As much a part of late 70's Ft Bragg as Camp McCall or Sicily Drop Zone was a strip of bars, strip joints and pawn shops on Hay Street in the bordering town of Fayetteville. The Seven Dwarfs, Rick's Lounge, The Pop a Top and the Suzie Wong Club... just a few names that 30 years of poor memory can never erase. Prostitutes worked without fear of police. It was something out of the wild west and I am not exaggerating...not even a little. I had friend, Bob, who could get credit from the hookers. He was that good looking and that well known.
"How about a date, sweetie?" It was an interesting proposition. A date back then was between $25 and $50 depending on the options. I was never aware of the pimps. I don't know if they were around or if I just wasn't that focused on their activities. Whatever, it took almost four years to find myself being chased by one.
As a hard stripe sergeant and a veteran of Hay Street my attention turned from the hookers to a few Asian strip bars that offered a table or two in the curtained back with a menu of epicurean delights. The food was amazing and many times we went for dinner, talked to the owners and left without ever gawking at the girls out front on the runway. I soon became a dedicated aficionado of the hot cabbage Kim Chi and a wonderful rice wine called Makgeolli.
One night a group of us threw a small party at the Seven Dwarfs for a friend who was off to Benning for OCS. I was in a navy Izod, a blue and red surcingle belt, white jeans and Adidas. I only know this because there's a picture of me with the OCS candidate and a stripper in the Seven Dwarfs. It's on 110 film and because I have crap spread out across three states I can't find it.
We decided to move on and I wound up alone on the street in front of the bar. As I wait for my friends, a hooker approaches and asks if I want a date. Not sure what I was thinking at the time but I'm sure the alcohol had turned me into a bigger smart ass than usual - -I say, "A date sounds great. Tell you what...I'll come by and pick you up in an hour, then we can go meet my mom and dad and afterwards I'll take you to dinner and movie. How's that sound?" She stubs her cigarette out on the sidewalk and says, "You're a smart ass little mother fucker. I got an idea. Why don't you get off my corner." "You're corner! Hey, baby. Tonight this is my corner. Why don't you get lost?" Or something to that effect.
I watched her walk around the corner and reached into my pocket, pulled out a hard box of Marlboro's and lit one with a brushed chrome Zippo. I had not finished the cigarette when I heard, "There, that's him!" I turned to see my 'date' pointing me out to her pimp who came running at me full speed. Or, as fast as one can run with restrictive footwear. The Adidas exploded me off the sidewalk leaving my date's employer far behind. Fifteen minutes later I was able to sneak back into the Seven Dwarfs where I saw my friends in the exact position I had left them. Bob looked at me, "Where did you go?" "Just for some air," I said and settled back into the comfort and security of my friends while I wondered if this was where I belonged.