We here at Early Retirement Dude, in our relentless pursuit of Truth, offer this cautionary tale as…oh…let’s call it a metaphor for the stock market just to keep it consistent with our theme.
My parents, who are peaceful and loving and devout fundamentalist Christians, have leased a vacation compound on Key West’s Duval Street and flown our entire family down for a week. This was perhaps a miscalculation on their part…for now, after a mere twenty-four hours’ exposure to the degeneracy of Caribbean rum culture, they’re second-guessing their choice. Sots & sodomites abound.
The rest of us, of course, are having great fun.
But I’m puzzled. What did my parents expect? It’s DUVAL STREET. On KEY WEST. Here you’ll find fifty-some-odd bars crammed into twelve blocks; as well as a half-dozen drag revues, a clothing-optional rooftop hang-out,2 more cigar stores than you could shake a wooden indian at, many well-stocked liquories, and a dreadlocked bronze-skinned local named Franco who’s sitting in a beat-down RV in the alley behind a certain vape shop slinging edibles as fast as his wife can pull them out of the oven.
Oh, and of course the strip joint next door. Which gets bad Yelp reviews.
When my mom booked this compound the owner said, “Yeah, it’s behind a smoothie joint…you can’t miss it.” But he neglected to tell her—did I mention that my parents are devout fundamentalist Christians?—that the smoothie joint sits smack next door to a notorious Gentlemen’s Lounge.
So the first thing all of us saw when the taxi dropped us off was this:
Needless to say my mom was aghast. There was no rising up in righteous fury, no advocating geographical sterilization through hurricanes or atom bombs or rat-plagues. But she was right, or at least about the moral character of the strip joint. If its many one-star Yelp reviews and the local bartenders are to be believed, this so-called House of Joy is nothing more than a House of I Spent HOW MUCH While I Was Drunk?
Yelp and the bartenders will tell you the scams work as follows:
Upon entry the—what, madam?—cover-charges you $300, which gets you access to “a room” and a guarantee of “satisfaction” and entitles you to your pick of, and this is where your Spidey-Sense oughtta tingle, a “contract worker.” But upon entry into the room with your contractor of choice, you discover that only your outer fleece has been shorn. You now have to negotiate “services,” which run the spectrum from simple conversation to a bikini-type shower show to a full frontal, hoochie-koochie to…but the menu I posted above oughtta give you the idea. The minimum number I heard cited was $800. But you’ll never actually achieve aforementioned satisfaction; you’ll just get shorn closer and closer to the skin. And eventually they’ll shear your skin too.
In other words, satisfaction is guaranteed to THEM, not YOU. Sneaky.
They shear your skin, again allegedly, like so. When you inevitably run out of cash the girl takes your ATM card and your PIN and makes a withdrawal on your behalf from the ATM beside the front door. You’re not told that the ATM charges a 25% withdrawal fee, nor are you told that once you’ve split the premises the girls will empty out whatever account you’ve provided your card/PIN for. And this—yes, yes—is where the real scammery lies.
For your bank considers PIN-authorized transactions to be legit…meaning there’s no disputing the withdrawal. You’re out ever how much you’re out with little recourse save leaving a Yelp review of your own.
Heinous, ain’t it?
The girls occasionally creep out of this hole and relax on the porch in their ill-fitting lingerie and sun themselves and Instagram selfies to their stalkers. Having examined them—the girls, not their stalkers—through binoculars from the wine bar across the street, I suspect that their improbable bosoms are bolted on…which is to be expected, I guess, given that you can finance Sputnik-sized implants at any payday loans place on the island for the low, low rate of twenty-seven percent per annum plus whatever issuance fees the sales rep thinks you can afford. They actually advertise this stuff on billboards.
But—as I mentioned in my opening footnote—what does any of this have to do with early retirement?
Well, hookers are as a rule lazy…as am I, which endears me to these women much more than their bolt-ons repel me. I’m trying to work up the nerve to ask my wife for permission to go interview one for this blog, but if I ever want to enjoy marital relations again—for I certainly won’t be doing so at our much-maligned strip bar—I have to quell this bastardly impulse.
Speaking of my wife, it was her idea for us to visit the clothing optional hang-out. She’d quaffed a couple of exceptionally strong rum punches and was in the mood for detective work, so we found the place’s street entrance and climbed its three flights of stairs. At the top of the stairwell a long list of rules confronted us.
If I recall correctly one was NO PHOTOGRAPHY! YOUR PHONE WILL BE CRUSHED BY THE STAFF AND POLICE WILL BE CALLED. Another was NO GLASS! And still another was FLASHING THE STREET IS PROHIBITED!
But this rule was by far the most telling: NO SEX ON THE PREMISES!
“Oh, man,” I muttered. “It’s THAT kind of place.”
But I was wrong. NO SEX ON THE PREMISES meant not that couples, threesomes, etc. should refrain from the rumpty-tumpty, but rather that nobody looking for sex should ever come here. Ever. Which was understandable, really, because when my wife and I finished reading the rules and emerged from the stairwell into the all-illuminating sun, we found what was pretty much a unicorn party. And I don’t mean the kind with rainbows.
There was a naked guy wandering around fondling his drink in one hand and fondling his…other drink in the other, thank God. Two more saggy old fellows, one with three nipples and the other an Ed Asner look-alike, were leaning against the bar chatting up a drag queen…and in the corner on a barstool sat a middle-aged blonde, fully-clothed, who was clearly too traumatized to look up from her cell phone. She was NOT, of course, taking pictures. Researching ways to painlessly blind herself, I imagine.
And that was it; that was everybody. The bartender was nowhere to be seen, which made him smarter than the rest of us. He’d probably hurled himself over the rail to his death when Ed Asner came wobbling in.
“This place needs a coat of paint,” my wife observed. “And it’s too many men and not enough women. What about that strip joint we’re next to?”
“Too expensive,” I said. “And it gets bad Yelp reviews.”
“Well,” she sighed. “Let’s go find Franco. What kind of reviews does HE get?”
I shrugged. “His wife does the baking, I heard. Maybe it’s key lime pie instead of brownies or whatever.”
“Hmm,” she said. “One can hope.”
- I can hear it already. “What does this have to do with early retirement?” So let’s get that out of the way: early retirement, early retirement, early retirement. There.
- Sorry…had to do it.