“Thou must keep thine eyes open, for the Devil appears in many forms…”
Unlike our, ahem, fine and venerated president, I am not one to classify everyone I meet as good or evil. That being said, I sometimes liken people I meet to the subatomic particles they resemble; those in which I feel a positive energy, I liken to protons, while others seem to radiate a negative energy; I always make an effort to keep these electrons at a safe distance from my happy nucleus. If, however, I was a religious fanatic, I would assure you that I was assailed by the Devil here in the otherwise safe confines of Montevideo, Uruguay. Yes, just like Santa Claus, the Devil himself has quite a wide reach…
I cannot speculate as to what triggered his diabolical attack, for the evening had begun in quite an innocuous manner. I had spent much of the day at the Club Nacional de Golf de Uruguay, playing a relaxing eighteen holes as the wild parakeets flitted about in a scene of serenity. Basing my theory on the fact that in the Southern Hemisphere, when one flushes a toilet, the water revolves in the opposite direction as it does in the Northern Hemisphere, I was curious as to whether this ‘opposite phenomenon’ also applied to golf; that is, if a poor golfer is transplanted to the Southern Hemisphere, will his golf play also be inverted?
Not only did I dispel my own myth, I nearly gave the grandmother playing alongside me a heart attack when one of my veering drives deflected off a nearby palm tree, nearly decapitating the abuela standing behind me. Fortunately, my Uruguayan hob-nobbing was not an expensive one, as Monday golf at this otherwise-exclusive club is free of charge. So anyway, I was quite tired and had decided to keep the evening low-key, as there was a famous tango troupe performing at 8:30, after which I could return to my hotel to watch my beloved Bears get trounced by the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Ah, the beauty of American cultural imperialism…
Obviously, however, the night had something else in store. The tango performance had been cancelled, so I had a little time to kill. I strolled the night streets, passing flashy strip clubs and sleepy bars. I was on my way home when I saw those six letters that have spelled many a man’s demise: C to the A to the S to the INO. Hmm, a casino, maybe I’ll just “take a look…”
I sat at a blackjack table, and quickly learned it’s just as easy to lose money in the Southern Hemisphere as it is in the North (another theory down the drain!). It was all good fun though as seated next to me was an entertaining Australian named Caleb. Tall, loud, and jolly, with his blond hair and rugby shirt, Caleb was your stereotypical Aussie, though a little on the intense side. We shared quite a few laughs, mainly at the expense of the non-English speakers around us, until the pit boss suddenly jumped into the conversation, insisting that Caleb stop insulting his dealers in such graphic terms. After Caleb nonchalantly threw down all his chips on one hand, I could tell he was not only wealthy, but also ready to leave the casino. His 20 was beat by the dealer’s 21, but he didn’t flinch and asked me if I’d like to grab a drink.
Strolling the empty, late-night streets, Caleb told me about his life. He was a twenty-eight year old antique dealer from Melbourne that came to Buenos Aires and Montevideo four times a year to fill a container of old goodies to be shipped back home. He was married with two kids, but had a girlfriend in Buenos Aires.
“So, one in Melbourne, one in Buenos Aires, how ’bout Montevideo?” I asked jokingly. His answer was a bit sobering, as he recounted a story that he claims is pretty common in these parts: foreigner comes, sleeps with local, local gets pregnant, has the baby, foreigner sends money for support and a few weeks later, the baby mysteriously “dies.” On a recent trip here, Caleb had come to see his child with a $15,000 contribution, but a week after he left, he was informed of the “tragedy.” Scandalous, was the word he used. Birth control would have been a better one.
On this note, Caleb ushered me into a dark doorway, where we were greeted by a bulky, foreboding security man, who pushed open a door and eased us inside. As my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and smoky atmosphere, it was immediately obvious the type of scene I had just entered. As my eyes scanned the crowd, I was making mental notes of each person I laid eyes on: scantily-clad woman, scantily-clad woman, scantily-clad woman…But there were more than three. Thirty-two to be exact, oh, plus Caleb and myself. The Mustache Cabaret was low-lit, dominated by mirrors, a smell of perfume and a large-screen TV that was transmitting strictly pornography. Nothing more, nothing less. Caleb quickly gave me the run-down.
“This here,” he enthusiastically told me in his thick Aussie accent (picture the Crocodile Hunter on crack), “is the best place in all of Uruguay! There is no place like it! The girls here are really nice and they really care about their friends. That one there is my partner’s ex. She stole $4,000 from him in bed one night and left, but she is actually really sweet.”
Though many would take the cue to leave at this juncture, it was way too intriguing to simply call it a night. Besides, watching the Crocodile Hunter hunt these exotic females, making note of their fine features was really getting entertaining.
“Aww, look at that one! She’s got a chest on her, matey!” Caleb walked up to the bartender, gave her a kiss, said “Guess who’s back!” and quickly ordered a round for everyone, throwing down his charge card. And what do you know, as the girls came up to order their drinks, they were all very friendly to him (and due to the law of association, towards me as well). Though some of you reading this (you know who you are) would be in their glory being fawned upon by thirty prostitutes, one of the die-hard rules in my personal Constitution is to never pay for sex. Caleb, on the other hand, was all smiles and was instantly joined by Gigi, his partner’s kleptomaniac ex-girlfriend. In between deep kisses with her, he assured me this was not about sex, but about payback, as his partner had apparently told Caleb’s wife about some of his infidelities. But for one engaging in revenge, he sure appeared to be having a good time. Scandal was in the air. Besides scandal, the air was also thick with smoke, cheap perfume and the smell of whiskey, probably due to the bottle Caleb tossed on the floor as if to display to anyone as yet unaware that he had enough money to buy the whole place.
