My Way Lounge
Aug. 31, 1986
This place never changes.
Someone moved the door, but it is little more than a chin tuck rather than a full fledged facelift.
The overall scheme is the same, the same oval bar Hank and I used to sit at ten years ago, the same foot-worn dancer state inside the oval, with two ceiling fans over each of the two registered and blue and orange ceiling lamps casting the same odd three-dimensional glow over people, faces and bottles of booze. The ceiling above the bar is dropped less than around the rest of the place, making room for some of the taller dancers, though it is still marred in one spot where the dancers scratch it with their nails and at the other end of the small raised rectangle, water stains from some ancient roof wound show on either side of the Miller Lite mirror the dancers use for self-evaluation and by the more egotistical dancers for self-gratification
The My Way Lounge is the end of the world, a dark little place on the far end of Main Avenue in Passaic with a brick front and a simply sign, changed only once a few years back when someone shifted the door around in order to modernize. But inside, only the first four feet of the place saw any change. It still has the same race track overall bar from my first visit here in the 1970s, fitting into the front like a bullet fitted into the chamber of a gun.
The back has so much wasted space that you can fit a whole other bar inside of it, space left over from when the bar still had a stage in back, and a dance floor, with an more enlightened crowd coming here to listen to music and dance, not gawk at near naked women the way that we do now.
The stage for these dancers sits inside the oval bar with a well worn track down its middle from the countless feet making the countless marches across its surface. The best view, of course, is along the narrowest sides of the bar, where the dances come within three or four feet of where we sit on stool. On most nights, these stools are taken first, dominated by drooling macho jerks with lusting eyes, clutching-fingered men that want more than just a look for the money they give in tips.
Okay so I come to this little hole in the wall three times a month, the same go-go bar Hank used to drag me to when I still lived in Montclair – more a hangout for losers than a T&A show place, but it’s a perfect place for a would-be writer like me who wants to see by not be seen, with a few café tables off to one side of the oval bar where I can sit and observe.
The patrons are always looking the other way at the dancers to care about what I might be doing behind them, and usually the dancers are so busy taking tips and pushing off men’s advances they don’t care about me either.
So sometime back in November, with notebook in hand, I came in , pushed a chair out from under once of the tables and sat down to write, jotting down ideas that had been running through my head all day, sometimes sneaking glances at the bar and the people so I could make up stories about them, their lives, and what brought them to a dump like this. It was always a good routine for sketching out strange characters for use in fiction, and a nearly perfect plan that allowed me to drink in peace.
But with every good plan, there is generally a snag and last night that snag was a five-foot-five inch go-go dancer named Peggy, who took one look down at me and growled for me to stop.
“Do you think you’re something special or something?” she asked from the stage, her hands on her hips like a scolding teacher. “Get over hear at the bar with everybody else.”
The sheer audacity drew me up to a stool.
She was a pretty woman but overdressed for a dancer, a hefty frame without being really fat, although the barmaid told me later, Peggy is always conscious of her weight. So after I settled at the bar, I opened my notebook and started to write again. This didn’t seem to bother Peggy, who seemed more concerned with my invisibility than with what I actually did, as she insisted on keeping everybody within view.