Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Club Fem

“Club Feminista” was relatively new in town. It catered to only the most intelligent, philanthropic and enlightened people in New Carolina, and James thought he fit the bill. He parked his car around back and headed up front.

James was in his late 20s. He had light brown hair and an unassuming face. He blended in well. He was wearing a suit with a t-shirt underneath ala Gregory House. He did splurge by wearing dress shoes tonight though.

The dance club was busy.

James was a little surprised at the popularity. The sister club “Club Feministe” had a really bad rap. It had basically become a dive bar after it hit its peak in the late 1980s with regular appearances from bands like the Sexua Harris Men with folks wearing Pat Eternity suits. But that place was basically abandoned since the late 1990s.

James filed in at the back of the line and was surprised how fast it was moving. He fumbled for his wallet and pulled out his R.A.P. E-Card that his cousin had given him. James had been told the card would allow easy access to the club and even access to the R.A.P. room upstairs.

He reached the female bouncer at the door. She looked like the spitting image of Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. She held her arm out and, in a Georgia accent asked “do you believe in equality of the sexes?” James replied, “Well, of course! In fact, I have this card here …”

“Great!” The bouncer cut him off and shoved him inside.

The interior was crowded. In the first corridor of the club, the hallway was lined with anyone who was ANYONE in New Carolina. Politicians, newscasters, newspaper editors, college students, professionals, librarians. James had to squeeze his way past them to get to the dance floor and bar. He had to bump a few elbows and make a few apologies to get past them.

James was surprised to see that the actual dance floor and bar was smaller than the outside led him to believe. But size notwithstanding, there was a SERIOUS party going on in here. The speakers were POUNDING, the dance floor was packed with people and the bartenders were working feverishly behind the bar. An optimistic smile slid across his face. “I think this could be a great place to be,” he thought to himself.

James headed to the bar. He quickly sidled up to an open bar stool between two attractive women and caught the bartender’s eye. He was still holding his wallet and R.A.P. E-card in his hands. The bartender, with long, dark hair pulled back into a ponytail and a tight black tank-top that did a poor job of hiding her cleavage, came to him and leaned over to hear his order.

Suddenly, she leaned back just as James was about to order a White Russian. “You’re at the wrong bar!” she suddenly exclaimed.

“Wrong bar?” James said, thinking she was joking.

“Your R.A.P. E-card in your hand. You need to be upstairs, at the R.A.P. room.” the bartender said.

“What’s up there? I like the dance floor and the atmosphere here.” James resisted.

“Trust me, if you’ve got that card you’re going to want to be up there,” she insisted, gave him a reassuring look, and headed down to serve another patron.

James knew enough to trust a bartender. When the bartender said you’d had enough, they were right. When the bartender said you should go talk to that girl, you should go talk to her. And when the bartender said you should go somewhere else, you should go somewhere else.

James headed over towards the ivory staircase that said “R.A.P. Members Only” and met with the female bouncer at the bottom of the staircase.

It hadn’t occurred to James before now, but nearly every member of the staff here was a woman. And, in fact, although the split of women and men this close to the dance floor was about 60/40 (women to men) the men weren’t doing much. They were mostly sitting around the outer edges of the room, watching the women dance. But like most clubs, there seemed to be about the same split between men: half the men were there to ogle the women and the other half were there to dance to the beat - either way they were strangely inconspicuous about their leering or dancing.

“Please, up this way.” The bouncer looked like one of the dancers from “Addicted to Love” with her slicked back black hair, vibrant red lipstick and tight black dress. She had done just enough to say “Yes, I’m a woman” but no more. Feminimalism.

Her loose grip, but quick pace brought a sense of seriousness about the R.A.P. room they were heading to. James took a quick look down on the dance floor as they ascended the staircase. He wasn’t quite sure, but there didn’t seem to be any men actually on the dance floor itself …

They had arrived at the steel door of the R.A.P. room. The Robert-Palmer-esque bouncer quickly descended the stairs, leaving James facing two very serious-looking female bouncers guarding the door. The bouncers reminded him of a picture his mother kept of him - when he was about 12 years old and dressed up for his Middle School graduation ceremony.

