People Who Parlay

Perhaps the man/woman parlays which follow were just as bald back in New York. There, though, unlike here in Las Vegas, the couples involved are more discreet.

The Mojave Mecca’s transient nature permits the sort of convention flouting which would make proper Easterners recoil. Of course Westerners could claim by their openness they’re unbound by rank hypocrisy.

Having been an Easterner, often an improper one, I still prefer the shadow play, the subtleties, that being aware of the fact rather than being bludgeoned by its advertising. Society is older and established back East. Being intentionally disruptive would be looked down upon; whereas out West flipping what’s regarded as customary elsewhere seems habitual.

Reams have been written about older men/younger women. Plenty of trees in the future will be sacrificed to the topic.

As long as there are nubile women willing, cognizant and smart enough to trade physical charms for creature comforts, there will be a corresponding number of men their senior who’ll happily assume the roles of providers. Certainly the exchange must anger women bent against their sisters who advance themselves in such transactional fashion.

Tut-tutting and tsk-tsking aside, don’t such attitudes contravene all that chatter about free choice? The kind unburdened, no, released from custom? About knowing what’s best for one’s self? What female critics express of their sisters’ arrangements is distaff patriarchy, no?

Better to react benignly. Better to acknowledge that adults who’ve decided upon their own pursuits know what suits them best. Afterwards, find a good perch to watch and enjoy the show.

While Las Vegas restaurants and clubs are doubtlessly hot hives of these negotiated relationships, the clearest, the purest view might occur in athletic clubs. After all, older men showing off the younger women as acquisitions in soigné environments is a tired trope. Senior men displaying their younger treasures in jacked-up, maybe even juiced-up gym atmospheres are either the old lions’ last balls-out roars or manifestations of the concubines’ recognizing the end of these particular give-and-take phases are nigh and trawling their goods past new prospective eyes.

There’s plenty to be said for non-verbal communications.

I noticed this peripherally and was amused by it. Other than that I never expected any aspect of these situations to engage me. Fortunately that thought wasn’t chiseled in stone.

Several years ago at my gym, I met Kenny and Rachel. They fit the aforementioned criteria. Um, no. They improved it, making themselves distinctive.

Back then I’d just settled in Nevada. After relocating, I had no plan. Giving myself a sabbatical from gainful employment, I spent about a year decelerating from a lifetime in New York and divining my future in the Southwest.

Rachel snared my attention first. Through her I got to know Kenny. Later, both did me a good turn.

As usual, Rachel was tall and slender. Probably the reason she held my initial gaze. Had she been curvy, I surely would’ve appreciated those charms, too. While acknowledging them, I seldom let my eyes linger over those dimensions. Apparent athleticism interests me. With her lean musculature and almost ramrod posture further emphasizing the width of her broad shoulders, Rachel nudged me beyond casual male lust.

So much so I cast aside my usual dealbreaker regarding fantasizing about women. Rachel was inked. Not just tatted with a couple of cutsie designs or a tribal stripe, but an arm sleeved from wrist to shoulder blade. As I learned, others decorated her but yoga pants, a t-shirt and the singlet over that covered them.

The epic on Rachel’s arm reminded of the painted saga cascading across Janine Lindemulder’s limbs and carriage.

At first glance no way one would consider Rachel “approachable.” Hazel eyes surveyed the world through a stare bordering on glaring. Had her eyes been livelier Rachel could’ve passed as pleasantly attractive instead of mildly stark.

Her auburn hair clipped in a sporty cut might’ve had some mistaking Rachel’s appearance as ambiguous. Tasked with exercising as she was, no jangly earrings wobbled off her lobes. Instead amber studs spotted them. While her long fingers were ring-free, a thin chain bearing who knew what medal or symbol plunged into the shallow valley of her chest.

My gaze upon her lasted too long. Rachel volleyed my attention. Although doubtlessly during her lifetime many other men – and likely several women had – targeted her with similar singularity, her deflection possibly often served as deterrent. It was easy imaging her response causing sights to veer, snapping the connection.

Strange. As I age I become more brazen. Instead of looking away, faking preoccupation in another direction, I ventured through the apparatuses upon which members earnestly strained. Proximity did not jar her. After introducing myself, I asked a purposely bullshit question.

Did she wear the studs because they matched her eyes? What woman does that? Rachel ought have realized mine a bullshit query. It was meant to elicit a laugh, to lower her defenses, to disarm her. Ice broken, we’d start chatting, see what we were about. Or so I thought.

Instead, I’d stumbled correctly. Rachel had worn those studs to complement her eyes. The process becomes immaterial when the goal is met, no? My “clairvoyance” got her cracking smiles. A few throwaway questions, a few flirty compliments softened Rachel considerably.

Stir me as Rachel did, I hadn’t approached her with the express purpose of swyving. She appeared out of the ordinary. Or at least what passes for common in Las Vegas. The city’s nature does not inspire deep or meaningful contacts. People you meet here, they flare across one’s horizon for a while then vanish. It pains me to confess I have closer associations – relatively – at work than during social hours. That distribution is flat out wrong.

