Thursday, January 22, 2009

CHAPTER 9

I am in the Hard Rock Hotel. I am at the circle bar and I am trying to order a drink. Either the bar is spinning around like a carousel or my head is. I can’t decide if the difference between the two even matters. There’s some tucked-in bro trying to talk to Leroy. Why is everyone always trying to talk to him? He needs help. Chet is back there somewhere. No he’s not. He’s right next to me and he wants a beer. Should I order him a beer? How do the bartenders not get dizzy spinning around like that? It’s making me sick. Fuck the drinks. I need a bathroom. Chet’s face looks like a beige and blonde pixilated blur. What’s that guy saying to Leroy? I will go over and stand next to him and I will hear everything. I will know everything.--------“Hey bro, you see that girl over there, that brunette girl there sitting there, no not that one, that’s my sister, the other one, yeah, she’s all about you bro, I’ll bring her over to you, no, bro, it’s no problem, she’s all up on you bro, I’ll bring her right to you.”---Leroy sees me or maybe he’s just looking at the place where I’m standing. I move past him thinking nothing except bathroom. He’s following close behind me now. Why is he following me? Should I try to lose him? I twist among the throngs of people. People are everywhere and everybody is moving and everything is its own shape and we are all just different shapes and pieces of things and I see rivers of people flowing into the air more dollar signs instead of bodies flowing into all the spaces of this place and there is nowhere left to move I see signs that say restrooms and I am strong and happy and I can hold my breath a long time and my legs are rubber but they are moving and Leroy is gone and there are long lines of people endless people wearing jeans and steadily flowing into and from the bathroom stalls and I am in and there are people waiting for stalls to be free. Should I be waiting too? Who am I? Why is this fat man smiling at the stall door? Where are the urinals? I can pee standing up. A long row of crowded sinks. Check for feet under the doors. Check for plastic bags too. Could be two men in one. You never know. Is this the line? Is this stall unoccupied? The door is open. The fat man is smiling into whatever he considers to be distance. I push open the door and it is empty and I am the king of the universe. I am the rock of the hard rock hotel. I am Woody Guthrie singing, I am the words he sings, he is singing hard rock hotel, and I am peeing, yes, at long last I am peeing and it is shooting in a white hot stream into the bowl and the water flushes and I am done and everything is back to where it should be. Buckling up my belt is very difficult. These prongs…tines? No! Buckles! They won’t fit into these holes in the leather of my belt. They just keep going between the holes. I need to make new holes in this belt. I need an awl. I need a hammer and a sharp spike and…there, there. No. That’s from…Marnie. Yes. They are in and my pants are on straight and now I will, um, turn around and unhinge this stall door and open it and go…Outside! Now there are trillions of voices intermingling and merging and migrating back to themselves and ricocheting off of mirrors and walls and I can hear someone talking near by—“Hey. Can I go next bro?” “As long as you’re not Jewish.” “I ain’t no heeb.” “OK then.”—I must leave. Anti-Semites abound in this damn place. They’re all over, crawling on the walls, spying on me in the bathroom, Hitler’s little ears, they’ll come storming for me soon. Outside, fast, not even water on my hands, and it’s all malls and crowds and really bad music and as soon as I see Leroy it’s splitsville. Whoever invented this place was a demonic bastard, and an anti-Semite. One more drink at that damn circle bar and that’s it for The Hard Rock Hotel.

