Thursday, March 18, 2010

Boys' Town

Well, yeah, I remember ho's.

I grew up in a little teeny town. We didn't have any ho's. But we were close enough to Mexico that you could find ho's if you wanted them.

I'd heard quite a bit about Boys Town, you see, La Zona Rosa, that evil, wicked, and forbidden part of town in Piedras Negras, the nearest border town. Boys Town was where you went when you wanted to get laid. I was maybe eleven when I first heard of Boys Town, so naturally, I wasn't old enough to DO much of anything about it, but I eagerly awaited the time when I would be old enough to go and partake of the sinful pleasures La Zona Rosa had to offer....

Weirdly enough, it wasn't that long. I was fourteen when I finally got into a caravan headed that way.

I've always looked considerably older than I am. At fifteen, people routinely mistook me for twenty-five or so, a mistake I gleefully took advantage of at every opportunity. I was a sophomore in high school, and there was an oil boom going on at the time, and they were DESPERATE for hard workers out on the oil rigs. They even started hiring school kids, which kind of makes you wonder, because the work was savagely hard, 24 hours on and 24 hours off, backbreaking, insane labor.

It paid very nicely, though; a good roughneck could clear thousands of dollars on a two-week paycheck. And oilfield roughnecks partied as hard as they worked. One Saturday, my old chum Loopy (who happened to be one) called me up and asked if I wanted to go cruisin'. I said sure.

...and we wound up at the Mexican border in short order.

We answered the usual questions and drove across. Loopy was driving, and knew exactly the way to go.

We parked behind a large, featureless building that looked like a warehouse, painted in a hideous shade of faded pink. I noticed that MOST of the buildings on the street were painted an odd shade, and wondered if this was some odd Mexican equivalent of having a red light hanging outside, or what?

Inside was a different story. Very nicely decorated, with gorgeous polished wood furniture that would have had any suburban wife drooling and envious, except for the fact that it was, like, in a bordello.

We took a table, and ordered drinks. Well, actually, Loopy ordered the drinks. We were all going to toast Weeble's vanishing virginity.

Weeble blushed and swatted Loopy on the back of the head. "Hey, man, that wasn't supposed to be public knowledge."

(Ah, I thought. My suspicions were confirmed. We WERE in a bordello! This would be interesting. How much money did I have on me? What were the prices like? At the time, I, too, was a virgin, although I would have died before admitting it... I decided to sit and keep quiet and pay attention. Idly, I wondered where all the whores were...)

We sat and drank a toast, and chatted while we worked on our beers. I glanced around. There were a few other customers, some local, some obviously from the far side of the river. There didn't seem to be any "workin' girls." There were quite a few waitresses, though, although only one or two were working the floor. The rest hung around at one side of the room, smoking cigarettes, chatting, and looking bored. From time to time, one would wander over to a table and try to horn in on the conversation, plainly hoping someone would buy her a drink. Each time, a few words would be exchanged, and the disappointed waitress would wander back to her friends, leaning against the wall. Plainly, management had some kind of policy in place preventing the waitresses from sitting down while on duty. Kind of odd, I thought, for a place where the other girls made their money lying down...

So where WERE the hookers, I wondered?

Admittedly, I didn't have much of a clue as to what they'd LOOK like. I'd never been here before. I had SEEN hookers, kind of ... on television. They used to crop up on "Starsky And Hutch" all the time. They wore li'l teeny hot pants, bare midriff tops, platform shoes, fishnet stockings, and usually a fur vest or feather boa. Always one or the other, like a kind of identification badge. Oh, and way too much makeup. Admittedly, this was TV we were talking about, and seventies TV at that... and even THEN, I knew better than to take it too seriously... but it was all I had to go on. Where WERE the hookers?

There were maybe five or six women in the whole bar. Two of them were waiting tables. Four others were leaning against the wall, chatting. Too many waitresses, not enough ho's. They were dressed in ordinary blouses and skirts. One wore slacks. They all seemed to have a "Catholic schoolgirl" look to them.

We sat and we talked and we drank. A waitress came over and got a little friendly with Loopy, who waved her off. She walked off with some disappointment evident. Time passed. Some more customers showed up. Tables filled. It was Friday night, and the place was cookin'.

