Thursday, September 29, 2011

Odd Bits - The Naughty Man Edition

First of all, I have to wish my 6-year old nephew Sammy a most happy birthday!  (Which was yesterday.) 

Sam is a real pisser.  I wrote about this before the last Super Bowl in February, but Sam was watching the DVD of the Steelers Super Bowl XLIII win over the Cardinals with his dad.  All season long, Steelers linebacker had been getting fined by the league for laying out hard hits.  When it came to the part where Harrison was about to run that interception back for a score, he said, “Oh, is this the part where Naughty Man scores a touchdown?”

My brother asked him why he called him “Naughty Man.”  Sam said, “Because he’s always getting in trouble.”

It always amazes me what kids pick up, when you think they’re not paying attention.  Anyway, for his birthday this year, Sam asked my parents for a Naughty Man jersey.  If only they could have gotten the back printed with that particular name…
Sammy in his Naughty Man jersey, acting the part.

Since he was feelin’ the jerseys this year, I figured I’d get him a Penguins jersey.  I know he watches the games with his dad.  I’ll come over and he’ll ask me about a particular play from weeks earlier.  Again, it amazes me what he remembers.

Anyway, I had a devil of a time finding a small enough jersey.  Since he had his brother’s hand-me-down Sid jersey in black, I wanted to find him a Penguins white jersey.  But every freakin’ website I checked only had kids jerseys in L/XL.  I definitely needed the S/M.  Finally, I found a Geno Malkin jersey in black, so I had to take what I could get.  If I had only figured out what to get him earlier, I might have imposed on one of my Pittsburgh blog bretheren (or sisteren) to find me something local, but I was on short time.

Nevertheless, the jersey went over well.
I bet that birthday cake had “big taste.”  (Sorry, that’s a reference that only hardcore Pens fans will get.)

Search for Reality
I had a strange Google search bring someone here this week.  Somebody searched on: “Rainbow unicorn with Chuck Norris beard.”

I have no idea what to make of that, or what I’ve ever posted that would draw the hit.  Must be the power of Chuck.  After all, Chuck Norris once shot down a German fighter plane by cocking his finger and shouting “Bang.”

Free Range Morons
I went to my last Orioles game of the year on Monday, with Sitcom Kelly as my wingman.  Right off the bat, the evening proved memorable when our subway train (which runs above ground for half the trip) passed right by a big warehouse fire that I could smell right when I left my apartment.
Foreshadowing of the Red Sox fortunes that week.  Ha!

This trip was Sitcom Kelly’s idea, so she was the one to buy the tickets.  After much back and forth, she settled on seats under the middle deck, in the left field corner.  With the Red Sox in town, she was sure the place would be packed, so we didn’t try for anything better.  This was our view:
As you can see, we could have traded up.

That shot wasn’t taken during batting practice… this was about 5 minutes before the first pitch.  We decided to wait out the first inning and then go move down to the outfield wall.  We ended up in the 2nd row, right by the foul pole.
Notice all the dents in the fencing up on the pole.  Must be from a lot of batting practice balls… I rarely see balls hit the foul pole during a game.

Anyway, nothing much happened out our way until the late innings when some young punk ran onto the field.  He hopped over the wall from up the 3rd base line in the infield, then ran through the outfield before coming to rest on the side wall, right in front of us.
"Oh Mama I'm in fear for my life from the long arm of The Law... thumpthump... thumpthump..."

You can see the fans on the side giving him the business.  I know that all the Red Sox fans around us were yelling “Tase him!  Tase him!

Then right as the cops strode up to him, he took off again through the outfield.
He ran by the outfielders but they moseyed away looking bored.

He ran straight to where the door is to the bullpens, through the outfield wall.  Just as he got to the door, it swung open and a cop stepped out.  Numbnut just put his hands out and let himself get cuffed.

What I couldn’t understand is that knowing that the TV broadcast always cuts away when someone runs on the field, then why in the hell would anyone do that?  A dare?  A bet with one’s friends? 

How much money is enough to make it worth spending a night in Baltimore’s Central Booking facility?  There would have to be a lot of zeros in there for me, let me tell you.  And I could just see the conversation too…

Punk: So what are you in here for?

Big Scary Dude: I burned down a house holding a state’s witness and her family.

Bigger Scary Dude: I poured sulfuric acid on a playground slide.

Biggest Scary Dude: I skull-fucked a nun.  What did YOU do?

Punk: I ran across the field at an Orioles game.

Anyway, when I got home, I was curious about how much padding was going to be in the official attendance figures.  I was guessing that there was about 13,000 butts in the seats.  So I looked up the box score online and when I did, I saw a thumbnail picture beside it.  The shot was of the punk running on the field so I embiggened it and found a surprise.
Get a load of the doofus in orange taking pictures. 
(Photo by Getty Images)

It’s also funny because you can see the Sox fans giving the guy shit.  And even better, there was Sitcom Kelly, effectively “Wilsoned” behind the foul pole.  I couldn’t have planned that shit any better.  Once again, I’ve managed to Forrest Gump my way into another random crowd shot.

The Mojo Boogie
While I didn’t post my usual Game Mojo information prior to last Sunday night’s Steelers game, (I didn’t want to interfere with my Stripper Tales), that doesn’t mean I wasn’t engaging in my mojo activities.  This was the gear I went with for the game:
Black Woodley jersey with white Steelers sweatpants and Steelers socks.  T-shirt features a famous ‘Burgh-related quote from Howard Cosell.

I usually go with a white jersey when the Steelers wear white, but I wasn’t feeling the history on this one.  My gut said to go with the Woodley so I did.  I also left the Steelers Gnome in place.  The result was a narrow, last second win over a team that the Steelers should have crushed.  So now I have to read the tea leaves.

Was my jersey and/or gnome what sandbagged our chances?  Or were they the catalyst that pulled out the win in the end? 

I’m leaning toward pulling the gnome and putting him back on my desk.  I’m not ready to give up on the Woodley jersey just yet.

This coming Sunday, I’m going to watch the game with my brother and Naughty Boy over at their house, so I’ll have to come up with some gear suitable for alternate house viewing.  Wish me luck.

