wedding

Going to the Reno of Love

I went to Reno a few weeks ago. Nothing much to note. Reno is pretty much always Reno. It ain’t like a box a chocolates. You always know precisely what you’re gonna get.

Although I did find out that you shouldn’t attend a minor league baseball stadium on the final weekend of the season unless you want them to be out of everything. I understand not having all the beers in stock. Don’t want to have half a keg that has to last through to next April. But the mini helmets for the ice cream? Come on, those will be perfectly fine next year.

But I’m not here to talk about minor league baseball or the cockamamie drink-ticket policy that the casinos are starting to implement. Really? You’re going to charge me for a Grey Goose? That’s probably a blog post for another time.

No, for some reason, this trip to Reno reminded me of another trip to Reno many years ago. Before I blogged. Scary to think that time ever happened. I think we used pagers and wore Day-glo parachute pants. And maybe the Challenger ran into the World Trade Center. I’m not sure. The older I get, everything more than a week old just fuses all together into one large morass that is “Youth.”

Although this story involves having a regular bartender, so it was probably after the age of twelve. Let’s hope.

My regular bartender, you see, served happy hour at a bar that had NTN/Buzztime trivia. For those of us who preferred to exercise some brain cells while killing the others. I spent many an afternoon there grading papers, because when a student writes a term paper comparing the military draft to the NFL draft, his teacher just might need a cold one.

The bartender had been in an on-again, off-again relationship with a guy. The relationship tended to be “off” at the times she was pregnant with his child and then “on” when whoever he was banging in his off-time got pregnant. Quality relationship, I assure you.

One time whilst not pregnant, she realized he was a flight risk lifelong catch, and decided that if she liked it, she ought to put a ring on it. Like, right quick! Because no better person to enter into a legally-binding life-partnership with than someone who might or might not be around next week.

She asked some of us regulars what we were doing that Sunday because, if we wanted, we could come to their wedding in Reno. It turns out I wasn’t doing anything. Heck, my bartender wasn’t going to be working, so there was little chance of scoring free drinks in town. Is there anywhere else I might find some free drinks? Reno, you say? Well, that sounds like some synergy right there!

As I said, this was a long time ago, when Nevada casinos offered free drinks. These days, they require $100 worth of bets and a Maruader’s-Map-style oath solemnly swearing that there is more money where that came from as long as they continue to ply me with alcohol. And that I won’t lose that money in any of their competitors’ establishments. And, naturally, that I am up to no good.

When Sunday rolled around, we loaded up in a couple of cars and caravaned to the most romantic place on Earth. Sorry, I meant the most romantic spot in Nevada. Make that northwestern Nevada. Not counting the Tahoe vicinity. Or maybe Burning Man. Or, I don’t know, the Mustang Ranch?

You know what? I’ll just say it. Reno’s a shithole. And thank God for that, because if it were a place people might want to go, I wouldn’t be able to find $5 tables anymore.

We stopped off at Boomtown, the first casino you come to along I-80.

Boomtown’s super classy. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s similar to Primm along I-15, being the stateline between California and Nevada, ie the first place you can gamble en route to your gambling destination. Except that, whereas Primm has three or four casinos, Boomtown only has one. Primm also has roller coasters. And the Bonnie and Clyde death car. And shows. Boomtown has none of those.

Now that I think about it, Boomrown’s nothing like Primm. Primm is still about an hour away from Vegas, so maybe you need to take a leak or you’re not going to make it to The Strip in enough time to bet on the Super Bowl coin flip. But Boomtown’s only about five miles from Reno. There’s no viable reason to stop there on the way into Reno. There’s reason to stop there on the way out, because you can pay Nevada prices for gas instead of California prices for your drive back. But on the way there, it only serves people with poor planning abilities or no impulse control. Kinda like a couple deciding on a whim that they should get married this weekend.

I don’t remember why we stopped. Gas? Smokes? Regardless, they got in a fight about something. Not sure what. Gas? Smokes? Anyway, we all decided to hit the buffet here on the way back to commemorate the occasion, and it was onward to the drive-thru chapel.

Except it wasn’t a drive-thru. That’s the fancy Vegas shit. These Reno rat-bastards made us get out of the car to negotiate the ceremony details! They haggled over prices and pictures and, I don’t know, whether the deluxe marriage package comes with large fries or if they have to be ordered separately. I didn’t inquire about the primae noctis add-on.

Although to be fair, I don’t know all of the privies of the negotiation because I was stuck outside watching the five kids they share via various previous relationships and what George Washington referred to as “foreign entanglements.”

