The first time

I’ve written before about my first time at a strip club. Except it wasn’t my first time inside the club. Just my first visit to the club. And I’ll never know for sure if the girl I drove to work that day was a waitress… or a dancer.

A missed opportunity, to be sure. Life is full of those.

But the first time I ever stepped inside a strip club was a bit different.

My best friend in high school, Terry, had, after graduation, gone away. To Japan. To be with the woman he eventually married and had children with.

I had moved in with a couple of high school friends, three single guys sharing an apartment, while I kept a dead-end job as a sales clerk in a boutique game store. I spent way more money than I made, which was a recipe for disaster. But I didn’t really care.

And then Terry and his wife came back from Japan. This was before they had had any kids. Terry was going to help manage his mom’s business, which was a boutique clothing store.

The night Terry came back, or shortly thereafter, found the four of us guys hanging out. And Terry suggested we hit the Acropolis for a steak.

Even then, the idea of the Acrop as a steak house, rather than a titty bar, was the cover story. Don’t get me wrong; I like the steaks there. Locally grown beef, cheap and cooked simply.

But, c’mon. People go because of the naked women.

I was reluctant to go but gave in because, hey, my friend was back, just like in the song. We almost had to go to a strip club.

Sadly, my memories of that night are slim. I remember the discontinuity of being served a steak while a woman showed her naughty parts just inches from my face, in a dark smoky room. I remember being almost unable to eat, so distracted was I.

I’m almost positive I didn’t have a beer; hard to believe now, but back then I wasn’t much of a beer drinker. The question is – what did I drink? I can’t recall, but it was probably scotch. I was going through a scotch whiskey phase back then, single malts. Mmmmm.

And I can’t recall the dancers, except that they were busty. One of them was able to make her breasts move asymmetrically – first one bounced, then the other, back and forth. That was worth a dollar.

Terry introduced me to the ways of strip clubs – a dollar a dance if you were sitting at the rack. If you didn’t want to pay, go sit elsewhere. And talk to the dancers. Make them laugh and don’t treat them like servants or robots or animals. They’re entertainers, first, and foremost, and believe it or not, human beings with lives and thoughts outside of the club. They were working for many different reasons and each one had a story to tell. And if you were lucky, they’d tell you a story. Was it true? Who knows and who cares? That’s all outside the club.

Which is where I always wanted to find a dancer – in the mythical realm outside, where I wasn’t a customer and she wasn’t a stripper; we were friends. I chased that dream for many many years. I still sometimes catch myself thinking, mistaking the dream for the reality.

The reality is: you don’t meet strippers outside the club. You meet women. You meet people. Some of them may work as strippers; in Portland, which is known for having the highest per-capita number of strip clubs, there are so many girls who strip or used to, that it’s inevitable for a single man to eventually date one or two or more.

But that’s a lesson I did not learn my first night. The first night was just the taste, the hint, of what was to become my favorite hobby, my abiding eternal entertainment, the sinkhole into which my free time and spare thoughts would disappear for years to come.

It all started there. Dammit.