Let's set the Wayback Machine for 1995 and the bachelor party of my brother from the Marvel Comics Bullpen, Darren Auck.
Darren lived in the New Jersey 'burb known as Manville — which he affectionately referred to as "Squirrelville" — the kind of not-quite-hillbilly area in the north where flicks like MOTHER'S DAY and LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH take place, remote in location and secluded enough for really bad things to happen to wayward passers-through and have no one be any the wiser. And there I was, a six-foot black Manhattanite, stepping off the train into an area where I was likely to find myself as the main ingredient in an award-winning batch of homemade chili.
I waited at the train station for Darren's pal Gary to pick me up and reflected upon the vast green fields and decaying, abandoned farm houses I observed through the train's window while on my way in from the Rotten Apple, and noticed how little traffic there was on the main road. I half expected to see a horse-drawn carriage pull up and its driver attempt to trade me some hand-crafted bee-garters, possum-flensers, Chippewah trout marmalade or some other such rustic gewgaws, but the place was too devoid of life for even that.
Eventually Gary arrived and we began our drive to Darren's abode, a domicile located yet further into the backwoods of Squirrelville, past drooping overhangs of dying ivy and the rotting facades of barns and long-deserted homes that had finally succumbed to the rigors of age and disrepair, giving up the ghost and collapsing in upon themselves. As we journeyed on I noticed the locals all seemed to walk the streets in a state of dazed stupefaction, sort of like Mayberry by way of George Romero, some equipped for a day's fly fishing and stopping off at the lone, aged gas station to purchase live bait from a rusting, refrigerator-sized monolith that looked like one of those old, barely-functioning coffee and hot soup dispensers once so common at roadside rest stops as found during hellish family road trips.
Taking in the Twilight Zone-ish ambiance I looked at Gary and asked, "Are there any black people in this place?" to which he responded, "There are now."
When we got to Darren's place we waited for the rest of the bachelor party brigade to arrive, passing the time with a few beers and a couple of hits off of some questionable hand-rolled "party favors." After about an hour we were ready to depart, so the motley crew of Darren's old friends, assorted drunks and comics-biz compatriots piled into a van captained by Michael Kraiger, our designated driver and tall, handsome type known around the Marvel Bullpen by the horny staffer females who'd drop by to check him out as "the Lumberjack." (And for the record, Darren was "the Cowboy," thanks to his lanky build, laid-back manner, and southern accent. Plus, he kinda looked like the guy from the Village People.)
The van took off and headed down the highway toward our final destination of Allentown, PA and a nudie bar called "Erv's," but before we got there we had to stop off and stock up on enough liquor to make a longship full of Vikings hesitate to join us; Erv's was one of those places that only served really crappy beer, Heineken being the best you could hope for, so you had to bring your own hard stuff. (Liquor, that is.) The guys in the crew were all hardcore party juggernauts after my own heart, so the inevitable gallons of tequila were acquired, along with a goodly helping of assorted vodkas, bourbons, and a couple of bottles of Jaegermeister for good (bad?) measure. Only one errand then remained and that was to wisely fortify our gullets with food before the ancient-Rome-style imbibing commenced.
Our merry little vehicle drove into a Burger King parking lot in some nameless no-man's land, and we scarfed down the flame-broiled goodness with gusto, our cannibis-activated appetites thankful for surcease of the hunger that inflamed our hive-consciousness. The two bacon double-cheeseburgers sat in my belly like cement, but I was glad of their presence in anticipation of them helping to offset the imminent effects of the debauchery to come.
Once finished with my meal, I went outside for some fresh air and ended up standing not far from the van, right next to the entrance to the drive-through window. A car pulled up to the speaker and as soon as the father finished ordering food for the slavering pack of children that filled the station wagon, all of their eyes turned toward me and they stared like I'd just grown an extra head. Puzzled, I tried to figure out what I had done to cause them such interest; did I have a foot-long booger trailing from my nostril? In my stoned state had I taken the pickles from my burgers and affixed them to my nipples like sour, vegetable matter pasties? Did I have on a t-shirt emblazoned with "Never Trust Anything That Bleeds for Seven Days and Doesn't Die?" Was my cock hanging out of my jeans?