Also, I might’ve been a bit twitchy, because I have a general rule about being outside in Reno. And the general rule is: under no circumstances should one ever be outside in Reno.

If you’ve never been to Reno, I’ll paint you a picture. Pull up a mental picture of Las Vegas. Now take away all the fountains and Sphinxes. And rides and shows. And attractive people. And any building built after 1980. You can keep the weather, though. Oh, and maybe ass a little dilapidated infrastructure and a few homeless people passed out on the sidewalk. Now you’ve got Reno.

Oh wait, did I say the weather is the same as Vegas? I only meant in the summer. The winter weather is way worse in Reno.

But that’s all on the outside. Inside, they have these wonderful, climate-controlled resorts with neon and free alcohol.  There’s a reason three of the Reno casinos decided their best bet was to combine into one three-block long structure so that people can move from one to the other without breathing legitimate air.

But whatever, Bartender, for you I’ll travel all the way to my Mecca, able to see the Great Mosque, my religious fervor gambling addiction quivering in my bones. Ignore the Silver Legacy! I’m here to celebrate a friend’s most blessed day, a day she’s been looking forward to since at least last Thursday. So I’ll suck it up and get ready to throw some rice or confetti or… wait, was somebody supposed to bring the rice?

Although it doesn’t matter, because here come Bride and Groom and, oh no, they don’t look too terribly happy. Did someone forget the Smokes? Gas?

“I fucking told you,” Bride was saying.

Groom was mumbling something or other.

“They won’t marry us unless we get a marriage license.”

Wait, what? This is Nevada, home of the quickie wedding. Don’t they issue the marriage certificate AT the wedding facility? All you should have to do is prove your identity as an adult and sign on the dotted…

Wait, what’s that? Groom didn’t bring his ID? Was that his super secret way of avoiding this date with destiny? If I “accidentally”  leave my driver’s license at home, I’ll escape scot free! 

Except Bride said she told him this would happen. Clearly she knew he didn’t bring proper identification to his own wedding. I would be intrigued if I could get over my sweating scrotum and quivering gambling glands.

Awe, what the hell. Inquiring minds want to know.

Turns out Groom didn’t have his driver’s license with him because he was no longer in possession of said license. It’s a temporary thing. He’s supposed to get it back soon.

Why was Groom temporarily identification-less? Had he perhaps left it at a bar the night before? Maybe it went through the laundry in his gym shorts. Or the cops took it away. Do cops take your ID away? I always assumed that, if the courts suspend your license, you still get the card back. In case you need to get married in Reno or something.

No, it turns out Groom had recently been involved in a car crash. And, as a dutiful driver, he got out of the car and exchanged information with the other driver.

By literally giving his driver’s license to the dude.

I’m going to let that one sink in for a bit. I think I went into a daze when I heard it.

Look, I know I have a tendency to get a little bit snooty in my middle-class upbringing. I understand that other people’s experiences and worldviews can’t always match my own and maybe some people are raised to think that “giving the other driver your information” means something different than I think it does.

Then again, I’ve been in a fair number of accidents in my life, and was capable of jotting down the other driver’s license number and insurance info perfectly fine, even in the times before cell phones could immediately take pictures of that information. And never once have I offered to give away my primary form of identification. Nor have I asked for said in return. Nor has anyone I’ve ever gotten into an accident with offered their identification nor requested possession of my identification, except for the temporary purpose of copying down the information.

Taking the other person’s identification is indicative of human trafficking, not a minor rear-ender.

Who the hell gets in an accident and immediately says, “Hey, here’s my driver’s license. You can send it back to me whenever you’re ready. Want me to buy you a stamp?”

Well, maybe a guy who is trying to avoid hitchin’ his old lady that weekend.

Now you might think that, a time when one of the two signatories to a legal contract isn’t able to prove their identity isn’t the best time to plan a last minute trip to said document signing, but whatever. Who can argue with True Love?

Regardless, I guess this trip to Reno is wasted. Whatever shall we do? And I’m only asking because the glistening dome of the Silver Legacy is just a few blocks away and it may or may not be speaking through my subconscious, begging me to come visit. She’s letting me know in no uncertain terms that she knows I’m in her neighborhood and that I better not be thinking about turning tail and skipping town before giving her a little laugh and a tickle. I’m just sayin’, y’all, ain’t no scorned lover like a scorned lover with more money than the Pope and more secret recording devices than… the Pope. The Silver Legacy knows what I’m doing all day, every day, and most of the time, she approves. But some of the time…

Do we have to caravan back together if they didn’t even tie the knot? I know they were talking about a celebratory buffet at Boomtown, but that’s only if there’s something to celebrate, right? Do we still need to go to the buffet at Boomtown if we’re just calling it lunch?

