Expensive Evil - Metallic Mamas, or The Screwdriver
Rated T for Teen. Suggestive themes, crude language, misuse of hardware.
Around 3 AM, I realized that a nonfiction section’s the only thing between me and stardom. Why hold back? I owe myself creative momentum, exotic STIs, and pre-death retirement. The Republic has two good years left. No point languishing in the undercard.
It has to be nonfiction. Unlike my made-up stories about maladjusted black guys in declining empires, these’ll be real.
People like real, unless they have Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure tattoos. I have both a Jojo tattoo and a Hunter S. Thompson bobblehead, so I’m neutral. Advertisers (me), academic refugees (me again), and news people (does fashion count?) kidnapped and replaced that word decades ago. But real still pulls readers that run screaming from WW3 footnotes. I’ll be the Elvis of real, turning another culture into my mansion.
I’ll call it Expensive Evil. Half for flavor. Half for New York pricing out non-Waltons. And a third, final half for it being a paid exclusive. The first taste’s free, to lure customers and keep the cops off my trail. Next, slowly but surely, I’ll poison the community for profit. Then finally, BAM: WW4 footnotes.
Nothing’s realer than a joke.
I’m leaving the apartment.
I write in the apartment. I lift in the apartment. I eat, sleep, watch The Raid, procrastinate, read, game, drink, drunk text, roll around, argue, break up, make up, rewatch The Raid, and break up again in the apartment. I step out to make rent, and then go back to the apartment.
I wrote off a year to the public good, and another to shellshock. After that? Habit and brooding, with the aftertaste of fear. A colorful loading screen between levels of life.
I’m leaving the apartment.
This is a series about leaving the apartment.
Unfortunately, I chose this path ten minutes before slamming a trendy oversized skateboard into my ankle. It wasn’t impressive. Whatever slice of vice I chose, I had to limp through it. No dancing tonight.
For me, at least. A heavy metal burlesque show was running downtown. Or uptown. Whatever you call “northeast” in Brooklyn. I know developers renamed everything around Target “Downtown Brooklyn,” but that’s a trick to get adults into a mall.
“Metallic Mamas” didn’t need a trick. If it was bad, I’d have my party anecdote for 2023. If it was okay, my bloated sense of irony would carry the ball home. And if it was good, my shred-loving heart would grow three sizes.
Let’s start with what I knew about burlesque:
That joke, like most nonfiction, is a lie. Half a decade ago, my friend performed at The Box, the kind of rent-erasing nightclub with a name like The Box. Naturally, I couldn’t afford it. Or most food. But when you stand next to someone important, security assumes you are too. That night’s spectacle stuck with me.
The Box evoked Eyes Wide Shut on purpose. An early triumph in antagonistic marketing. It aspired to look like Epstein’s power lunch. Which made me resent enjoying the show.
Three standout acts:
A burly man wearing a stuffed bear head—a bear playing a bear—swung his biggest limb in a circle to Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R,” and then danced with an elderly couple until dawn. That wasn’t my friend, but this would be a better article if it was.
Later, a silent woman slid needles through almost every body part, including the one you’re thinking of. That wasn’t my friend, or I’d have passed out. Or proposed.
Finally, a breakdancing Rapunzel parody, where two bboys competed to impress a gogo dancing princess. My friend was in that, and did perfect windmills. His character won Rapunzel’s heart, a fact recited often and enthusiastically.
Performing’s fun, from a distance. I avoid making a scene.
The point: Metallic Mamas had a lot to live up to. My ankle screamed murder in three languages, so it wasn’t looking good. Sure, I had the master’s degree to appreciate art school stripping. But my sex drive wasn’t louder than pain. Or benefiting from it, as some do.
I hit Metropolitan Ave—aka the NYU Alumni Association—in a foul mood. The kind that makes you write “foul mood” in your field notes. I hopped into Ethyl’s resenting myself for leaving the apartment. Why two-time a loyal copy of Guilty Gear Strive?
It didn’t help that security half-clotheslined me on the way to the bathroom. Karma for The Box, perhaps. I’ve run some heists in my day, but I wouldn’t sneak into a pro-am bar show. I know what it’s like to make pennies doing what you love. Or nothing.
It was very red. Or just brown with nice lighting, my mind’s eye is colorblind. Ethyl’s hit the retro dive look that only clean-cut nostalgia can achieve. The crowd averaged out to my age. Otherwise, I’d have left. I’m not fond of looking like someone’s father or sugar baby.
The soundtrack was on point, and there was an amusing 70’s action flick on the television. That might not sound important to day-drinking or night-grinding, but I’ve done reluctant shots to abcdefu before. Ambiance is half the battle. The other half is keeping landlords from turning your livelihood into a Shake Shack.
The main floor’s split into two big rooms, separated by clear beads and notably touchy security. In hindsight, I get it. I don’t sleep, and a burlesque show’s problem customers probably have the same sunken look. I let it go–the disco ball did a good job of waking me up. I’m much nicer after I perk up around 10 PM or so.
If you live in Eric Adams’s urinal, I should point out that Ethyl’s and Young Ethel’s are two different adult daycares. And yes, I almost went to the wrong one.
Brilliant, actually. Likely better than that, since I came in pissed.
