Today I called my brother. I don't often call my brother, mainly because I don't have a reason to. After all, what would we talk about? His possibly-gay-black belt-bunk mate? Hooters waitresses? The pros and cons of a boy ordering a Fuzzy Navel?
But today I bit the bullet. I did it. I called him and said, "Adam, I need to ask you questions."
And he said, "Is this about something bad?"
I assured him it wasn't. It wasn't about anything bad at all.
"Okay then," he said. "Ask away."
"Well," I said, "what I need to ask you about is strip clubs."
"Oh," he said, very seriously, more serious than I've ever heard him. The tone of his voice changed. In one breath he went from assistant head cashier at a tool store to full professor--someone tenured, learned, wise. He could've been lecturing on mitosis or race relations or the brilliance of WB Yeats. But he wasn't. "Well, Jess, what would you like to know?" he asked.
I told him I wanted to know about Canadian strip clubs. I said I needed to know my options. There's a bachelorette party coming up, after all, and I wanted to be well-versed on the whereabouts, general cleanliness, and price ranges of all the clubs close to where we will be staying in Niagara Falls. The party is taking place on the Canadian side of the falls, the same place my nineteenth birthday took place, the same place where we lost one of our college friends for several hours because she went off with some random boy from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania and neglected to tell us she was going. (We will not repeat that same type of raw panic we knew that time, however. Steph, party planner extraordinaire, is on it. "Don't worry," she told me today, "I'm going to have everyone's license plate numbers and contact information. Just in case." This is a good thing. Last time we underestimated Canada and the falls and the strange songs they sing into some girls' heads--songs that make them slip their hand into the hand of a boy wearing a straggly wife beater and a gold chain, songs that take them away from their friends who then wander up and down Clifton Hill and Lundy's Lane for hours, calling their names, screaming You better not be dead! Your dad is going to kill us!)
It's good that the party will be in Canada. After all, in Canada, strippers can be full-on naked and liquor is still served. Served by the boatload. And cheaply, too.
"Top shelf will run you about seven bucks," my brother informed me. "Well drinks, though, you can get them for $4.25... no, excuse me... $4.75."
I asked my brother where to go specifically. He listed several places that are over the border. He told me about the one that's closest to our hotel. "It's clean," he said. "Real clean. I swear. I like it there. They have good food, too, and you get a ton of it."
"What's it like?" I asked him.
He described it: two floors, one long stage, which he referred to as "runway-like," and several smaller stages that have table clusters surrounding them.
"When are you going?" he asked, sounding suspicious. Suddenly I was afraid it was a very real possibility that I would run into my brother while I was at the strip club. I didn't want to see my brother sitting next to a stage with a pile of chicken wings in front of him and a wad of dollar bills in his fist.
"Eeeew," I said. "You're not going to be there when I'm there, are you? That's just gross and wrong."
Luckily, though, my brother is going up before then. They've planned ahead. They're going soon, actually, and he said he is looking forward to it. "You'll like this place," he said. "Seriously, it's clean."
I asked him about the clientele--skanky? businessmen? a mix?--and I asked him about the club's position on girls coming in, especially groups of girls.
"Oh, it's fine," he said. "There's always girls there. They have a lot of fun." He told me this like he needs to convince me, like I need to be convinced that strip clubs are fun. I had the momentary urge to tell him to sit back because I was going to tell him my top three best strip club stories, and one of them involved me running into a stripper in the bathroom, a stripper who had her leg hoisted up on the counter as to better facilitate her checking the status of her lady parts. I squelched the urge to tell him this, though. I think he and I operate on the same basic principal, and that principal is I Don't Want to Know, Okay?
My brother continued talking about the girl patrons. "We've been noticing something lately," he said. "Lots of guys are bringing their girlfriends. They're always there."
Then there was more squelching on my part. This time because I wanted to tell him about the time I made the Wily Republican take me to a strip club in Minneapolis--all-nude, a place that served giant cups of pop or fruit juice. I wanted to tell my brother that the whole thing was sensory overload and I felt like I should have brought a notebook or a laptop so I could accurately capture all that I was seeing: guys and girls who'd left their prom early to finish the night by fanning singles up at willowy Swedish strippers, the big screen TV set off to the side of the stage that was broadcasting the Discovery Network--a show about ants or earthquakes or maybe it was ants in earthquakes, and that stripper wearing a plaid skirt-knee-high combo I'd owned in eighth grade. But, again, I said nothing.
My brother went on for a few more minutes. He had other options for me. Go here, do this, see this. Don't go here, don't do this, don't see this. He told me to stick to his favorite place. It's close, he said. It's good. It's fun. And it's clean. He couldn't stress that enough. It made me wonder what other strip clubs he's been in, if he's seen some things I never want to see, if he's come out wanting to shower and get a tetanus shot as fast as he could drive back to the states.
I thanked my brother. He'd been helpful. And, really, I had never heard him that eager to talk to me. He'd never sounded more pleased to have been consulted on something. I might have made his night.
"This is good," I said. "I'll start researching this. I'll let you know what we decide."
We said goodbye then, and I knew he would hang up the phone and crack his knuckles or stretch his arms up over his head--some gesture of self-satisfaction, something that said, "My God, I am so freaking smart. I am an expert."
And he sort of is.