Archive for the 'Bar Stories' Category


Sometimes You Just Find Yourself Backstage with a Stripper

Against my better judgment, late last night on my way home from the bar, we stopped in at our local. So close to the E train; who can resist? It was the typical “just one drink” scenario. But the hot bartender convinced me to get a second one. “But a stripper is coming out soon,” he said.

Ah, yes. They always do strippers on Thursday nights at this place. I might as well check it out, eh?

The barman was mixing extra strong. He poured the vodka for about 10 minutes and then splashed some cranberry on top and poured on more vodka. If I’d been near an open flame, it would have exploded. Then he gave us tequila shots out of nowhere. It’s nice to know the bartenders, because they let us kiss them on the cheeks, and they’re generous with us, and sometimes we can convince them to take their shirts off, but needing to wake early to work the next day, it was not a good night to receive this brand of generosity.

Having just finished lip synching a South American torch song, a drag queen was talking to the audience rapidly and breathlessly in Spanish. I comprehended nothing until I caught the word “stripper.” She wound up and pitched his name … “Willy.”

Willy emerged from behind a velvety red curtain and unceremoniously climbed on top of a box that was standing where the pool table usually is. He wasn’t much of a dancer, but he sure was extraordinary to look at. Typically overmuscled for my taste, but a fine example of male perfection and perfect for mindless entertainment.

They never go all nude here, which is fine. It’s vulgar enough as it is to have a stuffed thong flopping over your head and a stranger’s feet much closer to your drink than you’d prefer as a narcissistic straight man tiptoes by gracelessly in construction boots. The guys usually tease you with a quick tug on their overimagined underwear. Maybe they’ll wag themselves like propellers as they convulse to the Latin dance music. But this guy didn’t need to tease. He didn’t need to strip. It was all visible, because he was wearing knee-length britches (I can’t think of a better word) that were skin tight, but very expandable, red — and made from something that resembled macrame. It was all there, fully inflated, barely held in and pressed against his abdomen by the … well, special trousers.

I just don’t know what to do with a stripper. I like to watch from a distance and not participate. To my way of thinking, they are for viewing. I can gratify their egos just fine without touching them. I don’t touch the artwork at the Met. Plus they’re greasy. No one takes home a stripper, except his girlfriend, who is usually ostentatiously stationed nearby with a couple of gal pals drinking things with paper umbrellas. She glares over her drink. “Just here to keep an eye on that man. He’s mine, bitch,” her narrowed, over-eyeshadowed eyes seem to say.

You can have him, missy.

He was very popular. To each his own, I say, definitely, but the pawing of the spectators makes them seem doubly unsexy in comparison to the thing they’re worshipping. Honestly, don’t the dancers prefer not to be groped? If I happen to find myself too close to one, I know he’ll hover over me, dangling his engorged man-flesh, waiting for a couple bucks and a fleeting brush of fingertips against pubic hair. But I’m embarrassed and annoyed, not turned on.

I had to piss like a racehorse. But to get to the restrooms, I would have to walk past the stripper, into the spotlight, across the “stage” and behind the red curtain. “Just go,” said Jeff. But I couldn’t walk past that.

But I had to. I just kept my eyes forward, swept past the stripper and found a couple of people waiting before me in the cramped “back stage” space. The pool table had been shoved back there. And with three grown men, there was barely enough room to turn around and open the door to the men’s room. Then the show ended, and suddenly the stripper was off the box and on his way toward us to change into something else before his next act.

Sharing the cramped space with us, he bent down to get his clothes from a bag. His macrame knickers were hanging loose, the tender globes of his soft, full butt peeking playfully over the waistband. (Sometimes I love overwriting!) It was like being in a locker room at the gym, but with attractive people.

And then his oiled ass was brushing against me.

“Excuse me,” he said shyly.

“Uh…” I said. “Sure … er, no problem.” My face flushed hot. I briefly considered skipping the bathroom. But soon he was bundled up in a heavy winter coat and a pair of warm-up pants. Apparently, he dresses as quickly as he undresses. He grabbed a pack of smokes from his pocket and hopped out back to light up.

Then someone stepped out of the men’s room, and I ducked in.



About a month ago, Jeff and I went to the Metropolitan, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Nothing interesting happened. We met a friend from Park Slope there. Had some beers. Went back home. But it was a personal triumph for me and Jeff. An exorcism of sorts. We had been avoiding the place for over a year because of what we remembered about the last time we were there. Last fall, somewhere in the early days of November 2004, we met a friend there who would be found in his apartment a couple of weeks later dead from a heroin overdose.