So I’m always on the lookout for individuals with some kind of redemptive spark. On the most facile level, Rachel appeared to have the quality sought.

Having spied Rachel before, I knew when to jibe my schedule with hers in order to become a safe face. I hoped to slip her my card. I’ve already exchanged cards in graveyards and sports books. Gym setting aside, hey, we could’ve been in church, this being Las Vegas what location is too sacrosanct to mine possible opportunity, business or personal?


My projecting took a different route when Kenny showed up by her side. Say this about him, having assessed the scene he didn’t become a possessive cur eager to mark his territory. A younger man, no, a less secure man, would’ve made a big sloppy spectacle of showing Rachel was his.

Nearly five years my senior and an inch or two shorter than us both, Kenny had a full head of short curly gray hair. Cool grandpa cheaters wedged on the bridge of his nose. A genial man, he retained a decent measure of early athleticism. Kenny hadn’t gone to pot. He refused to slump.

His handshake revealed a guy untroubled by other men finding his, uh, protégé attractive. And there was no mistaking Rachel for his daughter, niece, or trainer. She was what she was. Together they were what they were. Little gestures between them confirmed they shared a mercantile-defined axis.

At the point leading up to where I should’ve peeled off, Kenny issued some background that kept me rooted. He was a North Jersey guy, recently retired. Although not kindred, it meant we had commonalities. And bracing as Rachel may have promised, Kenny was somebody with whom I was already aligned.

Getting women in Las Vegas is easy. Just be a straight male with a job and some wherewithal to occasionally entertain. Finding someone in the Big Mayberry capable of chatting beyond near brain-dead banalities, well, that was a fucking gift. I handed Kenny my card.

Kenny asked and I gave a brief description of my toil. My position got his gears spinning, but he didn’t want to get ahead of himself. We needed to circle each other first and ascertain then certify a few facts before getting comfortable.

Ours wasn’t a “sit down” so much as a schmooze. Nothing important was imparted. What counted was how we presented ourselves. I passed his muster because before he and Rachel went their way and I mine, Kenny said he wanted to see me about “something.”

His “something” represented the first time since moving to Sin City I felt frisson. The anticipation felt better than good. It felt normal.

Kenny would contact me. Knowing her man, Rachel turned when he did and they left as a unit. The singlet prevented fully gauging how sharply her lats tapered into her torso.

I found it revelatory and instructive they moved in stereo. I’ve seen several such mismatched couples fairly indicate theirs is purely a commercial liaison. While it’s one thing to suspect the affiliation, seeing the contract so blatantly confirmed awarded the affair tawdriness.

Everyone has a part to play. What’s staged has greater appeal if the actors know and perform their roles properly.

Doesn’t Las Vegas brim with men of a certain age, bearing certain rarefied financial levels seeking just as plentiful penurious, hungry, ambitious, young, pliant women? If not, then I’m hanging in the most opportune hunting grounds around town.

At the time, I gathered Kenny and Rachel had achieved some peaceful summit. Kenny wouldn’t rub her face being astride her. Rachel wouldn’t compel him to press his advantage.

I’ve seen and heard plenty of parleying couples publicly and loudly air out their power inequities. They reach that point where decorum is breached. Both allow all sorts of dirty laundry and closeted skeletons to tumble out at the feet of bystanders. Speaking for us all, we much rather would’ve remained completely ignorant of the belligerents’ faulty body parts or sexually communicable diseases.

Maybe mortification came hours later after the hissing cats calmed, when the curses yelled or shrieked could be appreciated for the damage they saddled upon the speakers. If I must witness humiliation, I prefer seeing it splattering against the truly deserving.

Unlike Kenny and Rachel, the frequently seen principals are mismatched. He’s a schlub, she’s a bitch stalking in wedges. She looms over him, a morose moneybags who not only slumps but has a pot belly.

His companion is thin, sleek, always exactly turned out. Give her this – skinny jeans and leggings never give below the beltline anatomy resemblance to casings overstuffed with sausage meat. The best most expensive tailoring on him never fails looking rumpled.

Without fail she’s half a stride ahead of him. Figuratively and literally. He is that small barren planet orbiting her brilliant star.

When she addresses him it’s painful listening. Contempt and condescension vie in her voice; resignation fills his. Listen close enough. Sharp ears can almost hear her mentally calculating what this instance as arm candy will let her safely mulct from him.

Needless to add she grudges whatever sex occurs between. Enduring these squalid ruts likely lards the bill of her next shopping expedition.

The gratitude he derives from their commercial congress is unequal to the emptiness left behind after his exertions. After the initial excitement of pursuit and acquisition, he’s yet to reap his measure of gratification.

Rachel and Kenny enjoyed a far better balance. Although they occupied unequal planes as master and, um, protégé, Kenny didn’t burden Rachel with his superiority. And in all these transactions the man has the upper hand, no matter how weak he behaves. Doubtlessly some of the lesser guys enjoy terrorizing and inflicting the abrupt possibility of replacing current ideal living mannequins, ah, companions with fresher, more complaisant versions.

