Strip Poker and Spiders

It was the weekend, and my friends and I had decided to meet at a dive bar called The Farm House, a dark, sticky feeling place that always somehow smelled more of stale cigarettes than the cigarettes that were currently being smoked by the patrons holding down bar stools. I was with a group of computer nerds who knew each other from frequenting the same online chat room, “Portland: 1”, deeming us all “chatters”.

Chatter parties, otherwise known as GTs (get-togethers) and chatters in general were very rarely boring. After spending a few months hanging out in front of my computer screen and chatting online with people in these chat rooms, I became one of the planners of said GTs on a pretty regular basis because I really loved meeting this crazy, diverse, often wonderful, frequently troubling cross section of humanity.

Occasionally, a person new to the chat world would want to attend one of the gatherings I would post details for in the chat room and they’d ask me, “But how will I know how to find you?” to which my answer would always be, “Look for the table filled with a whole bunch of mismatched people who look like they have zero fucking business sitting together. That’s us.”

This worked every time because it was an absolutely spot-on description. Chat rooms attracted all walks of life, all ages, men, women, white, black, brown…the common denominator was that damn chat room. You had lawyers, retail clerks, teachers, accountants, ex-cons, and a whole host of people who could barely hold a job, but somehow kept their internet connection. But it didn’t seem to matter when we were all hanging out.

And this was one of the many reasons I loved these groups of people. And, for the most part, your connection was fully based on communication rather than preconceived notions based on their appearance. Because on the internet, you can be anyone. Or no one at all. Your choice. You can share who you are (or who you want to be) or you can remain totally anonymous. That’s the beauty of social interaction on the internet. And you come into contact with people you might otherwise never have.

I recall one instance where I saw this man standing on the other side of the room at one of the house parties and I thought, “Well who the fuck is that gnarly looking dude?” because I was sure I didn’t know him. He was tall and extremely thin with hunched shoulders. He had long shaggy hair that looked like a faded version of that prepackaged cotton candy you could buy at the movie rental places back then, and he was wearing shredded jeans, tattered combat boots, and a wallet chain to tie the whole ensemble together. You got a real sense that his regular diet consisted of coffee and smokes and not much more.

I found out a bit later that this fine specimen was someone I had already been chatting with for months, engaging in hours-long discussions about everything from classic literature to extreme sexual deviancy to berry pie recipes. I was never a shallow or superficial person, not really, and, quite frankly, I was a pudgy goof with no room to throw stones or cast judgment, but before that night, I might not have seen him as “my people. It was at that moment in time that it was really cemented that appearances do not mean FUCK ALL when it comes to who you are as a human being. Not one shred. My people looked like all people. Or, sometimes, just characters on a laptop screen.

Some of you who weren’t a part of the “chat world” don’t really understand it, which is reasonable, and, from the outside, you’d just think, “Ok, a bunch of geeky computer dorks who don’t know how to socialize so they hide behind their computers.” I had my own preconceived notions about this world as well when I first started out as a chatter. Also, proven to be inaccurate as hell.

In reality, sure, there were the awkward, anti-social ones who hid behind their keyboards and never ventured out to spend time with the 3-D folks, but for the most part?

These people were fucking party animals. Debaucherous, beer swilling, pot smoking, loving, fucking party animals. Holy shit. They were social, and they were LOUD about it. And I imagine it was because they were, when we were all together, with their people.

And did I mention debaucherous?

It’s like the line in Revenge of Nerds when Betty Childs asks Lewis after he creepily pretends to be her boyfriend and bangs her in the bouncy castle or whatever the fuck it was, “Are all nerds as good as you?” And he replies, “Yes, because all jocks think about is sports. All we think about is sex.”

It was pure insanity and hormones and chemically loosened inhibitions at these get togethers.

This particular night at the Farmhouse I was meeting up with some of the regulars, including but not limited to my girlfriend, Samantha.

Samantha had ventured into the chatroom world about six months prior, and, when she started off, she was a lot more reserved, in her shell, etc. Her first husband was a jackass, and her confidence level wasn’t so high. She was a quiet, skeptical bird.