We called him and persuaded him to meet us at the Metropolitan one night. He just wanted to stay for one drink. He had to get away for a little bit because he was having an argument with his roommate. We persuaded him to stay a little longer. He told about the argument. A plate was thrown and broken. It was something stupid. We told him we wanted him to come over for Thanksgiving, and we made tentative plans. Jeff and I were still new to the city, he having been here five months and I having been here just over one, and we were both hungry for friends. This guy was brand-new to us, but we felt like we were on a path toward something real. He was full of stories and jokes. He was comfortable and familiar after very little time. He had not the easiest life, but he wasn’t full of blame. He was just making do like anyone else. And he seemed so directed and in charge of himself.

The way he told it, he was at a point in his life where he was trying to ease into his 30s and settle himself a bit, to shed some drama and the people who bring trouble down on him. He was no stranger to drugs. He was known at at certain East Village connection points. But but he wasn’t irresponsible. He always took care of himself. And he wasn’t stupid. I remember he made a point of telling us once that he never touched heroin. He’d seen too many horror stories. And we believed him.

Jeff and I hadn’t heard from him since the Metropolitan a couple of weeks later. We knew he’d had some recent trouble with his phone, so we didn’t necessarily expect a call. We just didn’t know how to get a hold of him. So we walked into an East Village bar where we often hung out with him, half expecting to run into him. And we did, in a manner of speaking.

After a few minutes there, I noticed a tall candle burning in a glass enclosure with a note on it. I didn’t pay attention at first. Just some bar room bric-a-brac. But Jeff saw it, too, and we soon realized the note read: “For F____.”

You wonder sometimes when you don’t hear from someone for a while: Man, what if he’s dead. What would I do? How sad and weird! What’s the last thing we did together? When’s the last time we spoke? Wow, just imagine. Heh — I shouldn’t think like that. He’s fine. I should really call him one of these days.

We called the bartender over. Is that the same F____ we think you’re talking about? The bartender lowered his eyes. Yes, it was. And he told us the story: He had been found dead a fews days ago in bed in his apartment. He had been dead three days. It was a heroin overdose. There was a note next to him: “You looked so peaceful sleeping there, I didn’t want to wake you. —Ricky.” No one knows who this guy Ricky was. We think he’s the one who sold it to him. Either it was some bad shit or just a bad decision. Really loved that guy, you know. Everyone knew him. He was a real good guy. The funeral is this weekend in New Jersey. I can get you the information if you want.

Sure, thanks, we said.

We just sat there, silent, sort of stunned. Neither of us could imagine what to say next, except, occasionally, “I just can’t believe it.”

We left the bar without collecting the funeral information. I don’t think either of us wanted to go. He had far closer friends who should be there instead of us. It was a difficult night for us. We went for a good long walk and stayed up late talking about it and getting angry and sad and crying at times. The things you have seem so much more precious when you realize that someone you know has lost them forever. Forever. And what a waste to lose so much — all that goes into 34 years of life — and suddenly, it’s wiped out. Jeff and I had each other, so we held tight and remembered and cried for all of the things that would never be.


In, around and through

Last night at the bar, my boyfriend Jeff was outside on the smoking patio out front with some friends. I could see them through the floor-to-ceiling windows from where I was standing, safe and warm inside. (I secretly relish the new no-smoking laws.)

I wasn’t paying much attention to the smokers, but before long one of my friends ran into the bar in hysterics. A good joke outside, I guessed. I didn’t ask. Smokers have their own social structures and habits and laws when they get together, and I think it wise not to interfere.

I learned later that a guy on his way out to smoke, who must have been a.) forgetful, b.) blind drunk, or c.) just blind, smacked into the door at full stride. Cracked his face right into the window. Must have looked great from the other side where Jeff and the guys were standing. He made a funny face and everything. Stood there stunned for a few seconds. It was a scene from a slapstick movie come true.

Naturally, Jeff and the guys later claimed they were laughing with, not at, the hapless gentleman. Seems reasonable. I’ll concede, however, that probably the bouncers and the bartender and the drinkers inside and certainly the friends the guy came with were laughing at him.

Whatever his motivation, the guy then opened the door, stepped outside, hopped the short gate between the patio and the sidewalk, and scurried away. I presume he had that smoke somewhere further down the street where it was quieter.

the untallied hours