The Thorobred Club

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I stopped into the strip club out near the race track early on a Friday night. They had just opened so there wasn’t a whole lot of action going on. Strippers sitting in little clumps here and there. I sat down at the bar and ordered a Budweiser. This is de rigueur for me at strip clubs because its an easy drink to order, it’s cheap, and doesn’t call a lot of attention. Usually a good way to change a twenty and get a lot of singles for the strippers. Strippers love singles.

“What’ll be Bud?”

“I’ll have a Budweiser, please.”

“This Bud’s for you.”

She opened one of the glass paneled doors covering the refrigerated room back of the bar and retrieved a bottle of beer and set it down before me.

“Just a minute,” she said when I tried to pay her.

They were still opening the joint and she and another barmaid were hovering over the cash register counting money and signing in. It was OK with me. I was in no hurry.

I was sitting there on my bar stool swigging my beer and swiveling around on the stool to check the place out. Back behind me there was a large main stage with two stripper poles. Music was playing in the background. Kind of low for a stripper place I thought. There were tables and chairs in the space between me and the stage. The lighting was low and seductive and of course mirrors everywhere. I had turned back around to the bar facing the mirror on the back wall when I noticed a thin young girl with long brown mousy hair wearing a black athletic jacket heading in my direction. Under the jacket was a nice lingerie set of matching black bra and panties. She was distinguished from the other girls because one, she was wearing a jacket, and two because her lingerie was nicer than the rest. The panties were high waisted and the brassier was rather full, more like a bustier, and while she looked good, she really wasn’t that sexy.

“Hi. What’s your name, cowboy?” She asked.

“Philip”, I answered. “What’s yours?”

She lowered her head and got closer and got a silly grin on her face.

“My real name or my stripper name?” She purred into my ear.

“Well, I always like to know a girl’s real name.”

“We’re not supposed to tell what our real name is.” She dropped her head and laughed. “It’s Crystal. My stripper name is Bella.”

“Oh, Bella! That’s a pretty name!” I was wondering if she knew what it really meant.

She smiled. “Thanks! Yours is pretty too.”

I smiled back.

“I don’t usually do this. I only work a couple days a month. Just enough to make a little money to pay the rent. I’m a single mother. I have a six-year-old daughter at home I have to take care of. She’ll be six in August.”

“Oh really? What day?”

“The ninth. August the ninth.”

“Wow! Really? That’s my birthday too!”

Her smile got bigger.

“Really? What’s your sign?”

“Leo. Just like your daughter. What’s yours?”

“Scorpio.”

“Oh! The most dangerous sign in the universe!”

“Do you study signs?”

“A little bit. You?”

She nodded her assent.

“Are Leos and Scorpios compatible?”

She laughed and allowed that they were. “I’m very passionate.” She said.

Then she went on about how she didn’t’ drink but that she smoked a lot.

“Weed?”

“Yeah. Buy me a drink?”

“I thought you just said you didn’t drink.”

“I don’t. Except when I come here. I couldn’t do this unless I drank.”

“How much are they? I don’t usually buy girls drinks because they jack the prices up and I don’t like that.”

She grimaced. “I really don’t know. Get me a shot of tequila. I’m going over here to talk to my friend to make sure she is alright. I’ll be right back.”

So, I ordered a shot. I figured if the barmaid thought it was for me, she would just charge me regular price.

“Silver or gold?” She asked.

“Silver.”

She poured a shot and set it down in front of me.

“Lemon or lime?”

“Lemon.”

“You want salt with that?”

“No.”

“That’ll be seven dollars.”

In a few minutes Crystal drifted back over to where I was sitting and spotted the shot of Patron sitting on the bar.

“Where’s your shot?”

“I’m drinking beer.”

This seemed to satisfy her. She picked up the shot of tequila and poured it down her gullet and then sucked on the lemon and made a face.

“Oh, that was awful!”

“The lemon?”