Weirdly enough, the waitress population began to increase, as well. By eight o'clock, there must have been fifteen women, leaning against the wall, smoking and chatting. Six others waited tables. What the hell?

"Your time is upon you, Weeble," snickered Lightnin'. "Gonna get laid tonight, or gonna chicken out?"

"Fuck you, man," said Weeble. "I'll get laid when I'm damn good and ready."

"Better get started before you're too stiff to work," laughed Candy.

"Or not stiff enough," chuckled Loopy.

Weeble gave us all a disgusted look and chugged his beer.

I continued to study the waitresses. There seemed to be a dynamic at work here. With this many of them, there seemed to be several working the crowd at any given point. A couple had found friendly tables, and were happily perched in men's laps, chatting them up. Others had tried to find places to sit, and had been waved off. I wondered what the heck was up. Maybe there was some kind of policy that said the waitresses couldn't sit down on duty unless they were invited to by a customer? Hell, why not just send the excess waitresses home? Hell, what kind of insane bar owner schedules twenty waitresses to work one shift in a bar smaller than the Astrodome?

A pretty waitress with dyed pink hair tried to get chummy with Loopy. He smiled and waved her off.

About then, I noticed that it was a mutual process. While some of the waitresses -- the older ones, generally -- would try to get chummy with customers, some of the customers were getting up and going over to the wall and trying to get chummy with the waitresses. The customers seemed to be having better luck, though -- no waitress ever seemed to ignore or send away a customer.

A fortyish, heavyset guy, obviously an oilfield roughneck, walked up to one of the waitresses, looked to be maybe twenty. They stood and they talked. The waitress smiled a lot. Not long thereafter, they left the room. Together.

Dawn broke over marble head, about that point. Oops. Duh. Well, still, one could hardly blame me. I thought hookers... well... I thought hookers ADVERTISED, showed off the goods to some extent, dressed the part, put forth some kind of CLUE as to what they were selling. These didn't. They were dressed downright plain, in a Catholic school kind of way, a way that wouldn't have had any man in the world looking at them twice if you'd met them at the mercado or walked past them on la calle. Man, I thought, how do you know who to approach?

Then I mentally kicked myself. Duh. How many non-hooker women are you likely to run across in a whorehouse, dummy? Hell, even the waitresses would likely moonlight a little if the price was right... and now that I was looking a little deeper, I realized that the waitresses carrying TRAYS were wearing minimal makeup. The ones on the WALL, though... THEY were wearing some SERIOUS makeup, the full tilt boogie eye-shadow-and-rouge-to-the-nines... not overdone like on Starsky and Hutch, but certainly made up. Hell, this'z downright educational, here, I thought to myself...

About then, someone's grandmother fell out of the sky.

She landed in Weeble's lap, and gave him a BIG hug, and began yammering at him nonstop in rapidfire Spanish.

Weeble's eyes were as big as eggs. What the FUCK?

We were ALL kind of taken aback. Where the hell had SHE come from? None of us had seen her approach. Especially me; I'd been preoccupied with watching the interactions on the wall. Somehow, Weeble had come under attack from a Commando Stealth Hooker.

This particular hooker had seen better days, too. She appeared to be in her fifties, although there was something about her that, to me, said she might well be no older than thirty-five. She had VERY large breasts, most of which were plainly visible as they oozed out of her cleavage, all over Weeble's neck.

Weeble looked at her, and blinked rapidly. He was trying to keep up with what she was saying. Weeble was Hispanic, sure, but he was a Texican, not a Mexican, and the language isn't quite the same on both sides of the border. She was talking much too fast, and he couldn't keep up. Meanwhile she smiled at him, and ruffled his hair, and pushed her tits in his face.

My Spanish wasn't as good as Weeble's, which may have helped. I wasn't TRYING to follow every word, which freed me to concentrate on the ones I DID understand... and when a woman is sitting in your lap, and says things like "horny," "I love you," "yummy young man," and "your enormous penis," what else do you really need to know?

Apparently, Weeble was able to follow enough of this shotgun monologue, too. After a moment, she slid off his lap, took him by the hand, and the two of them moseyed casually but purposefully towards a door.

Candy, Loopy, Lightnin', and I sat there with our mouths hanging open. Huh? How the hell had THAT happened?

"Holy shit," said Lightnin'. "Man, she was... um... scary-lookin'. Why the hell did he tell her yes?"

