Monday, November 19, 2007
Strip Club Redux
Wistful gazes from dirty bus windows have populated my breastless weeks. The Body Shop beckons to me every day – a come-hither finger from an overmakeupped girl with white-trash bangs and a questionable bill of health. I know I shouldn’t, but as days pass like hours of the night, I feel like I should.
It’s moments like these that keep Maury Povich on the air.
So when Jason, a new trainer at the gym, suggests we should celebrate payday with a trip to the titty bar, I’m all for it, even though I have nothing to celebrate because my check is a paltry $393. I can buy an XBox 360 with no game for that much. But I refuse to let that stop me. A night out on a budget is still a night out, and I can make a dollar stretch like… well, you know.
Plus I miss Vanessa.
I want to smell her again, to feel her fingertips, nails on my leg, her hot breath on my neck. I want to experience the disorienting, disarming clash of sluttiness and chastity that is her being. Vanessa’s a girl that’s too nasty to respect and too sweet to masturbate to. She’s a ticking timebomb made with a Minnie Mouse clock.
Vanessa is sense candy. Not even Willy Wonka could dream her up.
Patrick, my favorite Swede, is down to go. So is Zach Morris, who at the last minute cancels his plans for a night out with the guys. Two of Jason’s Long Beach friends are also along for the ride. That makes six dicks, twelve balls, and enough testosterone to invent a new hole on the female body. I’m thinking it should go between the shoulder blades.
I get out of work and meet up with everyone at Red Rock, an expensive-ish bar/restaurant that’s designed to not look expensive. It’s one of those generic, universal-appeal places with a loose theme that you can’t exactly pinpoint. Is it a shack or a cabin? Do you order beer or cocktails? Wings or chicken breast?
I drop four dollars on an Amstel Light (with a coupon) and contribute to the banter. Topics range from sex to alcohol to the gym to the Bucket List, a new movie featuring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. There is a giant fucking billboard for it right outside.
“Is it about embracing life in the face of death?” I ask.
“No. It’s about Jack Nicholson not turning down a paycheck,” Zach Morris says. “It’s about Morgan Freeman not being able to say no to a script.”
He orders a carafe of Sangria and splits it with one of Jason’s Long Beach friends. When the waitress isn’t looking, I take a bottle of vodka out of my backpack and make things a little more potent for them.
We talk and goof off some more and I feel bad for Jason’s friends because we keep going back to the gym and they can’t really penetrate the conversation. They just sit at the end of the table looking quiet and bored. I know what this is like all too well, having been out with college friends and their boys from high school. You’re forced to sit there and wait for the “remember when…” conversations to segue into universal topics like anal sex. Even then, the conversation always drifts back to someone you don’t know having anal sex. Anal sex can never be talked about in general when you have three or more people who share a common background. It always has to get specific, and that shuts people out. So I make an effort to ask Jason’s friends questions and include them in the conversation and it makes me feel like a considerate person – a feeling I don’t get often.
The bill comes. One-fiftysomething. It makes me glad I didn’t order anything more than a beer.
We leave Red Rock and trudge up Sunset, past all the sidewalk bistros where the made-of-money Middle Easterners eat and smoke and admire their curbside-valeted Rolls Royces and Aston Martins. Zach Morris says that one of his personal training clients calls this the Gaza Strip. I get jealous I didn’t come up with that one on my own.
I think there should be a reality show called “Are you Smarter than an Asshole Born Into Money?” Contestants would have to match wits with the likes of Paris Hilton, Brody Jenner, and random Persian kids snatched up from their Saturday afternoon Beverly Center shopping. The winner gets to drop a nuclear bomb on Newport Beach.