Soon though, Caleb was reprimanding me.
“Come on – why aren’t you having a good time? The girls here love you, but they can’t understand why you won’t kiss them. For crissake man, don’t be a downah! Really Adam, you are hurting their feelings!”
Now, I have heard it all, I thought to myself. How heartless of me to not kiss the prostitutes…
“If I am not going to buy them $20 drinks and not going to pay to sleep with them, why would I want to kiss them?” I asked simply.
And that is when Caleb transformed into the devil.
“Listen Adam, I am telling you this because I like you and because when I was in Barcelona I met a great American couple that took excellent care of me, and I just want to return the favor. You are lucky you are here, because don’t you realize ï¿½ no one knows about this place! You saw the entrance ï¿½ it’s like this place doesn’t exist! This is the best place in Uruguay! And here you are, all these girls want you, they are hot as bullocks, so why not just have a good time? One night – just let it all out! I am buying drinks all night ï¿½ last time I was here I spent $7,000 – so buy whoever you want a drink. I have in my pocket some of the best coke you will find on this continent, pure rock. This stuff will really get you going, I promise you, mate! I understand you don’t pay for prostitutes, but come on, there’s a first time for everything, right? I tell you what, since this is such a special night, I’ll even pay for the girl – what the hell! Let’s have a little fun – pick out your favorite girl and we’ll take them back to my suite and enjoy ourselves for hours! Really man, relax a bit! You’re here – at the Mustache Club!!”
Wow, what a soliloquy and what a conundrum! As he finished his speech, almost as if on cue, a gorgeous little number in a pink leather suit and blonde pigtails came up and Caleb introduced us, assuring me he had known this had been my favorite. He was right. Suddenly, I felt a deep connection with Tantalus, punished by the Greek Gods to a tormenting eternity of enticement, which was so torturing he spawned the word tantalize. For me, Tantalus’ modern-day re-incarnation, the temptation was paralyzing; I could see it, smell it, feel it. I found myself swimming in a swirl of desire, sinking deeper while trying desperately to keep my head above water.
The devil in the rugby shirt was relentless, as he was barraging me with luring images and lurid scenarios. He seemed to have taken more interest in me than in the brunette nibbling at his neck, which disturbed me as it seemed to display just how much his sinister plan meant to him. The deviless in the pink was hardly helping my plight either, as her perfume was as invasive as her gentle hands. The energy being exerted to resist was wearing me down; surely I was sinking into the deep pool of the coked-up sex fiend. Yes, in a matter of minutes, I was being swallowed whole by the underworld of Montevideo, with its fuzzy sofas, its fishnet stockings, its cheap whiskey and its glossy lipstick. I looked back at Caleb and asked myself what Biblical story his name come from…was he the ferry master in Hell…did I read about him in Dante’s Inferno…my mind swirled…why was Caleb so friendly to me…veiled in kindness…wait, veiled, move the letters around and you have devil…oh, how did I get ensnared into his lair…and would I ever get out alive?
Suddenly though, I had an epiphany. I envisioned myself as the embodiment of goodness, battling the dark side. Like a determined Jedi, I was not just fighting for my own existence, but the survival of the universe. With my new-found purity (I realise that sounds a little paradoxical, but hey, we all have our moments), I regained full consciousness. Be strong Adam, I told myself, maintain control. For some reason, the civil rights chant, “We Shall Overcome” swam into my head and I realized then and there that I was strong enough not only to withstand temptation, but to stare it in the face. I must defeat this devil, I assured myself.
Once again, though I was strong enough to flee the scene, I remained, but went a step further, jumping into the fray, eager to show my strength in the face of this exerted enticement. I decided to flip the script, as they say, in an effort to give these girls a dose of their own medicine. As I grabbed Caleb onto the dance floor and joined the six ladies with inviting smiles, Caleb roared in insipid satisfaction. The girls also seemed to come to life, as my suddenly outgoing attitude seemed to dispel their earlier fears and apparently assuaged their “hurt feelings.” As they assumed I was now on the hunt, the stakes suddenly increased.
By now, there were a few other men in the club, but it was obvious that the attention of these girls was focused on moi. Maybe it was due to the pleasure of the pursuit (i.e. the money), or the fact that it was more appetizing to these young women to spend the night with me, instead of the fat man in the corner. Whatever the reason, they were all smiles and on their best behavior as they say, pulling out their most enticing glances, sensual dances and wet whispers from their iniquitous inventory.
We danced with intensity to the pulsing beat of some ‘N Sync tune, which only reaffirms my belief that boy-bands dominate the airwaves in Hell, but as the song came to a close, just as I could see all of the intricacies at play in this wonderfully interesting scenario that was unfolding, I took my cue and calmly walked to Caleb, thanked him deeply for looking out for me, said goodbye to my new fans and tipped the bartender on my way out. Temptation had been resisted, the force of evil had been defeated, and yet again, free will had saved the day. I had danced with the devil and lived to tell the story. But ‘lived’ spelled backwards is…