And lastly, as a public service: How You Tell When Bananas Go Bad

Director’s DVD Commentary:
Regarding the caption under Sammy’s picture in the Malkin jersey: after winning the Stanley Cup, Malkin (who is Russian and still very new to speaking English) was asked how that victory champagne tasted.  He answered, “It has big taste.”  I love that line.

Regarding the Big Scary Dude crimes: Two of those are actual Baltimore City crimes.  One, I made up.  You guess.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tales from the Strip Club Part 4 - Final Thoughts

This is a continuation of the story I started in the last few posts.  If you’re finding this first, you should start at the beginning by either scrolling down from the home page or clicking here for Part 1, click here for Part 2 and click here for Part 3.

Once I put Jackie in my rear view mirror, I stayed pretty clear of the strip clubs.  Their purpose in my life was no longer relevant.  They proved to be a peaceful oasis when I was new in town didn’t know anyone.  Sometimes one just needs a little human interaction, even if it IS greased by one-dollar bills.  But once I met more people and widened my network, I found other ways to interact.

I only ever rubbed up against the strip club atmosphere a handful of times since then.  The first of which was my bachelor party.  Good Lord, that was a doozy, and it wasn’t even in a strip club.

By that time, I was out of the record stores and into our home office.  My esteemed mentor, Vinnie, not only knew every band, their manager and every record executive on the east coast, he also had tentacles into the nightclub business.  So for my bachelor party, he used his contacts to arrange to use the basement of a regular restaurant and fill it with a half-dozen exotic dancers.  For me, this was a mixed blessing.

On one hand… Free Range Strippers!  What’s not to like?  All the guys from the office came… I only wish I could have gotten my buddies out from Toledo.  But on the down side, I had to be the center of attention… Stripper attention.  I didn’t like that so much. 

I would have been much happier to just sit on the side and watch my friends get “entertained.”  But every 10 freakin’ minutes, some chick in a teddy would drag my ass back to the chair in the center of the stage and proceed to very sexily ram my nose into her sternum.  I don’t know why they do this, other than for revenge.  It’s totally unsexy.  All you can do is hope you don’t sneeze on her jugs.

Hey naby, can you leh go bacca mah ‘ead?  Eh can’t breedth…”

Future-Ex was actually fine with my having this party.  Obviously she trusted me to maintain the high level of character and principle, with which I have always carried myself.  Also, she sent her 23-year old son and her brother-in-law with me.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “Trust but verify?”  So there were no shenanigans, and I eventually regained my sense of smell.

Late in our marriage, when I was woefully under-employed, I was looking for a little extra income and saw a want ad for a DJ at a local strip club.  Not only had I worked as a nightclub DJ in the past, I figured my experiences in The Sewer and the other club in Schenectady would prove useful, so I asked Future-Ex for permission to go down and audition.  I couldn’t believe it when she said I could.  I think she just wanted to get me out of the house more often, seriously.

So I went down and tried out, by DJ-ing for about 2 hours one evening.  I did OK… nothing earth shattering.  I always hated doing all the yapping on-mike.  My DJ style leaned toward letting the music do the talking but in this realm, they need more of a Master of Ceremonies.  Still, I got though it without embarrassing myself.  Most of the dancers had specific ideas of what I should play for them, so I didn’t really get to reach into my bag of music-selection tricks.  Best part was when one of the dancers came up and gave me a piece of her tips.  Apparently, the DJ gets a taste of the profits.

But it was easy come-easy go… Five minutes after she gave me the couple bucks, she sidled up to me to dance for tips.  I ended up having to give it right back to her.  Some racket…  Anyway, I didn’t get the job.  It would have been fun, and no doubt a good source for blog fodder. 

Once I moved to Baltimore, I stayed out of the clubs completely, mainly because I had my brother and sister here so I not only had them but I had access to their friends as well.  It was so nice to be back around family.

But one time, around 2002, I found myself on a business trip to Toronto.  I was only up there with my boss and he wasn’t a particularly social type.  So a quick scan in through the phone book after dinner told me that there was a strip club just down the street from my hotel.  I’d always heard about the stellar strip clubs in Canada, (and this was real Canada, not just Windsor,) so I felt obligated to check on out for myself.

First off, the girls there were dazzling, as I’d expected.  They were from everywhere… it was a veritable United Nations of tatas.  Nice place, pretty girls, exotic accents… seemed like it should have been perfect.

But this is where I started bumping up against what strip clubs have become since the early 90s.  They no longer come by and dance for your singles.  The only objective now is to get you back to the lap dance room and relieve you of a bunch of dollars at a time.  It was pretty much impossible to just sit and chill and watch the dancing on stage.  There was a literal procession of exotic girls coming up to my table with the solitary goal of selling me lap dances.  At this club, I believe the going rate was like $40 (US) after you pay a $20 room rental fee.   For that, you got 2 songs worth of writhing around on or about your lap.  And you had to be sure to put a wrap on things after the two songs… If you lingered and another song started, they dinged you for an additional $40.  But on the bright side, they were naked.  (Canada rocks!)

Anyway, for such a personal activity, the whole thing stuck me as highly impersonal.  You know… all sizzle but no heat.  And I didn’t like being put in the position to have to continually say no to all the girls.  I’m sure they play on that; that guys don’t want to disappoint the hot chicks. 

I liked the humble little clubs from my past better, I think.  Or maybe I had just outgrown the whole operation.  Go figure.

The last time I was at a club shouldn’t even count.  Back in the mid-2000s or so, I was back in Toledo visiting my buddies and one of them had been picking up part time work as a bouncer at a strip club.  He had to go in one afternoon so he could pick up his paycheck so I went with him.  I swear I wasn’t in there 5 minutes and this chick is after me for a lap dance.  I was like, “Cool the jets, sister, I’m just having a beer and waiting on that gorilla over there that you have guarding the door.”

My buddy has a lot of stories to tell about that place, but it’s his place to tell them.  He definitely had his hands full, I can tell you that.  But with that, I’m out.  I don’t go anywhere more “exotic” than Hooters and even that’s just for the big fish sandwiches. 

The older you get, the more you find that different things excite you now than when you were 25.

Perhaps it’s my turn to do the stripping…

I wonder if my high school Spanish would work like that…

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tales from the Strip Club Part 3 - Dating a Dancer

This is a continuation of the story I started in the last two posts.  If you’re finding this first, you should start at the beginning by either scrolling down or clicking here.

