Notes -- intimacy in a public space

These writtings are the product of 10 years plus of artwork and research by Kit Hagen starting in 2000.  This work and its supporting research is licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike -- CC BY-SA

There was a day that I realized I was more like a stripper than I ever knew, I was watching TV, thinking about the job of the erotic dance and how it has many parallels there was  experience that I want to have as a bootblack.

In taking a closer look at what a striptease dancer does, I think that I can illustrate some points about what I am attracted to in the world of bootblacking. A dancer’s job at times is to be the center of attention, dancing on the stage`. But actually, very little of the dancer’s actual business relies on thier ability to perform on stage. It relies more on the ability of the stripper to build a level of intimacy in a public space.

The stripper’s real business comes from the ability to work the floor. Working the floor means meeting the people in the bar, understanding their needs, setting the lure or building desire for what the dancer has to offer. Often, that means being able to build a feeling of isolation, in which the noisy bar slips away and only the dancer and watcher remain. This isolation provides for a level of foreplay to occur — not necessarily sexual foreplay, but something akin to it. Something that builds up or plays to the watcher’s needs and desires.

The striptease dancers work the floor and, the best that I can tell, they each do it differently. This was one of the bigger hurdles for me when I started to think about the subject. We all know that each dancer is an employee of the bar, but there is something completely different about thier role from that of the other employees in the bar; there seems to be a different spirit to the role that they fill.  The best way that I have found to explain it is that they act as something of a host, putting the customer at ease, making them feel “at home” and start to put the customer in the mood to engage in the purpose of the bar. I have often found that is one of the jobs that I don’t do nearly well enough.  I find it hard to break the ice, and I often get caught up in my own mood that I fail to set the mood for the bar. But I know that it is something that both the bar and the crowd are looking for.  When I am watching other blacks and the crowds, I see better that the circle of customers are seeking a form of engagement that they would receive from a dancer.

The next point that I wanted to relate is the lure. Strippers know what that lure is — and it is not the lure of actual sex. It is the lure of the chance to be around someone who is sexual, someone who is alluring, someone who promises the chance of something more.  A lure is an object that promise the chance of something more.  How does this relate to the bootblack?  It is the same thing that the bootblack offers — they are a lure.  To the customer, they know that there is something more than the shoe shine stand there, and if they just learn how to turn that key, they will be in, they will be engaged with someone who is sexual. And I believe that holding that key just out of reach is how I am often the same as the striptease dancer.  But to do this, I need to have a good idea of what that key is — and that is something that I should have set up in the host part of the bootblack job. When I was breaking the ice, I needed to be actively listening to the needs, desires and fantasies of the customers.

The next step is much harder (maybe the hardest) for the bootblack and the easiest for the dancer — building an experience in such a way that the bar and the world disappear, and the only thing that exists is the interaction between the two people involved. When the dancer starts to do the lap dance, the watcher is the center of attention and all of their senses are drawn into the dance. The dancer doesn’t allow the watcher’s attention to drift, and if it does, the dancer has ways to bring it back to their dance. The dancer is the one in who is in control, and they know that.  A good dancer can have a watcher in a puddle in the time that it takes for the Nelly song to complete.

So as i sit thinking about all of this and wondering about the scope of what it is that I do and where exactly I get my joy to do bootblacking from.  I have to admit that creating that zone of isolation is the place that I get the most from shining boots.  Creating a place that the other person and I get lost in the actions that we are doing.  The Dance that we are doing and being  able to control that dance it something that I really get off on.