Her first introduction to me was when I showed up to a spot where I knew a few friends of mine would be drinking that night, The Lotus Bar in Portland, Oregon.  When I saw their familiar faces across the way, I ran to that section of the bar and jumped on the table, raised my arms up and went, “BITCHES! I AM HERE!”  The expression Samantha wore read 100% as, “Who the FUCK is this idiot???” A second later, the bouncer told me to “get the fuck off the goddamn table right now” or I’d “be out on my ear”. Good fun.

But, after a few months or so of hanging out with the stone-cold pack of weirdos that was the crew from Portland Chat, Samantha more than came out of her shell. It was beautiful. Once her initial “who the fuck is this crazy woman” impression of me wore off, we really connected. On more than one level as it turns out. We had a lot in common, including but not limited to having had been married to assholes who needed to tear down their wives in order to(unsuccessfully) keep them under control and to feel better about their own boatload of inadequacies. Also, we both found each other to be really great kissers, so that was neat.


When I got to the Farmhouse, I headed towards the back near the dart boards and found that there were quite a few chat-geeks already there. There were a few playing pool, a few more at two tables that had been pushed together with coats and such strewn about in an effort to hold seats for later arrivals. I saw Samantha sitting with a few other regulars and a couple of guys I didn’t know and went over to join them.

“Hey, jerks,” I say as I sit down and realize that I’ve totally skipped over the very important step of supplying myself with a drink. I was already feeling a slight buzz because I had started drinking on my way there. That was my routine, actually: I wasn’t prone to getting drunk and driving, at least not to begin an evening, but I WAS apt to pop open a beer when I had about 10 minutes left in my drive. That way, I’d be sober while driving, but my buzz might hit about the time I hit the front door to wherever I was going. It was science, at least in my mind. While I wasn’t lying when I said I enjoyed these people, I found out one night when I was feeling ill and chose not to drink at all, that I didn’t enjoy these people as much when I was sober. I didn’t realize until a few years later that this might be an issue I should consider addressing.

One of the guys at the table offers me an unused pint glass and I filled it from pitcher that was on the table when I arrived. “So who are…these?” I asked, motioning with my beer hand to gesture towards the two men, both around my age, give or take, I hadn’t seen before.

The bigger guy said, “I’m Jake. This is Spider.” Jake was an affable, smiley guy in an Iron Maiden t-shirt and a weathered, blue cap with the Tampa Bay Rays logo on it. He was tall and reminded me of a guy I had dated several years prior.

Spider, on the other hand, was a short, broad shouldered, stone-faced ginger decked out in a black leather jacket and motorcycle boots. He came off like a total asshole. So, of course, I was immediately drawn to him.

“Spider…ok, eh…great.” I laughed, stood up again, and headed with my gifted beer over to another tableful of chatters.

The night wore on, I had a drink, and another, and I brought a pitcher of hefeweizen that someone bought over to the table Samantha and the others still sat at, though the faces at this had changed as people milled about, playing pool, socializing, looking for their newest hook-up. I checked around for Sam and saw her at a table with Jake and the arachnoid, and another woman there I had met once but didn’t know well at the time named Denise.

When I reached the table, I saw that Jake was attempting that smart party trick where you put your hand down on a table, splay out your fingers, and then attempt to tap the table between each digit with a knife without stabbing yourself. A great trick, really, to attempt when your manual dexterity is hindered by alcohol if I do say so myself. Only Jake was using a dart and, fortunately for all nearby, it was only a plastic tipped dart and not the sharper metal tipped dart, as many bars at this point had moved away from encouraging drunks to throw sharp objects around. I could only speculate how many darts landed in the skulls of bar patrons over the years.

Samantha was perched upon a chair, and Denise was sitting between Jake and Spider on the booth side of the table. There was room next to Spider, so I sat my ass down and said, “Hi, we’re gonna be friends now whether you like it or not.” Spider looked my way, and I thought I saw the smallest of smirks, but I couldn’t be sure. He slowly turned his head back to take in the spectacle that was his friend poking every other finger with a plastic tipped dart.

I finished the last few sips of my drink and said, “Ok, my turn,” and grabbed the dart out of Jake’s hand. Because alcohol enables you to make brilliant decisions.

I splayed my fingers out and started to slowly tap the dart between each finger on my left hand. I made a pass over all my finger and my thumb, successfully I might add. However, once I was headed back towards my pinky, I immediately jabbed the small web of skin on my hand between my thumb and forefinger. Because, you know, beer. I pause a second, and, as I’m about to continue, spider puts his hand over mine and pushes down on the dart, driving the tip down against the web of skin.