I began developing a friendship with Jackie throughout the fall of 1991 and into December.  Now, with my prior strip club experiences in The Sewer, I was aware that dancers like to make it seem that they just might be available, if you keep coming by.  So I was constantly scrutinizing every interaction, looking for signs of genuine feeling or fondness towards me.

If Jackie was faking it, she was an unbelievable actress.  There were too many signs that went beyond extending a con, like the night she brought in a photo album for me to see.  With the dim lights in the club, we had to find a back table under a neon light, so we could see as she showed me pictures of her past and her baby boy.  That was all well and good but I was scrutinizing the album for signs of her baby daddy or her living situation.  Remember, I wasn’t good at coming out and asking.  I was more than happy to take the time to analyze every encounter for clues.

One night she gave me a picture of herself that she had professionally done.  She was wearing a little lace nightie and a sexy smile.  Believe me, I still have the picture and it’s all I can do to keep from running it here.  (But that wouldn’t be very fair, would it?)

She was very generous to me with her time.  She often spent a great deal of time with me, just sitting and chatting.  We were at the point where she really didn’t want my money.  When she had to get up and make her rounds, she’d frequently give me a kiss.  She usually said she’d be back, but that was spotty at best.  I understood that the situation was fluid.  I always made sure I said goodbye though, before I left for the night.

I mentioned in the last post that I gave her a foot massage one night when her dogs were barking.  I did the same thing another night too, under similar circumstances.  She sat down with me at the end of the night and mentioned how tired she was.

I know what you need,” I said.  “Give me that foot.”

I rubbed her feet and calves until they forcibly removed us from the bar so they could close.  By this time, I’d inquired about seeing her outside the club…wanting to see her green eyes in the daylight.  Surprisingly, she was receptive.  I gave her my work number and suggested we have lunch one day at the mall. 

Nothing came of it immediately.  She said she’d been having phone and car problems, and that was fine because I was in the midst of the Christmas Crush, so my head was spinning pretty fast as it was.

I came in the club a couple times the week after Christmas and it seemed like her attitude was cooling towards me.  The first time, she told me that she had friends in from out of town and wanted to spend time with them.  I understood and that was cool… I didn’t stay long. 

The next time was a couple days before New Years.  I stopped in late just to wish her a Happy New Years, before I headed to my brother’s house in Baltimore for the holiday.  She acknowledged seeing me from the stage, but when she made her rounds afterwards, she stopped by this other table of two guys and stayed there for more than 45 minutes.  That pissed me off.  I felt that even if she knew these guys and wanted to hang, she at least could have come by and said hello first.  Then I could have wished her Happy New Year and been happily on my way.  I felt it was just rude.  So feeling very hurt, upset and blown off, I headed for the door without saying goodbye (or hello, for that matter) or even looking back.  I didn’t go back for the next several weeks.

Then in mid January, I came into the store one Friday afternoon and there was a short message on my desk.

Bluz, Jackie called.”  There was a phone number.

My stomach did a back flip!   I interrogated my staff for details but there was not much to add.  I called her immediately and we chatted for a few minutes to catch up.  Then she asked if I would be working on Saturday, because she thought she’d come in to town and we could go to lunch.  I said I thought I could work it in.

That next day was torture!  Naturally I had to tell the guys on my staff all about it.  I think they were as anxious to get a look at her as I was.  She was going to meet me at my store at 3:00 but I was sure that something was going to come up and she’d have to cancel, or she just wouldn’t show.  But then at the stroke of 3:20 (which is really 3:00 in Stripper Time) there she was.  She looked incredible, although smaller, which I attributed to the lack of the 3” heels.

We went to lunch and just talked, telling each other the stories of our pasts.  I couldn’t take my eyes off her.  Her eyes were as green as she said they were, and so much more striking in the daylight.

We cleared the air about the last time I was in the club, each telling our side of things.  She thought I was impatient.  I don’t remember what her side of it was but we both apologized for our actions.

Near the end of lunch, I said, “You realize that I’m going to want to see you again.”

I though about that before I called you.  Yeah, OK.”

What are you doing tomorrow?” 

I was striking while the iron was hot.  I invited her over to my place for a homemade spaghetti dinner and she accepted.  I said I’d call her around 11 to confirm.  I was thrilled at my outrageous good fortune.  On my way home that day, I stopped by the store for all the fixin’s I’d need to make pasta and sauce, plus wine.  Such an occasion definitely required wine.

On Sunday, I got up early and cleaned the whole apartment.  (I usually gave my apartment a good cleaning every 3 or 4 months, whether it needed it or not.)  I made the call and spoke to her roommate.  Jackie had just taken her son to the doctor and would be back in about 3 hours.  I left the message to call me when she got back.  I put all my fixin’s away, opened a beer, sat down to watch some football and wait for her call.  Which never came.  All that cleaning for nothing…

I called again around 8 and she was home.  The baby was OK, but it was a really long day so she requested a rain check.  I saw her again at the club that week, suggested getting together Wednesday morning (when I had to work 3 to close) and she agreed.  When I called the night before to confirm, she said she couldn’t make it, but suggested the following Saturday.  I was glad that she was the one suggesting alternate plans; that showed she was still interested.  But I still had a suspicion that something would come up.

When I talked to her again later that week, she said Saturday was out, but realizing that Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday, she invited me to her place, where she and her roommate were having a few people over for the game.  I was certainly up for that.  While I had really been looking forward to some uninterrupted one on one time with her, this was the next best thing.  And she was trusting me with access to her home… I didn’t think she would do that for just any schmo.  And she also gave me her real name.  I shouldn’t have been surprised that Jackie wasn’t her real name, but I was anyway.  I was doubly honored that she told me.  I asked what I should call her and she said she didn’t care.

Still, I was apprehensive.  Here she was, trusting me with inside information, but her manner seemed distant.  I decided to take nothing for granted… expect nothing, invest nothing (emotionally) and just see what happens.  But at least this next meeting would be in my hands.  I knew I was going to show up.

The Super Bowl party went wonderfully.  She was there in sweats and no make-up and I thought she was the most exquisite thing I’d ever seen.  I kept her company in the kitchen while she made a turkey.  (I made the Pillsbury rolls.)  I took the opportunity to ask what she wanted from me… What did she want to happen?

