Saturday, May 31, 2008

I've got a tip for you

So, a couple of people suggested I put up a link to accept donations and after some though I am doing so. There is absolutely no expectation or demand that anybody contribute. Having a reader is an awesome thing for a writer, and you do more than enough for me just by being here.

But in the instance that you enjoy the blog, and wish to express your appreciation through monetary means, then far be it from me to deny you. Give me whatever you woudl slide in my thong if I were on stage, or whatever you would spend to buy this if it were a book, or whatever you would give to a busker in the subway.

I think PayPal will let you include a "message to seller" or whatnot. If you send me an e-mail or an address I will send you a thank you note, because I try to be well brought-up like that.


Monday, May 26, 2008

garbage in, garbage out

So, this is what I was about to publish when all the crazy people from the Internet showed up and I got paralyzed by self-consciousness. Oh, well. Here goes nothing.

C. and I woke up so suddenly that for a flat second we didn't know what was waking us. Then we heard the sirens all around the house, so many of them, and deafening. From the bed, I pulled the curtain back and saw sparks raining from the sky. We hauled ass into our pants and I snatched the money from the special money drawer and stuffed it in my bra before we ran out into the street.

Fire was rising from the next block over -- a column of it, spiraling into the sky forty or fifty feet, whirling and throwing off sparks which were landing all around us, but thank God it was also raining and the ground was moist.

"It's that house they just renovated," said James, the neighbor we share a wall with, who was also standing on the porch and had had time to put his shoes on and light a cigarette. Fire trucks kept arriving, and showers of sparks kept blowing. Then there was a whooshing sound as the trucks turned the water on, or the foam, or whatever it is. And just like that, the chimney of fire collapsed out of the sky and there was just a red glow.

C. and I went back to bed, where I tried like hell to fall asleep because I had to get up at 9 a.m. to go to work. That's right. After four years of working whenever and wherever the hell I felt like, I had a job to get to. I fucking hated it.

No, not a "real" job, and I know what you mean when you say that, even if I don't agree. Just cocktailing at another titty bar. It's the kind of job you can walk into and make money that day, plus my friend Valerie worked at the club, and she's fun. If this dayshift was anything like the dayshifts I remember dancing through, it'll at least be nice to have a friend around during the long lull between the lunch crowd and the Happy Hour crowd.

So I drove there in the morning in a white top and a black skirt, asked to talk to the manager, and was clocked in to work by 10 o'clock. That part was awesome. Having Valerie trotting around in a Victoria's Secret camigarter and feathered hair like some kind of sexed-out Sixties go-go pin-up girl was also awesome.

Everything else blew. I'd almost forgotten this about the dayshift -- it sucks. Well, it sucks for me. For a certain kind of dancer it is like candy from babies, because all you have to do is sniff out the handful of rich old dudes who come in every day, and avoid the wannabee gangsters who wander in after lunch and sell or pretend to sell drugs all afternoon. You find those couple of customers who really, really like you --because they like redheads, because you remind them of some other girl, or maybe, just maybe because the two of you really get along. That happens, too.

Then you give them your phone number and call them every couple of days and they come to the club and give you a bunch of money to sit with them all afternoon and do whatever it is you do. Which is sometimes nothing. I have literally seen willowy blondes fresh from high school prom sit next to old men with banker's faces all day long, saying nothing.

Some girls are so good at this that they dance for the same five-to-ten guys for years. Not me. I'm really bad at this, it turns out. I have had a few loyal customers over the years, but there's a point in the pseudo relationship where I have to draw a line. I can't chat on the phone. I can't go out to lunch. I can't depend on any one guy too much, because if you do, they know it and they pull the plug. They can't help it, almost. They have to know if you really love them, and of course then it usually turns out that you don't, but if you want the money, you have to find a work-around. You DO go to lunch, or you swear that you will but then you cancel at the last minute, or you DO but then you immediately try to get him to go to the club with you afterwards and give you a bunch of money. It goes from there. I hate that stuff.

Sometimes you don't want to be anybody's fake girlfriend. You just want to take your dress off and be sexy and fun for a few minutes and get a couple of bucks and on to the next.

But this new club is not an on-to-the-next kind of establishment. Most customers who spend any kind of money have their favorite waitress up in VIP already. If you don't have one of those customers, you are stuck in the rotation where you simply get whatever customer walks in the door next, and if it's the homeless guy who comes in and buys an iced tea (the only drink that comes with free refills), tips you fifty cents and crouches in an empty dance booth all afternoon rocking back and forth and oggling the stage, well that's your fucking luck.

In two days I made $72. And on the third day I called the manager and told him I appreciated his help and wouldn't be back. I didn't really have to call. Most girls just disappear without a trace but for some reason I was inclined to be professional.

I spent the day aimlessly, but not a peacefully. I'm like a cow dog. If I don't have enough to do I chew on the furniture. Finally, around midnight, after a solid day of watching me pace the floor and whimper, C. got sick of me and threw me out of the house. "Come back when you've worked it off, whatever it is," said my sweetie, and locked the door behind me.

