After one of my numerous attempts to live in America had not panned out, I found myself back in Shitberg, Canuckland,desperately needing work. After a week of drink drowned depression, I started hunting in the want ads every morning. The jobs I found in there were invariably terrible. I will admit to my own naiveté and desperation in answering a few of them that read along the lines of “WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE YOUR OWN BOSS?” With these “jobs” it was always the same story. You called the number provided and a woman on the other end who sounded like she was about to spontaneously die of boredom and misery gave you a time and a place to come for an “introductory seminar”.
There was one of these in particular that needs recounting, the memory of which sticks to my brain like a particularly unpleasant fungus. It began with me being ushered into a room along with a small group of other individuals who all in their own particular way screamed “unemployed”. With the place half filled (a lot of no shows), a bald man who looked like he was about forty years of age bounded onto a little stage at the front of the room. He wore a cheap suit and had a look in his eyes that was half desperate loser, half American Psycho.
“I don’t want to disappoint any of you. But I’ll tell you straight up what you’re here for: to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door.”
A big sound of let-down rippled across the room. About a quarter of the unemployed got up and walked out then and there. The forty-year-old bald man on the little stage was merciless with these escapees. He pointed his finger in their direction as they left and shouted with particular venom:
“Yeah, you go, you walk away! Just like you’ve been walking away your whole life! I hear McDonalds is hiring down the street! Why don’t you guys go and check that out, eh?”
Once he felt comfortable that the rest of the people in the room had been successfully immobilised with fear (or perhaps were actually excited about the prospect of becoming a door to door vacuum cleaner salesperson), he began his shtick. And boy did it ever suck.
“How old do you think I am?”
No one was going to bite on that one. He’d obviously asked this because the answer was counterintuitive, so either he was a lot younger than he looked or he was one of those sixty-year-old guys who had managed to keep himself in shape by eating nothing but cereal for two decades and used his spare time to pull tug boats behind him using his neck.
“I am nineteen years of age.”
This was clearly, self-evidently false. The guy wasn’t a day under thirty in the utmost worst-case scenario.
“And I am a millionaire.”
Again, this was clearly a lie. Why would a millionaire be wasting his time in a room full of unemployable assholes in the shit end of the Canadian prairies?
Having made this announcement, he dimmed the lights and rolled down a projector screen.
“The following movie will change your life, people.”
A 16 mm film began to play on the screen in front of us. It looked, by the clothing and haircuts as well as the general feel of the piece, as if the film was produced in the late 70’s, perhaps at a stretch the early 80’s. It was about a man who is a successful businessman. This is all we find out about him, his one defining feature. He doesn’t look terribly successful by the way, judging by his clothes and possessions; the voiceover just explains to us that he is. One day this so-called successful businessman decides to take a solo flight in his private jet. Unfortunately, some bad weather rolls in and the jet crashes in the mountains. The businessman is saved, but told by doctors that he is now a quadriplegic and not only will he never walk again, he will never even be able to hug his wife or feed himself for the rest of his life (these two impairments are made explicitly and somewhat cruelly clear by the medical staff).
This news doesn’t rile our successful businessman in the least. He stares at the doctors as if he were Clint Eastwood staring down Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.
“In four weeks time, I will walk out of this hospital on my own two feet.”
The doctors laugh at this. And I do mean guffaw out loud, in a taunting, childish manner, as if laughing at the delusions of a freshly crippled man were somehow acceptable bedside manner. Following this unpleasant interlude, we are subjected to watching the successful businessman rehabilitate himself without any help whatsoever from physical therapists. How he regains the use of his arms is never really explained, but once this occurs he begins the rest of his transformation by turning off the apparatus that artificially stimulates his breathing, at first for seconds at a time and eventually for whole minutes at a stretch, and within a week of the crash he can breathe independently again. His upper body now back in top health, he begins to rehabilitate his lower body, which mostly involves throwing himself out of his hospital bed and then pulling himself back to his feet using his arms. The film theorises that this act:
“….forces the legs to come to life. This is how nature works; necessity is the mother of invention.”
Why this type of therapy, involving throwing spine damaged people out of their beds forcefully in order to make them have to pull themselves back up off the floor, isn’t used to cure paraplegics the world over remains a mystery to me to this very day.
So the doctors return at the end of the month to check up on “that loony quad who thinks he’ll be walking around by now!” (This really is how the doctors in this fine motion picture speak to one another). Of course, we then get the supposedly uplifting, wacky moment when the doctors all do a double take as they walk in and the successful businessman is walking around the room! Holy crap! What did those asshole doctors know? What a bunch of assholes! You doctors! Taking your oath to save lives and shit! What a bunch of assholes! You all know nothing! Nothing about the power of the human mind to heal itself! And its attached human body!