She said she wanted my friendship now and to see what happens going forward.  That was good enough for me.  But the other thing I gathered is that she had all kinds of other guys buzzing around her.  That really shouldn’t have been a surprise, although no one likes hearing that.  Again, I’d just have to see how it played out.

Meanwhile, we had a very good day.  Dinner was good, the wine was good (and plentiful) and the game… well, that was the famous Giants/Bills game where the Bills kicker juuuuust missed a field goal to win at the end of the game.

Near the end of the night, I finally got my hands on her.  I massaged her feet, neck and back.  Unfortunately, it put her right out, which was not the objective I was looking for.  She woke up when I got up to leave, and gave me a warm hug and a quick kiss goodnight.

That day was the high point of our relationship.

I got “good reviews” from everyone.  Her roommate said I was nice.  Her sister said I was nice.  I asked her what she thought and she said I was nice.

Shit.  I know where “nice” guys finish… always behind some slick asshole with good hair.

After that, we kept grinding through the same cycle.  We’d make plans to do something on a Wednesday morning or Sunday and they would fall through when the time came.  And it wasn’t just me making the plans… half of the time, she would make the suggestions.  But then it would never happen.  When she was supposed to call and confirm, I wouldn’t hear from her.  Or I’d call and her roommate would say she was out with some other guy.  I asked her roommate, once, if I was wasting my time chasing Jackie.  She said she didn’t pry into her personal life.  I immediately regretted asking.

At times, I wondered about the nature of her other “dates.”  Like whether they were personal or “professional.”  But that wasn’t something one can just come out and ask a girl you’re interested in.

By the way, Jackie, just in case you’re available for a fee, what could I get for $100?

I just couldn’t see doing that… tempting as it may have been.

The last time I talked to her, in the course of getting the rundown of her busy week, she mentioned she had a friend in town, with whom she hoped it would “lead to something bigger.” 

That’s the kiss of death, right there.  She said she had to get off the phone so her roommate could use it, but to call her back.  I said she should call me back whenever she’s ready, so I’m not pestering her.  She said I wasn’t pestering.  Whatever.

She never called back, which surprised exactly no one.

Two days later it was Valentine’s Day, so I sent her a card.  In it, I wrote that while I thought she was beautiful and interesting and that I loved spending time with her, I didn’t have it in me to keep chasing.  The constant cycle of anticipation and disappointment was playing hell with me.  I said that if she ever wanted to do anything, to just call and I’d be there.  But I was no longer going to pursue her and I wished nothing the best for her and her boy.

And that was that.  I stopped going to the club.  I joined a “singles” group and began a round of “Personals” dating, which was the forerunner of websites like  The next year, I met Future-Ex on a setup from work, and moved to a different part of town.  But I can always say, usually to a crowd of drunken guys, that I once dated an exotic dancer.  It’s kind of like a raconteur’s bucket list item.

I’ve often wondered what may have happened if things had turned out differently, although I really shouldn’t romanticize it.  The most likely outcome would have been nothing more than frequent trips to the clinic.

Quick final thoughts on strip clubs are coming with the next post.  I meant to sum up here, but like usual, I went on way too long already.  That always seems to happen when I have tangible documentation available.  Just as things were starting to heat up with Jackie, I began documenting the adventure because I knew it would be noteworthy, come what may.  I wasn’t journaling at the time, so it stands as kind of a one-off chapter.  I have all the he said/she said.  I have that phone message that was waiting for me at the store.  And of course I still have the picture.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tales from the Strip Club Part 2

This is a continuation of the story I started in the last post.  If you’re finding this first, you should start at the beginning by either scrolling down or clicking here.

After moving from Cleveland to the Albany area, I found a little club that wasn’t too far from my apartment in Schenectady and would go for a beer and relax there, maybe once or twice a week.  I started going there around autumn of 1991.  This place was similar to my hangout in The Sewer, except that the girls were topless by the end of their set.

I tried finding another neighborhood bar, but no one ever talked to me in the places I went.  It seemed very clique-ish.  But at the strip club, I could come in after a hard day’s work and pretty girls would come and talk to me and bring me beer.  Best of all, they didn’t want anything from me, (other than $1 bills) which was a pleasant change from my daily grind at the store.
This was today’s panel of “Speed Bump,” on the newspaper comic page.

Using my hard won knowledge from my time in The Sewer, I managed to befriend a couple of the dancers.  When they’d come by, I’d talk to them about the music they liked or what they danced to.  I made sure they knew I had access to all kinds of music.  That really helped break the ice.

One night, I noticed that one of the girls was dancing to a really beat up Bad Company cassette.  You could hear the sound fade in an out, the way overplayed tapes do.  So the next time I came in, I brought her a new Bad Company tape that I’d made myself, professionally assembled on my mixing board at home.  This was a very big hit. 

Of course there was one girl in particular that I liked… Jackie.  She was a lightly freckled green-eyed blonde who wore her hair so that it often fell down over one eye.  Through repeat visits, we became friendly.  We liked a lot of the same music so we always had that to talk about.  I made a number of tapes for her, the best of which was a music masterpiece.  Their sets were 4 songs at a time, so I knew the drill and I could pace it just right… upbeat intro song for pole-dancing, song for peeling off some clothes, slow song for working the floor, etc. 

One of the songs I included was one of my favorites; Gary Moore’s “Still Got the Blues.”  (It was current, at the time.)  I loved watching her dance to that… she was smokin’ hot.  And the reason that I know she really liked my handiwork is that sometimes I would hear her playing it when I was just walking in.  I knew she wasn’t just putting it on just for my benefit.  She was dancing to Still Got the Blues one night and caught me with my eyes closed, just grooving on the guitar solo.  Busted!  She said to me, “You’re not even watching me, are you?  You’re just into the song!

So on nights I’d close the store and had the next day off, I’d go there after work and often stay late.  There’s a lot less competition for attention at the end of the night.  On one of those nights, Jackie flopped down in a chair beside me and went, “Oh, my feet are killing me!” as she began unlacing her boots.

Before I knew what I was doing, I’d scooped up her foot, and pulled off her boot and began administering a first class foot massage.  She practically melted right there.  Now, I had no idea what I was doing… I’d done many back massages in my day, but nothing with feet.  But it seemed to do the trick.