“Good evening. Welcome to the R.A.P. Room at Club Feminista - New Carolina. May I see your R.A.P. E-Card?”

James handed over the plastic card. It was accepted by the bouncers with ginger care, as if it were made of ice. They slid it smoothly through a card reader, and a green glow appeared at the top of the machine. A subtle click sounded from the door. The bouncers exchanged a glance that betrayed the slightest hint of relief. The bouncers seemed instantly less threatening.

James noticed their new found friendliness and seized the opportunity. From the moment he had stepped into the club everything seemed to be moving quite fast.

“I’m sorry, it’s my first time here and I’m not quite sure where I’m going,” James admitted.

“The R.A.P. Room? The R.A.P. Room is reserved for our most important guests. Anything goes in here - there are no tabs, the drinks are free. You may dance to any beat you wish. All sorts of designer CockTales are available to you here, including Raige, Mysan Dry and Genaside.”

“Wait, Genaside? Wasn’t that outlawed 50 years ago?” James asked.

Her eyes tightening again, the bouncer didn’t answer. She asked “You had a relative give you this card? What was her name?”

James tried to disarm the bouncer “Look, I’m no narc, I’m just looking to socialize.”

“What was her name?”

“Her name? It’s “he.” His name is Paul.”

The door clicked locked. “There’s been a mistake,” the bouncer announced to no one in particular.

“But the card worked. I don’t understand.”

Before James knew what was happening, the bouncers had looped their arms under his armpits and was quickly ushering him down the steps. “Are you saying Paul isn’t a member of your club?”

“Yes, he is, technically.”

“Then why are you throwing me out? My card worked didn’t it?”

“That was a glitch,” the bouncer snapped, almost rehearsed.

“I don’t understand,” James said with exasperation.

“You wouldn’t,” the bouncer replied, and before James knew what was what, he was back on the street, a few yards down from the Witherspoon-esque bouncer that originally let him in.

The line to get in the club had disappeared for the moment. James collected himself and began his walk back to his car, all the while trying to figure out what just happened. The walk brought him past the first bouncer.

“What are you doing out here?” the question wasn’t asked with concern, but with consternation.

“Well, apparently that club’s not for me,” James said.

What the bouncer heard on the other hand, sounded more like “I don’t want to abide by the rules of that club.”

What James was trying to say was “Well, apparently that club doesn’t intend to have someone like me in it.”

The bouncer, with her golden hair and fair skin pounced on James and grabbed him by the collar. “How can NOT believe in equality between the sexes?” she asked, incredulously.

“I do, I DO believe in equality … but I don’t think I’m welcome.” James stammered.

“Nonsense. We need your patronage. You are a welcome guest. Besides, I suspect you’ll get free drinks since we’re a little low on men tonight,” she said with a wink.

James felt a little hopeful - it was nice to feel wanted and a free drink is never a bad thing. He reentered the club.

He tried to focus. He was going to get a drink, head to the dance floor, mingle a little bit and just see where things went from there. He was just there to enjoy the company of the other club goers, maybe meet some new people and get a little tipsy. He still had to drive home at some point, right?

He maneuvered over to the bar and tried to get the bartender’s attention. He caught her eye a few times, but she never seemed to acknowledge his attention-getting head nods. She would just glance at him blankly like sous chef checks a pot about to boil.

10 minutes pass. On the next pass, James calls out, “White Russian?”

“Of course, just one second” she replies.

20 minutes pass. “How’s that Caucasian coming?” James asks with a smile. The bartender is obviously very busy.

“Yeah, it’s coming. Do you have a choice of vodka?” She asks.

“Stoli?” James asks, hopefully. The bartender doesn’t respond, and resumes her feverish pacing behind the bar.

