Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Desenchantee: The French-Moroccan Stripper Who Smelled Funny

The better half of my 23rd year was spent in western Europe under the auspices of studying law. Despite the negligible amount of study that took place, lessons were learned. They were as follows: 1) The language barrier is more often entertaining than obstructive; 2) personal responsibility is inversely proportional to the availability/reliability of public transportation; and 3) Russian door-men are not nearly as effective as they are foreboding.

These lessons were learned throughout my 6 months overseas but it was a weekend in Paris that polished them to diamond clarity.

You see, "law school" in London can only charitably be described as such. To wit, I took 14 semester hours and earned a 3.8 GPA with my first class of the week beginning at 1 p.m. on Tuesday and my last class concluding at 3 p.m. on Thursday. That's right folks, a 4 day weekend.

Additionally, the instructors saw little sense in burdening their students with loads not conducive to outings of drinking and foolishness interspersed with foolishness and drinking... both of which are inevitable goings on when a bunch of Type-A twenty-somethings find themselves 4,700 miles away from anything remotely familiar and who also possess self-granted license to burn through their trust fund/financial aid as expeditiously as possible. As such, the sage faculty of Tottenham Court are still revered as some of our world's most real, real-world thinkers. Juliet, Simone... we thank you.

Early September found my cohort Jensen and me ruminating the particulars of a trip to Paris and Normandy. At the time, our underwhelming, Harvard/Penn educated, homosexual roommate Jo was also considering the trip... (*Note* Jo, a.k.a. Josephina was a pot luck roommate who bore a striking resemblance to Isaac Mizrahi.) For reasons elucidated in the forthcoming "I Hope Your Children Burn in a Fire" blog, JoJo opted out of our trip to Paris and instead spent 4 days on the Greek coast.

A short trip to STA Travel yielded an itinerary which commenced two weeks later. Jensen and I were booked at the Quality Inn located in Paris' Mont Marte or red light district. This arrangement was primarily borne out of economic prudence which stopped just shy of let's-stay-at-a-hostel frugality. The Quality Inn Mont Marte offered a bed, a bath, a window, free breakfast cheese & baguettes as well as an elevator so small as to preclude more than two individuals of medium build from entering sans baggage.

The Q also offered reservation services for the famed Moulin Rouge... a scant 3 blocks away. It is a universal truth that when two 23 year old heterosexual males are offered dinner and boobies, the answer is "yes". A call was made, reservations were set and Jensen and I spent 2 of the next 3 days gaining intimate familiarization with the streets, sites and sounds of Paris.

The actual show provided at the Moulin Rouge is not worth the price of admission... nor is the meal worth its cost. But, when you consider the fact that it is 2 hours of mediocre entertainment and overpriced food in the presence of truly world-class boobies... there's a certain amount of rationalization that occurs.

Anyhoo, 370 euros and 2 bottles of wine later, Jensen and I spill into the streets of Mont Matre. Jensen and I are in the mood to see more boobies so we peruse our options over the next several hours as we make fun of the drunken tourists. One option, "Le Paradis" becomes our focus... primarily because we are drunken tourists and "Le Paradis" would only require the crossing of a single intersection. This is enough to make our decision... a fact that should serve as a telling barometer of our inebriation.

We approach the rotund elderly man standing in the doorway and inquire as to the cover charge.

Drunk/Idiot Americans: "Say, how much to enter?"

Rotund Russian Septuagenarian: [thick Russian accent which catches the Drunk/Idiot Americans who were under the impression they were in France off guard] "20 euro."

Shocked/Not-That-Drunk Americans: "Get the hell outta here. 20 euros!?!?! That's almost $30!!!"

RRS: "We have what you like, eh. What you like, eh? Boy on boy?

Confused Americans: "WHAT!?!?! No, no, no... no... NO!"

Jensen: "Hey, just because he has on a purple shirt doesn't mean he likes boys you know?"

David: "Thanks for the clarification... ass."

RRS: "We have all... girl on girl... girl on boy... woman on boy eh."

Thoughtful/Analytical Americans: "Was he being redundant or did Tolstoy here intend to distinguish between girl on boy and woman on boy? Intriguing..."

Jensen: "Wait, this isn't a strip club... you're saying this is a sex show?"

RRS: "Ya, Ya... sex show... 20 euro eh."

At this point the explicit nature of the billboards and photographic collages they display begin to take on more contextual meaning. I am, to say the least, leery of entering a French sex show guarded by an elderly Russian... I have zero experience with these sort of places but something doesn't seem quite right. I have the sneaking suspicion that inside will be a man who goes by Dmitri No Thumbs. That in mind, I am no longer interested in Le Paradis.

David: "Naw, dude... this aint right man..."

Jensen: "Its cool man, these things are regulated. Let's check it out."