"Too much beer," said Candy. "Either that, or he's thinkin' with his dick."

Loopy blinked twice, waved over a waitress, and demanded a bottle of tequila. Enough of this beer nonsense. The bottle quickly arrived, and shots were drained, all around. "Man, this ain't good," said Loopy. "He shooda got up and gone and talked to one of those chicks on the wall."

"Can you blame him?" I asked. "Guy's a virgin. You ever bring him here before?"


"Did you tell him how the place works? Hookers on the wall, and like that? Hell, I didn't know they were hookers until I was on my third beer."

Loopy got a weird look on his face. "No, I didn't tell him anything. Shit. All I told him was that we was goin' to a whorehouse."

"There you go," I said. "He didn't know the rules. He didn't know who's a whore and who ain't. He was sittin' there, nervous as a longtailed cat in a roomfulla rockin' chairs, he doesn't know what to do. No wonder he wasn't in any hurry."

"And that ... chick... prolly saw him sittin' there sweatin', and decided to put the whammy on him, quick, 'fore he can think about it," said Candy. I was surprised. Candy normally wasn't too good at putting two and two together. For him, this was a real unified field theory.

"Well, nothin' to be done about it now," said Loopy, pouring himself another shot. "He'll be back soon enough. Hope he has a good time."


Time passed. Apparently, our table had been under some scrutiny, because after the Attack Granny ran cackling off with her trophy, our table came under siege from quite a few other girls, hoping to pull off something similar. The element of surprise was gone, though, and I personally wound up politely chasing three different women off my lap. Somehow, the fun had gone out of the experience, and I had begun to think of this place as a little... threatening, somehow. I didn't feel endangered, personally, but it was more obvious than ever that the whole rationale of the joint wasn't to have fun or get laid... but to separate me from my money... which made me that much more likely to want to hang on to it.

If I was going to lose my virginity, it was damn well going to be under more comfortable circumstances, NOT while under siege by eager Commando Attack Prostitutes.

My judgment was confirmed when Weeble came staggering back out of the door, some half hour later. His shirttails were out, and he looked... lost, somehow. My first thought was of H.P. Lovecraft, and his tales of "horrors I dare not name, or e'en describe, for you would surely go mad from the hearing, and I from the recollection."

Weeble had Looked Into The Abyss, so to speak, and it had changed him forevermore.

"How'd it go?" said Loopy cheerfully. A bit forced, but cheerfully.

"You don't wanna know," said Weeble. "At least I ain't a virgin no more."

"Let's beat it," said Candy. We all nodded, and began getting up.

...and about then, the Attack Hooker was in Weeble's face, yammering in Spanish again. The gesture, though, was unmistakeable. She was tapping the palm of her left hand with two fingers of her right. I didn't understand what she said. Neither did Weeble.

Loopy, though, was aghast. "FIFTY? What the fuck? You promised her FIFTY BUCKS?"

Weeble looked a little downcast. "No. I didn't promise her nothin'."

Loopy slapped his forehead. "You mean you didn't settle a price before you went and..."

"Was I supposed to? I thought it was twenty bucks."

Apparently, Attack Hooker could follow the conversation, because she plainly didn't like where it was going, and began shouting the same three words over and over...

...and a large man appeared and very rapidly walked over. "Feefty dollars. You pay now."

"Stupid shit..." said Loopy. "You have to pay him."

"Huh?" said Weeble. "Wait a minute. I thought this was your treat."

"WHAT?" said Loopy. "You thought I was gonna--"

"Well, comin' to a whorehouse was YOUR idea!" said Weeble. "Hell, I wanted to stay in town and party THERE, but YOU dragged us all out here--"

"You pay now," said the large man, "or I call los federales."

Everyone shut up. Nobody wanted to deal with the Federales, the government cops that Mexico has instead of "state troopers." Particularly in a dispute between a local business owner and a buncha Anglo teenagers. Didn't need to be an oddsmaker to see who'd win that one.

"Fuck," said Loopy. "How much do you got?"

"Eight bucks," said Weeble.

"EIGHT BUCKS!" howled Loopy. "What the hell happened to your paycheck?"

"Most of it's at home," said Weeble. "Hell, I didn't wanna come to Mexico with that much cash. And I paid for most of the beer."

