It was the first summer of the new millennium and it was turning into a scorcher. not in the actual meteorological sense but in the sense that the world was a big old fat oyster and i was a hungry drunk. Four years earlier i was the best foot soldier around, a kid who could move shit and whose biggest problem was keeping a steady supply. Now it seemed the stratosphere was the limit. An endless supply, a cache of underlings moving a decent amount, still working the nickel and dime business as i hung at the bar and played foosball and threw darts. The money was rolling right in and my average week saw me making anywhere from seven bills to a grand, i was what one would call hood famous. Yeah it made one a bit leery but it also came with it's benefits. The guy who was comically nicknamed the North Oakland Player was now moving into a different realm. I was beginning to run shit.
My hood came equipped with two strip clubs. The girls always went back and forth between them, usually working one night at Anthony's Lounge aka your perverted uncle's rec. room replete with wood paneling and mirrors on the wall or the Cricket, which was aspiring to greater heights while never coming close to achieving them. It was the poor man's Gentleman's Club or in other words a fucking dive as well. Conveniently they were a block away from each other. It was around this time that Veronica had stated she was looking to get out of the stripping side of things, opting instead to being the waitress and fill in bartender at Anthony's. Her hope was to move into one of the full time bartending slots partly because as she put it, she felt guilty lying to her parents. She also began to insinuate that all was not well with her little hoodrat boyfriend and that he would soon be taking a seat on the curb. Ever the poker player i nodded and slyly said that's too bad while not meaning a word of it.
The Glimmer Twins liked to work together and since the club owners new they drew in the locals they often obliged. When dancing at the same time they often spent a good amount of time touching and simulating certain acts that drove the guys crazy. With my weekly cut seemingly always growing i had no problem dropping a decent amount of cash in the clubs. I looked at it as a public service, as anyone who has frequented these places know there are many stories about the degrees being pursued and the soon to be massage therapists who only needed a few more classes before they could exit this business. Being the gentleman i did my best to help and while i was not one for the lap dance i was one for tipping well at the stage even when i wasn't sitting there. Which brings us to how our hero here managed to get the balcony of the Cricket shut down.
By this time i always had money and had no problem spending it. Often times i had what one could refer to as an entourage, usually just one or two friends who'd tag along knowing that their expenses would be minimal. I'd buy the drinks and buy them dances, give them money to tip, i didn't care to me it was all free money and while it may seem like i was frivolously blowing cash (i was) i was also smart enough to squirrel a decent amount away each week. The student loans were getting overpaid to the consternation of the loan company who were sending me notices that i didn't have to pay this month to which i promptly sent them another check. There was money finding it's way into accounts a little bit at a time. Sixty bucks here, a hundred there, you'd be surprised how a few small deposits a few times a week can add up. The kind of sums that wouldn't draw attention, the kind of sums a waiter or bartender might put in the bank. It helps to sell weed to people in the banking industry who would explain exactly what kind of things would draw the red flag, always a master at keeping the bases covered i was putting all my education in slinging into practice.
And so it was that i began to take up residence in the balcony of the Cricket. I would get my drink and climb the circular black metal staircase up to the top where i'd pull up a table right by the pole. I was always one to enjoy a good pole trick and after being in the hood so long most of the girls knew me and the ones that didn't were tipped off by the ones that did to the fact i was a good tipper and nice guy. Though now with the cash spigots turned on i was stretching my legs a bit, playing the part of the laid back player. The Glimmer Twins would often come up to the balcony to hang out when they weren't onstage or giving a lap dance. We'd sit in the balcony smoking one-hitters of weed and drinking, i'd toss bills on to the stage, not in the NFL style of riot starting by tossing a bunch of one dollar bills but tossing down one at a time. The minimum was a fiver and usually it was a ten or twenty. These clubs weren't your upscale cash grabs and while the girls made decent money they were used to the George Washington being tossed their way. The twenty dollar lap dances got split between the house and the dancer so they got ten plus tips. I used to talk to them about the money, the fact was a good night could net them $200-300, usually Friday or Saturday but sometimes the odd Thursday. Early in the week if they broke a hundred it was considered a good night. They got two free drinks but after that they had to pay though usually some desperate admirer would get their drink.
My residence on the balcony was short lived though, Squeeze, the big, black, bull dyke owner was hearing about all the dancers hanging on the balcony with me, in particular the Glimmer Twins but other girls were coming up as well. They weren't working the crowd as much, or that was the thinking, and instead were getting high and drunk with the derelict in the balcony. Now and then i'd get the odd eyeball, most of the guys in the club didn't know what i did outside the place but the assumption was i had some shit going on and i'm sure a lot of them probably thought i was moving powder. Needless to say the fact i could sit up top and toss down bills marked larger than $1 was bruising the egos of certain regulars. And so it was that one fine day i walked in and the balcony had been roped off. I turned and looked at Squeeze and laughed, "what the fuck is this?", she smiled back, "had to close it down, seems some shit was going down up there." I shrugged and said, "that's cool, i get it." Then i smiled and walked out the door and down to Anthony's. Squeeze looked a little disconcerted because she knew the girls and the bartenders liked me, liked the money i spread around. It wasn't as if i would never go back in the place it was just that i had always preferred Anthony's but the balcony bit was good fun.
Years removed and many hours pondering the events of these years has led me to the understanding that this was the first real taste of the corruption of the soul, so to speak, that this game gives to you. There were always flashes of it but when you're scraping by as King of the Nickel-Dimer it usually results in the odd female here or there letting you know that she'd like to sleep with you. Or as Craig Finn so eloquently put it, guys go for looks, girls go for status. There was a certain status in the nickel-dime era, i was still the hook-up, the guy who always had weed but now i was moving into different territory and with that territory came both greater risks and greater rewards. It also came with power. Power among my customers, power among my friends, power on the street and in the bars. I had always been what the hoods call a face in my end of town but now i was moving up, i was THE MAN for all intents and purposes it was just i was the rare guy in this game who didn't blow off all the little customers looking for their eighths or quarters or ounces. I could have mind you as the weight business was expanding by the week, in fact the earnings from that end were easily doubling or tripling what i did with the small stuff. Call it loyalty. A lot of these people had been coming to see me for a few years now, in a way i felt i owed them as much to keep doing the little stuff because what they didn't know is that they were the ones who kept me afloat. Let me eat, drink, and be merry, to survive back when it has hand to mouth on a regular basis. Besides we all know how much it sucks when a good connection disappears. The balcony escapades though, were just the beginning.