Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The Den of Iniquity

I haven't any photos of prostitutes, of course, so I stole one from the internet

I wish I had a photo of that street of prostitutes, but I don't.  I probably shouldn't even be writing about it.  In today's climate, I will be blamed, somehow, for the association.  I will become the problem even though I have eschewed even prostitutes who have liked me and wanted to sleep with me for free.  You scoff?  Oh, people, you have no idea.  I was much prettier then, back when I had financial offers from rich gay men.  Once, sitting in Sloppy Joe's in Key West with an empty glass, the pretty woman sitting next to me bought me a drink and then offered me a part in a porn movie.  I was recruited to dance for a Chip N Dale dance review out of my old steroid gym.  I turned every offer down, probably out of a lack of self-confidence, but that is not what I tell myself.  I was a sweet, romantic boy with a taste for adventure.  But I must admit, I wanted to see the weirdness in life as well.  Among the freaks but not of the freaks?  Though I wanted to live the Leave It to Beaver life, I liked jumping the fence and going to Zone 13 for a peak.  I didn't want to live there, but. . . you know. . . . 

My friend Parks is much the same.  There is nobody more square than he.  The first time he invited me to his house, it was a Friday night.  His parents and brothers were coming over to play some board game, Pictionary or something.  Parks played the piano and everybody sang along.  But he is also the sort to take a walk alone through East St. Louis just to see.  He is both squarer and more dangerous than I.  And thus. . .  our kinship is strong.  

So. . . O.K. I'm going to take you on a journey into the bowels of bad Mexico.  At times, I do believe, it was more dangerous than the mountain.  But if you think you will not like me anymore if you come along, please stop reading now.  All I want is to be loved and adored, so if this is going to dismay you. . . just stop now.  

But you won't.  Every girl I've ever known has snuck into my day journals and never forgiven me.  No, that is not true.  Some did. . . eventually.  

So, for those of you with interest. . . let us go then, you and I.  Or, as Jack Nicholson as the Joker queries, "Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?"

For those of you who don't, I will just quote Jimmy Buffet: "Don't try to describe a Kiss concert if you've never seen one."

* * *

We didn't tell Larry.  We walked back to where he was standing and said, "C'mon.  A fellow told us about another place." 

And indeed, it was true.  Across the street, he led us into a broken down building.  There apparently was no electricity, and as we walked through the darkness, he told us to watch the floor as it was full of broken planks.  There were five of us, but this just felt too fucking risky.  

"What the fuck, Parks, we're gonna get stabbed or shot.  This is bullshit."

"Yea," he said, and so we turned everybody around and headed back to the street.  

"That was bad."

"Yea. . . what the fuck was that?"

"Stupid.  That was just stupid."

And so we wandered deeper into the outer darkness where street lights disappeared.  We were in the poorer section of town now.  Parks loved this kind of thing, though, and eventually we were hailed by a giant Mexican.  

"Hey, Gringos. . . come over here."

He was standing outside a club.  We walked over.  

"What's this?"

"There are girls inside," he said, and then he told us we could do something unprintable here.  

"No thanks," I said.  "We just ate."  

But of course, Parks was already in the door.  Inside was a scene out of a movie, a big room full of men at tables and naked women prancing about one at a time on a small, poorly lit stage.  The men closest to the action were obviously middle-class businessmen, mostly in short sleeve shirts and ties.  The poorer looking men sat further back.  We were taken to a table near an old wooden staircase.  The whole place looked like the final barroom scene in John Huston's "Under the Volcano" where Geoffery Firmin meets his inevitable but horrible death.  I mean, truly. . . down to the last detail. 

I reckoned I was the only one of us who had seen this film, so I probably had the best sense of doom out of the entire group.  We were down to four now as Kentucky had gone back to the hotel and turned in for the night.  

The men at the front of the bar had tables with fifths of whiskey and multiple Coca-Colas.  They were the high rollers.  Back at our table where we had a view of the room, we ordered cervezas.  The bouncers in the place looked like NFL linebackers.  I'd never seen Mexicans so large.  The way the whole thing worked was this.  If you wanted a girl, you bought a chit from the bouncer.  He would then take it to the woman who would give you a private dance.  My god, I thought. . . one would have to be desperate, but the women working that night were very busy.  