But wait, Bride has a plan. Of course she has a plan, because she was just telling Groom that she told him this would happen. So she’s prepared. Not prepared enough to, like, pick a different date for the wedding. Or a new fiance. But she’s prepared.

Groom brought other forms of identification. Nothing official, mind you. Not a social security card. Not a military i.d. Groom’s never been in the military, so that would be tough. But I’m guessing he’s been arrested before. Would a mug shot would count as an official government document?

He brought mail from home. Um, okay. I know it’s often used as proof of residency, but that’s not really what they’re going for here. They don’t need to prove that Joe Schmoe lives at 123 Main Street, but rather, WHO IS Joe Schmoe.

He also brought his work i.d. Good news is it has picture of him. Bad news is it’s not terribly official. I mean, the liquor store that you’re rent-a-copping at might be comforted by the fact that ABC Security is capable of color printing a badge, but if you give me a five-minute crash course in Photoshop and point me toward a Kinko’s, I could get a homeless guy standing in for Groom in this ceremony.

So this is why Weddings n’ Chips isn’t willing to marry these two. They have to prove that the state of Nevada will issue them a marriage license. They can go to the Superior Court and see if someone more official than an Elvis impersonator will sign off on the Crayola stick figure that their 4-year old wrote “Daddy” under.

Just kidding. There are no Elvis impersonators in Reno. Way too upbeat. If Reno had any impersonators, it’d probably be Phil Collins. Or Falco.

“I don’t know how the hell we’re supposed to find City Hall,” Bride says.

At this point, one of the guys I drove up with, one of the other lushes who not only has a regular, daytime bartender, but who has a regular, daytime bartender who saw fit to invite him to her drive-thru Falco wedding, looks into the Reno skyline and says, “Um, maybe it’s that square building with the American flag that says ‘RENO’ across the top?”

Well spotted, Dude. So much for lushes not having great observational skills. I might’ve noticed that giant building if it hadn’t been in the vicinity of casinos. His vice is not currently in sight, so maybe it’s easier to focus on minor details like thirty-story square buildings with flags on top. My vice is beckoning me, telling me to ignore those other buildings. Those other buildings are skanks who don’t understand what I really need.

So Bride and Groom are heading to the government building on a Sunday to see if they’ll accept Groom’s t-shirt tag as formal identification. Who knows how long that’s going to take? Whatever shall the rest of us do whilst waiting for a rush judgment from the government?

“Saaaaaaay,” I posit. “Would you mind if we maybe… I don’t know… found some air conditioning and maybe a…”

I can’t finish on account of the shakes and the salivations, but my message is clear enough by the single tear forming in the corner of my eye.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” says Bride, whose focused elsewhere right now. “I’ll text you when we find out and, if we can get married, you can meet us-,”

I didn’t hear the rest of what she said, as I was suddenly moving at the speed of light toward yon distant Heaven. The other lushes came with me. It’s vice o’clock!

I dropped the lushes off at the casino bar, despite the fact that it went against every fiber of my being. Don’t they know they can just walk an extra five feet and camp out at a slot machine and then wait fifteen minutes or so for the septuagenarian cocktail waitress to maneuver her walker over in their direction? And then they can get a well drink! Sure, they might’ve lost $50 by the time she gets back with that free drink, but then they can say they didn’t lose $50, they just purchased a $50 watered-down Jack & Coke.

So I sat down at the slot machine and had just ordered my “free” drink when my phone buzzes. It’s my bartender telling us that they made it to the “justice of the peace” and were granted a “marriage license” and were heading back to the “chapel.” She’ll meet us back there.

Well, shit.

I tell my friends to drink up. Those bastards were already been on their second drink. Not that we’d been there for long, but let’s be honest, we all met in a bar and have a regular bartender who invited us to her wedding, so we can down the drinks pretty quick.

I return to my slot machine to wait for my drink. Time slows as I wait for my cocktail. Or “Cock Drink,” as one of my favorite casino servers of all time once referred to them. I think she was about two hours off the boat from Russia. They don’t hire these women for their conversational abilities. They hire them for their ability to bend time like the Matrix and keep our sorry asses glued to our seats donating more capital into the gaping maws of their reverse-ATMs for as long as possible. They are hired to ensure that people continue flocking to the middle of an unlivable desert to visit wonderful nirvanas of neon.