The use of the term "regulated" led me to believe Jensen knew, more than I, what was standard within the European sex-show industry. Perhaps he was correct. Perhaps he had read up on Paris' red light district before we arrived. Perhaps I was naive in thinking only Amsterdam had such legally sanctioned entertainment. After all, this was Paris... Paris is classy... and Le Paradis is right in the middle of a huge tourist destination. Perhaps things are not so shady. My friend Alcohol says to me "Midwestern values be damned David. We're in Paris... assimilate!!!"

David: "Right on... we're in."

We give Tchaikovsky our money and enter. We are unamused. There is a peninsular catwalk flanked on each side by 3 round, four-seat tables. To the walk's right is an open parquet floor presumably used for dancing. Opposite the dance area is a 4 foot tall divider lined with two seat tables. Behind it, amphitheater style seating. Notably, myself and Jensen comprise exactly one third of the audience.

Unamused, we sit.

A cocktail waitress approaches and takes our orders... scotch... on the rocks. Evidently, "on the rocks" is loosely translated from English into French to mean "and by scotch we mean the most abhorrent thing you have behind that thing you call a bar"... because that is exactly what we got. Imagine, if you will, scorched pig urine and you will have at least a vague conception of what we received.

Shortly after we received our drinks music began to play. At this point, honestly, I was nervous at the thought of what I was about so see. I was not at all comfortable. I knew this was wrong but before I could inform Jensen of my misgivings the catwalks' curtain was drawn open and out walked a busty woman of mocha complexion who wore, I kid you not, cut off jean shorts and a standard issue Hanes wife-beater. This was billed as Pee-Wee's Playhouse but it seems as though "unamused" is the word of the day.

Upon seeing this, the other four individuals, two men, two women, promptly left.

What followed can only be described as a numbed, disinterested self-objectification. But, as with lackluster entertainment and over priced cuisine, numbed, disinterested self-objectification is made tolerable by the presence of nekkid boobies. Adolescent, to be sure but dems da rules... I didn't make em but I suppose I too play by them.

It should also be noted that this was not a sex show or a venue therefor. This was by all accounts a strip club in its last throws of business. This alleviated my worries and did much to calm me... realize, I am a good person... I like the idea of being a good person... As such, I don't like the idea of not being a good person and it logically follows that witnessing sex-shows I suspect to be illegal is consistent with not being a good person... an idea I do not like.

After her routine the woman, naked in every sense of the word, made a bee-line for my lap. I did my utmost to place a prophylactic napkin across my thigh prior to her arrival but I failed, and miserably so. As she sat, she wrapped her arms around my neck, wafting a rancid bouquet into my nostrils that has subsequently been filed in my olfactory recall under "D" for "Dear GOD! WHAT IS THAT!?!?!?!"

Stripper Who Smelled Funny: [sitting on left thigh, pressing breasts into my face] "Ha-lo. American?"

David: [struggling, and mightily so, to gasp fresh air from behind my right shoulder] "Yes, yes, Americans... Oklahoma..."

SWSF: [koochin' it on a pair of Ralph Lauren Purple Label slacks that are worth more than her] "Ahhhh, Americaaaan..."

David: [still... struggling...] "Yes, yes, yes where are you from?"

SWSF: "Morocco... come to Paris to dance... you buy me drink"

David: "No, no... we are just about to finish and leave... no more drink."

French Moroccan Stripper Who Smelled Funny: [Insisting that her breasts are not close enough to my every means of oxygen intake] "Plllllllleeeeeeeee... A drink... Buy drink..."

David: [Not drunk enough to be hateful, not sober enough to be rational]: "OK, ok... I will buy drink... for you... a drink."

FMSWSF motions towards the bar... no vocalizations... just simple gestures... they have done this before. Immediately the cocktail waitress appears with two new scotches and an alcoholic arsenal of which I, a seasoned vet, was then unfamiliar. FMSWSF takes from this arsenal a footed jigger and lights afire the liquid therein. A few seconds later she pours the contents of the jigger into a footed glass, stirs briefly then shoots it. Taking my hand, she stands, pulls me from my seat and leads me into the amphitheater seating behind us.

I am worried... I consult with Scotch... Scotch tastes better than earlier... far better... I am confused... I consult the rest of Scotch. He is not helpful.

As stated above, I am a good person... I do not like the idea of being a bad person. My sole purpose in presenting this and future stories for public consumption is to entertain through open, honest discourse regarding my own idiocy and misjudgment.

In hopes of retaining as much positive regard as possible, I will spare you the details of what happened next but suffice it to say that I was, for all intents and purposes, sexually assaulted. I have never received a lap dance in America but I cannot imagine the rules of engagement being the same, similar or even in the same ballpark... to quote Sam Jackson's "Jules" from Pulp Fiction, "it ain't even the same f'#cking sport."

