David Plakke, Photographer

Resident at Westbeth since 1995

First Night at Westbeth, Part 2

It was sometime in the wee hours that I had reached 14th and Greenwich Streets, quite pleased with my night’s archaeological dig. As I began my short walk home, I discovered one last subterranean club hidden away in a long narrow building set apart from the rest. A nightcap seemed in order.

Descending another set of dimly lit stairs, I found myself face-to-face with a large man in a flannel shirt and cutoff sleeves, his massive arms folded over his chest. He was perched behind a small window protected by thick vertical bars. All he said was this: “$40.” When I asked what band was playing, he responded, “Never been here before, huh?” Tilting his head to the left, he said, “Go in. Check it out. If it’s your thing, come back and pay.”

Missing were the skinny faux-junkies—replaced by a man on all fours wearing a collar and leash led by a woman in leather. After yielding their right of way, I entered a room with people in strange swings and restraints, then a back hallway with a series of crowded “activity” rooms. My senses maxed out, I retreated to the guy behind the bars, who, with a crooked smile asked, “Not your thing, huh?” I simply shook my head. Ascending the stairs, I noticed two plaques: the first, Hellfire, the second, Manhole.

Back where the evening began at Washington and Bethune, I found three tall, imposing nighthawks, one inquiring if I was lonely. While appreciating the offer, I assured them I was fine and, unscathed, happily reentered my sauna.

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