After the film came to a conclusion, up went lights again to reveal that the nineteen-year-old millionaire was holding what appeared to be a small handkerchief. At first I thought he was going to pretend to cry to show how moving the film we’d just watched was supposed to be; thankfully he had other designs.
“This is a filter on one of our vacuum cleaners.”
He put the now identified object in his right upper hand pocket and then pulled a very large hoover out from behind the stage.
“The greatest feature of these vacuums is what you find out is living not only in your carpets, but in your beds as well.” The “beds” was really, really emphasised, as if it was all part of some NLP hypnosis gimmick (much like the ones used in the shitty 16mm film about the quadriplegic come to think of it). He then produced another filter; only this one had a grotesque looking off-white powder piled high on top of it.
“All this white stuff is what I got from one single bed using our product. This is the amount of dead skin, hair, and bugs that are living in each of your beds.”
Even though this all seemed highly improbable, his pitch was effective; you found yourself recoiling a bit, hoping you could take one of the hoovers home to clean your own bed before you slept on it again, obviously the entire point of his pitch. It all ended with me doing just that; I was told to take home one of the company’s fine products and mimic the demonstration I had just been shown by the forty-cum-nineteen year old bald millionaire for a friend or family member. I did mine on Todd.
“Dude, check this out: you won’t believe how much shit there is trapped in your bed,” was the start of my killer sales pitch. With that, we went to Todd’s bed (which trust me, was about as effective a demonstration bed as you could hope to get for this exercise. It was easily in the top five percent of disgusting beds on the entire planet Earth, Third World included); there I turned the hoover on. I dug the nozzle of the machine as deep down into Todd’s disgusting mattress as I could manage in an attempt to pull away as much of the off-white powder seen in the demonstration as I possibly could. I did this for half an hour, much to Todd’s immense enjoyment. At the end of it, the handkerchief style filter was seemingly clean enough to wipe counter tops with.
“So how much is this piece of shit going for?” Todd asked me with a cruel smile about his lips.
“One thousand three hundred and fifty dollars.”
Todd laughed for five minutes, hysterically. At one point he was laughing so hard he had to go to the bathroom in case he threw up. Once he’d settled down a bit he offered me a bet.
“Here’s the deal: I’ve got a shitty little vacuum that I bought at Wal-Mart for forty bucks. If that hunk of shit of your does a better job in three preordained tests, I will buy the fucking thing off you for whatever thousand whatever dollars you’re trying to hock it for.”
“You don’t have one thousand three hundred and fifty dollars, Todd.”
“That’s academic. Because I will win.”
“What do you get if you win?”
“You have to apply for a job of my choosing.”
“Once and for all, I’m not becoming a male prostitute!”
“What I have in mind for you is a perfectly legit profession. What do you say?”
“Just tell me what the job you want me to apply for is, Todd.”
“Not part of the bet. Are you in, or are you out?”
My answer was obvious. We set about devising and executing a set of three tests for the two hoovers. This was supposed to be an initial stage; we agreed to a best-of-five format, and Todd was uber-confident he could beat me in straight sets.
Test One: Pulling Crap off the Carpet. We decided that since the carpet in question was a sort of off white (once upon a time being actually white) then we should get something that would show up best against white as a testing substance. We both agreed quickly that dirt from the little garden in front of Todd’s building would do the job. I went outside and grabbed two handfuls of garden-variety muck and dumped them into two piles approximately four feet apart from each other. We gave each other precisely one minute to pull up all the dirt we could manage. Within less than twenty seconds, Todd was finished; his pile had entirely vanished, his patch of carpet looking like it had never been sullied in its whole life with garden filth. I was stopped at the end of the minute with my patch of carpet looking like a miniature construction site.
Test One result: TODD WINS.
Test Two: Pulling Crap off a Polished Surface. I obviously felt let down by the carpet test, but felt I should be able to win this one. We’d decided that for this contest we’d each have exactly one kilo of dirt (this took some time to haul up to the flat) in front of us on a glass table. Then starting at the same time, we’d each try and suck up as much of it as we could, using our respective machines. At the end of two minutes, we’d weigh the piles and whoever had the lightest pile would be the winner. At the sound of a toy gun (supplied by the child of my new next door neighbour, a woman named Beth who had taken Max’s flat next door), Todd and I were off. We both ended up a sweaty heap by the end of the two minutes, but even before we used Todd’s pot scales to weigh the piles, I knew I had lost.
Test Two Result: TODD WINS.
Test Three: Using the hoover as an auto-fellating device. I argued long and hard for another third test, any other third test. But I failed to come up with a suitable idea to replace it that wasn’t just essentially a re-run of something we’d just done, and so we ended up with this by default. Todd and I each took our respective hoover into a room by ourselves. Todd wanted to conduct the test with both of us together, but I told him this was far too homoerotic for me to handle and refused. No, we would use the honour system. Once the vacuum cleaner made one of us ejaculate, we would run to the other’s room to announce it.