For the first time in half an hour, James notices that the bartender hasn’t actually been pouring any drinks. Mostly, she has been grabbing receipts as they come out of a small, black printer at one end of the bar - rushing to the other end of the bar and impaling them on a small spike. Every now and then, she wipes down a drink menu and hands it to a customer. Once or twice she pops a Maraschino cherry in her mouth and takes a sip of water from a large plastic cup at the back of the bar. She looks tired.

She may be tired, but James is thirsty. “Hey, hey, hey. What’s going on with my drink? I haven’t seen you pour a drink since I sat down.”

“It’s coming, just be patient.” she reassured him.

“I can be patient, I’m just wondering what’s so important right now that you can’t make me my drink.”

“I have to take care of my other customers, you know,” she sounded slightly annoyed.

“I understand that, but you haven’t made one drink for them yet! Why not?”

“Well they are still deciding on their drinks,” she said.

“I have an idea,” James offered, “why don’t you make me my White Russian while they decide?” He was sure this would make sense to the bartender - he smiled to himself at his logic.

“Oh now I couldn’t do that. That wouldn’t be fair.”

James’ brow furrowed.

“They were here first,” she said, as another receipt printed out. She turned to grab it and James stared at her, mouth gaping. He decided to head to the dance floor.

James weaved through the crowd towards the tiled floor, his left hand grasping for a drink that he felt should be there.

As he got closer to the dance floor, James started to feel upbeat. This was why he came tonight, anyway. He could’ve stayed home and enjoyed some microbrews and good times with his friends at his local watering hole - but he came to Club Feminista to see some new faces. And based on his view from the ivory staircase, the dance floor was PACKED with activity.

As James got closer to the floor he noticed something odd. The floor was raised, about two feet above the floor of the club. It was kind of uncomfortable to get your leg up that high and there weren’t any stairs.

And even though the floor wasn’t packed with women dancing, whenever he tried to step up on the floor, a crowd of women on the stage would -juuuust- crowd the area so he couldn’t get his balance and get both feet up. He tried circling the floor to find a way up, but there didn’t seem to be one.

James had a surreal feeling. He turned to one of the handfuls of men lined up in splotches along the edge of the dancefloor.

“Is there a way to get up there?” James asked incredulously.

“Sure, of course. How do you think they got up there? Jet-packs?” one of the men replied.

James laughed. “Of course - I’m just being daft. There must be a way.”

Another man chimed in “Anyway, man, you don’t want to be up there now. The DJ’s playing the women’s song.”

For the first time that night, James paid attention to the music that had been pumping since he pulled his car into the narrow parking spot behind the club. It was the same beat - the same drums and cymbals - faintly like Daft Punk’s Revolution 909. The kind of beat that is at the same time obnoxiously repetitive but never gets old.

James enjoyed the soundtrack. He also felt comfortable in the presence of these other guys. He watched the women dance. He nodded his head to the music.

Suddenly, James remembered he was still thirsty. He didn’t need a White Russian, he needed water - or anything. Just a sip. He looked at his new “friends’” glasses, all empty. He looked back up to the bar, no bartender. He looked and looked, but no one had anything in their glasses. They were all empty.

There were no drinks, one song and an inaccessible dance floor.

“What am I doing here?” James wondered aloud. “There are no drinks, there is dancing but not for me, the music never changes and worst of all: no one else will admit anything is even WRONG with this place.”

It was mere seconds after the “wrong” left his lips that he was scooped up and literally thrown from the door of the club.

“Reese” stared at him. “What did you do?” she accused.

“That place,” James stammered, “is … is … BULLSHIT. Have you ever been INSIDE that place?”

The bouncer got defensive, “I don’t have to go inside. This place is important. If we weren’t important, we wouldn’t be the most popular club in New Carolina.”

James didn’t have the energy to argue. “Argumentum ad populum,” he mumbled as he shuffled toward his car.

The bouncer, with her youthful good looks, shouted after him, “Where are you going? Are you going to just abandon the entire club? What are you going to do?”

“I dunno,” said James, “maybe I’ll write a review online.”

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