Wednesday, November 29, 2006

ain't goin no place

Nothing could have gotten me to work tonight, and I was supposed to go. I need to go. There's plenty to motivate me if I were open to motivation: the Vanagon is in the shop for costly repairs, my computer is not nearly as fixed as I thought it was, my boyfriend is pretty and has expensive tastes, and so on. But every night for the last three nights, when it's time to hustle my dance things into their special bag, I get cold and queasy like a middle-schooler on algebra-test morning.

I am such a puss.

I don't know what all the dread is about. I figure I'm pretty thick-skinned by now about being groped, slobbered on, dicked around, cheated out of money, and turned down. I know how to charm and connive and pout and nod my head and winkle the money out Ben by Ben and Jackson by Jackson. When I'm in stripper mode, when I'm on, when I'm really and truly Grace, it's easy. But I just don't feel like it right now. It's hard to summon Grace up on command. Right now it's just me, and I feel like hanging out with the cats in my sweatshorts, reading and drinking tea and biting my nails.

Just the act of picking out which frilly, see-thru number I'll be sporting that night makes me feel like a dumbtard, the last few days. Lessee, I've got a so-tiny-you-can-see-both-ass-cheeks black sequined satin skirt with matching bra...I could wear it with a black thong, in case I start my period tonight, but it makes my boobs look small(er.) Or, if I wear a schoolgirl skirt, I can get away with knee-socks so I wouldn't have to shave my legs right now. Slut-tastic pink salsa dress with spangly flower applique? White booty shorts and matching bikini top? Did I really buy this shit?

(To be fair to myself, not all of it. Quite a few things were given to me in moments of mysterious kindness by co-workers who were probably drunk. One or two were gifts from infatuated customers whose sartorial taste did not match their generosity. Or whose ideal pin-up was a redheaded girl in a signal-orange, dark-light responsive fishnet tube-dress. Whatever. I think my point stands, regardless.)

I'd feel as dumb dressed like this right now as I did being crammed into a tutu and shoved on stage at the fucking Elk's Lodge for the fucking ballet recital when I was eight. Smile, they say, and give you a push and then you're out there and you have to smile. Eesh.

I think I could even pull the whole act off -- the Hey, how are you, sweetie and the falsh eye lashes batting and the chit-chat and the Boy, I'd love to get naked for you now -- if I could just do it in the comfort of pajama pants and reading glasses and french-braids. You don't know. Maybe you'd love it. You'd feel like you were over at my house and we were renting movies and any minute I'm going to start yawning and telling you how sleepy I am and suggest going to bed and there's slim chance you might get to feel me up, but most likely you will just be shifting around in bed all night with your raging boner listening to me breathe. Is that sexy?

No?

Well, good thing I didn't go to work then.

NB: This is my hundredth post. Hoist a beverage of your choice for me.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

me again, who else

OK, we're on again. I've called in some favors and the old jalopy is back on three wheels for the time being. I don't have much of relevance to blog, though. I've been playing hooky from the titty bar since the Monday before Thanksgiving, nursing myself slowly through a gentle, seasonal bout of melancholy. Does anyone else think Seasonal Affective Disorder is just another name for Really Hating Christmas?

Appropo of nothing, this morning I got a $50 haircut for $25 in a backyard full of dogs and rusting bicycle parts and blowing leaves. Grace's tip for thrifty living: make friends with junkies. The costs of their professional services are surprisingly flexible, especially around the end of the month when rent is due and they still want to score.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

filler

Sorry for my long absence, ladies and germs; we at Grace Undressed are once again experiencing technical difficulties, viz. my laptop being a jankie old jalopy of a machine. There's no point in starting a long, soulful entry about the hard times at the titty bar or the mutating nature of my relationship with my romantic partner or the hat I'm trying to make myself knit for my brother's baby or how the phrase "brother's baby" in and of itself makes me want to go lie down for a while in a dark room. No point, because at any second I'll be caught and booted off the Internet connection I'm poaching from neighbors because my own no longer works, and I'll find myself suddenly alone writing these frantic declarations to myself. It's like writing to you from the freaking Bastille.

Anyhow, I'm back from Boston and it's awful nice to be home. While I was gone, the weather got crisp and beautiful and someone came and built an upscale loft building on our street of haunted Edwardian bungaloes. My cat got fleas. My friend Scarlett decided to move to New York at some unspecified date in the future. My boyfriend succumbed to loneliness and started smoking pot again. The Satanist's dog died and then he asked me to go to the Melvins show with him but I said no. I went back to the titty bar and the lean season is upon us again, which means all the cheapest and savviest pervs are there looking to score discount handjobs and holiday time is here with it's short days and long nights and supressed panic. Fantastic.