“No, the tequila. I told you I didn’t drink.”

Then she proceeded to tell me how when she was younger, she did a lot of bad things but she was trying to turn her life around. She said her boy friend was shot and killed right beside her. Turned out it was a drug deal gone bad. We talked about how dangerous Louisville was and what an underbelly it had. Then she went back over to her friend who was sitting at the other end of the bar.

I figured she be back for another drink but it looked like she got caught up in the conversation with her friend and some others who joined them. Thought it might be a good time to blow so I took the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Single Black Female

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I was having breakfast in one of my favorite hamburger joints, Burger Boy, down on Burnett, when I looked up from the book I was reading and I noticed a single black female, short in stature, with long black hair and fake eyelashes sitting with her back to me at the lunch counter. She was wearing a black ball cap and a black leather jacket. The jacket had silver studs on the collar and along the half circle of each of the shoulders. She had on tight blue jeans and brown suede fringed moccasins that went half way up her well-shaped calves. There was a red leather purse with a gold chain sitting on the counter in front of her.

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She kept glancing at her cell phone as she patiently waited for her food too to arrive. She got it to go. When it came, she picked up the white plastic bag the waitress had placed before her and she stepped away from the counter.

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It was then that I witnessed the full effect of her great beauty as her face came into full view. She then made her way to the front door and departed. It was a moment.

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Baby, baby, baby…

 

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Baby, Baby, Baby

One of my best friends from back in the day was the renowned football player Reggie Garret. Reggie once played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and had two Super Bowl Games under his belt.

Naturally he had two Super Bowl rings. One with one diamond and one with two. Sometimes when we went out together barhopping and catting around he would wear both massive rings, one on each hand. Needless to say, he was a chick magnet. The women would just gravitate to him and surround him. I always felt lucky to get his overflow.

One night while at the Brass Rail we were chatting up a very pretty black chick. After a while it became pretty obvious she was more into me than she was into him. Since we were a salt-and-pepper team he just couldn’t understand how a black chick could be more into me than into him. Oh well! Anyway, he never got over it and whenever the subject came up later on he referred to it as the, “baby, baby, baby…” incident. Even years later. We always had a big laugh over it whenever it came up. Sometimes we would even answer the phone, “Baby, baby, baby,”

On another occasion we were out having  drinks at the Frontier Club across the street from the factory where we both worked. It was happy hour. We were drinking with our boss, Jim Smith. Now Jim liked to take his subordinates out to drink and have them pay for it and then put it on our expense accounts. That way we all got to drink for free.

Well this one night at the Frontier Club we were having drinks up at the bar and a friend of Reggie’s comes over and says, “Is that fat faced motherfucker your boss?”

Well Jim’s jaw dropped opened, his face got red, and his eyes popped.

Reggie started in to stuttering and I excused myself to the gents. When I got back Reggie’s friend was long gone, Reggie was hanging his head in shame, and Jim was getting up to leave.

We got a big laugh out of this one too later on but we never brought it up around Jim.

We made bottles for the beer industry. Budweiser was just down the road. Whenever we went out we were expected to drink Budweiser which I couldn’t stand. I preferred Heineken. We don’t make bottle for Heineken, Jim would say, but Budweiser. This Bud’s for you!

Well I ran across this passage from The Road to Wiagn Pier by George Orwell, which pretty much sums up how I feel about Budweiser beer: “Look at the filthy chemical by-product people pour down their throats under the name of beer.”

That was it. It was beer in name only.

Baby, baby, baby….

Oh, the black chick? We got married.

 

 

 

 

 

THE INTERROGATION

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“Step this way please, Mr. Quarry.”

I had always known this day would come. As soon as I had stepped through the stainless steel and plate glass portals I had a premonition of dark design: today I would be chosen. This clouded my thinking as I walked through the aisles.