This is better than sex!” she said. 

I answered, “Depends on the sex.”

She said, “Depends on the massage.”

I was thinking, “Shit, now if we ever get together, I’m going to have to top this…”

I think I said something like, “You should see what I can do with the rest of you.”  So smooth, I know.

It’s hard when you start to get attached to a dancer, just because of the nature of the business.  Sometimes I’d stop in but she’d barely be able to say hi.  It could be a bachelor party or a particular friend that was commanding her attention, but it was OK… I would never cause a scene.  I was fine as long as I knew that it was nothing I did.  (So paranoid, I know.)

But the worst times were when some asshole would start getting mouthy, grabby or disrespectful.  Guys can say really hurtful things when they’re liquored up, especially when they’re in groups.  The girls that work at these places aren’t there to be receptacles for unreconciled mother issues masquerading as abuse.  They’re not emotionless.  Comments hurt.  These are women that are doing what they have to do in order to care for their kid at home.  (I don’t think I ever met a dancer that didn’t have a child she was raising.)  They didn’t need that kind of shit from some walking hard-on.

It happened to Jackie once when I was there.  I could see Jackie “The Professional” handle it well.  She maintained her dignity and breezed off the stage when her time was up.  But I knew Jackie “The Girl” was crying in the dressing room.  I tried to cheer her up when she eventually came back out, but there’s really only so much one can do.  Try to rebuild the confidence, maybe.  But it killed me to see the hurt in her eyes.

Anyway, I kept coming back and eased into a comfortable relationship with a number of girls there.  It got to where I’d have a dollar out on the table when the girl would come down to dance and she’d say, “Oh, I don’t want your money,” and I’d say, “And you don’t need to dance for me.  Just sit down for a minute.”  Then we’d yak for a bit, she’d go off to the next table and I’d feel like a million bucks.

But you all know me.  Could I let it stay there?  Of course not.  I had to go and try to date Jackie.  It almost worked, too… which is a story for the next post.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tales from the Strip Club

Ever since I mentioned my frequent trips to “The Sewer” (which is how my friends and I referred to the row of strip clubs near where I used to live in Cleveland) in my The Younger Me post, I’ve wanted to do a post solely about those experiences.

As much as I consider myself a liberated, pro-feminist dude of the 21st Century, I humbly admit that there was a time in my life that I used to go to strip clubs.  I’m not proud of it, nor am I terribly ashamed either.  But I always thought that the strip club culture was a rich vein for mining, be it for a book, a sitcom or TV drama.  (There have already been movies, but nothing that was any good.  Sorry, Demi.)

As I mentioned in The Younger Me, the clubs I went to in 1986 Cleveland were mostly “bikini bars,” where girls would dance on stage in skimpy costumes before stripping down to a bikini top and G-string.  Usually it was a 3-song or 15-minute set up on stage, then the dancer would come down to the tables to make her rounds.  She’d dance a bit for each guy, who would then tuck a dollar into her garter or boot or whatever was available.  (And no, you NEVER tried to put a bill anyplace it didn’t belong.  That would earn you a guaranteed bum rush out the door.)  Sometimes she’d sit down and chat with you a bit, especially if it was slow. 

Some places had a DJ, other places had a ‘house stereo’ and others had a good old-fashioned jukebox.  The latter option sucked, because the house made the dancers feed the jukebox and they, in turn, came to the customers.  Personally, I hated the fact that the nature of the jukebox limited song choices to only those songs that appeared on 45’s.  (Remember, there were no CD jukeboxes yet.)

Before I moved out there, I had never been to a strip club.  We used to make jokes about the one we knew about in Toledo, “The Jolly Trolley,” but I’d never actually gone.  Too much other stuff to do, I guess.  But after being transplanted to another city, with no real companionship but for some other fellow record store managers like me, the proximity to The Sewer combined with the newness of the experience was attractive.

After sampling a number of the establishments, we quickly found a place we liked best and made it a semi-regular hangout.  Just as quickly, we each found dancers that we particularly liked.  Hell, I felt like a kid in a candy store, because when I came in there with my friends, hot chicks would be all over us.  It certainly helped to keep going back to one place… the dancers there would get to know you, or at least know that you’re harmless, or pleasant to talk to.  Obviously they make note of your financial situation and spending habits too.  As my friend Pamela used to say, “Sista gotta eat…”

I think that the thing I found attractive about the situation was that in the strip club dynamic, the girls would come to me.  That’s such a help to a guy that’s shy and has limited “game.”  To me, approaching and breaking the ice was always the hardest part.

I really learned a lot about the strip club culture during my Cleveland years, which would serve me well later.  Mostly, I learned from all the shit I did wrong.  Here’s what I can say now:

Expectations:  Keep them in check.  Do not go to strip clubs looking for a relationship.  To the dancers, guys are the customers and in almost every case, that’s all they’ll ever be.  It’s too easy to confuse the attention that dancers are trained to show customers, with actual feelings and affections.  It’s not that they can’t have them, it’s just very hard to know where the “business” stops and the “personal” starts.  Misunderstandings and hurt feelings are highly likely to develop.

Increments: You CAN forge a personal relationship but you must approach it incrementally, like the way you would care for a stray cat.  You make nice slowly, leaving food out, staying nearby but non-threatening.  You don’t know what kind of life it has led before, so it may bolt at any second (and possibly scratch your eyes out.)

Single focus:  Don’t have one.  I made a mistake in focusing on one dancer in particular and while I was never rude to any of the others, it was obvious whom I liked. (The one I asked out via napkin note, as referenced in The Younger Me.)  I probably looked at her the same way Pepe LePew looks at that little black cat with the white stripe painted on her back.

By the time I found out that there was a dancer that kind of liked me, I’d already made her feel like a 2nd class citizen because of all the attention I paid to the original target of my affections.

Money trumps all: No matter what the relationship, the dancer will always seek the money.  If some douche is making it rain in the far corner, you’re pretty much out of luck for the rest of then night, unless you have your own pile of dough.

Drama is bad: That’s another reason dancers don’t like to get personal with customers.  It doesn’t take much for a guy to get all jealous and make a scene.  That’s bad for business.  Plus, if you think you have a shot, you’ll keep coming back.