Jason wants something to mix his vodka with so we stop off in Pink Dot. Pink Dot is basically an expensive 7-11, except I don’t think it’s run by Indians, which is funny to me because I thought the name came from what the owner’s wife wears on her forehead. The dickhead behind the counter is reading a junky airport paperback and scratching his head like he can’t understand why so-and-so would set so-and-so up. He’s in his thirties and is, as far as I can tell, Palestinian. Now, I don’t have any animosity towards this guy. In fact I remember him from July when Kimberly came to visit. I felt bad for him because a couple of rapper-looking, partyboy customers with BET-thick white girls were giving him shit for being rude and inconsiderate. That must suck, I thought, to have to put up with all the drunken money that stumbles in looking for cigarettes and grossly overpriced alcohol. What a shit job.
“What’s up, man?” I ask as Jason sets his bottle of Squirt on the counter.
The dickhead doesn’t say anything.
“I remember you from July. People were giving you shit.”
“Thas funny. I don’ remember you.”
“No, I know. I was just saying…”
“So, do movie stars ever come in here?”
“That depends. Maybe my definition of movie star is different from your definition. Whas your definition?”
“I don’t know. Someone who’s on—“
“I don’t care whas your definition.”
I’m taken aback. I kind of just laugh because I don’t know what to say. Convenience stores are typically run by smiling minorities with a healthy fear of deportation. I expected an easy conversation with many sentences ending in “my friend”. Instead I get the “you sided with the Jews” abrasiveness.
I wish there was a penny tray so I could steal it away from him.
Jason and I walk down an alley behind the store so we can pour him some vodka. To the untrained eye it looks like we’re going to blow each other, but this is West Hollywood so that would be strangely appropriate. He gets nervous when we see valet employees taking a break from their car-parking duties, but I remind him that homeless people openly drink on the streets, buses, and in Jack in the Box and he’s no longer worried.
We step back out onto Sunset and continue our trek to the Body Shop. Rob Van Dam of the WWF (it will never be the WWE) charges by us with a determined, going-to-get-some-pussy-or-kick-some-ass look on his face and I shout “Rob Van Dam!” He looks at me and gives a little nod, his expression unchanging. I hope he goes into Pink Dot and strikes up a conversation with the clerk. Chair to the head. Jews retain the title.
It’s a little before eleven by the time we arrive at the Body Shop. Only three of us have VIP cards, which have nothing to do with how important we are and everything to do with us saving ten dollars. Jason and his friends shell out $20 apiece to get in and I try to remember the number for the rape hotline so I can report this place.
The bouncer, a raccoon-eyed goatee with a weight problem, tells me he has to check my backpack to make sure there’s no alcohol inside. This is one of those moments that you know is coming but that you hope isn’t. Like a guilty Meth addict on COPS, I stammer and matter-of-factly tell him that I am indeed holding and try to blow it off like it’s nothing.
“You know what? I do happen to have a bottle of alcohol in my backpack, but it’s from earlier. So yeah…”
The bouncer confiscates the vodka and lets me in.
It’s dead inside. Well, not dead, but the rowdy Mexicans of yestermonth are nowhere to be seen. All of the noise and excitement is coming from a group of dorky, bespectacled twentysomethings who are probably celebrating a birthday or their World of Warcraft guild ranking. You never realize how dedicated a stripper is to her craft until you see her straddling a Phnom Penh native in a Dragonball Z button-up.
If you really want to help Sudan, fuck a few of the refugees who have made their way stateside. These guys are not getting laid and they should be. They’re nice, genuine, hardworking people and they deserve sex like those of us who aren’t opaque. Donate your mouth and/or vagina. It’s for a good cause.
We grab some chairs and take a seat at a high table. Patrick’s stripper from last time comes over and immediately attaches herself to Zach Morris.
“Want a dance?”
ZM isn’t interested. I point to Patrick and ask the stripper if she remembers him. She looks confused and says yes. I remind her that she gave him a lap dance and Zach Morris goes from diamond to dog shit in less than a second. The stripper latches onto Patrick, but it’s too late. When it comes to a man’s money, you can’t make him feel anything less than wanted. Hopping from one wallet to the next won’t earn you a dime.
The stripper leaves with her tits and nothing else.
