Monday, August 21, 2006

The island of misfit toys

For every happy, well adjusted person whom life has smiled upon there is someone else who has, sometimes through no fault of their own, been turned away from the system. Misfits. The socially inept. For whatever reason, these people are trapped in a state of perpetual emotional rejection, some shunned for so long that they are no longer able, even at middle age, to have normal social relationships. I see many of these people at the strip club; people so desperate for affection and reassurance that they will seek out any venue in order to recieve it, even if they have to pay for it. This is the story of my friend Ed.

I met Ed about two years ago when my bar was still in its infantile stage. He shuffled in the club, head down, and made his way to a back corner table, as far from the other patrons as he could get. His hair was long and disheveled, and he had a baseball cap pulled down tight over his head. He sat against the wall, staring down at the buttons on his shirt. I could almost feel his willingness to disappear.

"Hi honey, what can I get you to drink," I said, placing my hand on his arm.

Ed jumped as if someone had slapped him. He briefly looked up into my eyes and then immediately looked back down at his shirt, as if making eye contact was painful.

"Oh, um, well," he stammered, "I guess you could get me a beer. Don't go to any trouble or anything, if you're not too busy."

"Sweetie, I'm never too busy to get someone something to drink, that's my job. What kind of beer can I get you?"

"Oh, well, you know. Whatever, I'm not picky. Just whatever you don't mind bringing me, I guess."

Somewhere along the line in this man's life, he had been beaten down emotionally so badly, or for so long, that he couldn't tell me what beer he wanted, for fear whatever he chose would be the wrong one.

I had some time, we weren't that busy, so I spent the next few minutes with Ed, playing a beer version of the twenty questions game. I finally got him decided on a Michelob. When I brought the beer back and set it on the table, Ed jumped again. He paid for his beer and tipped me a dollar.

The rest of the night was pretty much the same. I'd stop by the table to check on him. Ed would make brief eye contact, but mostly he just stared down at his shirt. He drank a few beers, and left before I realized he was gone.

And that's how it was with Ed. Over the course of the next six months, whenever I was working, Ed was there. Over time he was able to talk to me. I found out he had been in the military, he was shipped off to Germany, and then he did two tours in Vietnam. When he came back home he ran, trying to escape the things he had seen and the people he had killed. For ten years after, he traveled from state to state; attempting to find peace in a tormented soul. He spent most of his time at the VA, and when he wasn't there, he was here. He would show up at my club right after we opened, and more times than not he would be there when we closed. Sometimes he slept in the corner, and I let him. I knew it was against the rules, but I figured he didn't want to go home---wherever home was.

Ed was a very, very kindhearted man, if not just a little misplaced. He started bringing me presents, but not in the way you might think. Ed would bring me random things from his house--ashtrays, Christmas tree ornaments, refrigerator magnets. I accepted every gift as if it were a six caret diamond necklace.

Slowly, Ed started to change. He no longer sat with his back against the wall, his new favorite table was low on the floor, directly between the two stages. He would often have well over three dancers sitting with him at one time, and frequented "pervert row" to tip directly at the stage. Then, one day, Ed stopped coming, At first I was a little worried, but close to a year went by and I put him out of my head.

He showed up again last weekend, for a birthday party for one of my dancer's. He looked happy, and I hope that he is.

I think, deep down, we are all misfits, just waiting for our own private island where we can be accepted and flourish. I hope that Ed has found his. I hope that someday I will find mine.


Blogger whore said...

You are so sweet to talk to those that need it. I do that too. Some of my customers say that they work too much to have a girlfriend. Its so sad b/c they are so nice and caring and sensual. As soon as you said the guy jumped when you touched him I thought it was PTSD from vietnam. I knew someone like that and the first time i met him he explained that i should never come up behind him. He also was very nice (met him while i worked at a 24hr diner). I think many men need women to put them at ease and be nonjudgemtal. It sounds like you did a great job of it. I guess you know this by now, but always approach him from the front - he will be much less jumpy that way. Your writing is rocks BTW

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Rose said...

