Tuesday, January 30, 2007

big swede

Sat down last night with a big, good-looking guy with an unplaceable accent that turned out to be Swedish. He was in town for some computer thing, like everybody was last night, with a colleague from Atlanta who was buying dance after dance from everybody, including me. The Swede sniffed at his friend. "These women, you are only interested in him for his wallet," he said.

"That's true," I said. "See, that's how it works."

He sniffs again. "In Sveden we don't have places like this, because in Sveden we are more liberated about our sexuality."

"Well, that's terrific. Now you're in an American strip club and you can see what you've been missing all these years."

"Are you going to sleep with me afterwards?"

"Well, no."

"So why wake up the little man if you are not going to put him to sleep?"

Gee. OK, you get some points for quaint phraseology, but what really rocks me is that you come from a culture so highly evolved that doesn't use fire-arms but solves its interpersonal conflicts through hauteur alone, and yet here you are using the same line of argument as every dustbin cowboy from Hutto County blowing into the city on his big night out. Some things truly are universal.

"Well, it's been nice talking to you," I say.

"Yes, I enjoy your company," he says.

"You want to tip me then?"

"Ah. I see. You just want money."

"That's true. I would really, really like some money."

I hold out my garter enticingly. He puts in $10. "I still don't understand this place," he says. "What is the point? It's all bullshit."

"You're right," I say. "It's bullshit, and Texas bullshit is the best bullshit in the world.It comes from the same place art and poetry come from and it's the province of evolved cultures."

(Come to think of it I can't think of a single Swedish author off the top of my head. Hamsun and Ibsen are Norwegian. Even Tove Jansson was Finnish.)

"Come on, sit down," the Swede says. "Don't be mad. Have a drink with me."

But I'm gone.

popular girls

Friday night I sat with the Cowboy. The Cowboy and me go back to the last time the rodeo was in town, nearly a year now, all the way back to Sugar's. Back then he lived in Dallas, but relocated last fall to be closer to yours truly. Just kidding. He's a construction chief who has a big job running in town. I forget exactly what. Anyway, he's an absolute angel-puppy and I adore him. He doesn't spend a ton of money, but he is consistant, respectful, and fulsomely complimentary. Also, sometimes he comes in with crews of horny young construction workers or rich old dudes, and he does a really good job of talking me up so that they all buy dances from me and I make a million dollars. That, and he once he gave me a toolbelt.

He was complaining Friday night that I barely worked in January, which is true. "I came in three or four times to see you and you weren't here," he said. "This place is no fun at all without you." (I happen to know he gets dances with other girls and has a perfectly fine time in my absence, but thanks for the kind word, dude.) "They should have a big marquee outside that says 'Grace Is Working' or 'Grace Is Not Working' so us guys would know if we should even stop."

Awww. See? It's nice to feel like the Most Popular Stripper, even if it's just for one sweet old cowboy. Unfortunately, Cowboy's opinion has not been shared of late. The general public does not generally seem to care if Grace Is Working or not. Well, January is hard. The collective consciousness is hungover and regretful from it's Christmas-time orgies of excess, and the titty-bar-going public is surly and impecunious.

That's what I tell myself anyway. I struggled through Friday night, lacking serious sparkle but finally managing to pull the minimum dollarage it takes to go home satisfied -- barely. At the end of the night, I was hobbling out of my spike heels in the dressing room while two thin blond girls hunkered on the floor a few lockers away, shuffling stacks of hundred dollar bills. I hear them counting out loud for each other -- four hundred, five hundred, six hundred.

"Did you do good tonight?" asked the thinner, blonder one.

"I did OK," said the other. "Not that great. I made $600. But I bought an outfit. And I tipped everybody at the bar $20. And I gave the manager $60. So really I made more like $800."

"Yeah, it wasn't a great night," the first girl said. "I made $800. I tipped everybody, too. This one guy gave me $400 for an hour and then I got him to tip me another $100. It wasn't that great a night though."