And then it hit me.
I wandered up to car, smiled, and amiably and said, "Hi! I'm a Negro!" at which point the family drew back as if I'd thrown an open bag full of rattlesnakes through the driver's side window, swiftly rolled up their own windows and hauled ass out of sight to grab their sack of food. I laughed my ass off, and so did Gary who had seen the whole incident. As Daffy Duck so wisely said, "What the hey? I gotta have some fun!" And after that the van took off once more, Man...Or Astro-Man's "Reverb 10,000" blasting out of the speakers and lending just the perfect skewed soundtrack to our odyssey.
It was nighttime when we finally made it to Erv's and its sleazy vibe reminded me of the title strip joint in the teen sex-comedy "classic" PORKY'S, what with the garish exterior lighting and loud, greasy bump-and-grind tunes issuing from within. After hauling our coffin-sized cache of booze into the place, we situated ourselves about the bar and began drinking in earnest, all the while ogling the pretty sorry herd of wobbly, gyrating go-go gals. Several of these chicks looked exhausted, wasted on horse, or both, and I kicked down shots of Jose Quervo in rapid succession to adjust my mood to a place where I wouldn't care how fucked up the performers were. But, to be fair, this wasn't exactly the farm team for the Bolshoi, so I pretty much had no choice but to let it go.
After about forty-five minutes I began to feel a part of the drunken, fleshly excesses happening all around me, the Cuervo and multiple beers finally working their magic. I was actually rather bored by the whole thing, but I was there to represent on what would supposedly be Darren's last night out with the boys — little did I realise that his blushing bride, Danielle, was just as much of a reprobate as Darren, so future nights like this were in no way out of the question — so I soldiered on, trying to garner some kind of titillation from the girls, an effort that utterly failed thanks to me not finding heroin addicts attractive, even if they did take the stage in huge, nerdy glasses and a Catholic schoolgirl's uniform which were both soon to be gone like a ball gown on prom night.
As previously stated, Irv's was not a titty bar, but a full-frontal, "you can see her kidneys" sort of establishment, and the well-marinaded crowd of crusty, senior citizen regulars were happier about it than pigs in shit, their eyes filled with visions of not-so-tastefully-splayed pink "luncheon meat," a humid tableau of what would have been otherwise mouth-watering labial bits pulled open in what looked to be a painful display of gynecological odds and ends, bringing to my mind the results of a med school autopsy where you see the organs in close, explicit detail and don't connect them at all with the individual whom they were attached to. Just glistening, steamy, disassociated parts.
I've never been very comfortable in titty/nudie bar or bachelor party situations for a few reasons:
1. I find such places to be degrading for the most part, their audience of leering men fueling an industry predicated upon despair and an easy way for the girls to make fast wads of cash since they don't really need any sort of training — we men are not necessarily all that discerning when presented with cute nekkid chicks — and they're (usually) born with all the equipment they'll ever need to do the job.
2. I enjoy seeing real dancers really dance, and while there are certainly women in the bump & grind biz who have that ability, they are few and far between thanks to an audience that doesn't give a fuck whether a "peeler" can actually move, just so long as they can stare at her juddering boobies.
3. Many of the men who frequent such establishment come from the most depressing level of the mating game's food chain and are not comfortable with interacting with women outside of a titty/nudie bar setting, an effort that requires cleaning up their acts a bit — both in terms of appearance and personal hygiene — and having the confidence to take the risk of being rejected. In the strip joint environment they get what they want, no questions asked, and delude themselves into thinking that they have the power. Try talking to one of those girls when you've run out of fivers to stuff into their G-strings, and lets see how far you get...
