A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

If you drive down the Storrow 500 (*1) and make your way down Boylston Street past the the Philip Johnson bunker walls of the new(er) public library annex (*2), you'll eventually find yourself near the Theater District where there are approximately two jiggle joints to choose from. If you are like us, the fancy jiggle joint on the left will be deemed too high-falutin' and the two-star-on-Yelp lower-budget version on the right will be where you plan to spend a portion of the evening that comprises the bachelor party. Maybe those two-star-on-Yelp reviews will help you decide. Perhaps at least one of these reviews praised the "weathered, broken down look" of some of the venue's independent contractors (*3).

Up until this point in my life I had been able to avoid such activities, but once you sign on to participate in a bachelor's revelry, there is the potential to stain any unblemished record. The funny thing is that I'm not totally convinced anyone actually wanted to go to said place, but this event being what it was, it was an inescapable component of the festivities.

[Switch to "intuitive" second-person present tense to express condescending sense of "immersive" storytelling] Once you pay your ten-dollar cover — "Not too bad," you think, hoping the rest of the outing will be relatively painless — you file in to a room that is far too crowded for the number of dumb-struck stares. In general, naked women make men docile.

"Move in! Move in!" the friendly bouncers tell you. "There is plenty of room in the back!"

A very skinny tattooed independent contractor is up on the stage behind the bar flexing certain ass muscles. It's a lot like Cirque du Soliel, except these performers are specialists, and there is no trapeze or net.

"Keep moving!"

You get to the back of the room and settle into a spot away from the line to the restroom and directly in front of the cubicle area where private dances are taking place.

"If you're not waiting for the bathroom, you have to keep this wall clear — move in!"

Goober asks you if you want a beer and you nod yes, handing him a $20 bill.

He returns with two bottles of Molson Canadian, and returns you your $20.

"They were $10 each, so I just put it on my card," he tells you.

"Ten dollars for a Molson Canadian?" you say in disbelief. "That's like a 1000 percent markup." And then you suddenly snap out of this dopey second-person present tense convention, not only because it sounds ridiculous but also because after spending $10 for a bottle of Molson Canadian, you are fully invested in what is taking place.

This particular place didn't quite have the feel of an airport in the way a place like Las Vegas feels like an airport. Maybe it was more like a bus station, or at least an all-male bus station — older guys, younger guys, guys who didn't look like they were old enough to get in — all sorts of guys. That's not to say there weren't females in attendance who weren't independent contractors but it was easy to miss them among the various contractors circulating around the room.

It's fair to say that one thing that I have a problem with in general is artifice. As much as I want to play along, ultimately it's hard for me to feel good about enjoying stuff like professional wrestling, Jersey Shore plot points or David Sedaris This American Life features; as entertaining as they are, in the back of your mind you know they're not real. That's why it was so goofy to listen to the independent contractors "flirt" with the patrons; the glassy-eyed "Ooh, I'm just a girl" thing wasn't remotely fetching, much much less titillating.

But I'm told by people who have read Diablo Cody's memoir that the women get this: They know who is there for real and who is just tagging along; who are the bachelors and other the legitimate customers and who is just gawking at both. And indeed, the flirty independent contractors quickly moved on to other paying customers.

We're watching an independent contractor finishing up on the stage and admiring the way she deftly rakes up the dollar bills thrown at or near her when another one comes out carrying a spray bottle and a cleaning wipe of some sort; she starts seductively cleaning the pole while she chews gum. This is a good thing, I tell those around me, recounting a story I heard from a New Haven-area health worker about a mysterious outbreak of some gnarly STD that was eventually traced back to a single pole.

As soon as I start relating this anecdote I realize it's not the right thing to do; for all I know, the guys I'm with might want to enjoy the venue and not be forced to consider the bacteriological environment of a dancing pole. It's too late. I'm laughing remembering the story. Groans are elicited. The song ends and another independent contractor descends the staircase to the stage, repeating the pole cleaning exercise. This time it's more matter of fact; she doesn't include the preparation in her routine.

At some point Goober says something about the televisions positioned around the bar. They're tuned to a local newscast, which means that the five-day outlook is playing while one of the independent contractors dances on stage. It's strange to see. We hope that a national tragedy doesn't take place because it would be really embarrassing to have to say for years and years where you were when the New York City Police Department brought down a commercial airliner over the most densely populated city in the country.