I stripped off, naked from the waist down. I revved up the one thousand three hundred and fifty dollar hoover. It sounded horrible, all that garden dirt flying around its insides. I started to lower the nozzle of it down upon my genitals. But I had to stop. There was simply no way I could go through with this. I was not putting my wang anywhere near that monster. As it happens, Todd burst into the room a second or two later anyway.
“That was fucking awesome, man. Always does the trick in a couple seconds. I’ll lend the fucker to you sometime.”
Third Test Result: TODD WINS. Todd finishes the challenge 3-0.
“All right, dickweed, you win. What’s this job then?”
“Strip club DJ.”
I stared at him for a second, waiting for him to say, “Just kidding”. But it appeared that he was serious.
“You’re fucking with me here.”
“I swear I’m not. You know the place I hang out some days, the peeler bar, The German Mistress?”
I did know the place. Todd was always trying to get me to go there with him and I always refused in no uncertain terms. The place was a real dive and the drinks were outrageously expensive.
“Well, I overheard two of the managers there talking the other day,” Todd continued, “and they were stressing about how they needed another DJ real bad. And I thought of you and your predicament.”
“Why don’t you do it?”
Todd looked at me, incredulous that I had even imagined he was capable of holding down such a job.
“OK, fine. But why me?” I said.
“You’ve got a great fucking voice, dude! I’ve always thought to myself “Wow, Nick should do something with those pipes of his”. Seriously, man I have.”
“I don’t think I want to work at a peeler bar.”
“Hey, are you reneging on our bet here? Are you?”
“All right, fine. I’ll apply for the job. But only because of the bet, all right?”
The club was right downtown, off Mcleod Trail. When I walked in, it was the middle of the afternoon and the place had maybe four customers. I walked up to the bar where a very fat middle-aged man was working, sweating buckets as he dried some glasses off.
“I’m here about the DJ job.”
He pointed at the DJ booth across the room.
“Speak to Dean.”
I walked up to the booth and introduced myself to the chap who was sat there.
“I’m Nick Tyrone. I’m here about the DJ job.”
“Hey man, good to meet you. Name’s Dean.”
“I gathered that.”
Dean seemed nice, if a little questionable in his dress sense. He was wearing black acid wash jeans and a light blue acid wash jacket. And, I noticed as he leaned across the booth and his jacket came open, a green acid wash vest. Now, if you want to see bad fashion sense, Calgary, Alberta should be one of your top destinations. Still, this is the only time I’ve ever come across a tri-coloured acid wash ensemble.
“So can I get an application form?” I asked him.
“Nah, nah it’s not like that. I throw you up onto the mic and see what you’ve got. Do you need some water or something or are you happy just to have me put you on right now?”
I wasn’t mentally prepared to talk shit on a microphone at a half empty strip bar really, but then again I didn’t really think I was realistically strip club DJ material anyway. So I had nothing to lose. I sidestepped Dean and grabbed the microphone.
“All right, guys what do you say? I got some hot looking babes here! You want to see more?”
I shouted this into the mic in as much of a Dean imitation as I could muster (he had been doing his thing as I’d walked into the place). It worked; Dean looked over at me, smiling.
“How did I do?” I asked him. He beamed a smile at me so potent I thought he might explode.
“It’s time you met Tony, my friend.”
This was not going to plan. It seemed suddenly like I was on the verge of getting this job I really did not want.
Dean led me to an office in the back of the club. There sat a very fat man with a lot of gold jewellery and lots of body hair to go along with not a lot of hair on his head. He looked remarkably like Tony Soprano, in retrospect. This was Tony and I gathered quickly that he was the owner of the club. Dean briefly told him that I was the DJ for the job before Tony dismissed Dean with a casual wave of his right hand. I stood there in front of him, waiting for him to say or do something for about sixty seconds.
“Sit down, kid,” he finally muttered. I did so, in the seat across the desk.
“You start on days. Pay is shit, fifty bucks a day, but if you play your cards right with the chicks you’ll make at least triple that in tips. If you don’t suck, after a month I’ll move you to nights. You start tomorrow, 11 AM.”
This was all Tony said. I waited, sitting there for another thirty seconds before getting up and walking out of the office and then out of the German Mistress. So that was that then. I was a strip club DJ.
I went over to Todd’s place to break the news. He was somewhat pleased, shall we say.
“Dude! This is the most awesomeistic thing that has ever fucking happened in either of our lives to this point!”