"Yeah, working here sucks," said the other. "We should go to Dallas. They're nice here, though. The manager always buys me drinks. Did the manager buy you a drink?"

"Oh, yeah. He always does."

Rule: you never want to know what anyone else makes. Don't ever ask. The answer won't make you happy. I have a general idea what the average is, and a general sense that I'm in the top of the average range most nights. These blondes are VIP Girls, though. Bombshells. Superstrippers.

I'd done OK that night, or thought I had -- but I sure as hell didn't make any $800. I make that money maybe once a month, and it makes me spin around and shit myself twice every time. Hearing these girls count it out so blase and bored put a cold lump in my stomach. Oh, and the managers didn't buy me any fucking drinks, either. I thought I was doing well when they started remembering my name.

I get home and pour out my misery to C. He hears me out with an incredulous stare. "You're jealous? of those girls?" he says. "Baby, those girls are losers."

Weeeelll, maybe. But yeah, I am jealous. Not of their lives, not of their personalities, not of their sportscars, one payment away from being repossessed at all times. Did I tell you the thinnest, blondest girl said she *had* to make even more money the next night, because she was $30,000 in debt and owed her parents money? So, yeah, not jealous of that. My life is awesome, my boyfriend is cool, and my bank account is solid. Just jealous of the money -- the beautiful, beautiful money. The mountains of large denomination bills and the cred that comes with earning them, knowing that your flesh is trading at a premium. And maybe of their hair -- pale, glossy, soft, cotton-candy blonde hair. If I had that hair, I tell myself, I could trip the miracle money-spending trigger in the male brainstem that all my curvy flesh and bandinage and good-humored sluttiness and high standarized test scores are powerless to touch. Blonde. That's it. I want to be blonde.

Bah. I'm in no state. My hormones are haywire. Last night I cried at a kung fu movie, during that requisite scene where all the villagers are giving the hometown hero their pitiful life-savings so he can go into the city and avenge their wrongs by kicking major-league ass. Seriously. I wept. It was just...too much.

(Blonde. That's it. I want to be blonde.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

dream a little dream

For the last two nights I've dreamed about work. Weird, because I haven't been to work in almost a week -- hideous weather, a gnarly throat infection, and a doting boyfriend having conspired to keep me home.

The first night I dreamt I was dancing at a club darker and weirder and seedier even than the Crazy Lady where I made my stripping debut so long ago. The stage was tiered like a wedding cake and painted shiny red and shiny black like Japanese lacquer. Being on stage embarrassed me in a way it never has in real life. Jay was there, an old customer of mine -- former Pittsburgh Pirate, current talent scout, prodigious philanderer and cokehead extrordinaire. Seeing him made me feel safe. I've certainly never felt that way in real life, either.

Last night I was in the same club, more or less. To get to the DJ's booth you went through the locker-room. Men's Club in Dallas was set up this way, too. A body had recently been dismembered and stashed in a locker. Blood had leaked out and gotten all over the floor. Shiny red, like Japanese lacquer. A crew was there, cleaning it up. They were in my way as I tried to get to the DJ booth to pick music. I didn't want to get blood on my shoes. It wasn't horrifying, just another hassle. The body parts looked like mannequin pieces.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

scheduling conflict

Sure enough, Mr. B asked me out last week via the mysteriously universal Let's Go to a Concert Thursday Night Gambit. Only I work Thursday nights, so no go. Also, I don't date my customers because I'm not a prostitute, but "I'm working tonight" sounds, you know, gentler, so that's what I say. This is all by e-mail, and at the end of the e-mail I wish him a good time at the concert. He writes back and says he won't be going now. I counter with "Well, now that you don't have plans for tonight..."

I don't really expect him to show, but he does. I don't directly solicit business like that very often, and it always blows my mind that it works. It also blows my mind that people respond to junk mail,too, but I guess if they didn't it wouldn't exist. So yeah, people are suggestible.

