCOHOLIC - by Clancy Martin
My happiest days as a secret drinker were in Kansas City, when my youngest daughter was still a baby. She was allergic to breast milk, so I’d take a bottle of soy milk, bundle her in her sling, and we’d walk to the convenience store half a block from my apartment and buy a half-pint of Jack Daniels and a large Diet Dr. Pepper in a styrofoam cup. Then I’d pour out half of the Dr. Pepper in the alley behind the store and refill it with whiskey. Finding these geographic nooks and crannies in a city is much harder than you’d think, until you begin to search for them.
We’d walk together through the streets of my neighborhood. Our route usually took us past the abandoned boarding house where Hemingway had lived when he wrote for the Kansas City Star. My daughter drank her soy milk (she was a two-bottle kid, and so I always brought a second bottle of soy milk in my pocket), and I drank my drink. We’d look at each other under the trees on Rockhill and Hyde Park, grand old decayed Kansas City, past the stone mansions and the brick halfway houses and the Nelson-Atkins Museum and Walter De Maria’s illuminated pond. She’d fall asleep, and then I’d take her back home and put her in bed. That’s how she fell asleep every night, until she was a year and a half.
In winter, I’d bundle her under my jacket, with just her little face peeking out, and sometimes we’d go to a second-story Irish bar on Main Street, and other times to Dave’s Stagecoach Inn—a dive I loved on Westport Road. A secret drinker misses bars. Like the ritual of chopping your coke or heating your heroin, a drink at the bar is very different from any other kind of drink, even if the bartender is too busy to make conversation and no one else wants to chat. One very cold winter night, when the bar was full at Dave’s, a bartender I’d never liked told me: “I can’t serve you with your baby in here, man.”
“You’ve served me with her in here plenty of times before,” I said. “The baby’s not drinking.” At the few bars we frequented, most people liked to see me with my baby. Most drunks are friendly and kind, generous people who appreciate the difficulties of others and like babies.
“You shouldn’t have that baby out in this cold, I can’t serve you.”
“I’m sorry, what did you just say?” I yelled at him. “Did you just tell me how to take care of my baby? How many children do you have?”
I could see he didn’t have kids. I lost my temper. My baby was warmer snuggled up under my heavy winter coat than she would have been at home in bed. “The one thing I can’t bear is people telling me how to raise my children,” I said to a woman standing next to me. She nodded sympathetically.
Later, after I quit drinking, I wanted to go apologize to the guy. But if you’re a drunk, once you start apologizing, it never ends. I don’t care what they say at AA.
Secret drinkers are everywhere. You’re constantly surrounded.
Say you decide to have a drink on your lunch hour or in the quiet afternoon. You see a woman sitting alone in a booth with a glass of white wine and a plate of uninteresting vegetables in front of her. It’s not readily apparent to most people that she’s hiding anything. And that’s the ruse: She knows the general public doesn’t associate white wine with the alcoholic’s drink of choice.
You notice a guy in the liquor store looking nervous at the register, almost as if he were planning to rob the place. He takes his pint of rum but not his receipt—he’s of age, so what’s his problem? He is in fact glancing over his shoulder, but he’s not worried about the cops or you. He’s looking for the people he hopes he won’t see or, more specifically, people he hopes won’t see him. He’s looking for his wife’s friends. For members of his home group at AA. Coworkers. Old lovers, who know he’s supposed to be sober. Students or customers. All the people he lies to—those who think he no longer drinks.
When a secret drinker enters a restaurant, even before he sits down, he takes note of the bartender, the bathroom, and a table with its back to the bar. “That’s where we’d like to sit, please,” he tells the hostess. Ideally, there is a wall or a pole or some other obstruction between his table and the bar. If the bar and the bathroom are far apart, a good secret drinker will suggest a different restaurant. The best restaurants have both the bar and the bathroom completely separated from the dining room, which allows the secret drinker to easily keep pace with his date.
