Note: The name of this establishment has been deleted at the insistence of Cream City’s lawyers.
I recall very little about the ride to The Block except that, once we were in the car, I started on some kind of political tirade that seemed to unsettle the driver. He was a good sport though. Also, Ingrid’s leg was hanging out of the car’s rear-left door as we drove off from Sherrie’s. She pulled it in before it became an issue though. We made it to The Block in record time. The hard part, we quickly realized, was deciding on where to spend the little money we had left.
After a lot of arguing and peering through smudged, neon-lit strip-club doorways, we finally decided to try the largest and glitziest-looking joint on the block—you know which one. I was completely opposed to setting foot in the place, but I’d been out-voted by my associates. Jim kept insisting that we’d have “the time of our lives”—I remained 100% skeptical. The place just seemed too pricey and corporate for any real fun to be going down there. Ingrid had to drag me past the front doors as we entered. After going through some kind of blurry and expensive admission ritual, we were finally permitted to enter the dance room. The whole thing felt like passing through a military checkpoint.
Now, the exterior of this place didn’t make it seem that much bigger than most establishments on The block, but let me tell you: the interior is massive beyond your wildest imaginings. In a single room roughly the size of the Parthenon, hundreds—maybe thousands—of round black tables surround a tall circular stage on the main floor. The stage’s center is marked with two metal poles rising some 80 feet into the air, all the way to the ceiling. Each wall of the establishment is actually a stack of two additional floors, each opened to the stage for your viewing pleasure.
We were seated at a table way in the back. Jim was barking lasciviously about how great the place was as we paid large sums of money for our drinks. I didn’t like it. We were too far from the action. Even with my tiny binoculars, I could barely see the stage. I felt stranded in the desert of the real. From where I sat, there seemed to be tiny speck of a woman performing acrobatics on the pole at 60-ish feet up. But who could be sure from that distance?
I was growing weary, readying myself to organize a mutiny, when a thin man with a dark beard sidled up next to me. He leaned over and whispered something.
“You know, there are no girls here,” he said.
“No girls—not a single one. It’s all CGI or somethin’. I just came back from the front. I reached onto the stage to put a couple bucks inna girl’s g-string and my hand went right through ‘er—some kind a hologram, I think. I’m tryin’ to tell as many people as I can on my way out.”
I put my binoculars up to my eyes. It was hard to see what he meant, but the dancer on stage did have kind of a translucent glow about her. I started to turn toward the man.
“Hey, lemme go!”
I heard him shouting before I even saw the two men in black suits grabbing each of his shoulders. They each hooked an arm under the man’s armpits and began calmly dragging him in the direction of the door.
“Hey! Hey! I want my mone—“
He was pulled right through the exit doors.
By that time, Jim had apparently gone AWOL with his Tinder Date. I hadn’t noticed or cared. Ingrid, Brad, and I decided to try our luck elsewhere. We slunk toward the exit as the two men in suits stared us down. I’m on to you, I thought to myself, looking them in the eyes.
After we got out the door, we figured Little Darlings would be the logical next step as it was so close. We walked down a set of fuzzy stairs, into a darkened purple-lighted room where we each paid a cover of merely $5 before we were granted access to all of our wildest dreams, so we hoped.
“Let’s go next door—to the sketchier place. Im sure there’s no cover, and it’s more of what we are looking for,” Andre protested in front of ███████████████ where Jim had led us.
We headed next door only to find that they had an entrance fee, albeit half the cost of ██████’s. After a minor debate and at Jim’s insistence, we found ourselves at ██████—the granddaddy of Baltimore strip clubs. Out front, commanding signs and a long red-carpeted stairwell led up to the club.
Inside, clusters of tables circled a Colosseum-esque arena with two poles that led up to the high ceiling. The nude dancers climbed the pole to the second floor before twirling high above our heads and then dropping to the floor. I gasped, believing a freak accident to be inevitable and imagining the performer, mangled and broken, at the base of the pole. The $20 cover seemed worth the nude version of Cirque de Soleil.