What the hell is going on…

I look at him and he’s staring at me. We lock eyes, and he is pushing down a little harder, his hand warm and covering mine while also pinching the shaft of the dart with his thumb and forefinger…gradually increasing pressure while keeping his eyes deadlocked onto mine.

Seriously what the fuck is happening right now…

I somehow pick up on the fact that we’re engaged of some bizarre game of chicken…or something. And, at this point, I also decide that he’s not winning.

I continue to stare at him, and he doesn’t break eye contact. I’m strangely aroused and simultaneously a bit disturbed with myself about this.

I calmly ask, “So are you trying to prove something here?” I can feel this dart pushing harder. It’s not SHARP sharp, but that is a thin piece of skin and I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to end up with a new piercing. Spider just stares at me. I don’t blink. No fucking way.

The pressure is getting intense. I can’t say it hurts that much, though I’m not sure how much of that is the booze numbing me and how much of it is adrenaline at this point.

I really don’t want a hole in my hand. But there’s no way I am going to let this psychopath know I’m starting to panic.

A few seconds later, I quietly, in a controlled tone say, “Look, I’m sure this is fun for you, and I’m not sure if you’re used to penetrating women with tiny objects, but I’m getting bored.”

Something in his eyes shifted a bit, and he smirked (Ok, I saw it for sure this time), and he lifted the dart and set it down on the table next to my hand. I left my hand where it was for a second, but then I used that hand to grab my drink and take a sip. That’s when I realized that that display had garnered, not only the attention of the others at the table but of more than a few people who had been standing nearby.

“What the FUCK did I just watch???” A guy named Joe who was a frequent attendee of chat gatherings sat there looking dumbfounded.

“Seriously, what the fuck just happened?”

I laughed and shrugged, “Fuck if I know,” as I stood up and, as casually as I could muster, sauntered over towards friends at the other end of the bar while wondering to myself, “What the fuck just happened?” I wasn’t sure, but I knew I was ridiculously turned on by the psychopath who had just tried to pierce my hand and I began a lengthy internal argument with myself because “WHAT THE FUCK WAS WRONG WITH ME?”

The night wore on like it normally did at these things. Booze was consumed by the bucket-load. People who had showed up with the intention and/or set plans of hooking up with someone specific would end up with a different chatter they had managed to drink pretty, often with the discarded “date” sitting around pissed and eventually leaving alone unless they had managed to refocus and snag a replacement lay. Sometimes these sparked new “chat romances” and other times it just led to awkwardness the next day in the chat room and subsequent GTs.

Rarely one to make any real plans either way – I liked to leave my options open because I was flightly as fuck – I played the night by ear as usual, spending the next couple hours chatting with the new bartender who was supplying me with free booze in hopes of me sticking around til closing time (I mean I might, but not with the end result he was anticipating), heading out to the parking lot for a bit with Spider’s buddy, Jake, to smoke some god-awful but reasonably effective weed and kiss on each other a bit because, shit, why not. And, later, letting the ever adorable and ever drunk Sarah, one of the younger of our crazy group, hang on me and play with my hair while singing to me.

But that night, even with the other distractions, I couldn’t get the psychopath out of my fucking brain (or loins). Goddammit.

Well, I wasn’t going to throw myself at him, fuck that. But I made my way to the side of the bar where he had parked it for the night, though at a different table now. My friend, Samantha, was standing near the table he had ended up at, as was Denise. And, as I walked up, about to casually start some bullshit conversation, Spider looks up at me and says, “You’re back. Good. Are you and her ready to get out of here?” He nod-gestured at Sam.

I glanced at Sam, she raises her eyebrows and shrugs. I look at Denise whose face projects that she obviously had the idea, despite the weird hand-piercing showdown, that she would be leaving with Spider and Jake. She seems a bit pissed.

I don’t know or care about Denise and shrug back at Samantha, “Well, I am if you are.” Spider and Jake stand up, Denise grabs her purse and quickly walks off muttering something about “Well, good thing I got a hotel room for nothing, so that’s nice,” and Sam and I follow the guys out to the parking lot.