The first rule of secret drinking: Keep your date drinking, too. Only a sober person can spot a drunk.
The secret drinker will go to the bathroom more often than an ordinary person. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told, without a hint of sarcasm, “You have a small bladder.” The smart secret drinker will drink plenty of water and will often order several beverages—coffee, Diet Coke, sparkling water—in order to reinforce the illusion that he is a recovering drunk.
Even when the secret drinker gets stuck in a restaurant where the bar and bathroom are inside the dining area, there are workarounds. About a year ago, I was having dim sum one morning with a date on the Upper West Side in a place where the bar was in plain view and opposite the bathroom. There were no other dim sum restaurants in the neighborhood, and once we were inside, my date wanted to sit beside me in a booth. I had spotted a little basement breakfast place around the corner on the walk over, a long shot but my best hope. As with most restaurants, the bathrooms in the dumpling place were close to the exit. I went to the bathroom, slipped out the back door, and darted into the breakfast place. They didn’t sell liquor but did have wine in little bottles. I asked for three bottles of Merlot—undrinkable stuff, slightly better than cough syrup, really—and paid with cash. I stood on the sidewalk and, with my date’s back to me, gulped them all down. I made two more visits back there before our meal was over. This was despite the fact that I had to come in the front door. I didn’t know how to explain it to my date—who by this time had reason to be suspicious. But luckily, she didn’t notice. If she had, any old lie would’ve probably worked. It was 11 in the morning and the truth was too absurd, even for me.
Rule number two: Always carry cash. Your bank statement is your enemy, and you can’t pay in a hurry with a credit card.
In Seattle, on a date with a different woman and an older friend of hers, I tried the same trick at a seaside restaurant, and they saw me come back in the front door every time. (I’d always wedge the back door open, but it’d rarely stay that way. Kitchen staff go in and out of these doors a lot, and they usually lock automatically. You can knock, and they might let you in the first time, but they won’t repeatedly.) My date’s older, savvier, more skeptical friend, a criminal-defense lawyer from Louisiana, took notice and said: “You go to the bathroom in the back and come back in the front.” She raised an eyebrow. “Are you going next door to drink?”
She liked me, but she had the low-down. I said, “I like to look at the ocean for a minute when I have the chance. I live in Kansas City. It’s a treat for me.”
I don’t think even my date bought that one, but if you control the discourse, you control the truth. Secret drinking is just like any other kind of cheating. You’re never really busted until the evidence is absolutely overwhelming or, fool that you are, you admit the truth.
Rule number three: Deny, deny, deny. If you haven’t learned this one in the course of ordinary life yet, learn it today. Of course you want to tell the truth. Of course she tells you she’ll forgive you if you’ll just admit the truth. And when she tells you that lie—the lie about forgiving you, the lie of absolution with confession—she means it. She doesn’t know it’s a lie. But after you admit the truth, everything changes.
Here’s another example of how to beat the bar-bathroom problem: It was a big night out at Masa in New York. I had eaten at the restaurantbefore, and I knew there was no bar. I couldn’t repeatedly leave the restaurant: It was in a mall, and there was no rear exit. So, it came down to my socks. You can fit as many as three airplane/minibar bottles of liquor into each sock. If you carry a purse, of course, it’s probably much easier. You can use your suit pockets, but that’s risky; there’s probably going to be cuddling in the taxi on the way to the restaurant. On arrival, go to the bathroom and hide the bottles. Usually there’s a shelf, a cabinet, a drop-panel ceiling—something. I’ve hidden regular-size wine bottles in restaurant bathrooms before, but at Masa there was nowhere to hide anything. Those Japanese and their minimalist aesthetic. There wasn’t even a removable top on the toilet tank (bottles will float very happily in there, though you risk someone taking a peek if they interfere with the apparatus or make a noise—I’ve never been entirely comfortable with this method.) So I put mine in the garbage can, tucking them beneath the trash. When I returned to the bathroom I’d always empty the trash into the toilet or my pockets, all but a tissue or two, so that an employee wouldn’t take it and find my bottles.