He insisted that we go out on the town to celebrate. So off we went, hopping from bar to bar, getting quite drunk, quite quickly. Along the way, Todd steadfastly refused to discuss anything other than my job either with myself or anyone we encountered. I tried hard to change the subject over and over again but as soon as I brought up a fresh topic of conversation Todd would jump in with something like, “Man, I have a friend who works at the peelers! I now have the God given right, nay, nay, the God given duty, to hang there most days from now on!”
To which I would say to him, “Todd, you already do hang there most days.”
He seemed to take me getting the job at the strip club as some sort of personal vindication. It was as if having a friend who was about to make a living talking shit in front of naked women elevated his status in society.
I woke up, hung to the tits, at about nine thirty the next morning. I was at Todd’s place. I got in the shower and had to put back on my smelly bar clothes and trundle off to my first day as a strip club DJ. When I arrived at the German Mistress, Joe, who was Tony’s cousin, was less than impressed with my general state.
“You look like you went out and got shitfaced last night.” His powers of observation were keen. “Couldn’t you have at least fucking shaved?”
My first girl had picked Crystal Waves as her stage name. That’s all I knew about her, as she had failed to turn up at the appointed time. I decided to ask Joe if this was commonplace.
“What do I look like, the high priest of DJs or something? This is your problem, bud.”
Dean then appeared out of seemingly thin air and slapped me on the back, drinking a beer at eleven in the morning.
“Aren’t you working tonight?” I asked him.
“Yeah, but even when I’m not working I like to hang around. I know that may sound weird to you, you know, hanging around work when you’re not getting paid. But trust me, after a few weeks here you’ll get it.”
Dean inhaled sharply, as if his nose were stuck into a glass of vintage wine.
“This place just has an…atmosphere. You know? Anyways, I figured you might need some help on your first day.”
“I’ll be fine. Thanks, Dean.”
“Your girl seems not to have shown up.”
“Are you offering to help me with this quandary?”
Dean pointed his index finger at me while getting up and walking towards the entrance to the club. He necked the rest of his beer and then walked out of the place. I thought perhaps he’d come to his senses and left, but no; he walked back into the German Mistress less than half a minute later firmly holding the right arm of what looked like a woman who could definitely pass for a Crystal Waves. She walked over to the stage and began her routine. I had to scramble a little.
“Right, guys, she’s here, she’s uh, hot, and she’s here,” I mumbled into the microphone. Joe shook his head, annoyed at my inability.
I spent the rest of the day struggling through it, all the while getting Dean’s life story in my left ear.
“I used to work as a painter, you know painting houses and shit? Fuck, I hated that job. Fucking hated it. I kept wanting to leave but I really needed the coin. I was living fucking hand to mouth and shit. So one day my buddy calls me right up, says to me “Dean, dude there’s this fucking job going in the paper, you’d be fucking perfect for it.” So I tell him, “What’s this perfect job?” and he goes to me, “Peeler DJ, dude.” So I come down here, just like you did, tried my luck. And since then, I have been living in fucking paradise.”
Dean had worked at the German Mistress for almost a year at that point. In that time he claimed to have slept with all of the strippers and most of the waitresses. His whole life seemed to revolve around the club.
I wish I could say that I quit after that first, miserable day, but I didn’t. I ended up working there for four further months. Truth is, I just really needed the job. Every time I thought about packing it in, I just imagined that room with the bald hoover salesman, showing that terrible 70’s film. My options were limited at that stage of my life and the strip club, despite its considerable downsides, was the only real choice.
The girls who worked at the place whom I got on with tended to be the college students, the ones who somehow imagined that they could dip their toe into the wild world of stripping as some sort of social science experiment while simultaneously paying for next year’s tuition fees. Before inevitably finding out that the whole set-up was much uglier than they could have ever previously imagined. These types never stuck around for very long, and wisely too. I tried to date several, but going out with an employee of the German Mistress was the last thing they wanted, again quite wisely.
I was eventually sacked. Bizarrely, for sleeping with one of the strippers, which was strangely part of all the DJs contracts and yet was contravened constantly by all of the DJs, most notably Dean – except for me, who ironically had never taken part. I was called into Tony’s office and he laid it out for me in unflinching terms. As I went to exit his office, he called me back.
“I think for your next job, you need to be somewhere that being gay isn’t going to hold you back.” The irony of the fact that Tony had just sacked me for supposedly taking part in heterosexual intercourse with one of his strippers was surely lost on him. I just turned around and left, happy to let this go.
But as I exited the club and walked back towards the road, I wondered what the hell I was going to do next. I had no prospects and no job. So I thought about the successful businessman for the first time in a long while, trying to cheer myself up by getting into the whole cheese of the thing. And I just managed to pull it off by recalling the ridiculous haircuts and horrific dialogue (Evil Doctor: “I saw that weird quad doing push-ups in his room last night. What a demento!”). Somehow, I would be all right. I didn’t know how, but I would be.