“Chug, chug, chug!” my friends chanted as we headed back to the car. Not that I needed to chug. It was a long way up to the car on level “Luck You Can Find a Spot at All on a Sunday” of the parking structure. Plus, this is Nevada. We can have booze outdoors. Probably in the back seat of a car. Hell, probably while driving, although please don’t take those last two suppositions as legal advice.

Nonetheless, I chugged all the same and we made it to the car and we drove back to the wedding spot and what did we see when we got there?

Our bartender walking out the front door. With her new Husband. Family members cheering on the steps. Throwing hands in the air with illusionary rice.

That’s right. We missed the wedding. The very reason we had gotten up early and driven to this Hellblight place.

Now, I might’ve exaggerated for storytelling purposes about how long it took me to get my drink. I really don’t think we were in the casino for more than about ten minutes before we got the text. And we busted our ass to the car and were outbound within five minutes of that. And we told her we were on our way.

But here we were, having completely missed the 60-second wedding we were here to watch.

The good news was that Bride wasn’t pissed. Heck, this wedding was happening because Groom was a flight risk, and after coming perilously close to driving all the way to Reno to NOT get married, I’m guessing she wanted to get this shit done. Who knows, maybe the government clerk was about to have a change of heart and call Weddings R Us to tell them to rescind the document. When the armored guard bends down in “Groundhog Day,” you take that fucking money and you walk away. Ain’t no time for equivocation.

(That last analogy was going to be about a prisoner during the Storming of the Bastille, but I thought that might be a bit obtuse for a post with tags about Reno and Quickie Weddings.)

The bad news was that the wedding had happened. Meaning we had to celebrate. So it was back to Boomtown for their majestic $7.99 buffet.

At least Boomtown has a casino. Those hour-old mashed potatoes will hold in the chaffing dish a little bit longer. After the shit-show of this day, I’ve got a hankering to bet it all on double-zero.

For Richer or for, Oh Who are we Kidding?

I recently got a short glimpse at how the other half lives.

Okay, maybe not the other half, since statistically, I don’t know which 50-percentile of wage earners I fall in. So maybe I just saw how the other 1% live.

My cousin got married last weekend. This particular cousin lives on the other side of the train tracks. Or the helipad. Or the Illuminati, or whatever the great barrier between Pledbian and Patrician is.

Even if my income wasn’t the perfect picture of American equity, I’d be about as middle class as they come. From my vantage point atop the bell curve, it’s easy to see both sides. My family contributes a handful of members to both extremes. This coming weekend, I could attend a baby shower for my 19-year old cousin, who is having a baby to keep a boyfriend from leaving, twenty years after her mother had her to hold onto a boyfriend. The next wedding I attend is just as likely to feature a banjo and a Vegas drive-thru as it is a limousine.

But not this wedding. Oh, no. This wedding featured a harpist. This wedding had fresh sushi rolls being made on the spot during cocktail hour. This wedding had either booked a band with five different singers or a different band to handle each music genre. I couldn’t tell, because this wedding also featured a damn near 1-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio, such that a patron could not take more than a couple sips of wine before the glass was refilled.

Honestly, Ozzifer, I didn’t even finish one glass of wine…

I should’ve known where things were going while stuck in the half-hour long line for valet parking. The 1920s-era hotel on the outskirts of Beverly Hills didn’t allow self-parking. Maybe I could’ve figured it out when I paid $10 for a beer before the ceremony started. But the sticker shock-inspired PTSD might’ve curtailed my powers of observation after that particular transaction

I also lost a bit of observational prowess when the start of the wedding was delayed a half-hour, presumably to give any TMZ reporters time to make it through the valet parking barricade. The result was all of us black coat-clad gentlemen sweating in the afternoon sun, losing pounds and a bit of consciousness, while we waited. The sleeveless arms of the pale girl sitting next to me were visibly changing hues by the minute. As she approached medium rare, her boyfriend offered her his coat, to which she just shook her head and laughed, “I’d rather burn than melt.”

Dante would have a field day with that one.

After missing the first couple signs, I started to realize this wasn’t the standard McWedding when the groom and his mother arrived. They drove across the well-manicured hotel lawn in a vintage red 1965 Porsche. I guess the DeLorean was unavailable.