I rode my bike around in the dark for a while, and then I called the Satanist. He was home and said I could come by, so I tooled over through the steamy streets and we sat in his midnight garden and smoked a joint. It hasn't been the simplest thing to make a real friendship out of our stripper/customer relationship, but we have made some progress, and it's been worth it.

I like the Satanist because you don't have to downplay the drama in things to get him to take them seriously. He believes in karma and chi and magic and the collective consciousness and all that shit. So I can tell him about the apocolyptic vision, fire falling from the sky, and see it catch in his eyes behind those Grandad glasses. I tell him how my mother stood dumbstruck in her yard one day last month and saw the funnel of a tornado lift into the sky and pass over the farmhouse in a rain of leaves. We talked about the storm that tore through town a few weeks ago, blowing over trees and plowing up graves in the cemetery, cracking the plot-stones in half and up-ending them.

I lay on my back on the patio playing with the leaves of the rubber plant. I said, "Is the world ending?" and he squinted at me like a medicine man and said, "Dying people always think the word is ending."

So I told him I couldn't dance anymore, and I didn't know why, and it wasn't dancing that had changed, of course, but me. I couldn't blow the bad stuff off any more and my compassion was exhausted and I didn't think I gave a damn anymore about a single person in the whole world. And he said "Garbage in, garbage out, honey. How much shit can you take in without putting some of it back out?"

"It didn't used to bother me so much. I thought I could take in all the bad and make it good."

He nods. "You did," he said. "You did have that. But it's gone."

I tell him my chest is so tight it feels like a fist is squeezing my heart, milking my adrenal glands into my bloodstream till my body is a factory that never shuts down. I haven't really slept in days. And he doesn't ask me what I mean, because he knows what I mean, and he doesn't say he's sorry, because this is just life.

And then we smoke some more and he takes me around and shows me the holes that the hail made in the garden. He doesn't touch me once, and I am so grateful I could cry. For a minute I get confused and try to tell him how much I like him and why, but he frowns at me and things get weird for a second. "What are you doing?" he says. "Why do you do that? Why do you tell everybody what they want to hear? You're so transparent it's ridiculous."

It's too late to argue and I'm too stoned. I try to smile and not too long later he kicks me ever so gently back out into the night so he can get back to the work of whatever it is he does in his haunted house all night long. I take the hint and hug him and go. He locks the door behind me and I point my bike back towards home pushing myself up the hills and sweating and when I get home I feel so quiet and good, it's like it rained inside of me.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

OK. Hi.

So, I've been through to archives and taken out the couple of things that could have been incriminating to myself or someone else. All in all, I've been pretty cautious through the years -- I've used fake names for people who were already using fake names -- but I had to double-check. I think we're good.

So welcome, new people. Nice to have you here, even the folks participating in the backlash and counter-backlash like I was Paris Hilton's new hairdo, and even the ones who think I'm not a real stripper because real strippers don't use semi-colons or whatever. It's an interesting experience so far and of course, this too will pass.

For those of you who just got here, you are arriving in what may very well be the twilight of this blog. After four on-and-off years of stripping, I am actively looking for a way out, or at least an extended break. For those of you who read my recent posts and think I sound like a bitter cunt, well yeah. The past four years have not been without their difficulties and they have left their mark, for sure. Once upon a time I had a magical ability to transform other people's misery at least temporarily into happiness, and as a dancer I banked off that for a long time, but it's gone now, and there it is.

I'm not at all sure what the fate of this blog will be. I'm pretty busy trying to get famous for something besides being a stripper, so not looking for a book deal or anything like that. I could really use a big bag of money, though, so if you want to send me one that would be awesome.

For now, I'm probably just going to pretend to ignore all of you like I have lovingly pretended to ignore Nathaniel and Anna and the other long-time loyal readers. So, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

P.S. If you are writing to me about something specific and want a response, like a few have, you gots to leave me some contact information. I won't publish it, and if what you're saying interests me I will respond.

P.P.S. Dear Stripper Haters: You are in my house, so please behave accordingly. Your comments will not be published unless they contain unusual insight or some sort of unique expertise beyond "my friend's sister was a stripper and in my opinion she is all fucked up now so you are too." The garden variety of ill-informed vitriol will be deleted with a light heart. I don't have the time or inclination to respond to you individually, but perhaps you will enjoy this.

what the fuck is this shit?

Who are all of you people? What are you doing here? Why are you yelling at me? Last thing I knew I was in here in the dark talking to Tara and Diopter and maybe Sixty, if he's still around, and now all you guys are here and you're scaring me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

no more mirrors, no more smoke

So it's been almost a month now that I've had this sore throat. In that time I've danced four shifts. I caught the cold, or imbibed the allergin or whatever, on a Friday, which I know because the Professor and I had a date.

Our dates are always for Friday. We sat together through the tail of the afternoon and into the evening and the night. The range of our topics of common interest is brief, but there's a genuine appreciation of each other, too. An awkward fondness. A few hours in I started to notice the burning in the back of my throat, and by the time he left and I could get back to the dressing room my nose was just beginning to run full force.

It was a nasty, salty, rough, wet cold and it lingered. The coughing didn't really set in til the fourth or fifth day, and then refused to go as whatever it was colonized my respiratory system with terrific efficiency. On day six I felt a little better so I went to work and that night I coughed myself awake all night. And every night I've worked since has been the same.