Eyes up:  Check them out when they’re up on the stage, or performing for someone else. Treat them like a human, not an object.  Some guys could just look a girl up and down, or just stare at her tits.  I never could.  So when a girl would come by for tips, I’d always look at her eyes.  Sometimes they’d be unnerved because they weren’t used to it, but most appreciated it.

See, I went to the strip clubs for weird reasons.  In Cleveland, it was a fun group activity plus it was all new to me.  It seemed like harmless fun.  There were occasions where we tried out the slimier places… topless bars, full nude places, but I always left there kind of skeeved out. Our regular place seemed happier and less pervy.  The only time I ever went alone was when I was chasing that one dancer and that didn’t last very long.  Then after a year or two, my buddies began to fall away… one got fired, the other moved back to Toledo. 

By this time I was more established in the record retail community and was learning my way around the city.  Cleveland had a thriving music scene so there were a lot of opportunities to go out and do stuff.  I found a nice neighborhood bar to go to as well.  I’d go there after work and write in my journal.  They had great hot wings that were very affordable, considering I wasn’t buying beer any more at titty-bar prices.  I really didn’t need The Sewer any more.

Then I moved to Albany in 1990, to run a big mall store near our company HQ.  Now THIS was a big move.  I was brand new in a strange and far away town.  There was no group of people landing there with me as there was in Cleveland and now I was way too far from home to just hop in the car and go visit my buddies.  I was completely on my own.  That’s when I started going to a strip club again.

To be continued…

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Odd Bits - The Team Building Edition

Couple of little things to cover today.  Nothing heavy going on...  I just wish I were at Podcamp Pittsburgh 7, which is going on this weekend.  I had such a grand time at Podcamp 6.  I guess someone else is going to have to stalk PittGirl this time.

If It Weren't For Bad Luck I'd Have No Luck at All Dept.
Ever since my buddy Rik, the Detroit Tigers fan, and I went to see the Tigers play in Pittsburgh this year, we’ve been talking about taking a road trip to Wrigley Field in Chicago.  As it turns out, next year’s schedule has been announced and his Tigers are playing in Chi-town next summer.  I’m dying to go… I saw my first baseball game ever at Wrigley, when I was in 3rd grade.  So it’s a no-brainer right?  I’ll just take my usual week’s vacation in Toledo over that week and we’ll go from there.

Then I saw in the paper the announcements for the Orioles 2012 schedule.  Seems that the Pirates are coming here… the very same 3 days that the Tigers will be in Chicago.

Fuck.  I mean, I’m still going to take the trip, but it just pisses me off to miss out on the opportunity to see my Buccos play right here, just a few blocks from where I work.  Stupid schedulers…  "Gloom, despair and agony on me."

Team-Building Dept.
One of the nice things our company does for us is to occasionally provide some fund for us to go out on company time and have an event.  We had one of those yesterday, where we went out to a local Irish pub for lunch and a darts competition.

I was a little worried about that because there’s nothing like the “pub” atmosphere to turn a simple darts tournament into a spirited game of Pin the Tail on the Drunk.  Fortunately, there wasn’t much drinking involved, but we did have a grand time.  And it afforded me an opportunity to take some pictures of my new cube setup.

In case you didn’t know, when I changed jobs (internally) last May, I also moved across the floor to a somewhat roomier cube.  The funny thing is that while I moved directly adjacent to my boss’s corner office, the way the floor is laid out, I’m actually one step farther away from her door than I was when I sat on the other side of the floor.  Go figure.

This is where I sit now.  See the numerical references for interesting details.

1        My MP3 player, plugged into a set of computer speakers.  I can play my music (softly) all day long and never hear a song I don’t like.
2        Two pictures: one of my Dad and I freezing our asses off at the 2005 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh versus the Patriots, and one of my brother outside Three River Stadium for a first-round playoff game in 1998, also against the Patriots.  I’ve run both shots here before.
3        Framed picture of Three Rivers Stadium, with the scoreboard welcoming me by name.  No, I didn’t really have that kind of pull or influence; you can buy these for most any stadium through various websites.  Oh, and the inset on the lower right hand corner is a shot of a giant Segnari’s fish sandwich, from a earlier trip to Pittsburgh.  Also in the area, my 6-Time Super Bowl Champion Terrible Towel, a wooden plaque of Steelers jerseys throughout the ages and a small Steelers flag.
4        I always wear my sneakers to and from work and leave my dress shoes at the office.  The dress shoes are to the left.  On the right… a pair of Steelers slippers.  Sometimes I get those hives on my feet and tight dress shoes make them worse.  Since hardly anyone ever comes all the way back to my corner, does it really matter what I wear on my feet?  Why not be comfortable?
5        Terrible Towels commemorating Super Bowls XL and XLIII.  Both have Super Bowl Champion lapel pins attached.
6        Various awards and commendations for service or longevity.  My favorite is the one (from five years ago) that I won for having the cube with the most personality.

Directly outside my cube, I have room enough for a file cabinet, so anytime I have some spare horizontal surfaces, I feel duty-bound to fill them up.  Not everyone had a lobby outside their cube…

1        That’s an adhesive board where I keep cartoons and other reading material for anyone who is waiting for me to get off the phone. 
2        That’s a palm plant I rescued from a co-worker about 10 years ago, when it was only a foot tall and dying rapidly.
3        An aluminum bottle of Iron City beer (empty) with a foam light bulb stuffed inside.
4        An aluminum bottle of Bud Light from Camden Yards.  No, that’s not a Browns helmet on top… that helmet is for my alma mater, the illustrious Bowling Green State University.  (Motto: We’re not the ones in Kentucky.)
5        Steelers beer stein, with a Steelers impact-activated football.  When you bump or catch the ball, it calls out, “Touchdowwwwwn Steelers!”  I can be verrrry annoying with that, especially after the Steelers beat the Ratbirds.  (Obviously I got no use out of it last weekend.)
6        Framed photo of former Steelers coach Bill Cowher lifting the AFC Championship Trophy, from 1995 (I think).  I looked to update it after they won SBXL, but I couldn’t find anything I liked that I could fill an 8x10 frame.
7        Black and white shot from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette archives of Hall of Fame Linebacker Jack Lambert crushing a Browns running back.
8        Above, a towel that says “Knocking on Seven’s Door,” made by Iron City Beer.  Below, a Super Bowl Champions magnet from the 2006 Steelers schedule.

