Time was when all of Salt Lake City’s prostitution trade was confined to a single block of West Second South Street. If a fellow was desperate for entertainment—as I often was—he could conduct a drive-by survey of the prominently displayed wares. Of course I never stopped for a closer look, mainly because I never had any spare money to contribute to either the local sex trade or the law enforcement community.
See, a large percentage of those ladies parading in stiletto heels, micro skirts and fishnet stockings were undercover cops. Moreover, an astonishing percentage of the “johns” caught up in the dragnet turned out to be elected officials and civic leaders. As a result, the prostitution business waned and West Second South soon became just another street.
Recently it has come to my attention that a four-block-long stretch of State Street is the new pick-up zone. But take my advice and don’t bother going there because there’s just nothing whatsoever to see. Nothing out of the ordinary, at any rate.
Evidently Salt Lake hookers nowadays take pains to look exactly like everyone else. Blue jeans have replaced miniskirts, sneakers the stiletto heels. Instead of low-cut blouses, working girls wear T-shirts, and instead of shoulder bags they carry large soft drink cups. That’s right. “Big Gulp” and “Slurpee” are now code for “Hey, big fella, d’ya wanna party?”
Be forewarned, if you inform the young lady at McDonald’s that you’d like to be “super-sized,” you could be charged with solicitation.
Recently I came within a whisker of same in the parking lot of my favorite Chinese restaurant. I had just parked my motorcycle when a middle-aged woman approached, wearing faded jeans, a high-necked pullover and no makeup. In one hand she held forth a 32-ounce soft drink cup. She said nothing, but there was an imploring, puppy-dog look in her eyes.
I retrieved a fistful of loose change from my pants pocket and dropped it into her cup. Ker-splash! What the….?
“What do you think I AM?” she demanded.
“Gosh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I thought you were a panhandler.”
“Well, I’m NOT!”
To say the least, it was an awkward moment. I mean, what an insult to be mistaken for a common panhandler! Or, for that matter, a hooker who can be had for just seventy-five cents? I apologized again and beat a hasty retreat.
My friend George wasn’t so lucky. Whereas my alibi involved Chinese take-out, his had to do with last year’s BYU vs Oklahoma game. George is by no means a fan of Brigham Young football, yet for reasons he has yet to explain to anyone’s satisfaction, he found himself watching the game at a sports bar situated at the southwestern tip of the notorious Dixie Cup District.
“The game ended in victory just as I quaffed my last beer and swallowed my last nacho,” he explains. “I walked out into the parking lot, sat on my scooter and enjoyed the cool night air. My mood was upbeat and hanging in the sky was a harvest moon that was large, liquid and cream colored. It was a particularly pleasant moment, and it was easy to sit there and postpone my ride home.”
As if loitering and public intoxication aren’t bad enough, George then decided to pick up a prostitute. At the time, however, he had no clue she was a prostitute. After all, she wasn’t wearing stiletto heels, fishnet stockings, or a miniskirt. Heck, she wasn’t even packing a soft drink. Plain and fiftyish, she expressed an interest in George’s shiny red motor scooter.
“Nice motorcycle,” she said.
“Well, actually it’s a scooter,” I said, “but thanks.”
“You know, I’ve never had a ride on a scooter,” she said.
I imagine you can guess what happened next. Or can you? Probably not—not if you knew George the way I know George. See, George is a romantic. He’s not the sort of guy who would go cruising for casual sex. No, what he yearns for is a soul mate.
George continues: “With some apologies for her ‘old bones’ she found the rear foot rest and swung her leg over the back seat. Then off we went traveling north on State Street.
“We shared some abbreviated small talk, or about as much as you’d expect between two strangers on a scooter. However, for the most part the experience was entirely about the ride. The night was perfect and when we reached the top of Capitol Hill the view was exquisite. Laid out before us were that full moon, the Rockies, a vast carpet of city lights and a well-lit cluster of skyscrapers that constitute Salt Lake’s city center.
“If you could choose one time and one place to have your only scooter ride, that night and that place would probably be it.
“On the way back she spoke about her job at a fast food restaurant. She asked me what I did for a living, and I told her. Like me, it seemed that her spirits were elevated by the brief and pleasant experience we had just enjoyed together. Within a few moments we were closing in on the parking lot where the ride had started, and where I intended to drop her off and wish her well.
“It was at that moment that she asked me if I was a police officer.”
George was sorely disappointed, and of course so am I. Because it’s such a sweet story, and so artfully told, however unbelievable. I mean, seriously. A full moon with good visibility, and yet George is mistaken for a police officer? On a motor scooter? BYU beats Oklahoma? I can scarcely believe a word of it, and yet I suppose it’s true, for George embodies that rare quality of honesty combined with literary ability—which isn’t something you come across just every day.