No time for more. If you miss me, buy me a computer.
Love,
Grace

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

improper boston

I didn't get hired at Centerfold's. Or rather, I did get hired, after a thirty minute wait during which I had plenty of time to assess the three working dancers (not remarkably prettier than the girls at my club back home, despite Centerfold's reputation as a fearsomely picky hirer) and general atmosphere of the place (stuffy, ornate, dead empty.) Finally, the daytime manager came out and gave me a limp handshake and a bored look and some paperwork to fill out. I was working my way through the stack when he told me he couldn't book me that week, but I could come back next. I told him I was only in town for the week, so that wouldn't work, and got a reaction so melodramatically negative I can only assume that a stripper from Texas who was only in town for a week must have murdered his entire family and burned his village to the ground. I was told that "girls from out of town have no incentive to follow the rules" and escorted unceremoniously from the premises.

Fortunately, the only other strip club in Boston, the Glass Slipper, is right next door. Like, literally, right next door. I invited myself in. It was different -- a tiny place, like a neighborhood bar that just happened to have a naked lady dancing on a stage behind the bar. I found out later the club had moved from it's 21-year home across the street the Friday before. The decor was nice and new and managerially everything was sort of in chaos.

Everyone was friendly to me right off the bat. In strip club context, this is not necessarily a good thing. It smacks of desperation. Still, I needed a place to work, and the other clubs were out in the suburbs, many subway transfers and train rides and taxi fares away from me. And I did see customers, a nice row of them sitting along the bar like ducks in a shooting gallery. Good.

They wanted me to come back the next day to dance, so I took the afternoon to walk around Boston in the surprisingly nice weather and showed up the next morning bright and early. I was the first girl on stage, and some Irish guy tipped me $20 (an unheard of stage tip in Texas) and told me I had a nice can. And really, it never got better than that.

A dump doesn't have to look like a dump to be a dump. The customers, though grumpy and aggrieved in that unique New England style, were bearable. The place didn't smell. But it was awful. Probably it's the fact the management here makes it impossible for their dancers to earn money, consequently attracting only girls who (a) can't get hired as dancers anywhere else (b)are genuintly too dumb or too cracked out to work at McDonald's.

You see, there are no lapdances in Boston. Dancers can't touch customers unless they are fully dressed. Customers can't directly hand money to dancers. With money and touching -- more or less the life-blood of the strip club transaction -- off limits, what's left is a pretty pale experience for everyone. Now, you can give a "private dance" back in the brand-new "private dance area" -- a bathroom-sized space with restaurant-booth-style seating around the walls, where a dancer can remove her dress and panties and prance around buck-ass (except for shoes) as long as she stays three feet away from you at all times and her gentle admirer sits on his hands. Oh, and a bouncer is back there with you, watching every move either of you makes. Now, I pride myself on being able to create an intimate experience out of pretty much nothing, but this was tough.

And I'm almost forgetting, the process of buying a private dance -- what with handing a girl money constituting prostitution and all -- is positively Soviet in it's baroquely bureaucratic complexity. The customer gives $25 to the bartender, and then you go back to the private room to wait. The bartender goes and buys a ticket -- looks just like a carnival ticket and says "Admit One" -- from the doorgirl, who then gives the ticket to the floor-guy, who goes outside to make a phone-call and then maybe has a beer before coming back over and handing the ticket to the customer, who hands the ticket to you, and then you get naked. If you happen to touch the customer lightly on the shoulder or leg while waiting you are Out.

I'm dead sure that this process could be streamlined and dead sure that it won't be, not any time soon. The club hasn't got much incentive to make it easy to sell dances, since they are "only" keeping $10 of the $25 price of admission. The club would much rather the dancers sat at the bar all day selling "ladies drinks", which cost $30 and consist of watered-down Sunny-D or black cherry Kool-Aid. The agreement is that you will sit and flirt with the customer while you drink the drink. For this, the club gives you a cut of $4. Yup. Four fucking dollars. You can't drink more than one drink every ten minutes, either, effectively limiting your income to $24 an hour. The club, in that hour, will make $156.

The first day, I hustled my ass off, worked a double and made a pinch over $300. In Texas, this is the kind of night I would bitch about all the way home. At the Glass Slipper, managers were all over me like I'd pulled off some kind of economic miracle. Yuck. And the general manager's hands, on which I fixated each night while he counted out my money, were white with scaly, star-shaped warts, or maybe it was leprosy.

The girls who stick around for this kind of bullshit are girls for whom $24 an hour is money they just couldn't make any other way. There was a fat girl -- not thick, not heavy, not curvy, fat -- with a gap between her front teeth who wore fish nets and a blond wig and staggered around all day with a boozy smile, like something from another century. There was a sad-looking girl with a muddy complexion and many scars who, once fully nude on stage for the last song of her set, would reach down and sort of milk her vagina until a few drops of whitish fluid dribbled onto the stage. With these notable exceptions, the girls were not that ugly. The black girls especially were lovely, as is often the case in racist areas where they can't get hired at better clubs. I don't know why they put up with it. Dumb, maybe? Used to being taken advantage of and treated like shit, so what does it matter?