It was a beautiful evening: My date drank sake at the sushi bar, I drank vodka in the toilet, and she didn’t worry about me getting drunk. We took a bicycle cab from Lincoln Center all the way to our hotel on Gramercy Park, where there were still bottles in the minibar that I could drink and refill with water.
Another piece of advice: Don’t forget your cell phone. This won’t work as well with an intimate acquaintance, but with casual friends or at business lunches or dinners, a cell-phone call is an ideal excuse to leave the table. Step outside to another nearby place. Or, if your destination is a bit more remote, stash a bottle in your glove box or under the seat (it’s awkward if someone notices you opening your trunk in the middle of an imaginary cell-phone call).
On Bathing - Dirty Water Dogs by Clancy Martin and Amie Barrodale
There’s a reason they have those dividers between urinals, these days.
There’s also a reason they now have windows into steam rooms.
Amie took the red-eye from Seattle; I was up at 4 to catch the 6 AM US Airways flight from Kansas City. We met at the baggage terminal at LaGuardia. I was expecting that we would go straight to our hotel and, well.
“Let’s go to Spa Castle,” Amie said. “It’s like five minutes from here.”
“That sounds like fun,” I said.
Amie ignores sarcasm so long as she’s told what she wants to hear. At Spa Castle, a five-story pink building in Queens that does indeed look like a castle—as conceived by a drunk Korean contractor on a very tight budget—there was a line of people, mostly women, waiting to get into the building.
“Let’s go to the hotel,” I said.
“We’re already here.”
The men are divided from the women. One more strike against Spa Castle, I thought. If I am going to have to spend my afternoon—first time I’ve seen my lover in ten days—at a spa, the least they could do is let us hang out together. Inside the men’s room, the signs are clearly displayed: You Must Be Naked To Enter The Spa (Korean characters below). Amie had signed me up for a scrub, and two large muscular handsome young Hispanic attendants addressed me: “You gotta strip down, man. There’s your locker. Take a shower. Then you get your scrub.”
Amie Barrodale and Clancy Martin at the Russian Bathhouse
When I came out of my scrub, Clancy was lying on one of the simple wooden benches that lined the walls surrounding the two plunge pools. It was his first time being professionally bathed, and one thing he had repeatedly expressed hesitation over was the possibility of being bathed by a man. Now he was two-thirds of the way through his platzing treatment. Your skin is brushed, swept, and beaten with bundles of sticks (one birch, one oak), covered with semi-dry leaves. Bits of the leaves fall off as they beat you. The sticks are dipped in a large wooden bucket of eucalyptus water. For a glorious moment the brushing is cool, but as he thrashes you, back and forth, up and down, the bundles become hot. Like concrete in the hot sun. Banya’s sauna is an authentic Russian sauna, meaning it is 200 degrees in the cedar sauna bath. The brushes reach a temperature that is close to scalding. I think for experienced bathers, the brushes do scald. (Clancy had broken blood vessels all over his back and sides the next day. He whined about these.)
Banyas—traditional Russian bathhouses, which have existed for centuries—are popping up all over New York, Miami, and wherever else the new money from Moscow is settling in. Downtown Banya—in Everett, Washington—enjoys a reputation as the best Russian bathhouse in the greater Seattle area. It took us about an hour to get there from my apartment in West Seattle.
Clancy was lying supine on the bench against the wall. He was making intense noises. Of pleasure, it seemed to me. Because he was no longer in the sauna, to be clear. He had survived two beatings. When they do the bottom of your feet, it’s like that grotesque torture scene in Midnight Express. I was surprised, because what he had just gone through seemed, to me, to be much like the descriptions he’d summoned when I told him about bathing. In his mind, it had all sounded like a nightmare.
“I thought they beat you on the feet in prison because the bruises don’t show. But Alex told me it’s where your nerves concentrate,” he said.
Yet here he was, done with round two, about to go in for his third.