Really cool you spent the time talking to him... I bet you had something to do with how he came out and started to "trust" himself again...

by the way I love your blog... Came across it via Waiter Rant.. Spent at least an hour or two reading the arhives...

5:14 PM  
Blogger Capt Bonez said...

Sometimes all it takes is one person to be decent and careing and a life can be turned around and made good again. It also unfourtunatly works the other way also.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Film Aficionado said...

Random Question #1: How dependent are strip clubs on frat boys?

Random Question #2: What percentage of strippers have breasts implants?

Random Question #3: Do you ever bother to respond to your commenters?

9:16 PM  
Blogger Film Aficionado said...

Actually, forget the third question. I see that you do respond sometimes. Sorry if it sounded kind of rude. By the way, my sister's girlfriend is a ... I'm not sure what you call it. A barback? I don't know what that is but she is one at a gay bar in the Castro in San Francisco. Wow! gay bars have even more sexual tension that strip clubs. People fuck in the nasty ass bathrooms, among other places.

9:25 PM  
Blogger angry ballerina said...

I use to dance, and had a regualr who semed to be a lot like Ed, ver quiet, and very broken. He eventually became a fixture in the "fine establushment" worked at. I guess the broken one's always find their ways into your heart, and leave it a little chipped. Nice blog btw.

11:02 PM  
Blogger i'llnevertell! said...

hey big boobs:
1-In all honesty, we really don't depend on the frat boys very much. My bar is very close to my school, so we do have some that come in, but the clientelle who really keep us in business (and keep my bills paid) are the ones who have money and are older. The frat boys drink a lot of beer, but they don't tip really well and usually don't buy dances and such.

2-I would say about 45 to 50 percent of my dancers have fake breasts, for several reasons. Most of them have them because they also have children, and their breasts became deflated. The others only have them because someone else paid for them

3-ha ha yes I do respond. I wish more people would leave comments!

12:17 AM  
Anonymous TomTom224 said...

I comment! But I figured I didn't need to, seeing as you get all MY comments via messaging services!

1:16 AM  
Blogger Film Aficionado said...

By the way, there are some interesting things happening in San Francisco with regard to strip clubs. Just the other week, there was a decent-sized gathering of strippers and their supporters at city hall protesting the city's potential decision to outlaw private rooms, for fear that they are unsafe for strippers. Surprisingly (to me at least) strippers actually SUPPORT private rooms.

I can understand that they make most of their money from private rooms, but it seems like cheap-ass club owners exploit it so they don't have to pay strippers a decent wage. It's essentially forced prostitution. If I were a stripper, I would lobby government to make club owners pay strippers a decent wage. There's no doubt in my mind that club owners can afford it. By the way, I am by no means against prostitution. Check out the following news sites to get more info:

2:16 AM  
Blogger Film Aficionado said...

By the way, I have another question: what percent of strippers are actually straight?

2:21 AM  
Blogger Film Aficionado said...

Sorry I keep posting like this but I am in a particularly creative mood. I just wanted to say that I would be extremely hesitant to take gifts from lonely guys hanging out at strip clubs. They are probably very troubled people and you may not know what their agenda is, even if they comes across as a sweet.

2:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another lovely post. Poor Ed.
I hope he stopped coming because he found a woman to love. . .

7:28 AM  
Blogger i'llnevertell! said...

hey boobie grande:
The majority of my dancers are what I would consider to be straight, but I think they would classify themselves as "bi". Again, I think it comes down to alcohol and lax sexual taboo's.

As far as dancers protesting in California, fuck yes they would protest here as well. Dancing on the stages is more of an audition for private dances than anything else, and I don't know a single stripper who can't whup the shit out of some horny old dude. Again, you can't pay strippers per hour, they are independant contracters and therefore pay us to work there. If you started paying them, you would need four of five separate accountants to handle all of the W2's and then what about the money they make? it's a very sticky area

9:08 AM  
Blogger i'llnevertell! said...

btw boobs-
If you had ever seen Ed you would understand that he was and still is, harmless. I think, in all my years of doing this, that I can judge character well enough to know who's a creepy stalker and who's just a lonely old man.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anon said...

that`s why serial killers have succes... cause no one can`t tell the difference from a normal, ussualy cute and funny guy...

