“Wow–pretty wild about Bill Gates,” I said to my wife.
“Apparently his wife is divorcing him because of his wild lifestyle.”
“Wild like how?”
“Nude swimming parties with strippers. Apparently he’s been a total horndog since he went to Harvard and used to go to the Combat Zone–which The New York Post helpfully explains to its readers is “notorious . . . with its porn shows, strip joints, and prostitutes.”
“Didn’t you go to the Combat Zone?”
“Just once,” I said, then closed my eyes and began to reminisce. . .
“It’s all your fault,” I said as my fiancee peeled the lids back from my eyeballs, dessicated from the diuretic effects of too many beers, gin and tonics (or is it “gins and tonic”?), martinis and something called a “Zombie,” a high octane cocktail that came in a mug shaped like an Easter Island statue.
Zombie cocktail (not shown actual size)
“How is your getting plastered at your bachelor party my fault?” she asked.
“You know what Charles Mackay said, right?”
“Who’s Charles Mackay?”
“Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.“
“That sounds like something I’d buy the Cliffs Notes for.”
“You really should read it.”
“What’s it say?” she asked with a tone that suggested–ever so delicately–that she didn’t really care.
“Men go mad in crowds, and they come back to their senses slowly and one by one.”
“As Pee-wee Herman would say, ‘La la la–connect the dots’ for me.”
“It was your decision to have four bridesmaids. That means I have to have four groomsmen. Each of them thinks of somebody who absolutely has to be invited, so that makes eight. Pretty soon four or five other guys hear about it and want to come because they’ve always admired me even though I hate their guts.”
“You reach a critical mass of male stupidity and after the accelerant of alcohol has been poured in, it explodes in the suggestion that the festivities be moved to the Combat Zone.”
“Boston’s world-renowned district that offers adult entertainment to men acting like boys?”
“The same. I’d never been in a strip club before.”
“You really expect me to believe that?”
“It’s true. The Combat Zone is a scary area. Every year some high school football player trying to prove he’s a man gets knifed by a pimp. I didn’t want to end up like that.”
“I can’t understand why.”
“Are you serious? Having some crappy athletic field in Medford or Malden named after you?”
“I was kidding,” she said emphatically. “And you say I’m literal-minded.”
She applied a cold cloth to my forehead. “So . . . what exactly happened?”
“Well, the guys offered me a choice from the smorgasbord of Boston’s many fine fleshpots–The First Amendment, Gentlemen’s VIP Lounge III, The Kit Kat Klub.”
“And which did you pick?”
“I’d always been curious about Jerome’s Naked i.”
“Their ads said they had an ‘All-College Girl Revue.’”
“And education is important to you, right?”
“Absolutely. It’s made such a difference in my life!”
“So you and a dozen guys traipse over there and–was it what you expected?”
“I think at this point I’d better write you out of this post–it was kind of a rough joint.”
“Okay . . . I appreciate it.”
She leaned over to kiss me, then faded out, leaving me in the present, recalling my night at the Naked i.
As we entered I was overwhelmed by the smell, which reminded me of nothing so much as the parochial school boys’ room of my youth; that hyper-sanitary odor of industrial-strength disinfectant, a comforting assurance that the owners had spared no expense to insure that patrons had a fun, parasite-free experience.
The eyes on the other guys grew wide as they took in the many tawdry women parading their wares. “Have a seat,” my best man said, directing me to an open barstool.
Immediately, like a genie, a willowy brunette with hair piled high atop her head like Dusty Springfield appeared at my side.
“Hi,” she said in a soft, kitten-like tone. “My name’s Crystal Chandelier.”
“Wow,” I said, looking her up and down. “You’re the first woman I’ve ever met who’s named after a light fixture.”
“My dad was an electrician,” she said, batting her eyelashes. “Why don’t you buy me a drink?”
The best man was standing behind her, shaking his head back and forth. He’s more experienced than I am at the kabuki-like rituals of the strip club demimonde. Never, he had emphasized before we went in, buy a dancer a drink. The club can impose a cover charge, but it’s a violation of the Fair Strip Club Practices Act to force patrons to pay high prices for phony cocktails that have no alcohol in them. Still, there was something so innocent and genuine about her–I couldn’t help myself.
“Sure,” I said and hailed the bartender. “I’ll have a light beer and whatever tickles the lady’s fancy.”
“You’re not allowed to do that unless you got the Platinum membership.”
“Okay–just give her what she wants to drink.”
He poured her something that looked like a Shirley Temple and plunked it down in front of her next to my beer.
“So,” I asked, arching one eyebrow upwards in a look that I hoped bespoke my depths of worldly sophistication, “what’s your major?”
“My major what?”
“What field are you majoring in?”
“I don’t understand.”
“The sign outside says ‘All-College Girl Revue.’ You’re a college girl–right?”
She hesitated, and I saw her look over at the bartender. He screwed up his mouth as if to say “Play along with him.”
“I . . . uh . . . haven’t decided yet,” she said. “I’m torn between psychology and English.”
“Two excellent disciplines,” I said. “You don’t want to decide too quickly–get your core courses out of the way first.”
“Like French 101–Physics for Non-Majors?”
“Right. Lots of people switch majors. If you make the wrong decision you can end up taking a lot of courses you don’t need.”
“Thanks . . . thanks a lot,” she said in a purr that would have turned on a neutered tomcat. “Say . . . why don’t you and me go back into one of the private rooms?”
I looked over her shoulder at my best man, and this time he was nodding his head up and down, a knowing look in his eye.
“What . . . do they have back there?” I asked. She was rubbing my leg now, and she leaned towards me so that I was hit with the full force of her musky pheromones.
“Course catalogs that you and I could look at . . . until we get hot.”
I felt as if I’d just been told I’d been taken off the waiting list for an upper-level seminar on metaphor. “The good stuff?”
“We’ve got everything,” she said in a low, sultry voice. “What do you like?”
“I have rather . . . eclectic tastes,” I said. My thigh was quivering like Chris Matthews’ when he listens to tapes of Obama speeches.
“He never calls!”
“I’m here to pleasure you,” she said.
“You wouldn’t happen to have . . .”
“The SUNY-Buffalo catalog from the ’70′s?”
“When Leslie Fielder and John Barth were in the English Department at the same time?”
“That’s the one.”
“I believe there’s still room in that course for a . . . promising student like you.”
She smiled and I was ready to go, but my best man shook his head and made a motion like he was reeling in a fish. I got the message–play it for all it was worth.
“What else?” I said.
“Do you like Thorstein Veblen?”
She’d found my weak spot. Who wouldn’t like a philandering professor who’d added so many lapidary turns of phrase to my repertoire, including “physiognomy of astuteness” and “a knothole of a town in a stump of a state” about Columbia, Missouri, where my sisters went to college.
“I . . . I’d like that very much.”
“We have the listings from Stanford, the University of Missouri, the University of Chicago, of all the courses he was supposed to teach but refused to.”
I’d heard enough. “Okay,” I said, reaching for my wallet, “let’s go.”
“Hold on, pal,” I heard as a hand grabbed me by the shoulder. It was my best man–I know he was just looking out for me, but dammit, I was about to explode. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“With her. I think I’m . . . in love.”
“I knew this would happen, you rookie,” he said. “I can’t let you do it. You’ve got a beautiful woman–without social diseases–waiting for you. C’mon–let’s go,” he said as he jerked his head back towards the exit.
“No!” I blurted out as I pulled away from him. “She’s promised me something I’ve never experienced before!”
“An interdisciplinary program combining the History and Philosophy of History and Philosophy and the Hermeneutics of Teleology!”