Some people are suggestible drunks. In contrast, I am an overly cautious drunk. Whereas other folks, after a few beers, want to drive down to Atlantic City at 2 in the morning, I am transformed into an auxiliary policeman. I’m always the one who’s like, Hey, get down off the table or The cabbie isn’t interested in seeing your catbrain or Maybe liberating the chickens isn’t such a hot idea.

I am offering this info as a sort of qualification to the following: Last week I went to what is, perhaps, the seediest of the seedy strip clubs in LIC. It is because I was in the company of two suggestible drunks, and they strong-armed me into it. And the whole situation is a bit of a double-edged sword, actually, because on one hand, you’d have to be pretty drunk to summon the stones to go into such an establishment (not to mention lessen the shame) and enjoy yourself, but on the other hand you’d really want your faculties in tip-top shape so as to avoid the concomitant knife fights that will break out.

So, anyway. It was me, J, and L___, and we had just come from a fun party at which we’d pretty much tied one on. Like a garrote. I was looking forward to going home and eating peanutbutter out of the jar while watching those zero-star-rating late night HBO movies. Instead, as we walked down Vernon Blvd., L___–always the instigator–suggested we go to the strip club down the street. Located on the beginning of the industrial part of Vernon, this square, flat, and ugly building had always intrigued me, mostly because of its down-and-out unremarkableness. A discount stripclub! Who wouldn’t hear that particular siren’s call?

Despite my prior interest in going to the ACME Gentleman’s Club*, however, I was the sole dissenting vote. I envisioned us all unwittingly drinking needle beer and being shanghai’d to work in the recycling plants in Greenpoint. Five fewer glasses of champagne and maybe–just maybe–I’d have agreed. I told the two of the compelling personal safety risks of going.

But we went anyway.

The interior of the ACME Gentleman’s Club was as unremarkable as its exterior. There were tables where you could presumably order and eat food of questionable provenance (I later glanced at the menu. Tuna fish sandwich: $7. And no, I’m not going there, you puerile twits.). There was the “Champagne Room” in the back. And then, around a corner, was the bar, and behind it was the tiniest stage in the world. There were about 20 men, ranging in age and ethnicity, none of them gentlemen.

Oh, well, except for Marek. Marek stood up and offered me his seat at the bar. He gave me a glass of “champagne” that I refused 17 times (I finally relented, and took several pretend sips and one real one–yick). (Do you know how much each of the bottles cost? $60. And Marek had already bought three. “Can’t I get a discount?” he asked the bartender. “Eh, mebbe if you buy ten.”) Marek owns a woodworking shop in Greenpoint, which explains his enormous, potentially windpipe-crushing hands. He had brought his entire staff, and clearly it had been payday, because some of them were being awfully generous with their crisp Benjamins. All of them, including Marek, looked like contract killers.

The women danced in a way that perhaps was meant to appear sultry, but really seemed bored. Who could blame them? They danced around in bikinis for three minutes, came down off the stage to collect dollars from the forlorn patrons, and then wheedled lapdances out of the most generous ones. Five minutes later, they’d return to the stage, topless this time, and begin their halfhearted seduction again.

Now, once might imagine that the ACME is the type of establishment where the talent have C-section and prison-fight scars and deflated boobs. On the contrary, these women were all incredibly attractive, and–for the most part–natural. Two of them had implants–surprisingly good-looking ones, I might add–though I’m almost certain that one of them (the sole Brazilian)(as in the country, not the personal grooming style) was actually transgendered. (L___ might disagree with me on this, but he’s naturally a bit sweet in the pants, so there you go.)

Most of the women were from Poland or Russia, which made me worry, briefly, that they had been sold into white slavery. (Hey, I saw that Lifetime movie with Angelina Jolie.) They seemed okay. They were really nice to me and J, the only two XXs in the house who weren’t wearing lucite high heels, introducing themselves and making conversation as though we were all in a nail salon. I’d like to think that the ACME doesn’t have the net worth to be purchasing women from the Eastern Bloc.

Meanwhile, Marek and I chatted about not much at all–he seemed content to have a woman talking to him without demanding a dollar every three minutes. He has two children, a boy and a girl, 8 and 4. He has lived in Greenpoint for ten years.

Eventually he left to go get a “lapdance” in the back and was replaced by a younger, more brutish version of himself, a guy whose name I forget but whom we’ll call Jerzy. His grasp of English wasn’t so hot, and he regarded the three of us with suspicion. I sensed that he would be the one to go on a knifing rampage, so while J and L___ goofed off behind me, I talked to him like a hostage negotiator, using what little Polish I could remember.

At one point, he tried to give me his heavy, gold-plated necklace. I refused. Prosze, prosze, prosze. I pointed to the dancers. Oh, isn’t she pretty? Let’s give her a dollar. I nervously waited for Marek to return.

And then L___ took a photo [that I won’t be showing you this time around -Ed] See that giant head? That’s Jerzy, five seconds before he almost squashed our brains like so many boiled pierogies.

There were other two guys from the woodworking shop who said nothing and who eyed us like prison camp guards.

“No photo!” he said angrily.

I looked at L___ nervously.

“No photo!” Jerzy stood up. He went into a tirade of menacing invective, in Polish, presumably directed at L___, though his eyes weren’t particularly focused.

“What does he want?” L___ asked.

“He wants you to stop taking photos,” I explained, and was happy to not have understood anything else he said.

I turned back to Jerzy. “I promise, Jerzy, no more photos! No more photos, right?”

L___ nodded.

Clearly, the honeymoon was over between Jerzy and me. “Gdzie Marek?” I asked, using the last Polish word I know. Where is Marek?

Marek was still having sexy time in the back. I felt the onset of a premature hangover and ordered another $7 Corona.

I was also running out of money. At that point I had tipped all (six) of the dancers at least $3 each. The Brazilian had been particularly pushy. Finally, Marek returned. “We leave now,” he said. “Goodbye!” And then he leaned in and kissed me on the spot on the cheek that one offers when one’s suitor is clearly aiming for one’s lips. The Northrup Strip to his Space Shuttle Columbia mouth, if you will. Then he and his thugs departed.

J and L___ were horrified. “You let him kiss you!”

“He offered me several glasses of champipple,” I replied feebly. “Moreover, I kept him and his henchmen from strangling all of us. Consider it the ultimate sacrifice.”

We stayed for a while longer, but after Marek and Jerzy left, it all seemed a bit dull, so we went home.

I woke up the next morning with a crushing headache and only vague memories of narrowly escaping death. It wasn’t until L___ sent me the photo of me, J, and Jerzy’s immense head that I was able to piece it all together.

*Not its real name. I think it’s actually something like the East River Lounge. I don’t remember.

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