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Monday, June 7, 2010

Setting the Tone

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. They say it, and it happens to be true. Our firsts often set the tone for a whole chapter in our lives. So it was with my first night on base.

It was 1992, and I was a fresh young airman, just out of training. To say I was skinny is an understatement, like saying Wesley slightly annoys Trek fans or Kermit’s a little green. (Wheaton fans back off…I like him too.) (For that matter, Kermit fans back off…I know it’s not easy being green.) I was so scrawny, if I’d turn sideways and stick out my tongue, people would think I was a zipper.

I don’t need to wonder why I didn’t go career military…Barry and Ray messed that up for me but good, all in the span of three hours. It bears mentioning that I was a little greener than most noobs. At the tender age of 18, I had never been…a lot. I had only recently been exposed to many things, including alcohol and sex.

For those who don’t know, arriving at a new base was made easier by a sponsor in your shop or section. Ray was my sponsor, and not only had my “welcome package”, but the key to my dorm room. And so with trepidation I met Ray, and his buddy Barry, as they picked me up from the airport and started grilling me with questions. Now, I’m not talking about your everyday questions…I would have been comforted by anything so ordinary as “What’s your favorite food”. Instead, I found myself wondering just what the hell a donkey show was.

Ray handed me his driver’s license and said “Memorize that birthday. It’s yours today.” In my sudden panic, I may have looked at him like mouse looks at a cat, though I prefer to think of it as doing my eyebrow exercises. He handed me a tall Budweiser that had been obtained for the ride home. “Drink up”, he said, exactly the way it had been said once upon a time to Socrates. I was sure this was a test. Certainly these airmen were checking to insure that I had the right moral fiber to perform my duty. I attempted to hand him the beer unopened to prove I was a model serviceman.

The can was opened and handed back to me. “Drink up, or you don’t get your room key tonight.” Oh. Or maybe they were just fucking with the new guy. And so, ten minutes into my first duty assignment, I’d already broken two laws, with an open container and the whole drinking under age thing. Of course, that was only the beginning.

I spied a sign on the roadway for The Base, and thought perhaps we were headed there. No. Such. Luck.
Trebec, I’ll take Purple Hazing for $200.

“Answer: More Cellulite Than MGM’s Archive.

The question is: What identifies the afternoon shift at the worst titty bar in town?”

Thank you, Alex.

We pulled up, amidst a blizzard of my protests, to what is inarguably the worst strip club in town. Within moments, the diabolic duo had hustled me into the establishment, taking me around to the bar, plopping me onto a bar stool, and flanking me on either side. The grizzled manager, whom Ray introduced as “Mother”, carded me. I recited my new birthdate when questioned, and she gave Ray a look that probably could have removed paint. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t blushing looking around the room at the strippers, perhaps it was the heat from that glare.

They ordered me another beer and I paid Mother my cover charge, adding to my growing list of legal transgressions. In my mind’s eye, my own mother looked on disapprovingly. Unfortunately, she didn’t have my dorm room key with her. Ray did.

If you’ve never been to the afternoon shift of a hole-in-the-wall titty bar, allow me to paint for you a picture of horror. The term “Butterface” could be applied so liberally that Fabio can’t believe it. One of the dancers was so far along I thought they should have bartowels ready in case her water broke during a pole trick. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a grand first titty bar experience.

Ray leaned in a bit, and pointed out a dancer. “Would you do her?” Being an 18 year old who had only recently had his first sex ever, I of course said yes. Barry leaned in, pointing out the second, and actually the last, of the attractive women in attendance. “Would you do her?” Of course, I answered in the affirmative, and began to wonder if they were about to try hookering me up for the night. My horror wasn’t nearly complete enough, though. Ray pointed to the crushing sight of a burned out coke whore gyrating on the 3 square feet the place referred to as “the second stage”, and asked the question a third time. “Would you do her?” Even 2 beers in and as horny as only an 18 year old boy can be, I couldn’t justify it. It would have been too much like hitting on an elderly Eskimo with bad acne and a beer gut.
“No way.”
In perfect unison, they stood up and shoved their stools in, shouting in stereo “What are you, fucking queer????” I immediately did more eyebrow exercises. I could only have been more red if my name were Clifford. In retrospect, it was a good setup and likely not bad as practical jokes go. However, being the focus of Mother and her sad shift of soured showgirls as they wondered about my sexual proclivities was just overwhelming.

I actually don’t remember much else about that night. I do know that eventually, after choking down a few more Budweisers, I earned my key and was able to move into the dorm. It wasn’t an auspicious beginning, but not all of them are.

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