You think I’m joking, but I’m not. The father of the bride owns a DeLorean. He once told me that of all of his vintage cars, the DeLorean gets the most reaction from people. Sure, the various Porsches and Ferraris get looks, but when people verify the guy driving them isn’t Jay Leno, their interest wanes. But the DeLorean, even in Beverly Hills or Manhattan Beach, gets people talking to him. They prattle on about the infamous owner, they inquire about the notorious maintenance issues. But they never ask the question they want to, the one he can always see burning a hole on their tongue – “have you gotten that bad boy up to 88?”

After the groom and his mother left the vehicle, the bridal party began. We were on the back lawn of the hotel, which sat on the top of a hill. So there was really no ability for people, the bride included, to come from behind us.  So they walked down the back stairs of the hotel, right in front of us. We had to kind of pretend we hadn’t seen them as they walked past all of the rows to make a U-turn at the back. Then they were at the back of the aisle to do their “official” walk down the aisle, and we all had to “ooh” and “ahh” as if we hadn’t just seen them.

And in proper wedding etiquette, the next grouping of bridesmaid and groomsman could not appear at the staircase leading from the hotel until the previous couple was most of the way down the aisle.

While the sun beat down, this procedure happened seven times. Seven bridesmaids and seven groomsmen. I know this isn’t out of the ordinary, but honestly, this shit has to stop. Who in the hell has fourteen people that they absolutely HAVE to have IN the wedding?

And it wasn’t over at fourteen, because they still had to add all of the ring bearers and flower girls, bringing the total bridal party count to twenty. Yes, math majors, that means after all the adult humans were accounted for, there were still six more members to be added. Three ring bearers and three flower girls.

Since I gave a nod to the math peeps last round, that was a drop for the English grads. Astute readers will note that I referred to the bridesmaids and groomsmen as both adult and human. Why? Because the first descriptor only distinguished them from four of the six junior members. The last two beings down the aisle were adults, but of the canine variety. The bride owns two little yap dogs – you know, the kind that fit in your purse – and they were included.

Adorable, right? Couldn’t you just totally see Paris Hilton doing that if, y’know, she was still relevant? The girl dog was wearing a little bride’s dress. (I know, it’s so gauche to wear white to a wedding.) I don’t know “who she was wearing.” I honestly wish I could make a play on words here, but the only designer I know is Vera Wang, and I can’t make her name into “bark” or “kibble.”

The boy dog wore a little tuxedo. It should also be noted that he carried the actual rings, because you wouldn’t want to trust that precious cargo to a species that avoids eating its own feces. This also might be the closest California law would allow the bride to get to a How I Met Your Mother-inspired ring bear.

This is important because, as the ceremony and reception continued, it became apparent that she was trying to include everything she had ever heard in any other famous wedding.

The flowers were the same as one of the Kardashian weddings (The thirty-seventh Kardashian wedding, my sources inform me). The bride’s train rivaled the one in the royal wedding. Unfortunately, she had to rely on bridesmaids and hotel staff, instead of Pippa Middleton, to help her around corners. She had to rely on hotel staff and bridesmaids. The choreographed bridal party entrances at the reception were like a YouTube greatest hits compilation. Not sure where the belly dancers escorting the bride and groom into the reception came from – The Amazing Race?

Pretty sure I saw Luca Brasi pacing back and forth practicing what he would say to the Don.

Seriously, though, everything was top notch. The food was absolutely stellar. Even if it was $300 per plate. Over two hundred guests. Where did my math majors go?

My wife estimates the flower cost probably rivaled or exceeded the food in cost. Something about hydrangeas.

The band, as I mentioned before, never missed a beat. How often do you hear a Big Band transition from “Shout” to “All About That Bass?” I cannot count the number of times I thought a DJ was playing the original.

The toasts went on over an hour. The Best Man was the groom’s brother and the Maid of Honor went to school with the bride. I guess if you give a couple of rich kids a microphone, all bets are off. Lots of references to how many kids they should have, because the bridal party must play into wedding clichés, as well.

“Don Corelone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter’s wedding on the day of your daughter’s wedding. And I hope that their first child be a masculine child.”

The Money Dance was renamed the Father-Daughter Dance. I kid, of course. There was no money dance because the bride couldn’t get her Square App to sync up for American Express Black. So her father just came as the band played “Hey, Big Spender.”

I joke, I joke.

Of course, when the count of individual items that cost more than your own entire wedding start hitting double digits, it’s time to skedaddle. And it didn’t matter how much money I saved on the free booze, it wouldn’t be enough to afford Beverly Hills Uber rates.

Plus, we had to beat the long line at the valet.