A cocktail waitress interrupted my revelry to ask if I wanted a drink. I assessed my current level of intoxication and decided I should skip alcohol in favor of water.
“Are you crazy? Water costs just as much as alcohol here. Just get another drink.” Brad admonished.
This mentality had gotten me into a lot of trouble before. Shit was going to get crazy.
“Has anyone seen Jim and what’s her name?” I asked.
“They got a private room.” Brad said.
“OH in that case, let’s go back to the other place we scoped out. That’s what we came here for. Besides, I’m starting to think these strippers are just CGI holograms anyways…” Andre muttered.
Bar #5—Little Darlings
This establishment was small, but definitely more of a shoebox than a broom closet. The place was brimming with strippers. The management had simply hired too many girls for that night it seemed—the dancer-to-customer ratio was some 10 to 1. Also, the purple-ish lighting reminded me of black-lights and I knew we’d hit the jackpot. This was the place we’d been looking for. The three of us had to push our way through a small sea of near-naked female bodies as we walked toward the mainstage. I took a short detour past the bar and ordered another Pikesville on ice.
By the time I sat down next to my compatriots, Ingrid was already swarmed by a gaggle of strippers who were stroking her hair and lightly grabbing at her body like gentle molesters. Brad and I, it seemed, had turned into translucent ghosts at some point, which was fine with me. Brad, however, descended into a state of outrage as he shook his head, throwing his hands up, and commenting repeatedly on how Ingrid was hoarding all of the girls. “No respect,” he muttered lowering, his face into his palms.
I simply couldn’t relate in that moment. I turned toward the stage only to realize that one of the dancers had been staring me right in the face—with her brown eye. She was bent forward and shaking her butt-cheeks in my direction. How long had this been going on? Was I supposed to tip her? I was clueless on matters of strip club protocol. Fortunately, a doughy kid in a Batman t-shirt stepped in and saved the day.
“I got it, man,” he said to me, probably reading the panic on my numbed face.
He took a fistful of dollars and casually threw them at the dancer’s ass. She turned her head to smile at him. I noticed she had brown eyes.
“Thanks,” I said.
It was time for another Pikesville. However, I was horrified when the people at the bar told me the credit card machine was broken and they were only accepting cash. The barman pointed me toward the ATM in the far corner of the shoebox. Fair enough, I thought while taking wobbly baby-steps toward the glowing machine. I remember that a new song came on as I walked—some kind of slow organ dirge started seeping through the speakers. An airy female voice began:
Look on down from the bridge
There’s still fountains down there…
I shook my head and wondered what kind of sick joker-of-a-DJ would play that song in a club like this. No matter—I was on a mission. But even all of that went to shit as I approached the ATM and caught a slippery patch on the carpet with the heel of my shoe. I fell over and onto my back.
Everybody seems so far away from me
Everybody just wants to be free
A man dressed in a tuxedo-vest and bow-tie stood over me, and asked if I was ok. I reached into my pocket.
“Sir, there’s no smoking in here.”
“I know that.”
I discreetly slid the cigarettes back into my pocket and pulled my cell phone out. “I’m calling my lawyer, that’s all.”
“That won’t be necessary, sir.”
I’m just gone, just gone…
“Yeah, I know.”
Walking back to the stage I noticed that there were now three girls on stage, making out and grinding on each other. Whoa.
As I approached my seat, I asked Brad where Ingrid was. His eyes were wide and he just kept staring at the spectacle on stage. That’s when it hit me. I slowly turned my head around to confirm my theory. Ingrid was on stage. I turned back to Brad.
“I dunno. They just pulled her on stage and she seemed down for it. They yanked her clothes off and then all of this started.”
Ingrid was standing, dancing and making out with one stripper while another one seemed to have her face tucked between her thighs.
