The future is a scary place.
I realized this two days ago when I added up the course credits I’ve collected and realized I’m probably going to have to major in art history. Yes, art history. What the fuck am I going to do with my life?
I decided to make an appointment with a career counselor to avoid the inevitable poverty facing me. But the next day, fate intervened.
“Nice coat, boy,” the Flower Lady said as I crossed Broadway Street on my way to UCS. I rarely receive compliments on this coat. It’s really dirty and made of warped tweed. Its pockets sag from the bottles of cologne I carry with me. There’s a hole in the satin lining near my right elbow. It’s itchy.
But the Flower Lady still thought it appropriate to compliment me and then offer me a flower for a dollar. We got to talking.
“You need to go see a fortune-teller,” she mumbled in between her hollers. “There’s one at Catwalk.”
That evening, with scene editor Jay Dockendorf ’11 and celebrity artist Chloe Gordon ’11 in tow, I headed to meet my destiny.
We arrived at Catwalk promptly at 12:30 a.m. Wearing a tie and wool crewneck, Dockendorf heaved open the gates to the establishment — a pair of tall, heavy, coffered doors. Once inside, we met a large man, black lighting and an intense feeling of spirituality, as if we were in a harem. I knew immediately that this would be a very revealing experience.
We were barely indoors when I first saw the cleavage.
Catwalk is a strip club.
Clad in a pale yellow bikini bottom akin to Courtney Pannell’s ’11 hair (Pannell is a multimedia editor for the News), the woman walked onto a narrow stage and began performing Beyoncé’s “Video Phone” dance routine embellished with acrobatics. Thoroughly impressed by the display, we headed to the bar to purchase “Cat Coins” — a type of currency used in the club to tip the dancers.
I was about to call the bartender over when I heard a raspy, Russian-accented voice behind me: “Do you read books?”
“Yes, do you read palms?” I responded.
“Not unless I have to.”
This, I later learnt from the bartender, meant, “Not unless I receive a down payment of $200.”
Unfortunately, the business board of the News does not cover palm readings, or lap dances.
But my Tiresias of a stripper did provide me with some insight into the future.
“I think in the future, computers are going to crash and people are going to have to read books again,” she said, her eyes half-open, her cigarette half-smoked. “And I’m prepared.”
She continued to tell me about her “300 book collection,” which she described as “like, actually a library in [her] house.”
Regarding developing literary styles, she said she saw big things in the realm of fantasy writing, emphatically adding that she was avoiding the works of Danielle Steele, finding them to be “too mainstream, really bad.”
Maybe it was her literary nature, maybe it was her cheekbones, but I’m pretty sure what I felt was love. True love. Though before I could get the words to leave my suddenly dry, breathless voice box, she stood up and left for the stage.
She refused to make eye contact during the entire performance, probably because guests repeatedly had to cross their legs in between bouts of eager applause. But it’s difficult to blame them — there wasn’t a jaw intact when she hoisted herself upside-down over the front-stage pole.
But suddenly, as a heavy metal guitar screeched throughout the club, something seemed to happened to her.
Beloved Bookworm retreated to the back of the stage, knelt down and began praying. Actually, she may have just been reading. We couldn’t really tell. All we could make out through the dark, smoky atmosphere was the silhouette of her legs and feet, and the only activity on the stage for the next 30 seconds was the slow, hypnotic movement of her pink 6-inch heels to the beat of an irritated Marilyn Manson song.
Then she tilted her head toward a mirror, casting her closed eyes at the audience. She slowly sucked on her thumb. She had regressed.
A few seconds later, a new song and dancer had engulfed the stage — this time a 40-year-old woman with a beer gut rivaling that of a DKE brother. Unlike the entrancing member of the Russian literati, this sexy lady immediately disrobed and headed for a pair of tweens from the nearby Hopkins School, dressed in Yale sweatshirts to appear older. The two began giddily throwing dollar bills at the small, pointy breasts of the woman. It was a familiar sight, harkening back to the roots of Western civilization. This she-wolf of sorts seemed to be enlivening and nourishing these two youths — a modern-day Romulus and Remus. I realized, human society is returning to its foundations. And our nature is being restored to the innocence of childhood, perhaps an innocence that resembles that of Eve, childishly sucking on her thumb as she is absolved of the sins that ripped her from Eden. Indeed, as the dancers peeled, we ran back to the Garden — communing with nature and the earth — unashamed of our flesh.
After spending another two hours in the club, we learned that none of the dancers could read palms — or dance. Thank you, Flower Lady.
All I wanted was to have my palm tickled a bit, to learn that choosing art history would be fine and to leave content with my future.
Alas, I left pained — perhaps by a rash, perhaps by a broken heart.