Honestly, I don’t have any business driving at this point, but I used to make super-questionable decisions in this regard. So, instead of getting in the SUV that they were driving, I opted to follow them in my Honda. I had a real dislike for being stranded at strange places in the middle of the night, and, instead of reevaluation my drunk decision-making process and saying to myself, “Hey, dummy, maybe you should stop going to strange houses with strange men after drinking all night,” the solution I often chose was just to make sure I had a viable way out if things went sideways.

Another step I’d often employ was to tell Samantha where I was going and with whom so that, if I ended up at the bottom of the Willamette River or some shit, there would be some sort of evidence trail as to what had happened to my stupid, impulsive ass. But she was headed to the same place I was, so I guess, if we both died, there might be a longer investigation. C’est la vie.

Samantha hopped in the rig with the guys, and I followed them through windy roads in maybe SE Portland, I honestly don’t know where the fuck I was because again…great decisions were not made.

We finally arrive to a rundown split-level house that I couldn’t find again if someone paid me a million bucks. The other vehicle pulled into the driveway, and I pulled in behind and parked my car. Samantha and the guys pour of their car, I catch up, and we happily stumble up the path, up the semi-rotten front steps to an even more rotten front porch, and we enter the house together. It smells like dudes live here and only dudes.

So this is where things get weird. Ok weirder. Ok, maybe not weirder, but definitely dumber.

Sam and I follow behind the guys, who lead us into a room with a full-sized, green felt covered poker table complete with 4 matching chairs. Spider takes off his leather coat and goes to toss it on a chair, but then puts it back on and sits down at the table. Ok, weirdo.

“Have a seat,” he says in a hushed tone to Sam and I. Jake asks if he can get us something to drink, and Samantha and I both quickly respond in the affirmative. Yeah, I definitely need more to drink.

Jake heads to the other room to grab some booze, and I glance over to a wall in a neighboring room and it’s covered with hooks, each hook holding a different size and shaped paddle or riding crop, some handcuffs, and other happy playtime items. Ok, sure. Why not. I figure I’d probably have my shit displayed as well if I didn’t have kids in the house and family that would be fucking mortified. This was clearly not a “family friendly” home. Wait, was that the kitchen?  Again, ok, weirdo.

I glance over at Spider and he’s wearing an expression that indicates he’s pleased that I noticed the displayed accoutrements. Jake reenters the room with a previously-opened bottle of Bacardi Gold, a few mostly-clean plastic tumblers, a 2 liter of soda, and he proceeds to make fancy drinks for everyone with equal parts booze and mixer. Spider turns on some music. “Butterfly” by Crazy Town. God I hate that song.

“So uh…you guys wanna play poker?” Jake says with kind of a boyish smile. Spider smiles again, this time displaying a fully toothy grin.

Samantha side-eyes in my direction, and turns back to Jake and answers, “Uh…sure, why not.”

The boys giggle.

Samantha and I look at each other, I raise an eyebrow at the giggle. Spider grabs a deck of cards and starts to shuffle. Jake cuts the cards, and Spider deals a simple five-card poker. It’s probably just as well, because anything more complicated may be unsuccessfully executed at this point in the evening. I pick up my hand and look at it, as does everyone else at the table.

I am still tipsy as fuck, but me being me, I go into business-mode once I have my cards because I’m stupid-competitive. I look at my hand, I discard and draw a couple as does everyone but Jake who is already satisfied with his hand. We show our hands, and Jake wins, shutting me out with one superior face-card.

Yay, Jake wins, let’s deal again.

The boys look at each other and Jake says, “Sooo….wanna make this interesting?”

Oh god. I know what’s coming…why?

I dryly respond with something like, “God, could we? Because I’m getting a bit bored.”  Maybe annoyed was the better word to use here.

The boys giggle. Jesus Christ, who were these giggling fucks and what the hell happened to the guys we left the bar with?

“How about we play…um…maybe strip poker?”

Oh for fuckssake.


Samantha looks at me with the same, “you’ve got to be kidding” look that I know I’m brandishing at this point and throws out an immediate classic.

“You guys know we’re kind of a sure thing, right? You don’t have to trick us into getting naked.”

“Yeah, the cards aren’t really necessary,” I add.

The boys giggle again and both exclaim, “OH, haha um…no, I mean we just thought…um…”

They seem to really be thrown off now.

They had this whole plan to “get us” naked with a card game. And Samantha announces it was all totally unnecessary. Now what?

