If the woman is already naked when we begin our conversation, I never really know what to say. “So. How’s it going?” just doesn’t seem right. So it wasn’t that I really wanted to go there, it just seemed like a regionally appropriate suggestion.
The Thanksgiving holiday had been a great one, with most of my family and a wonderful cluster of friends in Portland, Oregon. Now it was Saturday night, many of us still in town, and we’d discussed meeting up. Where?
I have little interest in going to strip clubs anywhere on Earth...except Portland. Every year or two I find myself in one and find it a cross between a dive bar at its best and the ballet. Zero skeeziness, instead a blend of art, athleticism, and a respectful sincerity that approaches benevolence in our culture of sexual repression. To me (Portland) strip clubs aren’t sexual, they’re just honest.
Plus, I’d heard this particular landmark was “Woman (and family) owned and operated...very solid record of management protecting dancers and taking care of them when things happen in their lives” and I was curious to see it. Mostly I just wanted to have a beer with friends, and hey, this would be more interesting than just another friggin “dive bar” that manages to be pretentious as fudge-all anyway.
“Wait, it’s a strip club?” answered a beloved friend. “Hard pass. They’re squicky. Let’s go to a dive bar instead.” Yes there’s an eye-roll emoji, but I wasn’t even tempted to send it. The people were the point, not the venue. But so began one of those vague conversations with 30 minutes of radio silence between messages.
“Okay, I’ll meet you anywhere you want to go, just send me the address.”
“I dunno, let me look for one...”
“Want to Lyft across the entire city to hang out for maybe a few minutes, then turn around and go back?”
So that was good for an hour and a half of me wandering around downtown Portland in the cold, waiting for my friends to get their shit together. They never did, and I ended up walking home alone in the rain. I was tempted to feel aggrieved, embarrassed, and sorry for myself.
Then I realized that was just my pig.
You know that inner voice? The one that whispers that it’s all your fault, all about you, you should be ashamed, and nobody likes you anyway? The therapeutic philosophy that’s done me a world of good over the past few years calls it “pig.” As in the 1960s word for the avatar of oppressive culture, the abusive jerk cop. God I love hippies.
We all have that inner pig. In some it whispers that we have to earn our place on this planet since we’re inherently bad, in others it says we must be crazy, and at its worst it drives a damaged child to such depths of self-loathing and narcissism that they become president and crash the whole country.
In me, it said that my friends just didn’t want to hang out with me, and that I was some kind of pervert for suggesting we hang out in a bar where women take their clothes off. And oh, that I was a loser living a losing life. No way it was just that they were busy and tired, no, it had to be about me, and I had to be bad.
Luckily the leaves reminded me that was ridiculous.
Shining brilliant yellow and audacious red in the streetlamp glow, the autumn leaves giggled their quivering joy at what a beautiful night I was having. Dinner with my folks, already a win. Then walking around this interesting city, winter’s reflections in darkened windows, and conversations with the homeless who always feel like meeting my alternative lives.
“No, I don’t smoke, sorry. No, thanks, I don’t want to buy that umbrella. Nope, no bag of coke for me. Yes, I believe you it’s an incredibly good deal but I still don’t want the umbrella, have a good night my friend. Good luck.”
|Portland is my kind of town|
Now I was headed home to the incomprehensible blessing of a warm loving home, kissed on the cheeks by just the right amount of rain to make the air interesting and the streets shine like a dance floor. It wasn’t a horrible night at all. I’m not unwanted. And they were beautiful hours. I got home, typed this up, and now it’s time for a cup of tea with my folks. Then perhaps I’ll take a nice hot shower before getting in warm blankets with a good book.
Life is good. Go to sleep, pig.