Thursday, April 17, 2008

Incident At The Whiskey A Go-Go, Some Years Back

I can't explain this. It was in my Mail Waiting To Be Sent. To whom? Why? And I sure as hell didn't write it a year ago yesterday, that was the day of the VA Tech shootings. I was working double shifts that week at the plant. Might as well share the thing, for better or worse. Most of it is true, particularly the actual encounter you'll cringe in terror from soon enough.

Incident at Whiskey A Go-Go, Some Years Back
by Wayne Allen Sallee c 2007

It was March, a few weeks before I was hit by the Dodge Daytona on 55th and Fairfield, back in the heart of Sout' Side Cat'lik Irish town, when I found myself on Sibley Boulevard, straddling State Line Road, separating Illinois from Hammond, Indiana. This was before the casinos, so there were plenty of strip joints on the Indiana side of State Line. Never mind how I found myself there. My name is Jonny Algiers, and I'll say this much. I was looking for a redhead. She was leaving for England and I needed to tell her I was sorry. She had been staying with a friend in Thalamus, a carnival town on the Wabash River. The main attraction was an honest-to-goodness old-timey carnival, with a wooden roller coaster and a geek who looked like Tyrone Power in NIGHTMARE ALLEY, only he ate pork chops instead of chicken heads.
I knew about the carnival because I had worked there. The guy in the booth next to me had a jail tattoo etched in his left biceps that read SOUP BOSS. He never smiled, it was like if he did, it would be like a baseball breaking a window frame. I sold snow cones and funnel cakes, working undercover to see if Soup Boss was selling crystal meth on the side. Did I mention I'm a private investigator? Oh, and I'm the only one registered in the Tri-State area that doesn't have a valid driver's license because of having my right arm shorter than my left. I was kind of a carnival geek myself, and this was how I met the redhead. She looked like that babe that dated Bobby the Mitch, no not the one from SOME KINDA WOMAN, the one his wife never knew about. Willy Sid, the owner of the carney, told me this on the night of the two moons. But there's a different story altogether. Kind of an urban legend that really happened and then became a different type of urban legend, and that would make sense if you were there.
Well, one night I went along for a ride to Sibley Boulevard, supposedly to pick up more ingredients for the funnel cakes, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to see where soup boss went. On the way back, I was going to get dropped off on Mundt Road and try and plead my case to the redhead. I wondered if there were carnivals in London? I had seen that movie where the I'm A Pepper Dr. Pepper commercial guy had turned into a werewolf because he walked into the moors, that film where the guy missed the dartboard and said he had never missed the dartboard before, well I saw that at the old Marquette Theater, but can't remember if there were any scenes with carnivals. Sorry. Thinking about that chippee makes my mind all jumbled and I start rambling.
But there were brothels on State Line Road. Soup Boss suggested we stop off "for a taste," as he put it. Without smiling. It was like watching a marionette move its mouth. Like Howdy Doody time, only with the puppet on steroids. And part Mexican, part Polynesian. I heard that part from the guy with only three teeth that ran the Teacup ride. Or maybe it was Barton Fanning, the Strongman. His job was all smoke and mirrors, like digital computer work only in real life. He was the only guy whose full name I knew, at that was because his name was emblazoned on a crappy piece of wood nailed to a black backdrop.
Now, I'm thinking that this taste Soup Boss was talking about was the meth I had been looking for. A guy in City Hall named Bervid said that if I caught the meth guy, maybe he could get me an actual driver's license. As it was, most of my fees went to cab fares. Anyways, the first place we went into was called Whiskey A Go-Go. The rain that August had soaked the dirt streets so you had to walk through tire tracks to make any real progress. That area was never paved, it was a forgotten area. Until the casinos were built, but that was much later. We passed Selina's Corner, but Soup Boss, leading the way, shook his head in the negative. I wasn't going to argue with a guy whose thigh was the size of my chest, but I truly wanted to check out that joint, because of the neon cat in the single window that wasn't boarded up and covered with graffiti. In the comics, Catwoman's real name was Selina Kyle, and I had visions of Julie Newmar pole dancing. She'd still look good, hell, Eartha Kitt still looked damn hot. There had been three Catwomans on the Batman TV show with that butter tub Adam West, but Lee Meriwether never did anything for me, especially after she was on that Barnaby Jones show.
