Great boobs of fire

Photo by Helena Wolfe

Before writing this story, I had never been to a strip club. It’s not like I had anything against it, and I am certainly pro-boob, but it had never really been on my to-do list. For some reason, it just felt a little foreign and intimidating. Being timid, I tried to think of a way to write about this without actually going, but that would have been cheating. The only way to write about strip clubs in Portland is to go to strip clubs in Portland. So I did.

Being new to the experience, I was flooded with questions. How does the whole tipping thing work? What do I do when someone makes eye contact with me? Smile? Stare timidly at my feet? And my hands. Oh, Lord. What do I do with my hands? I never figured that out.

A friend was kind enough to show me some key spots among Portland’s strip joints. This was our night.

1. mary’s

The place was a little divey and the bathroom looked (and smelled) like it had been pressure washed with piss. Other than that, my nervous expectations were shattered. Devoid of weirdos or trench-coat masturbators, the bar was filled with mostly normal people drinking beer while a naked woman danced to some classy jazz. Wafts of tacos came in waves from the Mexican restaurant in the back, which was a little weird.

Seeing someone strip for the first time was an odd experience. I mean, it’s a naked person. I usually only see that on the internet. I was nervous and a little bashful, but the whole thing was much more relaxed than I had imagined it. But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to do with my damn hands.

2. Magic Garden

We moved on to Magic Garden but noped out of there after walking in to an empty building. Standing in the doorway, the employees of the vacant building stared down at us like something out of Children of the Corn. My uneasiness grew exponentially.

3. Union Jack’s

The beer was cheap and the music was good. Next to the stage, Mr. Clean was transcending this plane of existence, practicing T’ai Chi Ch’uan, belting out incomprehensible phrases and praying to the dancers’ booties. He later came up to us and tried to take our jackets, but other than that, he wasn’t too bad.

Later on, some guy was being a little too rowdy and got tossed out by the bouncers. When he refused to leave, he was dragged out by the foot by security. He sat outside the bar screaming “knuckle draggers!” and “brain over brawn, motherfuckers!”

I wasn’t brave enough to sit at the stage, but I did suck up the courage to walk over and tip. When I put the money on the stage, the dancer and I made eye contact. Shit. What do I do? I hadn’t thought this through. I awkwardly grinned like the Cheshire Cat and slowly backed up until I got back to our table. Nice save on my part.

All in all, I was able to get Coors Banquet by the bottle and saw a few too many buttholes. Not too bad, really.

4. Sassy’s

Great boobs of fire! Walking into Sassy’s was like stepping into a Cirque du Soleil show. I swear to God, the acrobatics were damn impressive.

At the table in front of us, a group of guys were high-fiving to boobs and feeling each other’s biceps. One guy on the other side of the bar made it rain with a handful of ones like a douchebag.

Oh, and someone lit her nipples ON FIRE. With flames.

When we left, it was midnight. My ears hurt, and I felt exhausted and old. At some point I realized that I had actually had a really good time painting the town red with a friend. I don’t see myself spending a lot of time at strip clubs in the future, but that night was a step toward breaking down barriers and deconstructing taboos.

Plus, I saw someone set their nipples on fire. That’s something you don’t see every day.


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