A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Mardi Gras

My little corner of the world is in deep shit. Farming and manufacturing have long since left the Northeast, and technology is in the process of fleeing. Services languish in the wake of all these departures, as people lack the money to pay for them. My own city, Springfield, Massachusetts, is so financially compromised that it's being run by a control board from Boston.

In times like these, any sign of economic prosperity is welcome. And nothing says "economic prosperity" in Springfield like a hummer limousine parked in front of the Mardi Gras Gentlemen's Club.

This limo was reserved for about fifteen or sixteen nattily dressed young bucks from Albany, New York. There's money from a whole 'nother state being poured into our depressed Commonwealth. And that's a good thing, right?

Of course, much of the money is in the form of twenty-dollar bills being tucked into the G-strings of the "most beautiful girls in the world," a couple of whom I optimistically want to believe may be saving up for college. I doubt, however, that overall the money is enriching more than a few opportunistic citizens. But I guess as long as those citizens turn around and spend it locally, on the construction of big houses or groceries or Massachusetts-made artisanal crafts, it's all good, right?

I've only been inside the Mardi Gras once. A friend of mine--the prototypical starving artist--had been hired to paint a mural in a new section of the ever-expanding club. I dropped in one morning to see her masterpiece, slipping in the back entrance. She was putting the finishing touches on a steamboat cruising down the Mississippi. In one hand she held a brush; in the other, a huge book about riverboats, the cover illustration of which she was using as a model.

Behind her was a New Orleans street scene, freshly painted. From balconied windows, voluptuous Louisiana belles leaned. Petticoats, garters, stilettos, and fishnet stockings were plentiful. In the middle of the room was a heavy-duty bar with a multi-colored laminated surface.

"That bar is something, isn't it?" inquired my artist friend. "It's so huge!" I replied. "Well," she said, "it has to be, to hold the girls."

Through the doorway, we could see the older section of the club, which, surprisingly enough to me, was open and reasonably full at 9 o'clock in the morning. On top of a similar bar, several attractive women gyrated. The men stared blankly straight ahead as though at nothing, even when a crotch was only an inch or two away from their faces.

"Isn't that disgusting?" said my friend. "I can't believe I'm so desperate for money that I would agree to this job."

I can't say I was disgusted. What did bother me a lot was that the girls were not really dancing in time to the music. But who cares what I think? Even if I win the lottery, I won't ever be dropping any money in there.

I guess the gentlemen from Albany can forgive a lack of rhythm in a woman if she's young enough and beautiful enough and willing enough to take off practically all her clothes in public. And I'm willing to forgive their monumental bad taste since they're the ones keeping the starving artists of Massachusetts working in this town. The Control Board certainly isn't doing it.


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