They had been tracking me for the last thirty minutes on closed circuit TV. They don’t bother to hide the cameras anymore, everyone knows about them by now. Even though the remote monitoring had been going on for years a strange creepy feeling still filled the senses. Someone somewhere was watching.

The excursion itself, however, proved pleasant enough. Items were skillfully arrayed in a myriad of colors. This all served to make one momentarily forget about the guard dogs, armed security, cameras and microphones. I pushed my thoughts of impending doom to the back of my mind and for a while was at peace.

Peace was not long lasting however and my dark thoughts came crashing back as we queued up to leave at the check point center. After my selections were placed in a brightly colored plastic container I was approached by a young uniformed girl.

“May I see your identification please?” she cheerily inquired.

They’re trained to do that. To act cheerful. I reached into a pocket and retrieved my wallet. I withdrew the required paperwork and handed it to her. She studied it carefully for a moment, frowning, then she spoke.

“Step this way please, Mr. Quarry.”

Damn! I hate this! I follow her through a maze hallways and tunnels, my heart pounding wildly in my ears. Finally, we arrive at the interrogation center located deep within the recesses of the building.

It is a long narrow room with double doors at either end. Fluorescent tubes over head flood the room with rays of light that glance from white wall to white wall. From floor to ceiling, completely filling the room with dazzling brightness. The room is devoid of furniture or fixtures save five orange molded plastic chairs that lined the wall closest to where we entered.

“Remove your clothing please,” the girl commands in solemn tones.

I hesitate a moment, feeling a bit shaky, and not really believing this was happening to me, but this was my first time. I just stare blankly into her dull grey eyes.

“Remove your clothing please,” she repeats, a little more harshly now than before.

I begin disrobing slowly and she smiles her approval. She watches with seeming disinterest. Probably does this all day I think to myself as I step out of my trousers. I hand my clothes over to her in a bundle. She glances hurriedly over my naked body then she searches through my clothing. Apparently satisfied that I have nothing to conceal she returns my apparel and announces that I am to get dressed again.

“You can’t be too careful these days,” she says. “Please be seated. Someone will be with you in a minute.”

After I finish dressing I sit in one of the chairs against the wall. I am only sitting there a few minutes when the double doors at the other end of the room burst open. I am suddenly joined by a middle-aged professional looking man in a long white lab coat closely followed by a younger man in a similar coat pushing a two- tiered cart laden with various pieces of electronic apparatus. The two men had apparently been catapulted together down the long corridor preceding the double doors which even now are still swinging on their hinges.

“Good day, Mr. Quarry. I am afraid we are going to need some additional information.” This from the middle-aged man. “If you will be so kind as to bring one of those chairs over here to the center of the room, we can begin our session.”

I comply with his request as the younger man proceeds to engage his equipment. A pneumatic tube is wound tightly across my chest. Around my arm, just above the elbow, a heavy canvas band is wound tightly into place, constricting the flow of blood in my arm and measuring its pressure. To the tip of my middle finger a shiny silver electrode it taped. This to measure body temperature. I am now wired to the polygraph machine. The young technician finally plugs the electrical cord into the waiting outlet box in the floor and flips the switch, thereby breathing life into the machine. Needles become erect on their respective dials and a low barely audible hum indicates that the machine lives.

“Now Mr. Quarry, a few test questions to calibrate the machine to your particular bodily reactions.”

My interrogator stands behind me a little to one side. His presence is known to me only as a disembodied voice coming to me over my right shoulder. His questions are simple at first. What is your name? Did you ever steal money from your parents as child? And so on. The came the pertinent questions.

“Your place of employment?”

“River City Mutual.”

“Length of service?”

“Two Years.”

“Income?”

“$45,000.”

“Your wife’s name?”

“Rebecca.”

“And your wife’s place of employment?”

“General Computers.”

“And your wife’s income?”

“$55,000.”

I let go with a little laugh after this, but there was no reaction from anyone else in the room, but the machine. Its arcing stylus bleeds red ink onto the moving graph paper.

