By Paul McGuire © 2008
"I'm addicted to pain," slurred the stripper as she slowly turned her arm to expose her left wrist. Through the faint light I could see several marks. She pulled my hand towards her wrist and I felt the roughness of her scars.
"It took me almost ten years, but I finally figured out that I'm addicted to pain. I love misery. I can't be happy unless I'm hurting."
Never swing at the first pitch.
That was one of the few words of advice my father gave me. However, when we walked into the Rhino a little after 2 p.m., MeanGene, BadBlood and myself were swarmed with strippers as we enacted part two of the Procedure. It was a routine invented and perfected by BadBlood back in G-Vegas.
Booze + Strippers + Poker = The Procedure.
I had only done it once before with BadBlood and Grubby last December. The magic worked for us. We all played a tournament at the Venetian. Grubby made the final table and I bubbled off the final table when Grubby busted me.
Luckily for me, my girlfriend is totally cool with me frequenting strip clubs. It was even her birthday and I got a pass. She even gave me $225... which I quickly blew on overpriced watered down cocktails and the cover charge.
One moment we sauntered through the front door of the Rhino and the next moment we each had a girl on our arm. I headed to the bar to get a better look. The bar at the Rhino has the best lighting in the joint. If there's one place to inspect the goods, that's it.
She was drunk when she grabbed me and led me to the bar. I bought a round while she hung on my hip. I could smell the booze on her breath. Great, how the hell did I attract the drunk stripper? Karma? Lack of karma? Or simply bad luck?
I originally had a choice. Stripper A or Stripper B. Since I politely turned down the first stripper, I went with Stripper B. Looking back, I should have swung at the first pitch.
"I've only been taking Prozac for three days," she screamed over an AC/DC song.
On the third day of Prozac? That pretty much summed up my visit to the afternoon shift. The stripper was drunk, sedated on happy pills, sloppy, and slurring her speech like Albert Finney at happy hour.
Her name was Dylan.
"Like the singer?" I asked.
"No, like the 90210 character," she said.
"Yes. Oh my God, I'm on the South Beach diet," she blurted out.
She could never stay on the same topic for more than ninety seconds before the conversation had more multiple plot twists than a M. Night Shyamalan flick, except she didn't see dead people.
Dylan was also OCD, ADD, and definitely suicidal. She had model looks with the mental stability of Courtney Love.
"People think I'm really fucked up," she said.
"Why? Did you kill your husband, fake the suicide note, and then squeeze his band members out of millions of dollars in royalties?"
"Never mind. So where you from?"
"Oklahoma. Oh my God, the last time I went home, I had not been there in seven or eight years, I saw some old friends from high school and you know what they were doing?"
"Cooking up a fresh batch of crank?"
"Almost. They were huffing propane. Driving around in a car, smoking cigarettes, and huffing propane."
"Did you join them?"
The first fifteen minutes of our encounter were interesting and fascinating. Some strippers reveal very little and ask lots of questions and let you talk. Others will tell you all of their problems. Dylan unloaded on me. As I said, the first few minutes were great as I soaked up her life story and hung on every word. Part of the fun of hanging out with strippers is trying to dig deep and figure out what makes them tick. What tragic event in their life led them down the path towards the pole? With Dylan, I didn't get to play the game. She was so drunk that she spilled the beans and then some.
Former gymnast. Majored in English at some college in Denton, TX. Got knocked up at 20 and dropped out of school. Had a botched back-alley abortion and can't have kids. Her step-father murdered her mother and knocked up her half-sister. She was a real life Jerry Springer episode gyrating on my lap and spilling Grey Goose all over my Ecco shoes.
She kept telling me that she was a gymnast. It was like when a former high-school athlete can not stop living in the glory days and they tell you the same old stories about how they hit the winning shot to win the league championship. The drunk stripper had her mind frozen on the happiest time of her life... senior year in high school.
"Since I was such an awesome gymnast, I could do all these cool tricks on the pole," she bragged. "But I like to drink, so I don't do them. Oh my God, the last time I tried to get super fancy and show off to my friend Becky, I was so fuckin' wasted that I slipped and fell flat on my face. I chipped a tooth and I got seven stitches in my chin."