“Boys, girls, and girls that are gonna grow up to be boys,” began the hostess, juggling raunch and politics. A feat on Hipster Island. “Secure your tits and wigs. The show is about to begin.”
I’d misplaced both, but hung around. The opener was a flexible gogo dancer. As in kick-the-ceiling flexible. Not quite a metaphor, since she kicked the ceiling. She made a lot of money, because very few of us can kick the ceiling. While she stood on the bar, it still counts.
Our host, one Tiffani Monroe, returned. The reddest human I’ve seen outside of Carrie. Tiffani wielded a giant red feather dress over a red bikini in a red-tinted room. She was a full third of a flag-themed USO show. I felt very clever writing that down. Tiffani, like any human that can wear that uniform, had charisma.
She introduced the plot, which I’ll try to recreate: in 1969, a time machine breaks and tumbles through early metal and disco highlights. Only throwing money could save us from a Doctor Who apocalypse. Which was a long, winding way of saying “Don’t worry about it. Here’s someone dancing to ‘Rasputin,’ dressed like Rasputin.”
That was my favorite act of the night. She committed with a full friar’s robe and taped-on beard. If someone asks why I don’t drown my landlord and move somewhere the trains work, I’ll say “Rasputin.” The Mad Monk also had charisma.
That I could tip more if I was a doctor.
“Who here has a hidden talent?” asked Tiffani. “Let’s get three volunteers.”
That’s a high risk move anywhere. Sometimes, the talent is scripture, or robbing the venue. Or, worst of all, nothing. Audience plants are viable, but it’s awkward when people see you high fiving over shots after the show.
Because of my hate for attention, my hand shot up. I can’t explain it. Maybe all the diet coke. I was first of the chosen three.
“What’s a fun fact about you?”
I plugged the book. You know me.
“‘A writer, okay. What’s your special talent?”
I mumbled something about breakdancing, to infinitely more fanfare. I think she’d smelled comedian on me, and worried I’d try to wedge in an allure-killing tight five. I’d never do that, now. Growing up is learning the difference between headspin night and airline food night. It’s never airline food night.
Tiffani played what we’ll call a breakbeat, and said to strut. I came unstuck in time.
Back in undergrad, I was embalming my brain. Princeton’s writing major had rejected me twice, and I liked talking to Jim Beam about my feelings. If I couldn’t compete with Atlas Shrugged fanfiction, I was cooked. I spent a lot of time in my room.
A friend—let’s call him Jim too—asked to meet in the cafeteria. Upon arrival, I found him squared off against the entire scramble band. Including two shirtless, gyrating drummers. I’d walked into something deeply stupid and at least half over, on the losing team.
A fight would’ve been easy. Jim explained that he’d challenged the scramble band to a 2-vs-2 strip-off, and accepted on my behalf. This was the kind of thing Jim did. Which, by extension, made it my problem. The honor of the breakdancing club was at stake.
If you say so.
Snap back to Ethyl’s. Another contest. Another crowd. Another general expectation to lose clothing mid-backspin.
I did the same tricks at Metallic Mamas. Darkhammers to headstand-twerk isn’t dignified, but it’s effective. The masses approved. They also smelled comedian on me, so I was overperforming.
My ankle, which I’d forgotten, went from screaming to crying. But I felt much better about life.
Every narrator has flaws. Especially real ones. If money, jail time, or child custody are involved, consider it high fantasy. There will never be a memoir with the detail, clarity, or emotional honesty of The Two Towers.
Tiffani called two more attention-vortexes to the stage. The circus acrobat Amadeus, and the notably drunk Princess Pat. Pat stood out, and not because of the safety-orange jumpsuit. She had killing intent.
If you watch more anime than news, you’ve heard chatter about pressure. Weight. Power level. Princess Pat had a high sideshow powerlevel. You could detect it in each refill. This article exists because of her.
Tiffany jumped into her lines. “What’s your hidden tale—?”
“I’m Princess Pat, and I’m a pain-proof individual. You about to see some shit.”
True. This part isn’t family-friendly.
“I need a screwdriver.”
Princess Pat received a screwdriver from the bartender, and frowned. “I normally use a bigger one,” she noted.
She did nothing for about twenty seconds. Again, drunk. Then she feinted a front-end insertion, feinted a back-end insertion, and said we’d have to catch her show for that. Finally, she put the screwdriver in her left nostril. And kept going. I don’t know how far into her brain she got, but she might not remember Napoleon.
It was a hit.
Amadeus and I slid offstage. Flips can’t compete with a screwdriver.
In that moment, I was a threefold failure. I’d shamed Jamaican rhythm by losing a battle, Jamaican fundamentalism by headstand-twerking, and Jamaican frugality by tipping. My left ankle was more prop than limb. I hadn’t written a word all day.
Thanks for reading. If you like air and water, share it. If not, welcome to Earth, noble alien overlords. Bonus shoutout to everyone that performed that night. And to “Jim,” who has a sixty percent chance of seeing this and learning that stuck with me.
I miss the glory days when my hangovers were the result of "did I end up at a burlesque show last night?" rather than "finish that terrible bottle of wine you bought from Grocery Outlet or throw it out!"
You know, I wouldn't be so sure that Jim was playing with a full deck. He used to have this weird habit of telling stories and then right at the punchline he'd