I lasted three days, but the strain of making so much money for the club and so little for myself was making me bitter and bored. On my last day, I found I'd really rather sit at a corner booth and read the Wall Street Journal than troll for surly guys to buy me Kool-Aid. Four dollars hasn't been enough to motivate me since I was, like, five years old. I swore I wouldn't smoke in Boston, but on my last day I was up on the fire escape outside the fourth-floor dressing room sucking ash. Since the typical fire-escape grating acts like a cattle-guard for girls in stilletto heels, someone has thoughtfully put down a few sheet of cardboard to keep us from spraining our ankles and falling to our deaths. From here we can look down the alley at men and women with briefcases and J. Crew sweaters hurry to and fro, tiny as ants. Maria, a cute, thin Puerto Rican hoodrat with glasses, joined me and asked what kind of day I was having. I assumed my expression of kabuki calmness and said I was doing alright, though I wasn't.

"Well, I'm doing bad," Maria said. She started telling me about her best friend, who used to be a dancer but now has a pimp and is flying around to Vegas and L.A. making three thousand dollars a night, or so she says, and how she showed up at Maria's apartment last Christmas Eve with a carful of presents for Maria's son. "It look like she bought out the whole fucking Toys R' Us," Maria said. She gets wistful. "I sure would like to have that money. I'm thinking about fucking around with them for a while. She says he's real nice, says he don't put his hands on his hoes hardly."

I'm not one to make other people's decisions for them, but I ventured that if I were going to enter the realms of prosititution, I'd be working for myself and keeping my own money.

"Nah, mami, I know," she said. "But he looks out for you. Like just now, I'm sittin at the bar rubbin on this guy's dick, and he put fifty dollars on the bar and say if I get him off I can keep it. So I rub him off and he cum in his pants, then he take the fifty off the bar and give me ten. And there ain't nothing I can do about it. If I have a pimp, he'da make sure I get my money."

Er. Touche?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the jewel of the lotus resides within

I spent the first 24 hours of the retreat in an internal monologue of relentless derision against the smug self-satisfaction of people who wear linen pants and put "om" stickers on their cars and pay $50 a pop to have their auras photographed and float around in a haze of middle-class entitlement dressed up with New Age spiritual patchouli-scented loopiness. At the silent breakfast hour on Saturday morning I began to soften; no civilized society should allow an occasion so serious to be adulterated with chatter. Any institution that understands this cannot be all bad.

After breakfast, B. and I and our twenty or so fellow Concious Hiking program attendees got into a school bus and were shuttled out into the mountains and dumped out to consciously hike the seven miles back. We went single file, spaced a long way apart and enjoined to silence. It was cloudy and cold and I had thoughtlessly neglected to bring gloves or boots, but after the first ten minutes everything went comfortably numb. The ground underfoot squished and crunched in deeply satisfying ways. Late morning the sun came out and shortly afterwards it began to snow.

I grew up in woods like these, ginko, ash, turkey beard and hemlock. Even the smell was familiar, and the light through the last brown and yellow leaves; snow in the moss; tiny streams of water running over rocks with a sound like beads falling. I always loved fall.

Back at the house there was a monk's narrow, virginal bed for each of us and a sauna in the basement where you could sweat in cedar-scented darkness. Three days of this, until I was shaken and pummeled and smushed and boiled clean like the chickpea in the Rumi poem, naked of my stripperisms. And then it was time to go back to work.

Friday, November 03, 2006

beantown

So I was home long enough to take a shower and give my boyfriend a blowjob, and then up yesterday morning at dawn to catch a flight to Boston, where I am staying several days with my former college room-mate and future wife, B. I'm kidnapping her from her lab at MIT this weekend and taking her on a three-day yoga and hiking retreat in the Berkshires. According to the literature, the retreat also includes a sauna and "guided partner foot massages." C. got all googly and wistful when I was describing it to him, and again yesterday morning on the drive to the airport.

"You're going to be in a sauna together?"

"Yes, darling."

"Naked?"

"Quite possibly."

"And you're going to give each other foot-rubs?"

"That's my understanding."

Sigh.Pause.

"Do you think you guys will, you know, make out? Cause it would be totally fine with me if you did."

"Yes, honey, I know."

Every boy either of us has dated since we've been friends has been pretty enamored of the idea that we get it on in secret, although this has historically not been the case. We've been close at times, but, so far, no cigar. "Dude, she wants you," C. likes to say. "You should hit it." It's true she likes to come up behind me and wrap her arms around my waist and kiss my neck...maybe it's just a South American thing? They have, like, less personal space or something. Also, she's always trying to get me to sleep in her bed. Fuck. I'm sure I could hit it if I tried. I just think sleeping with your friends is pretty poor policy, even when they're totally hot and good to go.

It's weird being up here. B. is a graduate student at MIT, storing her stuff in an attic in Cambridge and sleeping most nights at her lab on campus. At one point, this was a credible future for yours truly, too. I was supposed to be an engineer or a chemist or something, I forget. But I've been off that track so long, I don't know if I'll ever be back on it. Truth be told, I don't even care that much about advancing the course of human knowledge; I think I just like the lifestyle. Being in school is fun, in it's way. You get to be busy and distracted all the time and people cut you some slack when you can't or won't or don't know how to do adult things like pay your taxes or do your laundry.

OK, time to go. Next time you hear from me, I hope to be all om-ed out and high on the astral plane and stuff. Later.