4. And speaking of money, I find it a flagrant waste of moolah to hand dancers untold amounts of cash and not even get any pussy out of the deal. I have taken women out for dinner, a show, and after-show drinks for less than half of what I've seen some guys shell out at go-go joints on a nightly basis, and the women I took out were not only great conversationalists and lots of fun to go out with, they also quite willingly shared their bodies with me and, in some cases, stuck around for a few days for more tender bedtime fun (and my famous morning-after breakfast skills). I'll take that over blowing cash for no results any day!
5. The thing that bothers me most about go-go joints in general and the ones in NYC in particular is an atmosphere that sometimes sets off my most primal of danger signals; I was at one bachelor shindig where the entertainment rather graphically performed a catalog of non-simulated sex acts upon each other and then proceeded to take on any guys who were willing to pay for play, all of which was presided over by their graying, fifty-something "manager" from the most marinara-steeped depths of Bensonhurst. I knew several of the attendees, but those I didn't know had the vibe of wolves that had survived a very hard winter and were in need of prey. Any prey. And some of them even took up the entertainment on their offer, undeterred by the girls' obvious state of heroin-induced euphoria. That sordid display was the last time I attended a bachelor party, and I have scrupulously avoided them ever since.
So taking all of that into mind, you can imagine that I was not exactly having a good time.
Just as I was about to regret not having brought a book to read, my eye was caught by an athletic blonde who hit the bar's central runway looking far more alive and full of vigour than her co-workers, her every movement commanding the dance floor with a cheerful and ballsy exuberance. She strutted down the catwalk with the attitude of one who was in on the joke, channeling the spirit of Tex Avery's Red Hot Riding Hood cartoon character — no easy feat considering that the sound system blared out Foreigner's "Cold As Ice," a tune not exactly conducive to sexy dancing — and flashing dazzling smiles accentuated by her crystal blue eyes.
She paraded around the bar for a couple of circuits, slowing only to allow the coffin-dodgers access for bills to be stuffed into her garter belt, and when her appointed rounds were done she lay down upon the bar, legs spread at nine and three in an impressive display of limberness, touched the tips of her thumbs together and pointed her index fingers toward the ceiling, framing her dolphin-smooth pubic mound with her hands in a gesture that simulated a sports arena goal. Responding to what must have been a familiar signal at Irv's, the grody old patrons fumbled with their foldable currency, shaping their bills into paper footballs of the type seen while waiting for time to pass during after-school detention, and in no time the pretty blonde's cooter was showered with the most impressive display of raining artillery since the bombing of Dresden. None of the grubby green missiles arrived with enough force to penetrate her most private of regions, but she did get to keep every bit of cash that accumulated, and she kept the oldsters smiling and entertained. During all of this she laughed her ass off and smiled at the codgers, each of whom looked so loyal to her that I'd bet they would have shoved their canes and walkers straight through the sternum of anyone foolhardy enough to try to do her harm.
That thought did much to relax me — along with the steady stream of tequila and Piel's — and as I was kicking back my latest beer, the sweaty performer stepped down from the bartop, pulled up a stool right next to me and began to towel off without a trace of modesty. She turned toward me and asked, "Could you hold on to this for me?" as she thrust her damp towel toward me and began to comb out the sweaty tangles in her hay-hued tresses (don't ask me where she got the comb from).
By this point I was drunk enough to find nothing odd about some random, blonde naked woman talking to me as if I'd known her bare-assed self my whole life, so I politely draped her towel over my leg and asked if she could use a beer. "Oh, God, Yeah!" she enthusiastically responded. "I'm fucking parched! Thanks a lot!" I paid for her beer and handed it to her, at which point I introduced myself, and when she shook my hand she almost identified herself by her real name but caught herself in time, instead saying, "Pleastameetcha! My name's Arizona. 'S where I'm from." I nodded, and we resumed drinking.