The only thing missing now is a sign I have that says “Steelers Fan Parking Only.”  I’d like to put it on the wall directly over the chair.

As you can see, I don’t shrink from being seen as a Steelers fan, here in Ravens Country.

By the way, just because I have it, here is the view out my window.

The Mojo Boogie
It could have been a really rough week at the office.  But I learned that there is a distinct advantage to sitting in a part of the floor where almost no one goes, surrounded by women that don’t follow sports.  I took almost no guff from anyone.  That could be a cue for me to become much more obnoxious, but then that would be bad karma.

Last week, the hated Ratbirds crushed my boys 35-7 and it didn’t even seem that close.  Unlike most Ratbird fans when their team loses, neither Steelers fans nor players are putting forth any excuses.  To a man, every quote I read from the Steelers players said something like, “They just whupped us.  They played great and we played badly.  End of story.”

No one blamed the refs, no one blamed the league, no one claimed they beat themselves and no one went so far as to criticize their opponents for going after their rookies (like Ray Lewis did after the Steelers beat them up 38-7, in a 2007 Monday night game.)

I thought they looked old and slow.  They were out played, out hit and out coached by a team that had fire in their eyes.

However… it is not time to panic in Steeler Nation.  This was 1 game… you can’t draw legitimate conclusions from a sample of “1”.  This week, the Seattle Seahawks come to town to play the Steelers.  Seattle is not a very good team and the Steelers should handle them fairly easily.  Now if that does NOT happen, there may be trouble.  Then the week after, they play the Colts at Indy.  The Colts, playing without their star quarterback, Peyton Manning, got crushed opening week by the Texans.  If we don’t play well against them either, THEN it’s time to panic.

This week’s game is being played directly opposite the Ratbirds game, so it won’t be on TV here.  That makes it a sports bar game, where I’ll head out to catch it at Jilly’s, my local tavern.  I also anticipate catching a ton of grief from the locals, after last week’s debacle. 

C’est la vie… which I believe is French for “whatevs…”

In checking my Mojo Spreadsheet from last year, I found what I wore to my first Jilly’s game of the year, and the Steelers won.  So that’s where I’ll start this year.
Black Steelers polo, with yellow-fronted hat and the legendary (to Judie) Steelers socks.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another Cheap Post-Happy Hour Post

Yeah, I was out to happy hour with Sitcom Kelly again, so I’m not in any mood get all introspective, jocular or even construct a coherent sentence.  So sue me.

But since I usually post on Thursdays, I don’t want to let you down when you come ‘round here tonight or tomorrow looking for whatever crappola I have on tap.

Tonight’s Crappola
Back in the mid 80’s HBO used to run those Young Comedian specials.  The first one I ever saw (and still probably the best) was the 9th Annual Young Comedian’s special, from 1984.

One of my favorite bits from that show was a comic called Bob Nelson, who after a short bit on being a drunk at a bar or cocktail party, (possibly with Sitcom Kelly), he went into his now-famous football bit introducing the College All Star Team.

Note: You do NOT have to know anything about football to appreciate this bit.  In fact, the less you know, the better.  But this shit is classic.

In that same special, we were first introduced to the genius that was Sam Kinison.  When Bad Sam took the stage and started riffing on being married, I used to scream with laughter.  And when he finally brought it home with his bit on We Are The World and the starving people in Africa, it became an instant comedy classic.

Believe it or not, I actually got married AFTER having seen this act, so ladies, don’t get too upset with ol’ Sam.  It’s just jokes.

I’ll be back this weekend with a real post.

Note: Both videos are definitely Not Safe For Work, or anyone with delicate sensibilities.  You’ve been warned.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Younger Me

Last night, I spent some time picking through the detritus of a former life.  I excavated my old journals from the mid-1980s.  This was the time period immediately after I had moved out of the Bowling Green Apartment, up through moving away from my ‘home base’ for the first time and going to Cleveland, culminating in the Whatsername Saga.  I was 25 to 26 years old.  And a pinhead.

Have you ever read through old journals, a really long time after writing them?  There was so much there that I couldn’t remember… Names and faces of people that I’d hired and worked with, restaurants I’d eaten in several times a month, even girls I’d attempted to date.  (Obviously, unsuccessfully, otherwise I’m sure I’d have remembered more.)

I spent waay too much time in the journal focusing on things that were going on at work.  I know I didn’t have very much going on in my life, so I had to write about something…  When I moved to Cleveland, (Parma, specifically) I did so to become a record store manager.  

Finally getting my own store meant everything to me, but I had no idea what I was doing.  I was pretty much working without a net, and while I had a pretty good sense of operations, I was completely at sea as far as how to be an effective manager.  It was so hard to strike a balance between getting people off their lazy asses to get some work done (properly) versus being an overbearing douche.  Suffice to say, the needle swung both directions.

But in reading this stuff, I could also see my steady development.  I was the guy that my DM sent into other stores to clean up their back rooms (by writing returns of old merchandise to the record labels) and re-organizing their desks.  He even sent me as far away as Nebraska, to set up a store the company had just acquired, and train their staff.  That was a lot of responsibility put on my rookie shoulders.  I must have pulled it off though, because my boss nominated me for the illustrious Manager of the Month Award for our region.  (“Our region” constituted the northeast quadrant of the country.  This was a big deal.)  This is what I wrote about it:

“As long as I make projection this month (sales goal), he’s going to put me in for Manager of the Month for the region.  That means $200 and a plaque!  (I was genuinely excited.  200 bucks was almost a week’s pay for me then.)  I think I have a good chance… probably the best I’m going to have, what with the store coming together, making plan for the 1st time, training a new manager, helping out all the other stores and making projected ‘key goals’ (like selling x amount of accessories or discount albums) and so on.  Yay for me.  On the other hand, I’d rather get laid.”

Yes, even though I did go on to win the award, you could see where my real priorities were.  I spent most of the time from when I moved out to Cleveland and throughout my off and on time with Whatsername, being desperately lonely.