So the questioning goes, probing into all areas of my life. A list of personal property is given. A list of friends and relatives is given. Finally, it is over. I had begun to hyperventilate. My left arm is numb. My body fairly floats in perspiration. The skin at the back of my skull crawls with anxiety. I stagger to my feet having come through the ordeal, much to my surprise, alive.

“Miss Jones will escort you back up front,” I am informed.

The interrogation unit disengages its equipment and disappears through the same double doors from whence it came. Simultaneously the same girl that had brought me here reappears at the opposite end of the room. She holds the door open and beckons me to follow.

“This way please, Mr. Quarry,” she says.

We pass through the same series of hallways and tunnels until we arrive once again at the check point center. We wait a few moments at the desk. A phone rings. Miss Jones answers. Stone face. She replaces the phone in its cradle then flashes a smile in my direction.

“Your check has been approved, Mr. Quarry. Here are your purchases. You may exit the store now and thank you for shopping at S and M.

END

 

 

 

 

ESSAY ON METAMORHOSIS

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“Ya know Doc, like a Kafkaesque nightmare…”

The sad unsmiling silent psychiatrist shook his shaggy head no.

“Kafka?”

“Yes, Kafka, you do know who Kafka is, don’t you, Doc?”

“No. I’m afraid I don’t.”

And so it was I fired my therapist. Did you ever notice that the word therapist contains the two words, “the rapist?” That should have given me ample warning right there. Later, as I was explaining the situation to my mistress and I came to the part: “Ya know, Doc, just like something out of a Kafkaesque nightmare…”

Who’s Kafka?”

“You don’t know who Kafka is either?”

And so it was I fired my mistress too. It was just about that time I began to notice how closely my life paralleled that of hapless, arthropodic, Gregor Samsa.

Wildwood

It was my last best hope and expectation to meet up with a very special girl from Jersey in Wildwood. I was from Philly and she was from Harlem and our lives intersected in a small town in South Jersey. She was a sweet kid and wild as Friday night and we were supposed to meet for a weekend rendezvous in the seaside town of Wildwood. It was during the off season and there weren’t too many people around, which was how I liked it.

I holed up in a cheap hotel near the beach for a few days but she never showed. So I walked the streets and combed the beach a bit and I snapped a few pictures.

The Gun Shop

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Instruments of death that fit snugly into the palm of your hand were gleaming dully in their showcases lovingly caressed by blue velvet. Oiled wooden handles jutted from solid blue back bodies. There was a faint odor of oil and metal lingering on the air conditioned atmosphere of the room. The soft sounds of creaking leather reverberated through the reverential quiet as the clerk tenderly, ever so gently, eased a delicately balanced, but heavily weighted .357 magnum out of its holster

“Listen to this action,” he whispered to me imploringly.

Firmly, but gently, he gripped the butt of the gun in his right hand. He placed the web of his thumb over the hammer of the awesome black revolver and slowly began to exert pressure on it. The man’s hands trembled slightly and he closed his eyes. Small beads of perspiration began popping over his upper lip. A little metal clicking noise emerged from the gun as the hammer went through its first cocking phase. A slight smile appeared on the lips of the clerk as he continued to pull back on the heavy hammer and another click emerged — the gun was half-cocked — the clerk began breathing heavily now and rapidly  his face grew flush. He slid his thumb to the edge of the hammer and applied the tip of it to the ridges cut deeply into the top edge. He pushed down hard and fully cocked the revolver. A tiny tear drop appeared in the corner of the clerk’s eye.

The gap between the ridged head of the steel hammer and the body of the gun was a chasm. It looked like the jaws of a primordial reptile. It was powerful, and it was frightening — the stored-up energy of that hammer begged to be released. He pulled the trigger.

Snap!

