In the first of a multi-part series of posts about strip clubs, Ryan Björklund describes a typical weekday at one such establishment.
Womb of the weekday. Where the saddest of men go to buy sexual frustration and a broad variety of female attention. This neon-hued den of iniquity is not merely a collection of fatherless lasses lifting bountiful heaps of American dollars from the pockets of schmucks. No sir, this place is touted by all as the premier place for adult entertainment in Allegheny County.
I sit at the bar, sipping (gulping?) at the appalling mass of ice cubes that once was Jack Daniel’s and Diet Coke. The bartender has disappeared. I’m dividing my attention among my watch, a lopsided baseball game on the television above the stage, and a run-of-the-mill “alluring” feminine meatball who is shimmying before me beneath the aforementioned television in alternating shades of red and purple.
“You just posted up and chillin’? Feelin’ your swagger, baby. You (want) a dance?” she slurs at me while undulating on all fours. She begins to twirl a strand of her dark, chemically-frozen hair the way she saw women in the movies (some movies, anyway) do it. I’m close enough to see where the powdered crow’s feet have begun to drive the youth out of her face. Early to mid-thirties, I’d guess. As her goofily made-up eyes survey me, I begin to notice the half-moon scar between her thorax and pelvis. The result of a knife-fight, or a Caesarean section? I remain uncertain. I am influenced by the alcohol. She is also influenced by the alcohol, assumedly along with plenty of crap television – so much that the front of her brain may as well have already died.
This is not entirely unlike a request for spare change from a homeless person, appealing to the altruistic impulses of passersby. Perhaps I am being gauged by this young woman for my propensity to empathize. Within the damp locker rooms of strip clubs across America, this tactic is commonly referred to as “finding Captain Save-A-Ho”: the process of identifying a moderately wealthy man who feels the pangs of his white-collar remorse to the point that he would offer to undo the awful plight of a career dancer by parting a lump sum of his disposable income. Captain Save-A-Ho, I am not. Nor am I Lieutenant Save-A-Ho. Foregone aspiration.
“Guffaw!” I guffaw. Such an approach suffices to make me uncomfortable. Her lower jaw hangs open. I wonder if that is simply how she breathes, or if it is just a clever ruse to expose the pink and purple flickering of an LED tongue ring in order to beckon my reconsideration?
I explain that I plan to head out soon, and ask if anyone has ever mistaken her for Winnie Cooper.
“Winnie Cooper? Who the fuck is that?”
She did not grasp my Wonder Years reference. Must be younger than I had initially diagnosed. This slightly more scar-bellied and crow’s-footed Winnie Cooper crawls away and engages the patron across from me in a similar conversation while still slowly gyrating her wobbling ass meat, conserving energy by exerting minimal effort. The other patron appears interested. She leans on her haunches and tosses her head back in a quick swoop of hair. She cups her breasts in her hands as she moves like a snake to the enchanted robotic harmonizing of T-Pain vocals. I wonder whether bruised fruit is just as good for you; I wonder if I’ll ever have a daughter.
I am among the younger crowd, the late twenty-somethings who realize they’ve outlived their state college Kappa Beta Epsilon glory days and are beginning to accept their early-onset Willy Loman-hood. For a Thursday, we are plentiful. Most of us will slink home to our Linda Lomans, our shirts and pants coated with stringy, unfamiliar hairs that have been matted with glittery lotion and thinned out by friction. Twenty American dollars a song for an intimate dance in plain view of all patrons. Fifty dollars for a wristband, which gains you access to the private champagne room. One hundred dollars for a bottle of champagne, and then two hundred more dollars for thirty minutes of uninterrupted booty-grinding and frustrated crotch-adjusting.
Surely that chases everyone’s blues away. A haven of depravity where you’re able to get up close and personal with a cast of leading-you-on ladies. Situations raising questions of cleanliness and safety that are quickly dispensed with via drunken rationalizations. The last time I had entered such a dungeon, I was near enough to the stage to wonder if the star of the show had simply shaved her pubic scrape a shade too closely, or had recently endured a blacked-out night that ended with her squirming impatiently in line at the pharmacy. Enough: such vagrant thoughts are of scant importance when seeking solace in the lair of the troubled.
I gargle my ice cubes and look to find a path to the exit that is unobstructed by wanton flesh tradeswomen. On my way to the door, I watch as a flock of sweaty vixens clamor around a bald, gray-bearded man at the ATM.
So begins the weekend.