It’s crowded but I make my way to the bar and order two Ginger and Jamesons and I feel sticky but the first sip brings my head back to a nice and cool and calm place and I see Leroy and Chet and his two brothers and their wives or girlfriends or whatever they are and I go up to them and I make some kind of awkward introduction and then tell them we all have to get the hell out of this place and they concur and so we all leave. It is a great big gaggle of us now, like about 7 or 8 of us walking through the casino and out into the burning night. We join a long line to wait for a taxi. I’m not sure of what’s happening. I’m sweating. A vague sense of lights flashing brightly in the darkness. The moon is just a yellow sliver, a fingernail clipping thrown on top of an oil slick. Chirruping and shrill voices are ringing at every turn. There is a well-dressed man talking to Leroy and pretty soon I hear him offering all of us a ride in a limo. So we get the hell out of the long line and jump into the back of a limo. It’s air-conditioned very well. Leroy and I light cigarettes and the driver hands us a booklet through the window that separates him from our compartment in the back. It seems to be a book of hookers, their pictures and short descriptions of their personalities on each page. And the guy’s saying that these are his girls and we should give some of them a call or something. But I’m smoking and ashing on the floor and the limo has a TV and some kind of controllers for a video game but we can’t get the TV to turn on and I end up throwing the remote control at Chet’s brother, not on purpose, hell, I don’t even know the guy. He gives me a look like he thinks I’m an asshole, and nobody really tells him he’s wrong, which kind of worries me. There’s a young blond girl with an outlandish snaggle tooth sitting across from me. Chet’s older brother has his arm around her. Why haven’t I noticed that tooth before now? It’s jutting out like a mint tic-tac from her mouth.

Soon we’re at some place called Olympic Gardens, or just OG as it says on the matchbooks. It’s a strip club and it’s 30 bucks to get in, plus the limo driver is asking Leroy for 65 bucks for the ride, and I tell him we’ll split it, it’s worth it, it’s Chet’s brother’s 30th birthday after all. So we somehow manage to get inside this place and it’s all tits and glamour, and it’s really dark inside, but light enough to see your way to the bar, which is where Leroy and I head right away. Turns out the beer is $7.50 and the drinks are ten. The ecdysiastic entertainment brings up the price of the alcohol I guess. So soon we’re sitting around on various chairs, as there are no seats available at the stage where the strippers are dancing topless and catching dollar bills between their breasts. I’m a bit out of my element and nervous and am drinking my beer with much celerity, and this stripper comes up to me and I immediately try to get her to go away with myriad gestures and some other kinds of guttural grunts and throwings of my voice, but it’s no go. Turns out she just wants to tell me about things, give me a lay of the land so to speak. So I apologize and listen to her spiel about twenty-dollar lap dances and forty-dollar dirty dances and 600 dollar half-hour sessions in the VIP room, $1,000 for one hour. I guess you get a bargain the more time you buy. There’s not much money in my wallet so I thank her for the most valuable information and go on drinking my beer and watching the almost-nude girls on stage.

Everything you know of as the world, that place in which you maybe might think that you exist and do your daily doings in, gets smashed, ground-up, macerated and rearranged in a place like this. You step out of the ordinary world where everything you want is far away and unattainable, and you move into this ridiculous, spotlight-flashing thing of a place where every ordinary cliché fantasy gets blown up on steroids and hung up for the whole world to see, smiling, overdone, with really bad loud music thumping like an insane throbbing pulse through all the pseudo-sexy, tame, unemotional, sweet smelling and unimaginably (for some reason) desirable girls who wander around making small talk (where are you from? Is this your first time?) with any man sitting anywhere without a girl in his lap. There is no such thing as the real world once you enter into the discord of a place like this. Everything is overwrought, every inveigling move is well rehearsed and done only with the hopes of some sort of monetary compensation, every last breath is calculated to titillate and allure more money out of your hip pocket and into some girl’s under garments. Nobody cares about your ennui or your weltshmerz or your broken heart or the stupid poem you wrote for you mom in 5th grade, or your dreams for that matter, except the wet ones maybe, but even then it’s just the price you're willing to pay that might make anybody pretend to care about this thing you keep referring to as yourself, as who you are, whatever that is or might be at this particular moment in time. None of this matters. I keep yelling into Leroy ’s ear that, “I would give a whole week’s paycheck just to rub the skin of that girl’s legs for a minute,” whenever a stripper walks by us. He keeps yelling back into my ear that I could get a lot more for my money than just that. For some reason I keep failing to understand this concept.