Our waitress, a skinny brown-haired girl who should be working at American Eagle, comes by and engages us in some less-than-stimulating banter while she takes our drink orders. I notice a scrap of paper on her tray that says “I love tips”. There is no exclamation point, which leads me to believe that she probably just likes tips. I ask her when she’s getting on stage and she gets this insulted look on her face. Zach Morris makes a valid point once she leaves:
“I love how strip club waitresses think that they’re above the dancers.”
Bingo. Being a waitress in an all-nude bar is like going to a Klan rally and not saying “nigger”. You’re there, you might as well do it.
Which leads me to this:
Of all the places you can wait, why the fuck would you choose an all-nude strip club that DOESN’T SERVE OR ALLOW ALCOHOL? There’s nothing to numb the awareness that you aren’t showing your tits. If two homeless people are on the street – one with a squeegee and one without – who’s going to get the change?
Drinks come and Patrick and I move up to the mostly-empty stage on the right with a grab bag of poker-faced no-pussy-getters. They seem to derive no joy from the bouncing baby heads on the stripper’s chest. Not one smile. They just slide the occasional dollar forward like a pissed-off box-office drone who should’ve had his cigarette break fifteen minutes ago. Meanwhile, the Level 60 Paladins at the left stage go apeshit. I catch our stripper glancing over. That’s where she wants to be.
She performs an uninspired pole-twirl and I start to clap. Enthusiastic, first-down claps.
She is my favorite team and I am her home field advantage. I’m determined to dump an icy cooler of life onto this side of the room. We will not lose to the Level 60 Paladins and their virginity-and-Mountain Dew-fueled war cries. We will send them back to their cartoon tits and comic books.
Fuck them other niggas ‘cause I ride for my niggas.
Within minutes, the crowd is showing signs of life and the stripper is eyeing a comeback. She’s in the game again, playing dirty, spreading her legs for a guy a in a leather jacket. I pound the bar and whoop.
“Yeah! There you go!”
The guy smiles and throws her a dollar. I toss one out too. Pretty soon Zach Morris, Jason, and his friends have joined us and we’re all whooping it up and feeding off each other’s energy. The Paladins fall silent.
This game is ours. For now, at least.
A Latina slinks out to a Marilyn Manson song. I strongly believe that, unless they are black, strippers should not be allowed to dance to anything other than Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails. Reptilian writhing and industrial rock go together like marines and middle-schoolers.
The Latina is el mediocrity. She’s not good enough to work the pole and she’s not pretty enough to get by on her looks. She’s forced to use her sluttiness to get the dollars falling. So she grinds and she undulates. I picture a gerbil inside of her doing the Soulja Boy.
And then she looks at me. Crawls over. Spreads her legs. I’m face to face with her taco. She takes my glasses off and rubs them against her clit. Hands them back to me.
“I cleaned them for you,” she says.
Everyone whoops and hollers. I have a huge smile on my face. Ear to ear. There’s fog on my lenses. I don’t wipe them off. I’ll call myself Pussy Glasses, I think. It isn’t until the stripper crawls away that I catch a whiff of tuna. It’s light and spicy – more sushi than chunk light – and it hangs in the air like Michael Jordan. It keeps me from smelling my glasses, which is something I really wanted to do. Still, I stand up and float two dollars down onto the stage. I call this “making it drizzle”.
I dub myself Fish Glasses. No one else thinks this is as clever as I do.
More strippers come out. I notice that all of them have clean assholes. Bleach? Bidet? I’m not sure. Maybe strippers are just phenomenal ass-wipers. Toilet paper companies should be signing them to endorsement deals. Fuck babies on clouds – I’m buying the stuff with Sindee on the package.
One stripper has nipples that look like a lunch lady’s neck moles. I tip her on principle.
A cute blonde stripper scissors her calves behind Patrick’s head and slams his face into her ass. Again and again and again. It reminds me of a submission hold or finishing move in Mortal Kombat.
