10.23.2004

Healed by the Word

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far, away, I briefly made my living as a cocktail waitress in a titty bar. I reveal this fact, believe it or not, with some measure of shame; you would not believe what a prejudicial revelation this can be for some people. "She must be a slut," thinks the man, salaciously, hopefully, when I drop this one in conversation. As for women, you can see a sort of switch go off in their heads. Like, "Oh. Shit, well, I liked her, too bad now I'll have to relegate her to the category of C-list women." Like you're soiled, somehow, your proximity with naked muff not your own a contaminant that you can't have escaped. Unless, of course, the woman one is having the conversation with was, at some point in her past, a titty-bar employee, too. You'd be surprised how many chicks have a stripper-job somewhere in their dim pasts.

I digress. I wanted to tell you a story today, a story about how, this one time, in a trashy roadhouse by the side of the highway in Arkady, Georgia, I was literally Healed By The Word. No shit.

I was working there, at the Parachute Lounge. Two nights a week, I'd drive the forty-five miles to the small town of Arkady, to don a skimpy simulacrum of a flight suit, one that had had its legs carved into "Daisy Dukes" style buttercutters, arms cut down to little cap-sleeves, and a zipper open to reveal a full payload of cleavage. Oh, and a hat...let me not forget the little hat. Ugh. While the girls danced on the makeshift stage, and swayed carefully atop rickety tables, I ran drinks from the bar to the customers in thigh-high leather boots with four-inch heels and Air Force shades. I'm gregarious, got a big mouth, and back in the day I didn't look so bad, either. Them good ole boys, them bikers, them blue-collar men, they tipped well when they saw a girl was workin' hard - and the harder I worked, the drunker they got, the more they tipped the dancers, the more they tipped me. The dancers, too, tipped me out at the end of the night. I made a shitload of money at that job, much more than was available to me as an undergraduate anywhere in my nearby college town. More than enough, in fact, pay the bills and support my nascent cocaine habit.

Ahh...my nascent cocaine habit, you ask? Sadly, yes - this was, what? 1987? 1989? Somewhere around in there. Working at the roadhouse on the weekends, playing music for next-to-nothing in the bar circuit on weeknights, one does tend to overmedicate. Perhaps it's the overall lack of daylight, perhaps it's the intimacy that one comes to share with those faces that one sees in the bar night after night....whatever the case, I liked to get down and party, wax the ol' skis, as often as possible. Usually nightly, beginning just before the second set and lasting until way after last call.

Regular cocaine use, though, did not agree with my robust Anglo-Saxon constitution. I developed a head-cold at first - scratchy throat, snotty nose - a head-cold that just never went away. After about six months of the snot in residence, it moved over into my ears and began to infect them, too. The problem was, I was snorting so much coke that I could feel no pain in my ears. You know, the old numby. I had no idea I had an ear infection until one day when I woke up deaf.

No shit, I woke up deaf. I couldn't hear a damn thing - not the TV on max volume, not the telephone, not the doorbell, not my Fender amp. I hied my ass to the University clinic, where I was chided by the doctor. He could see the lesions in my nose, and proceeded to relate to me a story about his own coke problem back when he was a drummer in a rock band in the seventies. I took the antibiotics and the steroids he offered, and decided to lay off the blow for a week or so, until the deafness and ear infection subsided. I had to take the week off work, anyway - real work, I mean, music-work, because, well, I was deaf.

I did go back to work at the roadhouse, though. I could read lips well enough to understand "Jack and Coke" and "Bud", the most exotic things my clientèle usually ordered. It was business as usual, mostly, except for the fact that a group of Baptists had decided to come down to the Parachute and picket the titty bar. Bear in mind, at this point in the South, every little town didn't have a titty bar - in fact, the Parachute had only been open for about six months at the time. It was a pain in the ass, crossing the picket to get in the place of a Saturday. Red-faced peasant women waved Bibles in my face as I walked into the bar, sturdy ankle-less matrons screamed at me of my certain dooming to Hell. This actually went on for a couple of weekends, as did my ear infection. It was nerve-wracking.

The second Saturday after my visit to the doctor, I went to work. As I was crossing the Baptist picket, an old fishwife glommed on to my arm, hollering something - I don't know what - into my ear and shaking the bible at me. The bouncer at the door jumped in to extricate me from the fray and escort me inside the rope-line. A few seconds after he broke me away from this zealot, I felt something cold and hard smash into the side of my head, just above my right ear. It hit me so hard I went down, stunned.

I sat up and tried to shake it off...but something was opverwhelmingly different. On the ground, in a puddle some five feet away, lay the fishwife's Bible - she'd beaned me with it as hard as she could. Something about the impact on my head, combined, I'm sure, with the antibiotics and the steroids, had made both of my ears go POP! I could hear again. Woozily, echo-ey...but I could hear. The sound, after weeks of silence, was extremely disorienting.

So that is the story of how I was Healed by the Word. I moved to the west coast for a day job four months later. I dropped the "music career" and the rampant cocaine abuse and the waitressing jobs forever, becoming, fifteen years later, a pillar of the fucking community.

Life is strange. People are stranger. Don't judge a book by its cover.

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