Thursday, October 04, 2007

More Existentialist Conversations with Strippers: The Afternoon Shift

"Never underestimate the afternoon shift," Lewey shouted those five words at the top of his lungs.

The weather was the culprit. The gang originally wanted breakfast at a French crepe place, however, the owners were away on holiday and the place was closed. They walked down Duval Street in search of alternative options and ended up at Sloppy Joes, where Hemingway used to get bombed back in his Key West days. After sampling every specialty drink on the menu, Lewey lost his volume control. I couldn't blame him. The drinks were delicious. The Key West Lemonade is by far the best, since you can barely taste the vodka thanks to the sour mix, which is why Lewey and company could drink eight in a two hour span.

It always rains at random times in Key West during the wet season. Sometimes it pours for five minutes then stops. In that instance, the rain kept coming. And coming. Most of Duval Street flooded within minutes. The boys were stuck at Sloppy Joes and continued to weather out the storm by drinking heavily. AlCantHang and I were stuck at the ACHC and eventually decided to make a run for it during a brief break in the rain.

The skies opened up as soon as we hit Duval Street. We were quickly drenched and stood under an awning to a jewelry shop for protection from the rain. We eventually said, "Fuck it!" and ran the last two blocks through the rain. We rushed inside Sloppy Joes and my entire shirt was soaked.

Lewey had lost all forms of volume control. He was drunk and fired up. We got odd glances from other tables from some of the drunken babble spewing from Lewey, who was in rare Lewey form. I ordered a couple of drinks to catch up.

"You're way behind," said our waitress.

The only thing that could calm Lewey down was The Classy Joint. It was not even 4pm on a Monday. Most of the people I knew were still at work. And there we were, running through the raindrops and up the slippery flight of wooden stairs to shower the strippers on the afternoon shift with small bills.

"Never underestimate the afternoon shift," Lewey repeatedly told me.

I was venturing into new territory. The afternoon shift. Sort of the Bermuda Triangle for strippers. It had been several years since I visited a strip club during the day. There were random exceptions like going to a strip club at 6am or 7am after an all night bender in Las Vegas or playing poker on the Strip all night with Grubby. But for the most part, it was the Wall Street days when I last I ventured inside a club during normal working hours. Sometimes the stress was so immense, you needed to escape from reality with a lap dance.

When I lived in Atlanta as a college student, my friends and I were frequent patrons of the crappy Sunday morning breakfast buffet at the Pink Pony strip joint located behind a Denny's. I was stuck behind enemy lines in the middle of the bible belt and instead of attending church services like a pious Christian, I smoked dope with Jewish frat boys and ogled strippers.

There's a definite difference from the girls who work on weeknights vs. weekends and girls who work the afternoon shift vs. the evening shift. I was fascinated and intrigued by the reasons that drove a woman to dance the Monday afternoon shift at a Key West strip club during the off season. A foul odor of desperation lingers around strip clubs during the day. And since there's a more natural light that appears every time the front door opens, the place never looks as sultry as the middle of the night.

It's also a frame of mind. If I was as shitfaced as I was the night before (think Dudley Moore drunk) when I stumbled in, I might not have picked up on the subtle differences. Like the geriatric patrons. There were only a dozen or so guys checking out the afternoon shift and we made up 60% of the total number. The rest of the clientele seemed much older. They were in their 60s and 70s. Retired guys. Waiting to die. Might as well have a rum cocktail and a lapdance while you're on heaven's waiting list.

Even though we were inside The Classy Joint, it definitely lost a tinge of class during the afternoon hours. The club was just the type of seedy place where you might find William Kennedy Smith or any other soused heirs to the Kennedy name, knocking back cheap scotch at 3pm in the afternoon while fondling the sketchy girls with visible c-section scars and multiple bruises all over their cracked-out body.

We didn't have much to choose from. There were three mediocre dancers at the time... the angry Latina, the voluptuous Jennifer Hudson look-a-like, and the pale foreign girl from an Eastern-Bloc country who would come over and ask, "Do you vant a dansh?"

The foreign girl had long brown hair and crooked teeth. She barely looked 18 and was fresh off the boat. Her moves were less than graceful. Her lack of sun tan hinted that she just arrived in town and was working her way up the stripper food chain. She was cute enough to dance at The Classy Joint, but lacked the experience on proper pole dancing and more importantly, the act of stage seduction. She needed practice. Hence, the afternoon shift.

A giant green tattoo on her stomach read "Milano." She didn't look Italian and I wondered what that meant. Lewey saw the same thing and we quickly discussed the origins of her tattoo while she danced on stage. She heard everything we said. I tried to talk in hushed tones, but Lewey continued to scream at the top of his lungs.

"What's that tattoo all about?" he shouted.

"I guess that's her favorite city," I said. "Or her favorite brand of Pepperidge farm cookies."

"Or her favorite actress," said Lewey as he shoved three singles in between her breasts.

She looked over at us and asked, "Do you vant a dansh?"

The Latina with the c-section scar took the stage next. She was about twice the age as the foreign girl and appeared pissed off at something. Despite her angry demeanor, she had the best pole moves out of the bunch. She performed a weird trick where she'd shake her ass and it would vibrate faster than a hummingbird could flap its wings. Lewey almost had his nose dislocated when he got too close.

The last entertainer on the afternoon shift was a black woman in her 40s who called her self Kat. She purred and seductively moved along the stage like a cat. Unlike the rest of the strippers I encountered, she didn't shave her snatch. She had a bad boob job and you could see the multiple scars underneath her armpits. That's what happens when you go to the equivalent of Dr. Nick from The Simpsons to get your breasts enhanced in the back of some dude's mini-van.

I was not drunk and thereby not turned on by any of the women working the afternoon shift. An inebriated Lewey had a blast with a stack of singles sitting in front of him next to his cocktail. His head would disappear for about fifteen seconds whenever Kat would come over and swallow up his head in between her humongous breasts.

"The girls on the afternoon shift pay more attention to you. Yes, they're not as good looking, but they work harder for the money. You're getting more bang for the buck," explained Lewey.

His drunken ramblings almost made sense.

As Landow put it best, "Save the afternoon shift. Save the world."

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