He said, “You’re going to love it.”
“You really liked it?” I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic. He looked happy. Or more like a woman who has just given birth.
“I feel like the Buddha,” he said. “The only thing that’s a shame is you didn’t wear a bikini. You’re going to want as much skin exposed as possible.”
I was wearing a modest, navy Speedo. More, I had put over it a pair of skimpy American Apparel boy shorts in red nylon. I was not dressed for a Banya, or even a swim in a pool. I was sort of dressed to play beach volleyball, if I were a shy person, which I am. Exceedingly.
Clancy thought a bit and said, “Maybe you could just wear your bottoms. Really, you’re going to want to have your skin exposed, it doesn’t make sense for him to do it to your swimsuit.”
I thought about it. I am extremely shy, as I said, however, I enjoy putting myself into positions in which a person ought to be shy, because then in some ways at least I feel my demeanor is appropriate. Also, a lot of bathing places—co-ed or single sex—require bathing in the nude, and so I thought his suggestion was sound.
“Will you ask him for me?” I said. “Will you make sure it’s OK?”
Clancy said he would. He said, “Come in with me, so you can see it.”
Alex laid out two towels on the upper tier of the sauna. He put a rolled towel for Clancy’s head. He had his back to us, and I gestured to Clancy, “Ask him.” Clancy nodded. As he was lying on the towel he said to Alex, “When Amie goes, it’s OK, just bottoms?”
Alex nodded. He was wearing a white wool cap with earflaps and a large red star on it. He was heavyset, muscular. A Russian Russian. Shoulders like a bookcase. He could definitely give James Bond a real fight, if necessary. He went outside to fill a bucket of water.
“Are you sure he understood what that means?” I asked.
Clancy said, “Oh yeah.”
“Well what about when I go for the cold plunge.”
“You’re just going to have to be a little European about this,” Clancy said.
He finished his platza, and I went and took off my swimsuit, and put on my robe. The Banya is ordinarily quite crowded, but we had come late on a Monday, and so for a moment, while I stripped out of my suit, it was empty. But coming out of the changing room—in my robe and shorts—I passed two men and a woman. They were my age.
I went to the treatment room, where Clancy was stripped for his scrub. I said, “There are people here. Two of them are men. Are you really sure?”
Clancy is the jealous type and his behavior seemed completely out of character.
“Of course. Don’t be silly.”
Whores I Have Loved - New fiction by Clancy Martin
“Being a Mexican hooker wasn’t the plan I had in mind,” she said from above me, her hair enveloping us both like mosquito netting or a dark silk blanket we had drawn over our heads. Her breath smelled like beer, cocaine, and copper. “But I’ve been working in Mexico for about three years. I was hitchhiking back from Argentina. I guess you could say I was dancing up the coast.” She laughed.
She was from Georgia, and her accent alone made you want to fuck her. A shame, it was lost on her Mexican clientele. We were 50 miles east of Puerto Vallarta in a town that consisted wholly of the whorehouse, three bars, and a nearby maquiladora that made high-end furniture. There were “contemporary Scandinavian” tables and chairs in the bars, and the main dancing hall of the whorehouse, where the women performed their striptease before taking a client, looked like an IKEA but with unmortared white stone walls, dim lighting in red, blue, and green, and five low-hanging disco balls. It was nearly as large as an IKEA, too, and there must have been 300 drunken men in there: a Saturday night. I did not see any other Americans or Europeans. I’d had to tip two bouncers $100 each to acquire this woman before the crowd of clients waving bills in the air and waiting for her after her brief dance onstage. She was one of their best sellers.
“You never say anything,” she said. She liked to talk while having sex, which is unusual in a prostitute. “You just ask questions.”
There are prostitutes who like to joke during sex, which is a bad thing: You haven’t known each another long enough for that.