Arizona then regaled me with tales of her misadventures while working at Erv's to fund her college education — "Screw student loan payments!" she cried — and if she was to be taken at her word the scurvy assortment of geriatrics that drooled all over her (and themselves) were a harmless lot, described by her as "kind of like your dirty old grandpa," and they really didn't bother her in the least. She admitted that the nudie gig was nothing more than a means to an end, something that she would move past once she was done with school, and then on to bigger and better things. The conversation then got truly animated as she started rattling off books she'd enjoyed between her sets, and she revealed herself to be quite well-read. After that we chatted about art, movies, music, and a whole bunch of other shit, and I finally began to enjoy myself. I didn't even notice that Arizona was naked after about three more beers, so that either says a lot about how wrecked I was, or how much I should start investing in boxed sets of the complete recordings of Liza Minelli and Barbara Streisand.
Arizona kept her shit together, but the effects of the beers began to creep up on her, as became apparent when she began loudly heckling her fellow dancers. One dancer in particular staggered out onto the runway in an obvious state of narcotic submission, barely able to stand on her stiletto heels, and attempted to boogie down to the highly inappropriate strains of Tavares' "More Than A Woman." This pathetic sight struck both myself and Arizona as hysterical and we soon had our arms about one another, singing along with the falsetto voices in the most irreverent of tones, earning us nasty looks from the dancer and a hurled tinfoil ashtray from one of the old coots.
Suddenly I heard a loud, burbly rumble, audible over the general din and emanating from my stomach. Yes, my bacon double-cheeseburgers had decided to fight back in protest against the other abuses I'd put into my body over the course of the last few hours, so I excused myself and headed for the men's room, leaving Arizona to continue the mockery by her lonesome. Squeezing my asscheeks together with Herculean strength, I pigeon-toed it to the can and launched myself toward the nearest stall.
Upon entering the bathroom — a stenching, dilapidated pestilence factory that could easily have been transported from the Black Hole of Calcutta — I noted a six-foot long trough filled with ice, a measure that in no way cut the harsh, ammonia stench of old man piss. I turned away from that reeking trench and spotted the lone stall, which was, to my abject horror, missing a door — presumably to deter any Onanistic fun — meaning I would have to drop trou and let my ass do its Vesuvius impression with no hope of privacy as I hung onto the well-worn seat for dear life while the tremors had their way with me. Nonetheless, the bomb had to drop.
As I sat and agonized, discovering religion that I didn't know I had as I prayed to any and all benevolent deities for mercy, the main door burst open and a wobbly old geezer meandered in, staring straight into the stall and directly at my tortured mug. "Vzzzasgcvkxdrblmnd!" he said while fumbling with his belt and fly. Then it dawned on me: Grandpa was getting ready to whip out his gnarled old piss-pipe and relieve himself.
All. Over. Me.
In blind panic I began to scream and howl, "NOOOOO!! NOOOOO, YOU DRUNK OLD FUCK!!! THE TROUGH IS BEHIND YOU! JESUS CHRIST, IT'S BEHIND YOOOOOU!!!" all while impotently kicking at him with my black jeans and boxers down around my ankles, and a huge turd hanging out of my ass like I was a goddamned angel fish. Grandpa cocked his head, stopped whipping out his tadger and exclaimed, "Whuffukkayadooninair?!!? Fuggnjergoff..." before turning around and melting patches of ice with his foamy, golden bounty.
My body then went limp and my upper half fell to one side, supported by a rickety, graffiti-festooned wall.
I soon finished my bombing mission, tidied up, and rejoined Arizona at the bar, flattered that she was concerned when I took off like a shot. We then drank away the rest of the night while Darren and the rest of the party began to wind things down, but before we left, Arizona treated me to a freebie photo of the two of us so I would have a souvenir of our weird-assed evening.
Looking back at it now, I wish I'd thought to get Grandpa to pose with us.
The ride back to Squirrelville went by in a blur, the tequila and beer having long erased my understanding of linear time progression, and I forget how it happened but I ended up actually getting a lift back to my apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, safe and sound and able to collapse in my own bed, soon to face a monster hangover the next afternoon.
Every once in a while I wonder whatever happened to Arizona. I hope she's doing okay and has left the flesh palace behind in her memory, discarded with other jobs from youth such as Burger King hostess, veterinary cage-mucker, and paper route deliverer of GRIT.