Sibley Boulevard had empty lots, a few shops that sold crap for a dollar for a holler, as one place proclaimed, only holler was spelled with an 'a', the damn idiots. Then there was the place that said Eye, Ear, Nose, and Body Repair. I was happy to be on the Indiana side of the tire tracks. Right past some condom joint stood our destination. A poster on the brick wall read Mike Fountainey for Committeeman, so you can guess how out of date that was. The guy is still doing time down in Terre Haute for shooting his wife, claiming she had kept a gun under her pillow and mistook it for her asthma inhaler one damp weekday morning.
Whiskey A Go-Go was hopping. I counted seven people, with Soup Boss and myself bringing the place to almost double digits. I wondered how many strippers worked here, shuddering as I recalled the stripper who was seven months pregnant I saw with my cousin Slick Szostak down in Louisville, my second home thanks to Greyhound. There was a long-haired dude, looked like an Indian, passed out on top of either a pillow shaped like a cat or an actual cat. Made me think of Julie Newmar again. She was my first wet dream as a teenager. OK, I admit, its not just redheads, its any chippee: back to the interior. Soup Boss went straight for the circle-shaped bar. I told him I was going to take a whiz, hoping to see if he would take care of business as I was taking care of mine (when I've been walking too long, my bladder shrinks to the size of a chestnut and I piss constantly), and I intended to keep the door open a crack when I was done (I piss fast, banshee fast).
Well, I stood there with the door open just enough, smelling more than my own urine, reading the quarter machines that sold cologne wipes with names like Spartacus, condoms with the same names, and, for some reason, little black plastic combs. We gave those away at the carnival, at the game where you picked up ducks in the water and they had numbers in Magnum Sharpies on their little duck asses.
Suddenly the phone rang, I guess I missed it hanging against the wall where we came in. The long-haired dude raised his head as if he, too, was a puppet, shouting "If its Murline, I aint here, tell that taint I'm not here," even though the person on the other end of the line heard every word. The bartender, a woman who looked like one of Dracula's brides risen from the dead, said "Ya hear that, bitch?" and hung up. The Italian guy, I knew he wasn't Indian now because he used the word taint, slid a ten dollar bill to the old bat. Turned out the cat-shaped pillow was really a cat after all, because the damn thing made me jump as it hissed and scurried off under some chairs, licking spilled beer or dried vomit.
Soup Boss looked at his watch, I was thinking he was timing my stream, so I went back out there, making a manly motion of zipping up as I walked to the bar stool, sighing in mock relief. In front of us stood two midget-sized cans of Jolly Good cola, all my friend said as he nodded was "two drink minimum." Then he slipped Dracula's bride a twenty and she looked at it as if it was her ticket back to beauty and happiness.
In front of us there was an empty stage with lines of beads hanging down, and I suddenly felt like I was going to be a part of that weird dream scene in EASY RIDER, the part that always gets cut out on network TV because Brenda Vaccarro shows her tits or something. I worried myself more as a huge black man in a leather jacket, huge as in big biker dude, with no irises, maybe he was blind, looked like 'ol Drac and thought the geezer tending bar was like, well, Julie Newmar. But he'd have to feel the three bellies, even if he was truly blind. The dude could have been wearing those contacts that were big back then, a different color a day, like womens' panties that said Tuesday or Friday. Soup Boss grunted to me that the guy's name was Carlton but all the drunks slurred his name as Quantum, so he was known as Quantum. He called me Woody as he looked at my crotch, which concerned me, but knew what he was getting at.
Quantum had this weird-ass microphone, the kind Elvis and Buddy Holly used back in the 50s, the ones big as Crenshaw melons with three horizontal ridges along the edges, and he told the so-called crowd to give it up for the "lovely, lovely Starchild" in a voice that made me feel like I was chewing on sandpaper.