There’s a light in your eyes
And you know, yeah you know
Batman was still seated to my right and his eyes were visibly dewy.
“This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” he muttered.
“Is it really?!” I snapped.
Look on down from the bridge
I’m still waiting for you
I thought we’d been kicked out promptly at 2:00AM, which, at the time, seemed really strange in a place like that. However, I was later informed that we had, in fact, lingered around until about 3:30AM. That’s when were booted. Ingrid put her clothes on and we left, walking east down Baltimore Street in search of the next big thing.
We headed through a dark and narrow stairwell leading down to the doorway of Little Darlings. Once the door opened, I knew this was it. This is what we had been searching for. We had made it to the Promised Land— one overflowing with strippers and liquor.
“YES! This is everything I had hoped it would be!” Andre voiced my sentiment as he rushed to the bar in the back corner.
Our trio sat down at the seats arranged around the stage next to a guy with a Batman t-shirt, greasy hair, untrimmed beard, and slight paunch. I wondered how he was going to sneak back into his mom’s basement later that night.
“Oh my god that girl is so hot—the brunette one onstage.” Brad gushed.
A tall slim dancer called Jessie went on with a shorter girl wearing a g-string and jock socks. They twirled around the pole before sliding to the floor and crawling about together and simulating oral sex. Brad was in love. Jessie caught my eye and crawled to the edge of the stage.
“Hey there, sexy. You are gorgeous.”
“Seriously, Ingrid? They’re hitting on you?” Brad interjected.
“Come onstage,” she urged, pulling me towards the platform.
“DO IT!” Brad goaded.
“Come on Ingrid.. Come on! IN-GRID! IN-GRID…”
The other dancer had joined her in pulling me towards them; I was helpless against the siren song.
As I climbed onto the stage, Jessie unzipped my jacket and I threw it toward the audience. It smacked Brad in the face. Bright lights blinded me to the spectators. Jessie and Jocksocks simultaneously undressed me; I was oblivious to anything else. A fog machine (or, maybe, the copious amounts of alcohol I had consumed) created a haze that glowed with the lasers and rotating, multi-colored lights.
Jessie’s lips were soft and sweet. I have no idea how long we made out pressed up against the pole onstage while the other dancer tangled between our legs, but, eventually, the set ended, and I retrieved my strewn clothing while making my way back to my seat.
“That was amazing! And I have pictures!” Brad exclaimed. “I would have had more too if the bouncer hadn’t slapped my phone out of my hand.”
He shot an irritated glance at the towering presence staring at us from the wall.
“I was just about to shoot a video when someone shouted, ‘Hey! Show some respect!’—that’s when Shaq’s big brother decided to assault my phone.”
Oh, that’s just great…
The neck-beard in the batman shirt learned forward and turned toward me.
“I just want to say that was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Seriously? I laughed awkwardly as I put my shirt back on.
The girls were completing their shifts and came over to socialize. Jessie and Kendra sat on the side of my chair, while another girl played with my hair behind me. Everyone moved in a sort of blur. At any given moment I had my tongue in a different girl’s mouth. Brad shook his head in despair behind us.
“Are you all lesbians?” he inquired.
“No, but how could you not love her.” Kendra purred.
I hadn’t realized we were the only ones left in the club until the Shaq look-alike screamed, “Girls—clothes on! You guys, OUT!”
“You need to come to our after party.” Jessie appealed as she handed me my phone.
I had several new additions in my contacts list under names like “Kassie” and “Jewel.”
“Alright we will.” I affirmed as we were shuffled out into the cool, forsaken streets of Baltimore.
“We are going to that after party.” Brad stated while hailing a cab.
My phone vibrated constantly with directions from several sources.
“Hell, no,” I slurred. “I was making out with like five girls, and they’re all asking me to come now—way too much girl drama. I can’t do that…”
“It’d be great for the story,” Andre mused.
TO BE CONTINUED…