Unfortunately, when he shows up I am in mid-session in the private dance area with a NASA scientist who wants to give it all up and pursue his dream of professional snow-boarding. (One nice thing about the job is that I really don't have to care if the stories people tell me at the club are true; thus I can spend my evenings with millionaires and former pro ballplayers and snowboarding rocket scientists.) Anyway, Mr. Rocket Science is in love with me because I spent a semester in engineering school and like movies; he has a lot to get off his chest and is paying handsomely for the privilege, so I am not immediately available to cater to B's need for titty. He is sitting in the area immediately above and behind the private dance area sadly watching television, and I am just wrapping things up with Rocket Boy when some other trick whose face is instantly familiar but whose name escapes me even now comes and sits on the couch right next to us and make it apparent that he is in line for my services. I stop to say hello and explain that somebody is waiting for me, but then I see B roll his eyes, get up, and storm back to VIP in an apparent dugeon. I get back there quickly and am just starting to get his feathers smoothed down when I hear my name over the intercom. Apparently I am already late for main stage. B indicates he will not be waiting around for me to get back.

When I get home there is an e-mail waiting for me saying that he "didn't feel like much of a priority" to me last night. I am sad. I really like B. But then again, I'm not sure what I was supposed to do differently. I express electronic remorse. He extends his forgiveness. I hear nothing for several days, then get an e-mail saying he is going to be taking a break from the club for a while. I'm sad to see him go. Spending time with him really was a treat, as he is good company, makes me feel pretty, and is fairly free with his dollar. I've been getting quite fond of him.

A break's not a bad idea, though. (And I do hope it's really a break, not a final farewell.) I've been getting really lazy the past few weeks, what with hardly having to work the floor at all. It's amazing how quickly those skills can can atrophy. So back to the grind, as it were.

But this is part of why I don't want to "be friends" with customers. At the end of they day, a customer comes and goes as he pleases and without obligation. Me, I'm like the ballerina in the jewelry box -- always there, every time you open the lid, twirling and smiling. It's the nature of the relationship. It's what makes the relationship attractive. I get it. I support it. At the same time, a person who can disappear from your life on their whim without warning or explanation doesn't make a very good friend. Or not for someone like me, who gets pretty attached to the people I like. Sometimes I almost want to explain this, but better not. Better just hold out the cookie of the impossible someday, and back slowly away. Forever.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

snow days

Two days of intermittent sleet has left a solid inch of ice on every outdoor surface, which in Texas is the signal for civilization as we know it to break down. C. was supposed to start his second semester of art school yesterday, but classes have been cancelled until tomorrow. I myself will be damned if I'll drag myself forty minutes up an icy highway to dance nekkid for whatever slavering poon-thirsty junkies will brave this weather for a glimpse of nipple. Instead, we've spent these last stolen days of vacation holed up in our bedroom -- the only room in our crumbling manse that can be maintained at a livable temperature -- putting on hats and gloves for occasional forays into the kitchen to make cocoa. C. draws pornographic portraits of me while I solve endless Sudoku. It's a sweet life.

Tomorrow, alas, school's back on and C. will be up and gone at the crack of dawn. It's been nice having him home and all to myself these past several weeks, and I will be forlorn tomorrow when I wake up without him. I'm going back to school myself, starting next Tuesday, taking an adult extension course on "Evolution and Society" or some such at the university across the street. Should be fun. I think I want to be something when I grow up.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

satan moves on

The Satanist broke up with me last night. It was all very subtle and polite, but surprisingly disheartening. I haven't seen him since he offered me a fairly generous $300 for a blowjob, and I turned him gently down. Last night he shows up though, right around last call at 2am, and the first thing he tells me is that he's taken some crazy barbituates and is in a bad way. I offer to help him find a chair and he looks away and clears his throat and says, "Actually I'm here to talk to Andy." Poof: dismissed. I do help him find a chair, though, since the Friday night circus is in full swing, and that's not a nice place to let a man on barbituates wander alone. Then he kisses me on the cheek, rather coldly, pats my hand in the international sign for "get lost" and I zoom off.