Ignorant of their intimate dynamics as I remained, Kenny never struck me as the type having insecurities which would have him cracking whips across Rachel’s back.

Over a stretch, we bumped into each other once or twice a week at the gym. Rachel and I never warmed but she spared me the gelid death-ray stare used on every other grunting, sweating horn dog who gave her crushing once-overs. Newly transplanted Metropolitans, Kenny and I familiarly shot the breeze about our old homes with such ease Nevadans might’ve mistaken us as long-time friends.

Nope. Just two guys who recognized the other had something on the ball. A claim which can be said about few Nevada locals encountered.

A month or two after our introduction, Kenny emailed me. He’d read several Slow Boat Media posts. He complimented my distinct style. Talk about a double-edged sword. Kenny wanted to meet and discuss an idea he couldn’t really explain. That perhaps I could create order from his mental jumble.

Certainly! Never pass up a chance to create opportunity from chaos. Why be “for hire” otherwise?

Then, Kenny lived a stretch of Populuxe Las Vegas bounded by St. Louis and Sahara, Sixth and Eastern. I reside on Downtown’s southern fringe. Since this business I discounted all the nearby dives like the Huntridge Tavern and Fifth Avenue Pub as well as the Eureka Casino and the Champagnes Cafe.

Seriously considering the Parlour Room inside El Cortez before dismissing it, I settled on Atomic Liquors. Who knew? Maybe SJ would appear and be coaxed into regaling us with “being nekkid” in Sin City stories. When I think of all the prints of her ass crack she’s left on dusty hotel and motel furniture throughout Las Vegas …

Besides, as easy a stroll as El Cortez was from my home, Atomic Liquors was closer. So there Kenny met me.

For some unfathomable reason he began the process by clarifying Rachel didn’t live with him. Until Kenny mentioned it I hadn’t given one thought to that facet of their arrangement. Nonetheless the admission mollified him.

Okay. Swell.

Passing on beers and shots, we sipped cocktails. A Scheherazade Kenny wasn’t. Maybe it was nerves. Or embarrassment. Guilt? The mixture in his second rocks glass gradually unknotted his tongue.

To Kenny, Rachel epitomized the modern emancipated woman. In his eyes, connecting with him she’d made a decision best for her and damned anyone finding the circumstances unsavory.

Of course! If a place ever existed for modern-day concubinage, Las Vegas was it.

Naturally aspects of the modern woman disturbed Kenny. Specifically Rachel’s penchant for ink. Having only seen her in gym wear I’d missed the full extent of her body as canvas. While her carnival attraction features at first put Kenny off, these distractions grew less bothersome as they communed perfectly on every other level imaginable.

Nice to see Kenny was besotted. Good to hear a man ramble fearlessly. But her tattoos.

Around the Big Mayberry Kenny had seen plenty of young men whose devotion to skin portraiture equaled or exceeded Rachel’s. Coming of age in an era when only service personnel and carnies underwent artists’ needles, the sight of so much decorative marring simultaneously disgusted and beguiled Kenny.

In my mind, the route Kenny rode demanded a Freudian (or Jungian) more than an American feuilletonist.

He reached into a pants pocket then withdrew his cell phone. His fingers fiddled on the touchscreen. Rachel without a stitch jumped into sight. These would be more than boudoir photographs. That’s when I pulled up my own couch.

Isn’t technology wonderful? In our analog days, Kenny would needed to have used a camera loaded with safety film, gotten prints developed, then lugged a packet over to Atomic Liquors where he’d either display them atop the bar for anyone to see or let me flip through his selection. Wouldn’t either of those inspections have been a touch tacky?

Unsurprisingly this was the second time I’d seen some guy’s steady naked. The other was a “keepsake.”

The first, a doorman at a Strip property had zero compunction exhibiting his girl to male entrants. Hers was a novelty pose. Below her sad smile and tired tits, some genius had affixed a foam sharkhead between her legs. The doorman made lame jokes about “her snapper.”

I didn’t know her, but his girlfriend immediately earned my sympathy.

With Kenny this also could’ve been a pervy situation, a suitor getting off on a stranger’s eyeballing of his slam piece. Yeah. For some guys that’s a thing. But Kenny’s appraisal of my evaluating “the object” seemed genuine. His specs didn’t fog nor did he lovingly wet his lips while his mouth slackened from sexual stupor.

Past the nudity of a toned 20-something hard bodied babe, one whose gaze never averred, the elaborate designs snaking along her skin sparked an idea or several. Especially once I reversed into what Kenny had said about similarly picturesque males.

I wondered what might result if such a pair meshed. A convergence of lively flesh.

A third cocktail let me answer him that I could do something with the shards he’d piled before me. Assemble something along the lines of a hopped up Anaïs Nin – I hoped. A fabulist titled the story Living Art.