Of course, Larry bought a chit, and in a bit, a bouncer would take him to a chair against the wall in the back of the room where his chosen dancer would come to perform.  I'm guessing you weren't supposed to turn around and watch, but I couldn't help myself.  I was kind of paranoid in this place anyway.  We were the only gringos in the house, of course, far away from the city central.  Oh, Parks. . . why oh why?  

When I turned around, I saw a naked woman "dancing" on the lap of a fellow, his tie pulled down, his shirt unbuttoned and untucked, him grinning from ear to ear.  And when the song was over and the woman got up, he stood and zipped his pants, then, after giving her a tip, walked back to his table, disheveled and still sporting a boner--with apparent pride.  Just then, I saw a woman leading a man up the rickety wooden stairs by the hand.  Holy shit, I thought, this place is a whorehouse, too.  

Then it was Larry's turn, and the bouncer took him to the wooden chair in back.  Larry's dancer came over and began her routine, but Larry was eager, and quick as lightning, he had his arms around her waist pulling her toward him.  Her eyes were popping, her arms were flailing, and she was looking directly at me as if to say, "What the fuck?!?"  It looked like the spider and the fly.

Holy smokes, Larry's going to get killed, I thought as the big bouncer approached.  He said something to Larry and Larry nodded.  Larry was a happy drunk.  And so the woman began again.  And she did her routine.  I was mesmerized as she popped one leg on the wall behind Larry's head.  And when it was all over, Larry came back to the table much as the Mexican fellow had done.  

"Oh my god," Larry whispered to me.  "You won't believe what I did."

"Jesus, Larry," I exclaimed in horror, "I won't even eat the salsa or eat the fruit, and there you are going right to the source!"

Parks, of course, thought this all hilarious.  None of us wanted a second beer, so after Larry's fandango, we were back on the streets and heading toward home.  It had been a hell of a weird night. 

* * *

If you are still with me here, I'm going to fill you in on some things in my life.  I've been busy scanning old films and learning to edit them in Premiere Pro again.  It is taking forever and I am halfway losing my mind.  I hope I manage to finish up what I intend to do with them by Christmas.  Truly. . . what a deal.  

I find that my imminent death is of little concern to people I know.  I went to lunch with a woman I've known for quite awhile on Monday, and I told her what my doctor said.  

She looked at me and said, "We're all dying.  I mean, you've had a good run."

WTF?  I think, though, she was pissed after my story about Red.  Men and women seem to have different reactions to that.  Huh.  It seems I would have learned something by now.  

Here's a weird vignette.  I went to the grocers yesterday, and when I got into the cashier's line, the women ahead of me said, "You might want to go to another checkout.  I have a lot of coupons.  This is going to take awhile."  I looked around, but there was only two other lines open, and both were backed up.  

"I'll wait," I said.  "The cashier looks pretty darn quick."

But the woman ahead of me was right.  She must have had a hundred coupons, and the girl would ring something up and then swipe and swipe and swipe.  

"Jesus, lady. . . they are going to owe YOU money when this is done."

She looked back at me and smiled.  "It happens."

"Do you give lessons?" I asked.  "I'll come over and learn how to do this."

She laughed.  And when it was all done, she got $150 worth of things for five dollars.  I just shook my head.  She thanked me for being so patient, and I smiled and said no, that it had been worth the show.  Then, when she was gone, I looked at the cashier in amazement.  

"How'd she do that?"

"Professional coupon hunter, I guess.  Once, I checked out a woman who had five hundred dollars in groceries and we paid her fifty dollars."

The lady in line behind me said, "What is she going to do with all that?  She had seven toothbrushes."

"Sell them at a flea market, maybe."  

"When I look at coupons, they are always for things I'd never use like Cheez Whiz and Spam."  

It was a hell of a thing.  

* * *

I don't know if I will tell you the final episode of the Mexico trip.  I'll have to think about it.  Maybe.  There are a bit more of Larry's adventures.  But I WILL continue telling you tales of adventure and daring.  And I will show some of my movie clips.  I am thinking a lot about them.  You can see the making of the man in them in many ways.  It was a different time, a different kind of life, less commercial, less populated.  But here is one for you now.  My pop.  Ha!  You didn't think I got like this all on my own, did you?  We are camping in Texas somewhere on the Rio Grande.  1957.  

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