The other thing that occurs to you while you try hard not to care about what's going on is just how terrible the music is. Just once I'd like to see a DJ disrupt the mood by playing something entirely inappropriate. Say, Fugazi's "Suggestion":

Why can't I walk down a street free of suggestion?
Is my body the only trait in the eyes of men?
I've got some skin
You want to look in

Anyway, so yeah, the night is rolling along on the dull pitted wheels of an abducted shopping cart when something actually unexpected happens. The next independent contractor gets on the stage. She's a little different than the others — not skinny, not blond, not foreign and not exotic looking — and her top clothing item thing is rolled down to cover her gut. Sort of like an extra in a Dennis Lehane adaptation. She eventually starts writhing around, exposing her undercarriage to the crowd assembled in front of her when suddenly she pops up, picking something off the stage and admonishing the crowd with it while the music continued playing:

Which of you threw this quarter?! Who threw a quarter at my cunt?!

I have to admit that I didn't hear the "Who threw a quarter at my cunt?" line, but someone else said he heard her say that. I definitely saw her berating the crowd for pelting her with spare change.

There lays no reward in what you discover
You spent yourself watching me suffer
Suffer you words, suffer your eyes, suffer your hands
Suffer your interpretation of what it is to be a man

It was a magical, unscripted moment. Worth the price of admission. Almost worth the $10 Molson Canadian.

She does nothing to deserve it
He looks at her cause he wants to observe it
We sit back like they taught us
We keep quiet like they taught us
He just wants he wants to prove it
She does nothing to remove it
We don't want anyone to mind us
So we play the roles that they assigned us

So then there's the "back room" — not the "champagne room," which is accessed via an elevator next to the restroom, but rather the place where the $25 lap dances are taking place, in a sort of cubicle with a five-foot wall. The wall over which you, if you're being nosy, can watch the independent contractors writhe around on the laps of the clientele. There are several "signs" — 8 1/2 by 11 inch printouts, actually — that expressly forbid contact and touching, but like someone said the women said, "The bouncers don't really pay attention." So there's a line of dudes waiting to be groped by the right independent contractor. And this is exactly the line between abused women on drugs taking their clothes off for money but still somewhat kitschy and abused women on drugs taking their clothes off for money and doing gross shit to emotionally stunted dudes. Yikes. I think I'd rather focus on that lady on the stage and the butthole she's flashing to the crowd.

And just when you start to become really tired of the "folksy" present tense — the one that sometimes lapses into second-person — and sentences that begin with conjunctions, you start to come to terms with the idea that these places are just a fact of life. Like the lottery. Or Andy Rooney. Or artificial plants at a health clinic. Or a mid-1980s Chrysler. In other words, some sort of quasi-public resource that you assume someone else uses that must have some sort of redeeming value. And then you start to ponder it and think, "Well, maybe the state squeezing those who can least afford it is kind of immoral, and maybe Andy Rooney should probably be forced to retire, and artificial plants just make everyone sad and besides which, the Reliant K didn't have that much of an impact, and look at where Chrysler is nowadays anyways." And then it's just kind of obvious that you can't betray what you really feel.

Which is to say, at some point it comes out that this is the first time I've ever been in a strip club. The bachelor apologizes but I won't let him; I'm happy to squander my unblemished record for him; he's one of the few people I would do this for — everything sounding obviously disingenuous no matter how hard I tried, but like I said, once you're on board, you're along for the ride.

By this point the spare change independent contractor has planted herself on a stool at the bar next to a regular, who is starting to seem a little put off by her constant complaining about the clientele. The television station has been showing one of those forgotten films they air late on Saturday nights. And although it's only 1:25 and there is probably time for at least six or seven more lap dances, the bachelor decides he's done with the whole thing. Oh, and of course none of us are drunk.

We leave the place and join the rest of the world wandering around Boston's Theater District. There are many young women holding their high heels in their hands, trying to hail a cab. When they walk around with heels on they just look awkward, like strange dinosaurs. At least one of us is completely sober, so we don't have to figure out how to get back home.

We blame her for being there
But we are all here
We're all . . . guilty

After we drop off the first two guys the bachelor turns to those of us left and says something along the lines of how he's more convinced than ever that he's ready to get married. And that's when several of us clap for him and yell, "Mission Accomplished!"

Oh, and did you realize Molson Canadian is brewed by Coors?

Now it all makes sense.

*1 The guys we were with had read Infinite Jest this past summer; although I have read The Broom of the System, I have a rule about books over 1,000 pages.

*2 See above; library architectural history noted here.

*3 Just think how silly it would be if these were endnotes and not footnotes.

Posted: September 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Andy Rooney | Tags:

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