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Cinnamon & Sugar

December 26, 2004

"That scene out of state where I drop my slang
I'm deep in the south kickin' up top game"
-Mary J. Blige "Can't Knock The Hustle"

Here's hoping that Christmas went well for all of you. I had a great one myself, along with a little bit of Nashville-style adventure to go with it.

Christmas morning is one of the great days for us in my family. I chronicled this last year, but it warrants mentioning again. We agreed to a 9 AM Christmas present-opening time this year, which you must understand is early by my Christmas holiday standards. It takes a special kind of motivation when you're used to noon wakeups (as I have been while at home), but 9 is late compared to how it used to be when I was a kid. But time moves on and you adjust ridiculously early hours to more normal times.

The process itself is something we always videotape, if for nothing else to have a chronicle in time of at least one point in the year of the family together. We've done this going back to 1988, the first year we had a camcorder. Unfortunately the video is usually when I've just woken up and I'm dressed like a slob, but so it goes. Someday when they do the E! True Hollywood Story on me, they'll have a mix of Christmas home movies and drunken party pics to go from to tell the story of my 20s.

I'll spare you the laundry list of present exchanges, if only to tell you that I got some really nice things. My sister Mary Beth managed to find me the game Culdcept for the PS2, which is a very obscure (but fun) PS2 release.

The biggest present under the tree was the X-Box that my brother Matt received from my parents. And I have to say, he picked a nice choice with it. I've been a PS2 guy from back in the day, but only because that's the system I own. But the X-Box has superior graphics, a hard drive (which is really nice), and some comparably fun games. I've thoroughly enjoyed playing it during the past two days.

Before I knew it, the afternoon Christmas Day football game (Oakland/Kansas City) was on CBS. Nothing to spread holiday cheer like a hated NFL rivarly, eh? At times I actually felt overwhelmed; I just wanted to sit back and enjoy my presents but there was so much to choose from. Wait to play Culdcept to have the delicious Christmas lunch that my Mom made, hurry through Age of Empires II to get ready for the evening, etc. If this sounds like a seven-year-old whining... well keep in mind that this is the one day of the year where I get to revert to seven-year-old mode, so bear with me on it.

The main event of the evening was the Titans/Broncos game taking place at the Coliseum in Nashville. Unfortunately, it was below freezing on Christmas here in Nashville, as it's been for most of my visit. This is a far cry from last year's Titans/Bucs game where short sleeves were no problem. This year Old Man Winter is in town for Christmas.

With the Titans out of the playoff chase, and remembering how cold I felt at the Titans/Cowboys game that I was at in December 2001, I have to admit that I wasn't exactly thrilled about going like I normally would be. But it was a chance to spend time with my Dad and Matt, and I didn't want to miss out on that. Matt's friend from Mississippi State, Dustin (aka Dirty), was supposed to be the fourth member of our quartet. Unfortunately Dustin had to miss out due to family stuff on his end, which is a shame since the Broncos are his favorite team. Though I do suspect that he really was home spending time enjoying being a VIP member of The Official Troy Aikman Homepage. Surely that was at the top of his Christmas list.

Anyway, it turned out that it was cold, for sure, but not bitter insane cold like 2001. I looked ridiculous, wearing three layers of pants and four layers of shirts/coats, along with this puffy blue hat that looked anything but stylish. But I was willing to trade style for warmth.

By luck, Richard Karg was parking cars down near the stadium, and we were able to park for free thanks to him. How he managed to stay warm, I don't know. But I'd say Richard earned his money for sure that night. Working on a holiday, in THAT weather... ugh.

The Titans lost, and we left with about 10 minutes to go in the game. As we made our way out, some jackass in an old school Elway jersey started talking smack, asking, "Are you tapping out?" as we walked by. Normally I might have engaged him in some verbal sparring, but I was too cold to care.

By the time we got back, Dustin was here waiting for us. He was super-excited about Halo 2 (the game I bought Matt for Christmas), but we had places to go. Matt and I cleaned up and got ready, and then we were out for a night downtown.

Typically Christmas night equals a shutdown of bars/clubs, but since this year it fell on a Saturday it was business as usual. The three of us hit Coyote Ugly, which was my second time there during this visit. One of my Christmas presents was a nice orange button-down Banana Republic shirt, which I wore to stand out with the Swoll Patrol. As I explained before, Matt and Dustin are jacked up like crazy. Having a shaved head (and being tall) helps me stand out, but wearing some flashy threads wasn't going to hurt anything.

