Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Palladium, The Prostitute & The Palanquin

After my brush with the "little death," let's just say that I spent a lot more time with myself that fall (and leave it at that).

All this "self study," however, demanded further experimentation. While I had no specific plan to leave the Center, I was getting restless. So, one Saturday night when Trishatur was out of town, I ventured into Manhattan alone. Though I had never been to a club in my life -- and while I hated dancing -- somehow I had gotten it in my head to visit the Palladium.

Dressed in a newly acquired pair of blue jeans, my only non-race related t-shirt, and an army-style overcoat of Trishatur's that I thought looked good on me, I made my way to the subway and on into the City.

I must have been past 11 p.m. when I arrived at the Palladium. There was no queue to get in, just two bouncers. One asked me to open my coat and then proceeded to pat me down. I could hear the music pulsing inside. Just as the first bouncer waived me in, though, the second bouncer stopped me.

"No tennis shoes," he said.

"They're not tennis shoes," I protested, "they're running shoes."

The distinction was lost on him. He wouldn't let me in. I left feeling a little embarrassed and a lot frustrated. I'd built up the nerve to sneak down there and had done all the necessary planning to pull it off, only to be turned away at the door. I realized then that I was out of my league -- out of my element -- and decided I'd need to return to my own territory in California.

As I walked back to the subway station, I noticed a prostitute a little further up the sidewalk. I determined to stop if she said anything to me. Sure enough, she asked me if I wanted a "date." So, I stopped.

The streets were empty. She told me that for $20, she'd give me a blow job. I was extremely nervous as she led me around the corner to a semi-secluded spot and started unbuttoning my new 501s. In fact, I was so nervous that my leg was shaking. She said that she found my obvious innocence "cute." When it was over, I took the subway home, physically and nervously exhausted.

The experience was not the least bit pleasurable. I felt that both the prostitute and I had been degraded. I didn't feel that way because the sex act itself was "bad" or "dirty," but because of the circumstances: our mutual desperation, the filth of the city street, the transfer of money, and our mutual pity for each other.

On a following Sunday morning that fall (1989) -- and it might have been the very next morning, I just don't remember anymore -- I got a phone call at home. It was Databir.

"Hey Yogaloy, Guru wants you to come to the tennis court," Databir said. I had assumed that Guru was at the tennis court that morning, but had no intention of showing up myself. Instead, I was lifting weights at home and listening to the Police on Trishatur's stereo.

"Okay," I said.

I figured that Guru must have been playing tennis and had noticed that I was missing from amongst the other ball boys and then asked Databir to call me. That being the case, I didn't feel too much urgency. (Years earlier, of course, I would have left immediately and ran all the way there.) I was pretty sweaty from my workout and decided to shower and change first.

I got to the tennis court at least a half hour after Databir had called me. It was raining a little. The place was decorated for some kind of celebration or other. The tennis court was packed with disciples lining the long driveway leading up to the entrance of the court itself. Resting at the start of the driveway was a palanquin.

Upon my arrival, Guru mounted the palanquin. Then five boys approached and were preparing to hoist it when Databir or someone else told me that Guru wanted me to be the sixth bearer. That's when I realized that Guru had been waiting for me the whole time -- ever since Databir's call.

Guru had been ready for the ceremony for at least a half hour. He could have picked any one of a number of guys already present to lift the palanquin. Instead, he had wanted me, and he waited for me. It was a strange feeling for me, juxtaposed as it was with my "extra-curricular activities." I felt a strong sense of natural humility and gratitude, but with no concomitant sense of fealty.

As we slowly carried the palanquin forward in the light rain, I realized that in our own secret way, Guru and I had acknowledged and accepted that things had changed between us.

In the photo above, the only other two bearers I can identify are Unatishil, of France, just in front of me, and Devashishu, of England, on the right front station.

1 comment:

Y. said...

I was in Manhattan just a couple of weeks ago for work and was able to meet a very dear friend there before coming home.

My friend had read this post and expressed concern about the somewhat graphic description I've given of my meeting with a "public woman" so many years ago. I take all such feedback seriously and promised to re-read the post.

While my friend's concerns are well taken, I think the post is left as is. The explicit description of my interaction with the prostitute is, I think, important in that it conveys the very base nature of the experience.

As I've written, not that the sex act involved itself is "wrong" or "dirty," but it was very raw and almost shocking to me at the time. For that reason, the dysphemistic effect -- i.e., the shocking effect of using the word "blow job" instead of some euphemism -- of the description used is important.

As always, I appreciate the feedback tremendously, even if in this case I didn't take it to heart!