Hey, it’s Zen.
Can you believe it’s already February? It was so busy over the holidays! I flew home to Moralton to see Father, Mom, and Ronnie. It snowed something fierce and we all got trapped in the house for three days with nothing to do but talk about the Bible and play the worn-out board games in the basement. I thought leaving home would mean never eating baloney and Velveeta on Ritz crackers ever again.
Ronnie has a girlfriend now, the daughter of one of Father’s parish members. Brenda is really sweet but really naive. And she’s a little homely, if I might say – not ugly or anything, but she has a sort of bovine look about her. Quiet. Big breasts. Docile. Brenda is nice and everything but I hope Ronnie doesn’t have to marry her someday ‘cuz her brother grabbed my behind one day at school when we were 12 and he still gives me the iggy-giggys.
So, now I’m back in Texas and back in teacher mode. Pete asked me to meet him at a bar on 6th Street the other night and I hastily agreed, itching to confront him about his recent deceit about the swinger’s party. It was a great club, the upstairs branch of a well-known place downstairs. It has a fantastic open patio with a view, classic Gibson guitars on the walls, and a stage for performers. It was a Tuesday night, early enough that the room was sparsely occupied. We seemed to have the place to ourselves.
We sat at a small table in a very inviting and elegant setting that seemed out of place in a bar. I settled into my velvet-lined high-back Queen Anne wing chair with my wine and began to take in the ambiance. Pete excused himself before I could bring up my frustration with him. Before long, he returned with a svelte, middle-aged woman on his arm, laughing and grinning like the Cheshire Cat. I should have known he was up to something.
He introduced me to Sandra, the editor of a local “underground” magazine. I had never heard of underground publications and didn’t really understand the term, visualizing some sort of squinting mole-people in dark caves with printing presses. She chatted excitedly with Pete about the success of her little local mag, its recent recognition on a major Internet blog, and a connection she had forged with the local burlesque community. Burlesque community? Sandra was one of the most sophisticated women I’ve met since moving here. I couldn’t wait to learn more about her.
I hadn’t noticed that the room had filled up by the time Pete left to get us another round of drinks. The crowd was noisy but tame, all in very high spirits. Several of the women were in ballroom-type dresses and spike heels with heavy makeup, and some of the men seemed over-dressed as well. I figured they had been in a church play or something and wanted to share a drink in the privacy of this wonderful room, somewhere their parish peers would never see them.
Our smalltalk was going well, learning basic things about each other. I was about to ask Sandra what her magazine was about when the lights dimmed and a beautiful brunette in a slinky dress took the stage. She announced herself and welcomed everyone to the night’s burlesque performance. Burlesque? Here? The audience became much more animated, and the seeming lack of setup for the show made it seem as if this was an event that just kind of happened, like a flash mob or something.
Pete returned and set a fresh glass of wine in front of me. I frogged him on the leg and said, “What did you get me into now, Peter?” He just cackled in that way he does, all the while pinching Sandra on the arm, side, and breasts. After a few minutes of banter the hostess introduced the first performer, who proceeded to dance and remove her clothes much to the delight and roar of the audience. Several more performers followed, including one that I absolutely fell in love with. I’ll tell you about her later.
So this is burlesque. I had heard of it before and thought it died out with Vaudeville. But apparently it’s alive and well in Austin. In all, about a dozen ladies of all shapes and sizes took the stage, the music played, and each stepped through her routine. Their costumes were wonderful, with a couple that were like something from a Fellini movie. A few women didn’t really take off much clothing but even the shy ones seemed quite receptive to the catcalls and whistles directed at them from the attentive audience. It was all very provocative and quite fun!
Once the show was over it was time to resume our conversation. I looked at Pete and said, “Thank you! I didn’t know about this.” Sandra chimed in that these are the sexiest ladies she’s ever known, unafraid to show themselves as they really are, pushing their personal boundaries beyond anywhere they’ve gone before. I nodded in agreement, though I knew I could never do it. The chardonnay was beginning to make itself felt.
“So, Pete. You really should have told me about that party before I committed to go. I was really embarrassed – I mean, those people were doing stuff in front of me that’s never supposed to be seen. You know I’m not a swinger, or at least I wasn’t until you let me become one.” “Oh really? You went to a swinger’s party? Did you have fun?” Sandra seemed intensely interested in my experience, but not at all interested in my beef with Pete.
I explained how it all happened and Pete’s duplicity and how he said I could have some space here to write about it and other relationship stuff. It’s a way to relieve some of the tension from teaching first-graders and talk about the frustration about not being able to find a suitable man. Sandra was intrigued and had Pete write Shaggist.com on a napkin for her.
She explained that her underground magazine was targeted at people my age and made specifically for sexy adults in the Austin area. She had been thinking about devoting a page to articles about relationships and sexuality from the perspective of the young Austin professional, and now she was sure she wanted to do it. To Pete’s delight, Sandra excitedly ran through a list of topics that might be entertaining to the readership. He kept looking at me for some reaction but I didn’t understand most of what they were talking about. What’s a “furry?”
It was getting late and it was a Tuesday night and I had class in the morning so I said I needed to go home. Standing to make my bows, Sandra jumped up and said, “So you’ll do it?” “Do what?” I replied, clueless as to what she meant. “Be my new writer! It doesn’t really pay anything but it’s a great chance to be seen and meet new people like you.” I had never thought about writing in a publication, though I did write most of Father’s prayer guides and hymn lists and so forth. “OK?” I offered back, still unclear what she wants me to do. Pete cackled and writhed in his chair. I really don’t understand him sometimes.
I think I already know of some things I can write about. I can’t wait to start!