Show Me a Sign

Promiscuity suits me. But that isn’t the impetus behind my Las Vegas residence.

No, instead raw economic necessity and the complete disappearance of Brigadoon, a k a, Quarropas, my New York former hometown, propelled this move 2400 miles west.

Funny. Living now in a place celebrated for catering to inhibitions hasn’t added to my libertinage. With all the candy at hand – literally – I’ve been disinclined to grab more sweets. Perhaps when the goods were deemed illicit and their acquisition only furtively gained treats, did they sweeten my tooth.

Or maybe unlike culture in New York, residency in Las Vegas inures against vice. Whatever the proclivity, the pickings are so easy here I was reminded of those Golden West fables about reaching out a window and plucking oranges off nearby tree branches. Except it wasn’t a tall tale and my Easterner’s astonishment was exceeded when I did that very thing in Arizona!

Two divergent themes form this post. Glenn Frey and a whorehouse. The first occasioned a recollection of the second.

The recent death of David Bowie threw a deep shadow across Frey’s musical accomplishments. Following so soon after the Briton’s, the one-time Eagles’ singer/songwriter own demise seemingly gave license to enthralled Bowie admirers and thwarted reviewers captivated more by spectacle than output. Both diminished Frey’s solo efforts as well as his collaborations with the Eagles.

The relative disparagement Frey received stems from Bowie having been outre and avant. He rebelled. Doesn’t that posing generally attract the susceptible? Fans who are so solidly mired in conformity they reflexively gravitate to and slavishly almost blindly laud colors brighter than any on their own drab palettes or lives lived beyond their own tight lines?

If any demonstrated a little moxie such lives also could’ve been theirs. But living vicariously through others makes any step into the unknown safer.

Glenn Frey and his Eagles bandmates weren’t Space Oddities. Rather than morph into freaks or become glam creatures or swaddle themselves in sartorial splendor, their iterations, aside from yielding to the demands of age, only wavered slightly.

While Bowie was catnip to critics, aggregate sales of Eagles recordings swamped his. Relative paucity of platters moved naturally drew more reviewers to regard him as a “serious artist” as opposed to merely being “popular.” Apparently they succumbed wholeheartedly to the belief that denser, more layered work means it must possess greater, deeper meaning. Then again maybe these arbiters never grasped how clarity and simplicity also reward and convey pleasure.

Or maybe they just misheard Eagles songs as facile.

Taken further, though, plainly stated offers other scant opportunities to display their eloquence and erudition. The baldly said leaves scant openings to present a third party’s perception of brilliance.

Any rock music reviewer fancying him- or herself the next Lester Bangs or Greil Marcus, must’ve looked upon Bowie’s costume changes while listening as his vocals soared in a Promethean manner and believed therein those moody, mournful, and challenging lyrics sheer genius only they could decipher. Or maybe they saw how demystifying the obscure and uncommon could burnish their own renown.

Which is fine for honing critical chops. However, if the music is so involved it requires translation, explanation, or simplification for fullest comprehension, shouldn’t the only pertinent question be “How does it sound?”
Compared to the praise heaped upon Bowie, that extended to Frey/the Eagles is meager. Much of it is grudging.

Having been labeled as “the Desert Beach Boys” should confer honor. Yet many esteemed opinion-makers intend the description as a slight.

Too bad. Because akin to the Beach Boys, Frey and his bandmates’ music reflected its peaceful, easy feeling era. They contributed much to our 70s/80s American Southwest soundtrack.

By coincidence a night or so before Frey died, I dreamt of an Arizona escapade from decades ago. If I had recalled it earlier, quite a while has passed since. Some of it remains fog-shrouded. Other parts are just as lucid as the vivid evening itself.

Let me summarize how these Sonora Desert antics began. In 1981, these started with the then usual suspect students congregating at booze o’clock for happy hour. Afternoon wore into evening and the academically disinclined crowd thinned in order to pass out, rest up, and prepare for that night’s partying.

How that transitioned into “Hey! Let’s go to a whorehouse!” is beyond me. But at that period of life, when exploration is an exhibition of nerve before the challenge becomes a dare, why shouldn’t one take it to the limit?