The funny thing is that I don’t think I ever told anyone about it, but when I read the journals, it just leaps off the page.  I had a lot of guy friends, especially the first year or two when a number of us Toledoans relocated to Cleveland, but job attrition pared the number away quickly.  What I really craved was a relationship.  I sized up every female that crossed my path for dating possibilities.  Often, the cruelest jokes were the girls I matched up with best were often working for me, thus putting them off limits.  If only I could transfer my hiring criteria into dating criteria… Well, and pay them 5.50 an hour…

It’s no wonder I kept going back to Whatsername; I had absolutely nothing else going on.  When I first moved out there, it just so happened that I lived about 2 miles from a row of strip clubs.  We came to refer to that area as The Sewer, because that was where the filth was.  In actuality, these clubs weren’t really all that filthy… they were bikini bars.  Girls would pole-dance in bikini tops and g-strings.  These were the places we went most often.  There were other places that were much more, um, naked, but we didn’t go there very often.  It always seemed like the hardcore places were coated with a thin film of slime.  I always felt dirty leaving there.  But at our usual haunts, we got to be regulars.

My strip club experiences definitely deserve a post of their own… maybe some day.  But I was laughing as I read my journals because I seriously thought that I had an actual chance at dating some of the dancers.  And my sewer buddies were just feeding into it.  We all thought that we, a bunch of broke-ass record store managers, would walk off with hot stripper girls.  Hah!  My dumb ass…

But honestly, those girls seemed like my best chances at the time, which just goes to show how pathetic my life was.  This is from my first week in Cleveland.  Remember, I had never been to a strip club of any kind, until that very week.  I was obviously impressed.

“I’ve been to The Sewer every night this week to see Jeanette.  Last night I asked her out with this charming “love letter” on a napkin.  (Does this boy have game or what?  Gag.)  I’m awaiting an answer.  I’m not hopeful.  I can tell she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings, but she didn’t say no right away.”  (Because she doesn’t want to lose a customer, dum-dum.)

The next day’s entry: (Quoting AC/DC) Shot down in flames… Yes, but more blown off than shot down.  I was there myself tonight and she probably spent a total of 1.5 to 2 minutes at my table, and never mentioned the note and barely acknowledged our previously growing friendship.”  Is THAT what you call it?  Friendship?  Sheesh…

I went on to recreate the note I wrote her, but I’m sorry, it’s just too painful to reproduce here.  She probably had a whole wall of these ham-handed mash notes all tacked up on display, to run a Sappiest Come-on Contest.

But that passage showed an M.O. that turned up again and again, with strippers or otherwise.  I’d make a half-assed move and then obsess and dissect every subsequent encounter, looking for clues and direction.  If I could talk to the 25-year old me, I’d tell him, “Geez, just sac-up and ask the girl out!  If she says no, move on, for cryin’ out loudDon’t be such a dipshit!”  (I whack the Younger Me upside the back of the head, for emphasis.)  My life was reduced to a “Three’s Company” plot, where one line of dialogue could have cleared up hours of fumbling around.

As painful as a lot of this was for me to read, I’m still glad I had journaling as an outlet.  It fed both my need to write AND my need to record, archive and keep score.  Remember, there were no PCs or cell phones, and cable TV only had 30-40 stations (IF you had a good cable package).  There wasn’t really a whole lot to do, compared with now.  I spent my time watching ESPN, talking to my family or my buddies on my (corded) phone and collecting stereo equipment, albums and CDs, so I could make mix tapes. 

I definitely could have gone out more often than I did, because there were a lot of things to do in Cleveland then, but remember, I didn’t have much excess cash.  When I took my first store, they paid me $285 per week (and I was thrilled with that).  But factor out rent, utilities, groceries, beer and stripper money, and I wasn’t exactly rolling in dough.  At least I got to go various record label functions and got lots of free concert tickets.  Once I tired of The Sewer (which didn’t take long), the concerts became my livelihood.

One day, I dug into some of my old college papers, and grew nostalgic (for a period about three years prior!)  This is what I wrote:

“Was looking through some old Bowling Green papers and scripts the other night.  I was shocked.  They were actually pretty good.  My speeches were outrageous, my scripts were funny, and my papers had that ‘edge’ to them, saying ‘Hey, I may not be brilliant, but at least I’m interesting!  It’s scary to wake up and realize that you used to be a genius.’”

That was me all right… genius gone to seed and living in Parma.  (Snork!)  But the journals weren’t all downers and embarrassments.  I’d always throw in the odd observation or whatever joke I’d heard lately.  Like these:

“There is no better feeling of well-being than knowing that you have a 6-pack of Klondikes in the freezer and an unopened bottle of wine.”

Still holds true, I tell you that right now.

“Q: What do you get when you cross Dr. Ruth with William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry?
 A: I don’t know but you’d better be on top.”

That sounds like a quip from VH1’s “I Love the 80’s.”

It was also kind of amusing seeing the roots of some of my own peculiar ways develop from the seeds of youth.  Sometimes, I’d see a story or a reference and go, “So that’s why I started doing that…” Kind of like a personal time capsule.

Lastly, you may have noticed that I didn’t mention very much about Whatsername.  Obviously, when you spend 3 prior posts on a subject, there’s not a lot of new ground left to cover.  But man, was that ever a roller coaster ride through hell.  (You may remember those posts from late April, where I talked about a girlfriend with whom I’d gotten together and broken up 4 times in a year and a half.)  Reading the corresponding journal entries are like seeing one of those horror movies where the audience can all see the killer and are yelling at the screen, “Turn around you dumbass, you’re gonna get killed!” 

I definitely should have taken the metaphorical knife with me, rather than gift-wrapping it and sending it back to Hell’s Siren.  But live and learn.  And speaking of learning, I also learned that I had a bit of the timeline wrong in the story’s first telling.  (I had the details of 2 different breakups switched around.)  I knew I should have consulted the journals first.  Just goes to show that you can take two different ways around the block and still wind up out on the same corner.

Wow, that sounds like something I would have written 25 years ago.

I’ve been going through my scanned archives looking for a shot of me from this era, but I couldn’t find anything appropriate.  So I’m running this:
Store Manager Bluz visits with the Dragon Lady, circa 1989. 

Note: that is NOT Whatsername.  The Dragon Lady was a good friend and mentor.  We started working together in Toledo, went up through the management system and both ended up running stores in Cleveland.  I just used this shot because A) I don’t feel like firing up the scanner to download a better one and B) Damn, I was skinny then.  And stylin’!