Then it got worse.
First, Soup Boss nudged me and called me Woody again. This time, he didn't look at my crotch. Then, the really bad part happened. The beads parted and this monstrosity of a woman, Starchild, my left nut: she had a face like Grandpa Munster and a bald spot on the right side of her head, right above her ear (which was almost the size of the microphone), kind of crazily walked out like she had a load in her outfit.
Oh, that's right. The girls wore costumes, not outfits. Not real costumes, like Supergirl, but the word outfit wasn't used. Maybe it was an Indiana thing. My brain was working overtime trying to not have my brain explode seeing that thing in front of me. She was wearing glittery powder blue spandex, as God is my witness. She also had two more stomachs than the bartendress, but one of the might have been an extra chin. Basically, she looked like the Michelin Man and Swamp Thing combined.
She grabbed one of the string of beads and tried to do squats, each time hacking like a hotbox smoker of unfiltered Pall Malls or Camels. I knew that kind of cough well, one of my partners in the business coughed like that. Jimmy Mack, with the Pall Mall hack, I used to say. Until he cold-cocked me one day before our partnership dissolved because he took a job as a bouncer at the Double Door, back in the city.
God, it was terrible. It was like watching someone in their death throes in a gas chamber, like San Quentin or that prison down in Trexler. Even the cat ran from its treat on the floor and disappeared, assumedly some place far, far away. Eventually she left the stage, after trying to wink at us through fake eyelashes that made her look like Groucho Marx after they fell down and stuck to her embalmed-looking cheeks.
Quantum, maybe he was blessedly blind after all, told us all to clap, which I did politely, like when someone's name is announced at some public function or when the Polish Queen passes on the parade float on Casimer Pulaski Day. Then he said enjoy the music before Starbabe came out. What was with the names? I just hoped they weren't twins. Speakers in the ceiling played "Vehicle" by The Ides of March.
Soup Boss got up, farted, and walked back to the john. I did a double-take, he went past the bathroom, to a room that most likely said private. Almost forgot, the bathroom doors said Gangsters and Molls instead of the usual. One place I was in up on Division Street, back in the day, the johns read Seahorses and Mermaids, so this wasn't the stupidest name I'd seen on doors to the head.
I was brought out of my reverie by a clammy claw-like thing falling over my shoulder. My balls actually shriveled up (again), taking refuge in my ass, I think. It was the hybrid from on stage. I looked at her, then back where Soup Boss had gone, but the door was closing shut. I caught a glimpse of cigar smoke and a bald man sitting at a folding table, one classy looking office, I'll tell you. The cat had found another patron, and was licking at the lid of a liter of Tab sticking out of a plastic bag from Save-A-Lot, one of the places we passed what seemed like weeks ago.
The woman pressed against me, her breath smelled like Spanish moss and her breasts were like jellyfish. And here my story ends. She opened her mouth and all I saw were gums. She told me, and I quote, "I'll give you a deal tonight, stud muffin, because I forgot my teeth at home. But it doesn't matter much, because I'm not much of a screamer anyway."
I was, though. I wailed like a girly-man, passing the drunk who again gave his spiel about
Murline and her taint, evidently thinking I was AT&T, and found myself the relative safety of Sibley Boulevard. I called a cab from a pay phone in Sav-A-Lot (Open 21 Hours!), one of the few working phones that hadn't been ripped apart by gang members for fun. I never did get a driver's license, and I never did make up with the redhead.
But that's another story, and it doesn't involve brothels where the Red in Red Light District meant the pits of Hell itself. Soup Boss eventually got caught selling the meth, to a meltdown named Casey Mann in broad daylight back at the carnival; I read about it in the Indianapolis Star about a month after the car accident, my arm short arm in a cast from elbow to fingers, and then I fell in love with the blonde pharmacist who filled out my prescriptions for pain pills, and now I...well, I'm starting to babble. Its the chippees, I tell you.

Case File: 4815
Jonny Algiers
Belmonde, Illinois