I came back to see her six nights in a row, and every night I stayed the whole night, which was $300, at the time: cheap by American standards but outrageous in a Mexican brothel that was not for tourists. With beers and blow I left almost $2,500 at that whorehouse. After the second night I didn’t have to tip the bouncers. She asked me to come late, so that she could turn some regular business before I arrived, but I arrived early and I watched her. I had never before—and have never since—observed a woman I am going to sleep with take men—multiple men—to have sex with her before me. It doesn’t have the erotic sparkle you might imagine. Though I am a jealous lover, it did not provoke jealousy. But I did want to kill the sleepy-eyed men as they returned from upstairs and crept or sauntered out the front door or returned to their friends at the table. All but three women in my life have had sex with other men before they had sex with me: Why should it matter that it took place before my eyes, and all in one night? Their friends would laugh, but these men did not join in the laughter like men returning from other women. I understood their tranquillity and satiety; I knew, as their friends did not, that they did not want to be touched by anyone else—not even a happy, drunken slap on the back—for an hour or two. I could not comprehend how the men who left went back to their wives for the night. It wasn’t that you felt soiled. I once listened to a friend scrub himself in a blistering shower for 15 minutes after visiting Peppermint in Bangkok: His red hide as he emerged in his white towel from the steaming bathroom, like Meryl Streep’s back after they scrub her with steel brushes in Silkwood, still makes me rub my eyebrows. The sex was very good, as you would expect, but conventional. It wasn’t the sex, or her body: though her breasts did not quite fit in your hands, and her areolae were more than two inches in diameter, pink as tulips, and her nipples were dimpled. She was widely curved and slender and liked you to hold her ass from beneath with both of your hands. She was not shaven. It surprised me that she didn’t enjoy, and wouldn’t permit, anything rough. She had the curvaceous body of an American peasant.
When I confessed several of my sins to her, lying in bed together, talking and watching the big spiders hunting or hiding in the corners and interstices between the stones, she told me: “The last perfect man I heard of died hangin’ on a cross.”
Clancy Martin is the author of the novel How to Sell, which was chosen as a best book of the year by The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, and Publisher’s Weekly. It is set in a jewelry store in Fort Worth. Martin himself used to be a jeweler, so he knows all the dirty tricks. Due to the book, I learned a ring I wear is not platinum, but white gold — the information was right there stamped inside, but I didn’t know how to look for it, and had been told all my life it was platinum. It’s an heirloom. I am off topic. Martin is very good at writing about sex and drugs. Those are two topics it is pretty easy to mess up. He is also exceptionally good—really, this is very unusual—at writing about what I guess I will call the spiritual life, but those words are wrong. Those words sound kind of safe, and what I’m talking about isn’t safe at all. It is lawless. I really can’t even come close to getting a handle on it, but he does—so you ought to just go and have a look, if you didn’t yet. Here’s the tarot card reading.
VICE: Hi Clancy, it’s Amie. I can do a general reading or a reading about your love life, or a reading about your work.
Clancy Martin: I think it would be more interesting to do a reading about my love life, because my love life is in real disarray at the moment.
OK, do you want to tell me why? If you tell me why, then the cards are kind of logical, so the reading will make more sense.
Yeah, I’ll tell you why my love life is in disarray. I am separated, but not yet divorced from my second wife. I am dating someone right now. I’m in a monogamous relationship, but I’m not sure how steady it is on its feet.
ovelist and memoirist Clancy Martin (please read How to Sell, the novel he released last year with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and “Lisa,” his deeply sad remembrance of his sister in our recent Catastrophes Issue) is a vital member of today’s philosophy community. He is a repeat translator of Nietzsche (Thus Spoke Zarathustra in 2006 and an upcoming edition of Beyond Good and Evil) and he serves as Department of Philosophy chair at the University of Missouri—Kansas City. He’s also authored, coauthored, or edited multiple volumes of philosophy. For this issue, we asked Clancy to take a quick stab at existentialism and what it is, or was, or still is, or should be.
Read the rest at Vice Magazine: I’M WORRIED ABOUT MY ANXIETY - Vice Magazine