Three hat stories from Saturday night…
I stepped out of the Limelight into the muggy cool Portland night, walked past the blonde boys sitting smoking on the benches, adjusted my fedora, and walked across SE Milwaukie to where I’d parked the car.
On the far side, I was walking past another bar and onto a side street. A tall guy in a straw cowboy hat, unshaven, wobbly-drunk, was crossing my path. He saw me, did a sloppy double-take.
“You a hood?” he asked me, somehow turning to face me even as he slowly continued into the bar.
“Pardon?” I asked.
“You a hood? Hoods wear those.” He pointed at his head, which was wearing a cowboy hat, but I knew he meant my head, not his. How’d my brain know that? It was the context.
I laughed and said, “I’m not a hood!” And you’re drunk, I thought.
The stage at Devil’s Point hangs from chains and is secured in the back but is otherwise hanging free. On that stage, on Saturday night, paraded a variety of strippers, most of them dark-haired, tall and thin, and covered in tattoos.
I’d come in out of curiosity and a desire to see some strange cooter.
I sipped my Bombay Sapphire and tonic, felt the gin work its way into my system, and kept wiping my snarky grin off my face as Rocket danced above and in front of me. The crowd was loud and drunk, and included a short, dark-haired woman with librarian glasses in a green t-shirt and jeans that looked to be either an off-duty dancer, a regular, or just really friendly with everyone. At one point she jumped over the back of a chair, sat next to me, and announced that she was “waiting for the hot dancers.” Which seemed crazy to me, since Rocket was on the stage, but to each their own. Not finding Rocket “hot” didn’t prevent the glasses girl from shouting, miming a rope to pull Rocket closer, or pretending to kiss and lick Rocket whenever a body part presented itself. Yeah, definitely crazy.
After Rocket finished her three-song set, the next girl up was a tall thin Asian girl. Normally not my type, but… wow. I’m not sure if it was the crowd, the strongly mixed drink, or the newness of these women, but I was having a great time. Sharai? Sharai who? Heh.
When System of a Down’s “Toxicity” came up, I remembered the dark noisy bar off of Bourbon Street where I’d first heard it, and sang along, loudly. I wasn’t alone.
A group of early-twenty-somethings sat at the far corner of the bar, and I noticed that the boy, a tall, thin, dark-haired emo boy, appeared to be talking to me over the music. He pulled his yellow-and-white mesh-back trucker cap off and held it towards me, mouthed something, pointed at his now-exposed head.
I leaned over a bit to better hear him.
“Hey, man,” he said, “we should trade hats!“
I gave him a blank look. “What?”
“Hats!” He was smiling. He pointed at my fedora. “We should trade them! For one song!”
Take off my hat? For a guy? And put on his trucker cap?
Smiling indulgently, just as Superman would smile at a six-year-old who wanted to fight crime at his side, I simply said, “No.”
The kid looked a bit shocked and hurt. He pouted. His friends laughed. “Well, fuck you and your super-cool hat, then!” But he was smiling and laughing. He replaced his cap on his head and extended his hand in friendship. “My name’s Sam!”
“Hi, Sam, I’m Brian,” I said, talking loud just as the song ended and the volumed melted away. Awesome. Now everyone knew my name! It’ll be like Cheers!
Sam smiled and shook his head. “It’s a really cool hat, man.”
“Yeah. Everybody loves the hat!”
I stood in the middle section of Devil’s Point, the part that wasn’t the bar and wasn’t the stage. I guess it’s the “lounge” – filled with tall tables and overstuffed vinyl booths. Not that Devil’s Point is very large to begin with. The majority of the dancers that night were tall and thin, with short dark hair, and covered in tattoos. They all seemed to dress in bikini tops, lacy boyshorts, and platform boots that went all the way up to their knees.
In other words, totally my type.
I’d run out of singles and was debating getting more from the bar, or heading back to my neighborhood and the Acropolis. If i was going to be doing more drinking I didn’t want to have to drive very far. I watched the girl on the stage and debated internally. I wondered where they did private dances. I saw a curtained alcove, dark and triangular, not much bigger than three square feet. There?
Rocket strutted out of the dressing room and walked right up to me. She smiled and leaned close. “Hi, I wanted to tell you…”
She was interrupted by a burst of noise as a loud song started up and the crowd cheered. We both flinched.
“Rowdy crowd!” I said over the din.
She nodded. The DJ announced that the girls not on the stage were available for private dances. I looked at Rocket and raised my eyebrows.
Her eyes twinkled. “Would you like a private dance?” she asked.
“Mainly, I’m wondering where? Where does that happen?”
She turned and pointed to the alcove I’d spotted. “In there.”
“Seems dark. And small.”
“Would you like to see?” She took my hand and led me over. “C’mon! I’ll give you a tour!” She pulled back the curtain.
Sure enough, it was triangular and painted so dark that light seemed to fall into it. I could see the glints of light off the glossy leather (or vinyl) bench in the back, and silver handles set into the wall on either side, presumably hand-holds. Other than that I couldn’t see much. Rocket was standing right next to me, warm and smelling of cherries. In fact, she smelled… delicious. She smelled like chocolate and cherries and vanilla. I kept thinking of Dr. Pepper. I wondered if I would be overwhelmed in that space.
“It looks… great!” I said.
“Cool! I’ll be right back, OK?”
I turned around and watched the stage while she did some business at the bar. She returned just as the song was ending. I sat down. She stood in front of me and writhed in close, in time to the music.
“Oh, wait!” I raised my hands and she leaned away, not very far because of the tight space. I pulled my hat off. If she was standing over me I wouldn’t have been able to see because of the brim, and she wouldn’t have been able to get very close, either. Plus my head was warm. “My hat…” I started to put it under the bench; she took it from me and put it on a shelf just inside the curtain. I had not noticed that shelf before, but then there was a hot Goth-y chick about to get naked for me. I was distracted.
As she started dancing, I grinned, snarky. “Should I sit on my hands?” My hands were placed in plain view on my thighs.
“Why?” She asked. “Are you going to be a naughty boy?”
I just laughed. Probably not, I thought, I don’t think I want to be kicked out of here yet.
She danced for me, leaning in close, presenting all of the most fascinating body parts in extreme close up. She did something that the dancers at the Acropolis never do, also: she would kiss and nibble my neck, and get very close to actually kissing me on the lips. I was smiling but I tried to keep very still and move slowly and deliberately. No sudden movements. And the Dr. Pepper smell just reminded me of how hungry I was. No dinner. No wonder the one drink was affecting me – empty stomach.
Or maybe it was Rocket.
Just as the song was ending, Rocket had taken off her belt and appeared to be about to strangle me with it. But not in a dangerous way; in a sexy way. Some people like that, I understand… It was probably a ploy, though, because she stopped when the song did. “That song ended just in time for you!” she laughed. It sounded like a joke she’d made many times before, and it was the only off note she made all evening. We can tell when something’s rehearsed, or when it’s natural, or we believe we can. Because she’d been so playful and friendly, I shrugged it off.
I dug out my wallet, and she turned and picked up my hat. She admired it before setting it back on my head. “Oh, I almost forgot! The whole reason I walked up to you was I wanted to tell you: I really like your hat!”
I laughed, softly, and nodded. “Yes. Everybody loves the hat.”