A Navy veteran, one of the few of us who’d served, suggested it. With conscription having been ended and the volunteer army’s introduction eliminating anxiety of a wrong number, the older man was one of the rarities among us who’d participated in something bigger than himself. While many were liked, he was respected.

If a jostle joint obtained his imprimatur, the place was sterling. Right?

He and I must’ve been the evening’s iron men because everybody else had made tracks. Assuredly he proposed the visit. Far from being Simon Pure, it simply never would’ve occurred to me. A strip club? Yes. A whorehouse? Not really.

But since he raised the possibility, why not? Aware of sporting houses and the painted ladies inside why shouldn’t I have sated an at strongest latent curiosity?

So away we went. Along the ride, I mustn’t imagine empty beer cans being flung out open car windows into the mild night and smooth macadam detouring onto a neglected lane.

In best roadhouse tradition, the lust shack was located in remote Tucson. So far on the outskirts of town the stars obscured by city streetlamps freely burst above us.

Like the nudie cutie bar sportin’ fellas frequented, bluenoses would need to inconvenience themselves mightily to reach a place where whatever occurred among consenting adults behind closed doors and shaded windows offended them.

For a bordello a seraglio it wasn’t. An observer might’ve been hard-pressed to see the structure as “splendid.”

This establishment fit the ramshackle description. At one time maybe it’d housed a motel. Or maybe it was deactivated military housing now repurposed. Intentionally dim as proprietors kept the lighting, the address exceeded Dean Moriarty’s lowest estimation of “beat.” Slung any lower and the roof would’ve been curb level.

Several parked cars were scattered in the lot. Inside the front court a few lawn chairs sat haphazardly. It was too dark to determine whether they were forlorn or not. From somewhere, from a couple corners, the soft twangs of steel pedal guitars and the sort of country & western plangency that makes lonesomeness all the more acute.

I don’t remember if the madam treated us with oleaginous effusiveness. I do remember she greeted our instigator with some familiarity. That impressed me later. Then, I was eager to inspect some whores.

The proprietress escorted us into what passed for a parlor. About five available girls meandered into view and formed a line.

I didn’t know what to expect. Today I know what I should’ve expected. The assembled roster resembled plenty of the same coeds seen on campus. But no heartbreakers here. None of these women quickened pulses nor set hearts racing. Just chicks who sports knew would put out minus any muss or fuss.

If this had been a movie, I would’ve been a virgin. One of these women should’ve been the lucky one to relieve me of my burdensome V-card. She ought’ve been many years my senior, virtuous yet voluptuous with a mountain of immaculately teased hair. Knowledge should’ve lined her face. Despite her best efforts that same experience weighed upon her posture.

Discovering my inexperience, the one I’d have selected likely, no, undoubtedly, considered it her womanly duty to introduce me into proper manhood. Hope and anticipation might’ve softened her mien while she took this novice’s measure. She would’ve been kind, gentle, patient, and instructive. Ours would’ve been one tender exchange, not a transaction. The kind of intimacy that continued warming a young man into his dotage.

As the ad runs, everybody remembers their first girl. Well, sure. I remember my first girl. And my first whore. First professional whore.

I picked the litter’s sole ginger. A tall, pale, curly-haired girl. Since my tastes run toward redheads, they’ve eluded me like there’s no tomorrow. That chance couldn’t be passed up, could it?

Lean and winsome that night, I figure if she stayed in the game long enough those attributes might’ve become bony and severe on the way to androgyny. Forever glad this boy got dibs on “before.”

We were contemporaries. A few breaks one way or another and we might’ve shared a class or two. Instead, necessity urged her to take up horizontal commerce. She was pretty but the nature of her business had sapped plenty of vitality. Did we chat further? Okay. About what? Exactly.

She led our two-person procession into a drab but tidy chamber. I distinctly remember fresh sheets tautly stretched upon across the bed. Another detail that struck me afterwards.

She was quite practiced shedding her garments. Not there was much for her to slink or shimmy from.

Barely concealed under filmy and flimsy linen (camisole, tap pants) and wearing convenient shoes (mules) then after a few tugs – voila! – she became a slim streak of nakedness at my disposal. The routine ease she used to disrobe transformed into some kind of simple art.

Ah, one more gift in the litany of life I only later grew to value.

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