I jumped. The hair on the back of my neck prickled and a shiver ran down my left arm. The clerk placed the gun back into the showcase and hung the holster back on the rack. He lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and blew out blue clouds of smoke across the room. He had a distant look in his eye. I turned on my boot heels and walked out of the store into the bright afternoon sun. I squinted my eyes and shuttered with relief to be back in normal time and space again. Just to-make sure I kicked out at the base of a red white and blue mail box standing at the edge of the sidewalk. It hurt sufficiently to be convincing. I began the three block walk back to my office still in a bit of a stupor.

TONY’S WAY

Philadelphia Story

Tonys way

There are a million stories in the semi-clad metropolis and this is one.

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and in each neighborhood there is a distinctive culture or ethnicity.  Each neighborhood has gradually become more mixed and diversified. In South Philly you have the Italians, in Fishtown the Irish. West Philly and North Philly are predominantly black. In Center City you see the greatest diversity, but it too has its own characteristics. In Kensington, where Tony’s Way is located, it is mainly Spanish, as in Puerto Rican. Tony’s Way is a little Puerto Rican bar nestled below the elevated Blue Line in Kensington.

I lived in several different neighborhoods in Philadelphia. For a while I lived in Fishtown in a little house across from the Palmer Cemetery.  Fishtown is a neighborhood that adjoins Kensington.  I  would sometimes walk over to the Blue Line to take it into town. On the way back home when I arrived at my stop and descended the steps from the “El” I would find Tony’s Way beckoning to me in the darkness. So one night I hustled there inside.

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I stepped inside of the brightly lit cantina and immediately was blasted with the sound of Latin music blaring on the jukebox and uproarious laughter.  The joint was juking and very colorfully decorated with tinsel and streamers and signs of various descriptions. Very festive. The bar was in the center with seating all around. Behind the bar were a pair of barmaids in cut off jeans and tank tops.

I stepped up the the bar and ordered a shot of tequila and a Corona. That was what everybody else was drinking. I had a couple of rounds then stepped back into the night and walked home.

Since Tony’s Way was right on my way as I walked back and fourth from the El, I started to become a regular. I would go over in the afternoons sometimes and on the weekends. One day I was in there having a beer and a shot when Tony walks over to me and introduces himself.

He gave me a broad smile and stretched out his hand which I took. He had a strong grip.

“I’m Tony,” he said. “This is my place. Welcome. If you ever find you have a problem here, you see that large fellow sitting over there in the corner? That’s Ricardo. He’s my cousin. And do you see that other fellow standing over there? That’s Edwardo. He’s my other cousin. You just call one of them over and he will help you.”

He smiled again and patted me on the back and strolled off to greet the other customers. That was how it was at Tony’s Way.

One Friday night I walked over for a little entertainment and to see if there might be some Puerto Rican girls just dying to meet me.

There was line to get in.  So I queued up and waited my turn to be let in. As I was waiting I noticed there were a couple of bouncers at the front door. They were frisking people, as in patting them down for weapons, before they were allowed in. Now this wasn’t too unusual for Philadelphia so I didn’t think too much of it at first. When It came my turn they just waved me in.

So I entered the establishment and walked around the bar to the other side so I could keep an eve on the door.  I ordered my usual: A shot of Jose Cuervo and a bottle of Corona with a lime wedge.

I got to noticing the way the bouncers were frisking the patrons. A guy would step up to the door and they would  frisk him and then they would wave him on in. A couple of girls would step up up and they would get waved through. A guy come in gets frisked. The girls get waved through.

As I’m watching this it slowly begins to dawn on me, hey! Wait a minute, I didn’t get frisked. What’s up with that? They must not have thought I was dangerous enough to frisk.  Now in Philly, it’s not enough to look tough. You got to look dangerous too. So this was beginning to bother me a bit and I was feeling a little slighted if not insulted.

I turned to my fellow barfly sitting next to me and relayed my tale of woe to him. He said, relax, they probably just know you.