She lifted up her chin and let me feel those scars.
"Did you get off on the pain?"
"Yeah. I love the sight of my own blood."
"Do you have a livejournal page?"
"What's that? I'm on Myspace. Oh my God, did you Saturday Night Live this week? I love that show."
I looked over and BadBlood had a tall exotic Nordic woman sitting on his lap. To my right was a happy MeanGene. On his lap sat a dominatrix-looking chick who could have been an extra from the freaky S&M inspired party scene at Zion from the last Matrix flick. All she was missing were a few firearms.
"Oh, but she definitely had some guns," mentioned MeanGene.
At the time, he had the top four buttons of his shirt undone. She slipped one hand inside and did some sort of scratching motion. That's when I noticed Stripper A had joined us. She said she was from Italy and looked like Kate Hudson. I did my best to bring her into my conversation. At some point I plotted the switcheroo. I desperately wanted to ditch the drunk and go for the quiet European one. Every time I tried to shift the conversation, the drunk girl interrupted. I kept making eye contact with Stripper A but she didn't get it and left. I had a second chance at her and blew it again. The result? More depressing and soused ramblings from Stripper B... the happy-pill popping, drunk, former gymnast who had a sister with a daughter/sister. Wait a sec, wasn't that the plot from Chinatown?
I asked to go into the VIP room because I thought it would shut her up. Nope. Didn't work. She still kept yammering and would stop in the middle of a dance to yap about something totally annoying. That was a sick bad beat.
"I used to love Xanax," she said. "When I first took it, I would be sleepy and pass out. Then after a while I took so much that all I felt was..."
"You felt normal?"
"Yeah, how did you know? You sound like you have a lot experience with pills. What do you do again?"
"I'm a psychiatrist."
Forty minutes in, she had not asked me my name nor what I did. I was a little bummed out. We already made up cover stories before we went to the Rhino. BadBlood stuck with his usual cover... hot air balloon pilot. My cover? A psychiatrist from San Diego named Geno Papageorgio.
MeanGene was a last minute addition to the team. He had never done the Procedure before. He didn't even know he was going to a strip club. He made an impulsive decision at the last moment. He didn't even have a cover story planned and scrambled to come up with one during the taxi ride to the club. He decided to make it simple and told the truth... that he was a freelance writer who traveled the world. That made all chicks wet.
The VIP room with the drunk stripper was such a letdown. Nothing is more disappointing in life than getting a horrible lap dance. I couldn't wait to leave because she wouldn't stop talking. She kept bombarding me with her life's bad beat stories. It was totally depressing and I almost wanted to put on the new Coldplay album then kill myself.
As we left the VIP room, Dylan had the balls to ask for a tip.
"Why would I tip? You did a shitty job. You are lucky I didn't ask for my money back. I should have ditched you the moment we met, but I felt sorry for you."
For the first time since she latched herself onto me, she was dead silent. Freedom at last.
I left the VIP room and noticed that MeanGene and BadBlood were still inside. Day 2 of the 50K HORSE event was about to start and I needed to get MeanGene back to the Rio. BadBlood eventually finished up and joined me outside. I had to tip the bouncer to boot MeanGene out of the VIP room. The massive looking guy who could have been a linebacker for the Oakland Raiders trudged over to the corner and told MeanGene that it was time to leave.
MeanGene and his girl were holding hands as they left the room.
"Heya Doc, can I'm a little short. Can I borrow a few bucks?"
"Sure thing," I said and turned to his stripper. "How much does he owe you? $40? $60?"
"$300," she said.
What the fuck? Geno, you sex-pot. I turned to him and mouthed, "300?"
MeanGene smirked and shrugged his shoulders as I peeled off three Benjamins and handed it to the latex-laden stripper.
"Oh and don't forget a tip," she said.
I handed her a $20 bill and she gave MeanGene a kiss on the cheek. She turned around and disappeared into the darkness of the Rhino.
We were nearly blinded by the blazing sun when we left the Rhino. As soon as my vision cleared up, I noticed that MeanGene's hair was messy. He had random scratch marks all over his neck and several lipstick smudges all over his cheek.
"At least I got her number," he said as a devious grin illuminated his face.
Paul McGuire is a writer originally from New York City.