The Coyote Ugly experience is an interesting thing. Girls (who work there) dance on the bar and tease the mostly male patrols with their sexually charged antics, but at the end of the day you know that there's not going to be a payoff. The gimmick is smart, and it makes for high comedy to look at the guys staring dumbfounded at the women on the bar. The upside is that it makes cherry picking the other women in the bar a bit easier, but the downside is that it can create a sausage-fest situation due to the crowd it draws.

Richard (Slick) met up with us at Coyote, and we had our fun there, though between the Titans crowd and the girls on the bar gimmick, there were way too few women who were non-employees there.

At this point the subject of Ken's Gold Club came up. I personally didn't care; if I want a strip club, I have many to choose from at any time in Tampa. But Matt and Dirty and Slick were pushing for it, so who was I to say no? On to Ken's we went.

Ken's has a "BYOB" policy, which allows you to mix full nude and alcohol. Before you give me a Lil' Jon inspired "Yeaaaaah!", let me remind you that you pay $1 a bottle for the right to bring in the alcohol. There's a two drink minimum, so they're going to snap you either way, at the door or with the $1 a bottle payout or inside with ridiculous prices for non-alcoholic drinks.

I might've been tempted to gloss over the Ken's experience, but there was a very memorable chain of events that happened there. Maybe 20 minutes into our stay, this redhead stripper came up to our table to start "the hustle" -- trying to procure a lap dance sale. The stripper, who we learned went by the name Cinnamon (Scott Massey's favorite fake stripper name, I believe), first tried my bro. But Matt wanted no part of it. I very intentionally had positioned myself where I could watch the stage but where I had a buffer of Dirty, Matt and Slick to fend off stripper approaches. I've given my thoughts on the "hustle factor" before, and this was the next best thing to a "Do Not Disturb" sign. Plus, it proved to be much more entertaining.

After getting the brush-off from Matt, Cinnamon moved on to Dirty. Now Dustin is an amazing guy; he has an uncanny ability to understand women and actually know what they're thinking and such. If you could bottle his ability and sell it, you could be a billionaire. That is no exaggeration. But in this atmosphere, where everything is a work and the "flirting for dollars" concept is pushed to the Nth degree, I wondered if he might be thrown off his game, especially with the extra challenge of alcohol involved.

Cinnamon tried the whole typical come-on deal, but Dustin wanted no part of it. He even was frowning and had his arms folded, giving the "go away" body language. But then Cinnamon changed her approach, instead sitting in his lap and complimenting him on his muscles and giving her spiel. And Dustin started buying into it.

In a classic high comedy moment, a waitress came by and asked if he wanted to buy her a drink. Talk about putting you on the spot. The Ybor Secrets visit with Scott Massey from May 2003 was the first time I got hit with that scam. But somehow Dustin deflected the stripper/waitress pressure play a little; I missed whatever he said, but the waitress simply brought out a glass and he shared some of his Budweiser with Cinnamon.

At this point the situation there was as interesting as the naked women on stage. Well, maybe not, but it was an intriguing side-plot at least. It helped when they'd have the less than 24-karet women up on stage, if you know what I mean.

Cinnamon was acting like she was really into Dustin, and she might've legit been. It was tough to tell, and my perception was a bit hazy anyway, not to mention that I had my eyes on the prize. Cinnamon finally got Dirty away from the table into one of those "private rooms", but unfortunately it turns out that the private rooms have security cameras that monitor things. Apparently Cinnamon broke some sort of rule, as a bouncer type guy busted in and put their fun to an end.

But Cinnamon wasn't finished. When Dustin returned to our table, he relayed his story. But soon thereafter, there was Cinnamon back again. She made the poor choice of mentioning that she had a six-year-old daughter, which is a no-no. Strippers shouldn't mention their kids, and customers shouldn't mention their families. They each love them (respectively), but doing that is like telling an inappropriate joke at the family Christmas dinner. It's just not a good idea.

Dirty said that she offered to take him home, but he passed on it (since he was with us). She was there at the door as he was leaving saying goodbye, so maybe she really meant it. Either that, or she's a brilliant worker who should be in auto sales or something.

Why do I mention all of this? Because it was a really interesting showdown. Dustin's ability to read women versus the ultimate challenge, the super hustle environment known as a strip club. Judge Lou Pickney awards the round to Dustin.

We made it back here at 4ish... just in time for Dirty to give out a couple of lessons in Halo 2. That game makes me motion sick after awhile, as all first-person shooters tend to do. I think the fact that I nearly lost to Matt, who fell asleep right after we started, tells volumes about my skills in that game. But whatever, it was a punctuation mark to a memorable Christmas filled with enough twists, turns and fun to, if nothing else, fill a column...

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