The problem is my smoking. Obviously. When I dance, I smoke. And when I'm smoking, I fucking smoke. Chain-smoking, really, and if I don't know where my next cigarette is coming from, I get a little wiggy.

I'm killing myself. Sure thing. Every smoker knows this. You can't avoid knowing it. But it doesn't even matter, and that's how come tobacco companies can print right there on the box that this is going to turn your lungs to tar and pound on your heart like a ballpeen hammer on a little rubber ball and your babies will be born stupid and ugly with two heads and forked tongues and we still don't even fucking care. We're still ripping at those little pull-tabs, peeling the wrapping back and, cursing if your fingernails slip because the body wants the nicotine now, not three second from now now now nownow now NOW.

Outside of the club, I don't think about smoking. A pack of Camels sits in my backpack all week long, forgotten. I don't need them at home anymore, in my daily rounds, than I need six-inch stilletto heels.

I've made dancing poisonous to myself is the thing, I guess. Like I don't want it to be too sustainable. I've built in a kind of a kill switch, so that I don't think I'm going to be one of those girls who strips into her forties, much as I admire them.

When I didn't know anything about dancing, I thought a forty-year old stripper was the last word in sad, and I think most people who don't know much about dancing assume this, too. But the woman who's dancing at that age is a rare and finely-honed machine. The ones I've known have been almost universally shrewd, savvy, and hotter than shit. They have to smoke the competition, and they usually do. They've got an intensity, too, each one with her own version of the eight-mile stare because they've seen a lot of shit. In this particular little crevice of human culture and behavior here at this intersection of sex and commerce, they are the only experts.

I don't think I'll make it. I think I'll be out of the game long, long before I reach that level. Or so I say right now. We'll see. But right now no way, and hopefully not in two weeks when the rent is due, either. For now I've got to find another way to pay the rent. I need out and away from the club for a little bit. It's hard to breathe in there.

Monday, May 12, 2008

dirty talk

"Just take a deep breath. Relax. Shhhh."

We are back in the Champagne Room and you have me on your lap, my head clamped into your shoulder in a manner intended to be comforting.

I am not, in point of fact, sad. I am not relaxed either, although as requested I do take a deep breath and let it out slow. Inevitably, physiologically, this does cause my heart rate to lower and my muscle tension to soften. I do not like this at all. In this close proximity to a stranger's armpit, in this near darkness, I would prefer to retain a bit of tension.

"There you go," you say. "You needed that, didn't you? Just imagine we're alone, somewhere far away from here. Imagine we're in bed together, OK? Just us, just laying together. Are you imagining that?"

It hard not to. You are holding my head and whispering into my ear, and the music is not loud enough back here which is something I've started to hate about the Champagne Room because you have to talk and these days I am sick of talking.

In my imagination, we are underneath a sweaty wool blanket and everything smell like beer and farts. Your hairy belly threatens to pour over me like one of those smotheration dreams where I am drowning, sinking, muffled in impenetrable, unrelenting softness and I throw my arms out and kick and wake up thrashing in my sheets.

"Just be yourself," you say.

I am being my self. Which is to say, I am being a stripper, which is what I am. As a stripper, I am giving you what you want, which is my body to hold and my hair to stroke, my ear to whisper into and an imaginary construct of an ego that you can comfort for its imaginary sadness. For my tragic childhood, my crushed dreams and abusive skinhead boyfriends and pill addictions and whatever else you are making up for me in there.

Go ahead: This imaginary personality is safe to toy with and torment however you like, unlike my actual self, which is not a toy. This is as real as you and I will ever get.

"Talk to me," you say. "Tell me what you want me to do to you."

Which, lucky for both of us, turns out to mean "listen to me tell you what I want to do to you" and you describe for me all the delights you will bring to my body and how happy I will be.

Sure. Sure. I wish I had a cigarette. I want a cigarette so bad, but you don't smoke and besides you are still holding my head and your breath on my ear is unpleasantly moist and warm. I bet if I said I was going to the bathroom somebody in the dressing room would give me drag. It's a slow night. Everybody's back there smoking and cussing and reading Texas Adult Guide to see if we recognize any of the girls in the escort agency ads.

"Don't be afraid," you say.

I'm not afraid.

"Look at me."

You release my head and I straighten up. My neck is getting stiff. I look at you. You are a bald, fat guy. You are somewhere in your late thirties, I'm guessing. You have glasses. And a tiny, beaky nose, like a little owl. Your eyes are pleading with me. You are sad and afraid, but I don't have any answers for you. Sorry. I only know what works for me and you and I are pretty different.

"You need this, don't you?" you ask.

Our hour is almost over. In a few minutes the waitress will come and kick us out and I will go back in the dressing room and smoke a cigarette and you will go god knows where. Home to a good apartment in a nice part of town where you live with ghosts and imaginary people and ghosts of imaginary people, which is what I'll be when you remember me, after you're done with me, if you remember me.

"You needed this. You know you can always be yourself with me," you say. "You know you can tell me anything. I like you just the way you are."