I’m still wondering what happened to the badass that was staring me down, perforating my hand, and dampening my underpants with a simple fucking look.

Jake, well…he was attractive, but I was somehow less surprised by his devolution.

Since they seemed so disappointed, we decide to play a few hands anyway. The boys seemed pleased again. Samantha loses a shirt and her shoes, I lose my pants. The boys are both in their boxers.

Ok this was going on long enough.

“So do we need to keep playing this, or…can we move on?” Samantha and I are laughing at this point. Spider seems a little irritated that we found his elaborate plan to get us naked amusing.

One of us – I can’t remember who, but either Sam or I – gets up and then the rest of us follow suit and head into a tiny bedroom that has two beds crammed in there with little space between.

Honestly, it gets pretty fuzzy from here for a bit, but I know that we get to the room and, once again, the boys turn into awkward dorks, which leads me to wonder: Whose S&M toys were those that I had seen anyway? There’s no way either of these dinguses were confident enough to pull off “dominant daddy with spanky-toys”.  Seriously, I know what I experienced at the bar, but that already seemed so out-of-character for either of these  guys.

Had we entered someone else’s dungeon tool-filled house by mistake and they were just rolling with it?

So Sam and I start out with what we usually do for entertainment and begin making out. This seems to please and sooth the toddlers in the room. Of course it does.

After a bit, we pair off, and I’m not sure what the fuck happened here and quite frankly I’m still annoyed, but Sam pairs off with Spider on the bed just next to the one we had all been on, and I end up with Jake. Hold on a damn minute, this isn’t what I had planned…I mean…what? I felt like Denise for a second or three.

But then I asked myself: Did it really matter at this point? It was already a bait and switch, this was just another version of it. I shrug it off and think, “Well, I’ve done worse, and this guy here’s at least been mostly the same person all night, so why the fuck not.”

So I turn my attention to Jake for a bit, clothes were already mostly gone from playing with Samantha, when, a few minutes later, probably in mid-stroke of some otherwise unforgettable drunken fucking…


I’m sober. Whyyyyyy am I even here?

It was like an immediate wet bucket of water to the face, I am now sober as a judge and I sit up in bed so abruptly it was like someone had popped me out of a jack-in-the-box.

Check please.

“Hey, uh…babe, you ok?” a startled Jake asks.

I just laugh and say, “You know what? Yeah, I’m good. I think I’m done. I’m just gonna find my clothes and bail.”

Sam rolls out from under Spider and laughs, “You’re leaving?”

“Yeah, I’m just bored. You ok here?” I, the worst friend in the world, say this to my still-drunk friend who I’m abandoning in a house with two strange men. I get dressed in record time, super fucking pleased that I was able to find my shoes and purse. I’m very motivated to no longer be there.

Jake just sits there naked looking bewildered. He, as it turns out, and not been it with the “insta-sober” wand.

A spider crawls across my leg. A big gnarly one that, under normal circumstances, would have flipped me the fuck out, but something about it seemed perfect. I glance at it and laugh. I don’t even care. I almost expect it to start giggling.

Samantha just chuckled. “Yeah, I’m fine. I think. Yeah, I’m ok. Drive careful, talk to you tomorrow or something,” and reengages with the human spider’s genitals.

I double check to make sure I’m fully dressed and make my way out of the room, and I hear Jake in the background saying, “Wait, is she really leaving? Did she just leave?”

As I head out onto the rotting front porch and close the door behind me, I hear Spider saying, “Dude, you’re going to have to go out onto the couch now, otherwise it’s going to get weird.”

I slide into my car and, after driving around on strange side streets for a bit, I find a familiar main drag and I head home.

The next day, I wake up and the memory of my ridiculous night out floods into the forefront of my brain. I get up and immediately head over to the computer desk to ping Samantha online, really hoping she’s not face-first in a ditch somewhere after I bailed on her, and she let’s me know she’s safe by replying pretty much right away.

Oh thank god.

Apparently Jake was a whiny baby for the remainder of the night, but she still had fun. Cool.

I have zero regrets about this or, really, any other nights that resembled that encounter (yeah, there were other nights of questionable decision-making, this was not a fluke), but it was definitely a “Hey, maybe I should reevaluate things” kind of event.

Not that I did, but it sounded good.














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