"Fuck, fuck, fuck..." growled Loopy, as he counted the contents of his wallet. Thirteen dollars remaining, after he settled the bar bill. I contributed four. Candy was broke. Lightnin' threw in a fiver.

Between us all, we had thirty bucks. The large man looked at the pile of American bills as if it were a parking ticket. "Feefty dollars," he said. "Not thurdy dollars."

"That's what we got," said Loopy. "You know as well as I do that Gramma over there couldn't have got TEN dollars if he," Loopy indicated Weeble with his thumb, "wasn't a total pendejo guajalote."

A flicker of a smile touched the large man's face for a fraction of a second. "Pendejo, maybe," he said, "but you are steel twenny dollars short. Tha's not enough. Feefty dollars is what she says, and feefty it is."

"Look," said Candy, "Can't we work something out?" He showed the guy his wrist watch. The large man glanced at it.

I took off my own watch. "Dos watches," I said. "Twenty bucks, easy." Candy and I were both lying bastards, of course -- our watches were cheap seventies digitals -- but digitals were a new thing back then. If we could get lucky...

The large man looked at the watches, and turned to speak to the Attack Hooker. An animated conversation took place. I noted that the purring vintage vixen I'd seen earlier had now been replaced by a ranting, snarling granny demon from hell.

The entire roomful of people were watching us with some interest. A few openly laughed, and more than a few snickered quietly. It occurred to me that Granny was going to need that fifty bucks. Nobody here was going to touch her, even by accident, after THIS incident. I wondered if this was how she made her money? One attack proposition per night...?

Suddenly, the large man stepped aside, and the Attack Hooker strode purposefully up to Weeble, and looked him over, like livestock. For a moment, I expected her to yank his mouth open and check his teeth. She then turned to the large man, and spat out a string of machine-gun Spanish.

"She says she will take your money," he said pleasantly, "and she will take your jacket, too."

"WHAT?" said Weeble and Loopy, together. Weeble's jacket was a hundred-dollar black leather biker model, of the sort made wildly popular by The Fonz a couple of years earlier. "The jacket's worth TWICE what she wants, and a HUNDRED times what she's WORTH!"

Attack Hooker took exception to this, and began screaming and pointing and gesturing frantically at Weeble, savagely insulting his heritage, his manhood, his credit rating, and, I think, his species.

Large Guy thought about it a moment, and said, "Then give her the money, and give ME the jacket. You come back manana with twenny dollars. When I get the twenny dollars, you get your jacket."

Weeble went off like a fire engine at this, but Loopy clamped a hand on his shoulder, and whispered in his ear. I could see why. More Large Guys had quietly appeared at each of the three exits to the room. Plainly someone was getting impatient, and a floor show composed of ignorant gringo teenagers was only fun for a few minutes.

Weeble finally peeled off his beloved Fonzie jacket, snarling and cursing the whole time, and threw it at Large Guy, who smiled, waved his hand, and the other Large Guys disappeared. As if on cue, someone punched up a tune on the old jukebox, and music and conversation filled the room.

Attack Hooker looked at Weeble for a moment, and then pointed at him and reproachfully said something in Spanish. She looked all the world like someone's grandmother, sadly giving belated advice. Then she disappeared with our money.

We sat and finished our beers. We said little. We left, and the entire rest of the way home, Weeble and Loopy argued about whose fault the incident had been. Back in the pickup bed, Lightnin' and Candy and I agreed that Mexican whorehouses might well be heaven for some, but that we'd take our sexual adventures a bit plainer, and without economics on the side, thank you.

A day or two later, Weeble paid me back the money I'd contributed. He never did go and get his jacket back. He eventually bought another one, though, and vociferously denied he had ever owned more than one leather jacket, and that THIS one was it, thank you very goddamn much.

The event affected me quite a bit. I'd had fantasies before that about all the glorious adventures I would have with hookers, but after that, the last thing on my mind was paying for sex. I never did. For some reason, whenever I pondered the possibility, the lined and flabby face of the Attack Hooker would rise to the surface of my mind, pointing her red-nailed finger at Weeble in vicious accusation, and insulting his manhood...

...and all of a sudden, I wasn't so horny any more.

Wherever you are today, Weeble, I thank you. Ghod knows what-all kind of humiliations and social diseases I escaped, because I learned from your mistake...

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