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey. I found your blog from waiterrant. naturally any red blooded male would click on a link that interesting. You are a great writer and i thoroughly enjoyed all of your archives (even if there werent enough ;). I for one find strip clubs to be dull. Ive gone to them to hang out with the guys, but its really not my thing. i get enough attention without having to pay a naked girl to give it to me. Perhaps im not as much of a red blooded male as i thought, but do you ever encounter a person like me who doesnt like being called honey, darlin', sweety, etc.? I guess its a pet peve of mine in which case i politely mention it and introduce myself. The this usually doesnt work and the servers have a hard time getting more than my standard 10-15%.

4:34 PM  
Blogger i'llnevertell! said...

It just depends on the patron, most men that I know (or have waited on) enjoy being called the cute pet names, and in all honesty, i do it because I can't for the life of me remember your name. I'll remember your drink, and in my head I'll think "hey, that's crown and coke" but I can never remember names. however, people who don't like to be called pet names (which you are the first I've come across), I would simply call them "sir" or "ma'am"

5:30 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Fantastic blog! I'd like to link you if that's no problem...

I've been to 3 bachelor parties in the last 2 months and have found the waitresses at the club we went to far more interesting than the girls on stage.

Now I know what goes on in their heads... Or one of them, anyway! =)

5:32 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Caunedo-Mattouk said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:45 PM  
Blogger i'llnevertell! said...

I'm always up for a link, steve!

5:47 PM  
Anonymous jjcaunedo said...

I was a stripper for a week at a time once or twice a year for about 2 years. At first I liked the frat boys, cuz they are cute and young - BUT THEY DONT TIP FOR SHIT AND ARE RUDE. They are just young, out on their own for the first time, pretending to be adults, but have not got the slightest idea of how to treat a lady - no matter what her job is. So frat boys usually are a bother in my experience. They provide MINIMAL income -remember they dont have jobs and spend all their money on partying.

5:49 PM  
Blogger i'llnevertell! said...

well put jj

5:53 PM  
Blogger Film Aficionado said...

Hey JJ, why can't I get access to your blog? It keeps saying that I can't access the "server" whatever that is.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Savannah said...

That's so sad.

And what's sadder is... I've run out of blog to read!

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Gypsy_Jo said...

BIG BOOBS SAID:I can understand that they make most of their money from private rooms, but it seems like cheap-ass club owners exploit it so they don't have to pay strippers a decent wage. It's essentially forced prostitution. If I were a stripper, I would lobby government to make club owners pay strippers a decent wage. "
we tried it, also was done in san fran, look up the documentary LIVE NUDE GIRLS, done by Julia...i forget her last name, lol. anyhoo, its a doc on unionizing strippers in SF and in PA & NJ.
I'm the one with the horses in the doc.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Film Aficionado said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Gypsy. I just added it to my queue on Netflix. After I wrote the comment that you quoted, I immediately realized that such things are easier said than done. Blackballing, blackmail, and using virtually unlimited financial resources to get their way are the commonest tricks in the book when it comes to unionizing.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Film Aficionado said...

I meant to say when it comes to busting unions, not unionizing.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Gypsy_Jo said...

BOOBS! make sure you dont get the stupid movie with the same name starring kim catrell. make sure its the doc!

my apologies for posting this in here...I dont have aim

11:50 AM  
Blogger i'llnevertell! said...

no worries jo, that's what it's for

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Gypsy_Jo said...

this is the documentary link I suggested earlier.


8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On behalf of veterans everywhere, let me thank you for taking care of Ed. It may seem a small thing, but it makes a BIG difference to me, and others, I suspect.

12:57 AM  
Blogger Girl said...

you're so sweet

3:18 PM  
Blogger Green said...

That was kind of beautiful. (Umm.. and hi. Found you through Waiter Rant.)

6:13 PM  

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