I like to think myself a gentleman.
And I’ve been to a few clubs.
I’ve even been to a few … gentlemen’s clubs.
(I realize that readers of this column can be of any age [Hello, infants!] and promise to remain as chaste as possible, given the upcoming subject matter. Do not worry about putting your fingers in your metaphorical virgin ears – I will finger them for you.)
Now, let’s go … paint the caboose.
These clubs I speak of go by many names, few of which actually bear any reference to what goes on inside. The Ice House, for instance. Or Cowboys. Other clubs with names like Knockouts and Racks subtly hint at their business.
I’ve never gone to such a club alone, and never on my own prerogative; I’ve always accompanied friends. Grudgingly. Many times I’ve taken a book to read, as the club’s activities simply do not interest me. This frequently confuses the women who work there, especially when they attempt to show me their … produce section. Some are actually offended that I am not overwhelmed by their selection of ripe veggies, even when I explain that I’m more of a bananas-and-plums fan that usually skips the salad bar. It’s not meant to be taken personally, of course, although some of them still do.
On the other hand, there have been … interior decorators who seemed to actually be relieved that I was not there to watch them steam clean the carpets. They were so used to parting the drapes on demand that they welcomed a chance to let their guard down around me, once I explained that I was truly only there to be with my friends, not to dust her davenport.
(When it comes to landscapes, the majesty of the Grand Tetons as well as the Grand Canyon pass me by. If you know what I mean. And I’m pretty sure you do.)
One … agriculturalist was so relieved when I explained why I had turned down her offer to crop dust my fertile crescent that for the next hour, she sat with me and poured out her entire life story, only taking breaks when she had to go on stage to walk the back forty. She told me about her abusive past, and how she was working at the club to earn extra funds to support her children and family; but after two weeks, she wasn’t sure if a secretive farmer’s life plowing the fields was right for her.
I told her she’d been gifted with a bountiful harvest that brought joy to shoppers with a lack of fresh produce in their lives, and while it was admirable the lengths she was going to for her kids, if she was not happy, then this was not the right job for her, no matter how much scurvy she was preventing.
When the club closed that night, she came to say goodbye, gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, and thanked me for listening to her, saying that I’d given her a lot to think about.
After a year’s absence, when a gentleman companion of mine with an interest in astronomy wished to return to the club for a further study of celestial bodies, I found that she was still working there, and that she remembered me as well. This was very flattering, especially since on my last trip I hadn’t made a single contribution to her college fund, so to speak.
She was excited to let me know that after we talked, she realized that what she was doing was making her happy, because she really did enjoy using her gifts with animal husbandry to make other people happy- especially since, unlike many other jobs, there was frequently immediate positive feedback. She realized that she had mostly been worried about what other people in society would think of her, and how they would judge her for playing kumquat croquet. I told her that being true to herself was more important than being true to the self that others perceived her to be, and she heartily agreed, then ran off to bag some oats with a smile.
She was not the only Rosie the Riveter to let her guard down around me; I felt like a male Mata Hari (Mata Hairy?). I learned from a different … biscuit baker that the platform shoes she wore didn’t hurt her feet, but by the end of the night her knees were killing her. As she rolled her dough out in front of me, she told me that given her choice of bakeries to display her pastries in all around the country, she’d chosen Wyoming because she felt the state had a really good educational system that would benefit her daughter. On top of all that, she’d recently finished her doctoral degree in Global Economics.
(That’s not a euphemism or double entendre – she really had just become a doctor!)
Maybe she was pulling my leg, although that’s something that usually costs more money than I carry with me, but I believed her. Then she taught me a wonderful game involving chapstick and dollar bills wrap into darts around a quarter, with her offering up her balanced budget for target practice. It was fun and brought a lot of laughs, even though I noticed her stimulus package was causing inflation in some of the other patrons, as they literally threw their money away, impressed by her global assets, I suppose. Economically, it didn’t make any sense, but no one seemed to be complaining. If nothing else, her bottom line was secure, based upon the number of investors funding her bankroll. (Now I wonder what her doctoral thesis papers were about. She certainly was putting her degree to use in a way I’d never expected.)
Over a decade ago, I worked as a bouncer at a different gentleman’s club; this one employing young men as … top guns to enchant the patrons and fly the friendly skies. One slow night, two of the pilots and I had gathered around the bar with a few others, when the bartender bet one of the flyboys five dollars that he couldn’t lift a salt shaker off the bar without using his hands.
Never one to pass up a challenge, Captain Kumquats gamely jumped up on the bar and lowered his landing gear in an attempt to load the salt shaker into his cargo hold. He struggled and squeezed and clutched and cursed, but the salt shaker was just too slippery to get a grip on with his aerilons, no matter how many times he circled the landing strip and attempted his approach. Finally, he had to admit defeat, and jumped down.
His fellow wingman suddenly ran over and sniffed the top of the salt shaker, then casually walked away as we all laughed in disbelief. The bartender gave the aviator five dollars any way, saying he’d more than earned it even if he hadn’t succeeded in packing the parachute.
True stories, all of them. With the life I live, I don’t need to rely on fiction. Just the occasional dollar bill, some lip balm, a friendly ear and whatever gentlemen’s club my friends drag me to next time.