Andy is his dancer room-mate's new best friend -- the other girl with rock n' roll tattoos and Manic Panic hair. More his type anyway. It's all good. The money's not a terrible loss. He was never a huge spender, though reliable and consistant.

I miss him, though. He was fun. I liked him. Customers don't have a monopoly on confusing fantasy with reality and getting their feelings hurt. Only my fantasy was that he and I had some sort of bond, that we were, kinda, friends. Repeat with me this strip-club mantra: Friends don't pay friends to take their clothes off.

Friday, January 05, 2007

better living through strippers

Up late tonight, but these are normal hours now. C. is out of school and has resumed his normal nocturnal habits; I am undressing til the wee hours four nights a week. It's nice that when I get home he is still up to rub my head and debrief me.

I've finally got the customer every stripper dreams about at night, the kind who comes in three times a week and buys out your shift and treats you like a princess all night long so that you get to walk through the room all tall and sassy on your way to and from the dressing room -- no sitting at the bar chain-smoking like some washed-up floozy from Talladega tonight, baby, nosir. Gotta hurry, mama, can't talk right now, gotta guy waiting for me up in VIP.

We've got a whole little routine going, loverboy and me, with a corner staked out in the VIP and the hostess knowing by heart what shots we like, and the whole damn bit. I feel bad, is all. Well, a little.

He came to the club for the first time a month or so ago, with a bachelor party. I wasn't there, but as he tells it to me, he was dreading coming -- hadn't been to a titty bar in years, and had a panic attack the last time. Seriously. A panic attack. But at the bachelor party last month, he made a conscious effort to relax and have a good time, and succeeded so heartily that he has been back a few times a week ever since. I met him on his second or third visit. He told me about his search for enlightenment and better living via strip-clubbing. I said righto, and we had the sort of meta conversation about what-it-all-means-anyway-this-strip-club-thing that I usually weasel out of like crazy, because they are a big downer, and then the guys get all remorseful and quiet and don't want to play anymore. But this guy was smart, and sweet, and sort of touchingly enthusiastic about it all, and so I gave it up a little bit, and then he bought a ton of dances and everybody had a good time.

And then he just kept coming back. And back. And back. He's in a honeymoon stage with the whole idea of paying girls to take their clothes off. We've bonded over Holy Grail and WoW and Hitchhiker's Guide, and bagged on LARPing together and compared SSRI's and shitty past relationships. He says he hasn't been laid in eight years. He says until he started coming to the club a few weeks ago, mere conversation with women was enough to overwhelm him with anxiety. He's an odd bird. Nice, though. Seriously nice. I like him a lot, actually.

There's a cycle to these things, though, and we are on the verge of enterting a heavier phase. He will want more, whatever that means -- almost certainly in this case "to be friends" -- and eventually he will butt up against the boundaries of the possible, and then he will be hurt and rejected and feel that it was all for nothing, and all a big trick any way, and what a gold-digging cunt I am, anyway.

The really cool stripper is the one who can prolong the honeymoon phase for months (years?) and slam dunk the break-up over a weekend with three text messages or less. I seem to get stuck in the reverse pattern a fair bit. I get confused and tell myself that honesty is the best policy, and still it all ends up very messy and later I think of a million lies I could have told that would have served me better. I'm a lesbian. I'm a lesbian, except for my long-distance boyfriend. Did I say boyfriend? I meant ex-boyfriend who hurt me so badly that I'll never even consider trusting another man again, not ever.

I tell myself that they check ID's at the door, and everybody who comes in to the club is an adult. They know what they're doing, they're responsible for their own emotions, they choose their own adventures, and so on. Still, I can't help feeling like somebody just handed me a rope and told me to walk the lamb up to the slaughter. Then again, it's slim pickings for strippers in the holiday aftermath, as last month's credit card statements start coming in. Not a good time for moral high-horsery about where the money comes from.