Ohhhhh! Yeah! I never thought of that! Well, I felt a whole lot better then and enjoyed the rest of the evening.

I moved away from Philly a short while after that incident. First to Trenton then back home to Kentucky. It’s been about 10 years since I had been to Tony’s Way, but I always had fond memories.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel back to Philadelphia on business, and while there I wanted to visit some of my old neighborhoods and stomping grounds

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The first thing I noticed was the sign was down So I was’t sure if it was still Tony’s Way or not. I stepped into the bar from the bright sunlight and waited a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the light. I sat down on a bar stool and ordered a shot and a beer. I looked around and things looked pretty much the same. It was early afternoon so not too many people were in there. My eyes came to rest on a familiar character who was sitting across the bar from me reading a newspaper.

I  finished my drink and walked around the bar and approached the man reading the paper.

“You’re Tony aren’t you? I don’t know if you remember me or not but a few years ago when I lived in Philly I used to come in here. You were always very nice to me. I’m in town for a short visit and I just wanted to come by and say hello.”

“Yeah, I remember you,” he said. “Your hair was a little longer then. What happened to you?”

“I moved away.”

“Where did you move to?”

“To Kentucky.”

“To Kentucky?” He started laughing, Why’d you move to Kentucky?”

I explained I had family there and that was my home state, but he couldn’t get over the fact that I moved to Kentucky.

“Hey Angelina!. Come over here.” He waved the barmaid over. “This guy used to come here all the time, but he moved to Kentucky.”

“Kentucky?!!!”  Then she started to laugh.

She moved away from us and took another customer’s order who had just sat at the bar. And she told them what Tony had said and they laughed.  Then the people sitting next to them started laughing and shouted,  “Kentucky!” when they laughed. And pretty soon the whole establishment was laughing and shouting Kentucky! And no one was laughing more than Tony and me. But after a few minutes the laughter eventually died down, but it did not die down entirely for a long time for always at this table or that  a new area of laughter would begin.

I drank free that day.  Of course I suffered the next day from a hangover.  But it was definitely the best day of my trip.

ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL

The day I met Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash At Newport

One evening in the bleak December back in the 1970’s I was sitting in one Louisville’s famed dens of iniquities, Rhiney’s Go Go Bar and Lounge. The Rick Hipple Duo was playing for our listening enjoyment. Rick Hipple was on the the organ and sang vocals while his partner Lou Stanfield played the drums. I was there with my girlfriend, Lynn of the pretty green panties.

The band had just finished playing a rousing version of Dixie, Of course back in those days whenever a band played Dixie everyone stood up took off they hats and put their hands over their hearts.

Lynn and I had just re-seated ourselves and I was trying to get the waitress’s attention for another round of drinks when the door of the establishment flew open and out of the cold night a man dressed in black and a whole entourage of people trailing behind him filed into the bar.

The man in black approached the bandstand and wrestled the microphone away from ole Rick Hipple and said into the mic with a bit of a slur, “Hi, I’m Johnny Cash, how do you do!”

He looked back at the astonished face of Rick Hipple and said, “Orange Blossom Special,” which Rick commenced to playing.

Now these were the days before Johnny was acquainted with June Carter which is to say he was still a pretty wild character. And that character was on full display that night. He was all liquored up on that roadhouse corn and he stood there swaying in the spotlight slurring his words and trying his best to get through that song.

“Well, I’m going down to Florida and get some sand in my shoes…”

Well, that was the night I met Johnny Cash. A night I will never forget.

 

 

 

 

Beauty and the Beast

Frank and Elise

Beauty and the Beast

Dear Elise:

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I finally got to see Beauty and the Beast. You were right, I loved it. I know that it appealed to the little girl in you. I always loved that little girl, as much as I loved her older sister.

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I don’t know who was your beast but you were always my beauty.

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Love,

Frank

PS: I know the main reason you loved the movie was that they lived:

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