I can never get the smell of clay out of my clothes.
It was late on a Saturday night in mid-February and my cousin, a car freak and anything- stripper-related enthusiast, raced up to Philly. He dragged me to a local strip club to make sure that I didn’t spend all my time in the studio.
The Saturday night crowd is a rowdy one, full of sports fans, guys from over the bridge (Jersey), and no one I am overly inclined to chat with. So when my cousin left to go get a lap dance, I became totally introverted. I’d been drinking water all night, and being sober and alone in a place filled with half -naked girls made me totally self-conscious.
One by one, a parade of strippers came up to me to ask if I wanted a dance. They tried to say things to make me think they were interested. I got shyer with each passing dance proposal. After a while, the eyes of one girl caught me. She approached me nicely enough, wearing the most conservative outfit of all the girls, a long black dress that went down to the floor. She seemed different than the rest. She told me her name was Amber.
She brought me over to the side the club and gave me what started out to be the best lap dance of my life. She began with her head in my crotch and ran her face up my hoodie until we were face to face. Then, looking directly at me, she said I smelled like photo chemicals and asked if I was an artist. I let her know it was actually oil-based clay
she smelled. At that point the lap dance changed from being really fun into being an informative lecture with the occasional arousal.
Turned out I got a dance from a stripper who came to Philadelphia to work at an area museum, but as sometimes happens, the job fell through. While at a prestigious university in New York, she studied metalsmithing and photography, hence the reason she could smell that I was an artist. She talked enthusiastically about arc welding as she jammed her knee ever so slightly into my crotch.
She made fun of me for being at the strip club. When I told her about my cousin trying to loosen me up, she didn’t buy it and asked me to justify it art-historically. I told her Toulouse-Lautrec had a fascination with Burlesque dancers; he drew a lot of inspiration from them, and if she needed proof, she could go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She laughed and told me it was very different back then. Strip clubs as we know them today didn’t exist during his time. Apparently, those women had a tad more class.
While she was still on my lap, I told her about my upcoming senior show. She whipped out her cell phone and typed in the information. We exchanged some more artistic ideas, and then she told me her name, — the real one.