After much waiting around and gawking and ogling and drinking of 7-dollar Budweiser we finally find some seats at the stage where the girls are dancing. There’s a counter there for you to put your drink on and the girls on stage have a couple of poles they can use to do stripper moves on, and we all sit down there, Chet’s brothers and their girls too, and somebody orders a round. You’ve got to keep throwing ones on the stage if you want to keep your seat, so the first thing I do is ask the waitress, who I kind of wish was offering lap dances too, for change for a twenty in all ones. Once I have a wad of ones I am happy and much contented. I shove the wad into the top pocket of my shirt and get ready to start flinging them out one by one at the succulent dancing girls. This is the only thing I really like doing at strip clubs, this sitting at the stage, sipping my drink, watching nude girls dance, and throwing them dollar bills for tips. I find it very entertaining for some reason. A few beers into this I look over at the girl sitting next to Chet’s brother, and for some reason, forgetting, or choosing to ignore, that this is Chet’s brother’s girlfriend, I lean over to Leroy and ask him how much he thinks a lap dance from her would be. He screams at me something about me being an asshole and that I can’t get a lap dance from Chet’s brother’s girlfriend, and then he laughs and orders two more beers and another roll of ones from the extremely hot and now a bit ornery waitress. The show goes on. New girls come up on stage to dance every couple of songs. Sometimes two girls dance at once. They give a whole lot of attention to some guys who look like they’re investment bankers or something. Our money must be worth less. We spend a lot of time sitting there, and throw many one-dollar bills at the girls on stage, but after a certain point it all starts to feel the same. All the girls do the same moves, some abridged dance of the seven veils, involving kicking their high heels very loudly against the stage floor and doing some kind of gymnastics with the pole, and always pretending to rub themselves while kneeling on the stage-end in front of some guys who are trying to slip ones into the girl’s bra or other lacey fringed undergarments.

After using the restroom, which was crowded and disgusting, I went back to the bar and just started standing around looking at things. There were all kinds of scantily clad girls roaming around and whispering into guys ears as they went by. Some girls were giving lap dances to a few "gentlemen", very frictional ones sometimes, but mostly they just seemed to be wandering around aimlessly like they were bored at some idiot’s party that they didn’t want to be at in the first place, but had to keep a smile on their face and pretend to be happy and social for the host’s sake. They swaggered around, preoccupied and confidently casual, knowing that a raft of lecherous eyes were upon them. None of them had on sequined outfits with feathers. I started dreaming about tigers in red weather, and Gypsy Rose Lee, and the infamous Miss Belle Jangles of Mugwumps strip club in 1968 who started this whole pole-dancing thing before I was even born. I always miss the good stuff.

So some girl comes up to me and tells me that my friend’s just paid for me to have a lap dance with her. I start to say no thanks and walk away, but catch myself just in time, figuring I have to do it. It’s been paid for. All I’ve got to do is sit there and let her dance on me. I can do that. I look over at Leroy who is giving me a thumbs up from the bar. The bastard’s put up the money for this girl to writhe around on top of me for the duration of two songs. Soon she’s dancing on top of me. Now, I’ve had lap dances before, and I’m not one to shy away from lust or desire when it happens to perch itself in my lap, but it is just uncomfortable. She keeps trying to grind up against me, and I keep having to adjust my pants whenever things are starting to chafe. So she’s rubbing her nakedness all over me, and I’m thanking H.L. Mencken for giving dignity to this girl’s chosen vocation, and she is really good at what she’s doing, but it’s just that the damn chafing is really starting to bother me. But I’m not supposed to touch her. So I just sit there and try to enjoy things while constantly moving my pelvis and hips around, trying to rearrange things so there’s no pinching or twisting of vital parts. Every once in a while her ass hits my crotch just right and it is great, but for the most part I just keep wishing that she’d keep away from my lap and concentrate on just rubbing her tits in my face or something. When her skin rubs against my cheek I finally know why this is a multi-billion dollar industry. The prurient thrill of her closeness sends the dopamine spurting and gushing to all sorts of recondite and hidden places in my brain. She rubs herself on my face and then I am lost in the perfumed wilderness of her hair. I am dizzy with some pseudo-infatuation that lasts for almost half a minute, and leaves me with a gut ache of empty dreams. She whispers something in my ear as she’s getting up to go. All I can do is smell her hair. The music has stopped and she’s putting her top back on. I smile and say, “Thank you. You were really good. That was nice.” The look on her face is indescribable.