Jason buys a forty dollar, hands-on lap dance from a stripper named Mandy and develops a crush over the course of a song – something I know all too well. She tells him that Mandy isn’t her real stripper name. Another girl took hers for the night and she had to come up with something else. According to my friend Alex, a stripper in DC, this is incredibly poor etiquette.
But it gets me thinking. If a stripper isn’t going to use her real name, then why should I use mine?
“What’s your name, sweetie?”
My go-to alias in college was Patrick Bateman, but I don’t want there to be two Patricks so I opt for my dad’s name instead. For someone who considers himself creative, this is a very uncreative moment.
I see Vanessa.
Schoolgirl smile and lop-sided pigtails – even more beautiful than I remember. She’s making the rounds like a beauty queen at a nursing home, flirting with old men and lost causes.
And I get jealous. Just a pang, though. Not I’ll-fucking-kill-anyone-who-looks-at-you jealousy. Not Italian jealousy.
I call out to her:
Either she doesn’t hear me or someone jacked her stripper name. I try again:
This time she looks. But, to my chagrin, there is no registration of memory. Her pretty face doesn’t shift from happy to happier. I get the same vacant, empty smile reserved for anyone with a dick and a dollar. Hell, the dick isn’t even necessary. I just tossed it in because it sounds good.
Vanessa comes over.
“Do you remember me? I came in about six weeks ago. I bought a dance from you.”
“Yeah! It was longer than that.”
My heart flutters. She does remember.
“You’re right. Probably about two months… I wrote about you.”
“What?” she says leaning down. I can smell her vanilla-coconut bodysplash and it makes my chest feel hot on the inside.
“I said I wrote about you.”
“You did?” She seems genuinely excited. “Where?”
“Uh… in an article. It was for a magazine.”
“A big one. But it didn’t get published.”
Lying to a stripper I have a crush on. I don’t think it gets any more pathetic than this.
“Aww! That sucks!”
“So are you gonna buy another dance?”
I tell her I probably will but that right now I’m “chilling with my boys”. She smiles and squeezes my shoulder. Then she’s gone.
Two minutes later she’s onstage. She bursts out from behind the curtain like a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred. She’s headed straight for me. Jason and Patrick go wild. I just sit.
For the next minute I'm Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, watching in paralyzed amazement as Vanessa Mena-Suvaris for me. The only thing missing is the rose petals, but that’s okay because I’m not a big flower person.
Things get raunchy when Vanessa rubs her tits in my face. She puts her feet on my shoulders and pulls herself toward me. I get to see her vagina. It’s bald, beautiful, and slightly puffy. It looks like pita bread.
Eight dollars. That’s what I spend on her. An hour of work for a moment of pleasure. Completely worth it.
For the rest of the night I tell soliciting strippers that I can’t buy a dance from them because “I have a crush on Vanessa”. They just walk away, no hassle. I used a similar tactic in college on the Born Agains:
“Do you know Jesus loves you?”
“Do you know how powerful Satan is?”
Zach Morris and Jason’s friends cut out. A stripper with about a foot between her tits rubs them in my face. Then she puts my hands on them. They’re heavy like wet sand.
She gets upset when she sees her tip:
“Three of you and only one dollar?”
I give her another dollar, even though I shouldn’t. After all, she’s the one who initiated the tit-grabbing. You can’t forcibly make someone feel your breasts and demand more money. That’s like charging for free samples.
Another stripper complains about her lack of dollar bills:
“Are you guys tipping?”
“Not for you.”
That’s what I almost say. But I’m not ice cold like that so I use Vanessa as an excuse again. From this moment on, Patrick and I don’t make eye contact with the strippers. We figure that if we don’t look at them we don’t have to tip them.
Jason buys another lap dance from Mandy. I look for Vanessa. Nowhere to be seen. I hope she went home. I don’t want to think about her giving dances to strangers and moustached-Mexicans.
If I was rich, I could see myself putting Vanessa through school, buying her time and company, getting her gifts and nice things while she fucked around behind my back. But that’s okay, because strippers are like mechanics.
You can’t let the good ones go.