I cannot deny the fact that I may have been somewhat complicit. But again, in the presence of boobies, certain rationalizations are made. The situation never advanced to anything beyond a lap dance performed with vigor and the kneading of boobies. Also, this woman undoubtedly had rent to pay and most likely had a child or three. While not entirely altruistic, any provision on my part would certainly be appreciated.

FMSWSF finishes the lap dance and asks for another drink... I now know "drink" is code for something other than "drink". I can no longer play dumb. I pause. I contemplate. Somewhere milling around my frontal lobes I can vaguely recall a moral dilemma I might have with this situation... provided I were sober enough to recall what exactly the tenets of my ethical system were... or even what an ethical system was... but I was not. As such, FMSWSF received another drink.

Midway thru the second drink I caught the expression of Jensen, still on the floor... in his chair... holding up his scotch... pointing at it as if to say "They continue to bring me this... it is better than before... I believe they are now plying me with 30yr old scotch because of my association with you... what is going on?" I am thinking similar things.

FMSWSF finishes dancing on me and asks for a third drink. I may be drunk but I am not stupid and she is not 3 lap dances hot. I say that I have had enough and I would appreciate it if she would kindly summon the cocktail waitress so as to allow me to pay my bill.

Cocktail waitress appears and opens a rectangular portfolio. As she does she points to certain words and does her best to explain to me in broken English the charges incurred. I hear none of it... my attention is immediately and myopically focused on a numerical representation that is confusing... 900.

You see, there are situations in which one can force upon oneself immediate sobriety. It is my experience that the desperate need to accurately calculate international exchange rates is such a situation.

I knew four days prior, upon my arrival in France that the exchange rate from dollars to euros was 1.3. Applying this knowledge I determined that I was being presented with a bill for $1,170. Evidently, "drink" was code for a package of services beyond what had taken place. Evidently, I was the quintessential stupid American.

I turn to FMSWSF and Cocktail Waitress with a mind free from the fog of inebriation and say calmly... "Mademoiselles. Let me talk to my friend. Bring us more scotch and I will see if he will buy a drink." I gently close the portfolio. They are eagerly receptive to this idea.

I pat them on the small of their backs as I saunter down the steps to Jensen. As I take my seat Jensen does not immediately sense the fact that I am equal parts shocked and frightened. He says "Dude, what the hell... Johnny Walker Blue man... that's $30 a glass back home!"

I respond with "We are leaving. Not now. But soon."

Jensen: "Sure man... ok"

David: "No. You don't understand. Apparently I just bought a prostitute... twice... and didn't know it. They want me to pay $1200. I am not going to. 15 feet to your right is an exit. When they aren't looking and when the bar tender in distracted we are gone."

Jensen: [staring blankly] "... ... ..."

Jensen: "You can't go to the hotel. If I'm a Russian pimp who owns a French Moroccan prostitute who just got stiffed outta $1200 by an American shithead in Paris, the first place I'm looking are cheap hotels in the area."

David: [pleased with his friend's level of cognitive functioning and ability self-impose immediate sobriety] "Good point. It's 4 am. Our train leaves in 3 hours. When we go, we gotta go fast and we gotta go hard. You split for the hotel. I will go straight. I will meet you at Gare du Nord in one hour."

Jensen: "Cool."

David: [amazed by Jensen's cavalier response to the situation... hoping to feign the same] "Cool."

Moments later, the bar tender disappears behind the bar and it, dear friends, is on... I bolt through the door shoulder first with a force and ferociousness that would make a S.W.A.T. team proud. As we enter the Parisian pre-dawn onto Boulevard de Clichy, the world is displayed before me in slow motion... I notice the elderly, rotund, Russian doorman tumble violently into a parked car. I turn to see Jensen make the corner up an alley towards Rue des Abbesses. Good night and good luck my friend. I run south on Rue Blanche, sprinting at a pace representative of an assclown who has just stiffed a Russian owned French-Morrocan Prostitute Who Smelled Funny out of $1200 and has a train to catch. I lose my loafers. I lose the bottom of my socks. Predictably, my feet begin to hurt a lil bit.

I dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge my way to Gare du Nord. Once there, I blend as well as a shoeless, bleeding, limping, frightened, repenting carrot-topped American can and await Jensen's arrival. He appears, our back packs in tow. Hello dear friend.

The next 2 hours were among the most nerve racking of my entire life... and my vacations are spent hanging from cliffs. I ponder the events of the night and early morning. I am shocked. I begin to feel nauseated. I become hypersensitive to environmental stimuli... of which there were many. Each sound, each movement is interpreted as Dmitri No Thumbs becoming aware of my identity and whereabouts. But at the same time I recall the events from an objective and omniscient perspective. I almost laugh as we board the Eurostar. Jensen turns to me and speaks for the first time in almost 3 hours.

Jensen: "Dave... [in a tone conveying the notion that what he was about to say was the most pressing of our immediate concerns]... dog, really... you're wearing a purple shirt man?!?"