April 8, 1980
God knows what planet this couple came from, but they have no business landing in the My Way Lounge.
The sign outside is clear enough: “Girls, Girls, Girls,” telling anyone on the street what to expect.
It’s mostly men who came in here – old and young, lonely or arrogant, men who need to pay girls to smile at them, or slime balls who prefer dirt cheap chicks they don’t have to buy flowers for or call back later the next morning.
But this couple doesn’t even fit the sort of couple that we do see in here from time to time, when some macho asshole marches in with eye candy looking to impress the rest of us with his (lack of) taste or make some dancer (he dated or not) jealous, both guy and gal completing as to who can fill up the place with cologne.
This couple looks almost respectable, not at all hailing from this side of town, making me wonder if maybe they lost their way and stopped in here for directions as to how to get back, little realizing that no one in here would know the right side of the tracks if we fell over them.
They look around the room – at the dancers, at the men, young and old, and at me with my nose in my notebook scribbling down the details for posterity I can only imagine might exist.
I always feel the need to capture the details of moments like this, how the man’s gray moustache wiggles and how the woman’s red lips puckers at what she sees.
Although painted red, her lips aren’t the same shade as the usual women who wander in her from time to time, those gals burned out on
Atlantic City yet not
skanky enough for the pay by the hour dives the crack-head girls use.
Their kind come in here to skim off the cream the dancers can’t get, men with money and cocaine who can pay their way, though as Paul Simon once noted, I’ve been so lonely once or twice I’ve taken some comfort there.
Maybe the couple just wanted to get a glimpse of low life here to report back to some higher social authority of what they saw in this den of sin.
But no, I read something else in their faces, some look as unfamiliar in this place as they are, a kind of nostalgia for an old life that makes me realize these two aren’t as respectable as they seem, that they had been here before, she on the stage, he one of us, and somehow connected, and somehow made it out into some other life neither of them ever expected to get to, and for some reason, needed to come back and look at this as if as a measure of the rare progress people don’t normally make, and seeing it only made them look sadly at us, and for some reason, this makes me angry, and gets the dancers’ dander up, too, as if they’d come back to pass judgment, having found salvation most here can’t.
They don’t stay long. They sip drinks, leaving them half full when they get up, and the leave the room feeling sour after they are gone, all of us staring across at each other as if seeing who and what we are for the first time. The room is still dim. But the lights seem to shine on each of our faces, and when the dancers dance, they seem mechanical and made up.
I scribble it all down, documenting it all, but can’t quiet get down on paper how lousy it all makes me feel, half hoping the door will open again, and some of those has-been skanky girls from Atlantic City would come in to cheer us up again, someone who is on the downside of this hill we push our stones up.
But when the door opens, it’s just another sad sack stumbling in from the go go bar up the street, looking to find something here, the other places lacked, when it always the same t & a – I wave to the bar maid for another drink, and put away my pen for the night.