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Trapped in a Brazilian strip club with two women from his hostel, Will makes an unlikely connection. Have a question you want Will to answer on the forthcoming Q&A intermission episode? Click here to submit. Also, text POD to (332) 877-9540 for friendship.

Weird trivia and stuff Will wants to say

  • I have to pay a huge debt of gratitude to my brother, Kit Conway (of the band Stello). I procrastinated the hell out of this episode. When I finally sat down to rerecord, I learned I hated every reggaeton loop on the internet. I needed something upbeat, but it had to be so upbeat that it sounded pathetic, ya know? I sent him three songs and I said, "this but more pathetic." And he sent back the beat you hear in the episode in thirty minutes. Guy's a hero.
  • I've made this announcement on the show a few times but I'll reiterate it here: in what was supposed to be the week of the sixteenth episode, we're going to do an intermission week. There will still be a show, but it'll be a behind-the-scenes Q&A and a few big announcements. If you have a question you want to be read on the show, click here to submit.
  • I mentioned Greetings From Somewhere at the end. That wasn't a paid ad - we like each other's shows, so Zach and I decided to do a cross-promotion. His show is really good - you should check it out. Here's the link.

I hear with my little ear

Show transcript

[Airplane ambiance]

We’re not really meant to see the world from this angle. We’re not really meant to be here in the first place, honestly. I used to think that any time I flew, but then I traveled a lot for work and I became one of those cynical business travelers who forgot how ridiculous it is to walk through a tiny little door, sit in a chair and read a Ken Follet novel for three hours, and then stand back up, walk back through the same door into a completely new place.

But then I remembered again about four years ago when I flew over the Grand Canyon one time. It’s just too big to ignore. And I’m remembering again now, as lightning illuminates steel gray clouds and forks here and there below me.

It’s raining in a rainforest. The world's doing what the world does.

Down there, jaguars prowl and pounce and monkeys hop from tree to tree and frogs... I don’t know. I really don’t know what happens in the Amazon. But for them, it’s raining. The world is raining. The world is under this condition, and the reality of their space is what the sky dictates. They live in that world and that world alone and nature is all there is.

Meanwhile, I sit up here, bone-dry in a polyester chair, while an old lady munches on peanuts and I watch the clouds burst like a firework display. Like it was made just for me. Like it all makes sense from up here, like I can see patterns and play God just because I can stand on the backs of the men who put this airplane in the sky.

Anyway, I didn't build an airplane.

But I'm happy.

[Theme Music Begins]

This is Baggage Claim: travel stories no one tells.

I'm Will Conway.

Let's talk love and mystery in a strip club.

If you have a question about the show, me, travel, whatever, for the upcoming intermission episode, text QUESTION to (332) 877-9540. That number is in the description below, as are show notes with credits and all sorts of fun stuff.

Okay, let us dance.

[Theme Music Ends]

[Reggaeton music, bar sounds]

I should have known. 

I really should have. I should have known when the bounce charged the ladies 20 Reals a head and didn't charge me anything. God my ego’s big. I just thought I was looking good tonight.

I should’ve known when we actually followed that club promoter on the street. It’s the kind of thing you only do in a really, really, really good mood. Or you’re desperate.

Anyway, I’ve been in strip clubs before, but never one quite this pathetic. It’s so pathetic it’s hard to watch. It’s just a big square room with benches on the side.

But here’s the thing. No one’s on the pole. There’s a pole and a ceiling. There is no one in between. I keep glancing up, following their gaze and assuming something must have changed, because there’s just no way these guys are staring up an empty stripper pole on a Friday night.

But every time I look up it’s still empty. A streaky silver pole, a cement ceiling and the saddest, smallest disco ball I’ve ever seen. It’s barely reflective anymore and it just doesn’t have anywhere close to the firepower it had in its prime.

The problem is that there aren’t even really girls on the ground either. There are heavyset Brazilian men mulling about with their arms folded or smoking cigarettes, there’s me, and there are the two women from my hostel next to me, fully clothed and waiting with the rest of us. And there’s Edith, oblivious to it all and really just excited to be doing something weird in Brazil.

That’s where I’m sitting with Vaguely Scandanavian and Uplaceably Exotic, whose names happen to be Amelie and Fanny. Our friend Edith is walking back from the bar with four drinks balanced in her fingers. Probably should have helped her.

Unplaceably Exotic now named Fanny is sitting to my left and passively sipping a Caipirinha. She’s staring off in the direction of the bathrooms, where the whole charade ends and fluorescent lights flicker against porcelain walls.

“Can we leave?” I say to Fanny. And she doesn’t turn to look at me but she mumbles that Edith is having a good time so let’s hang out for a little while longer.

I can’t seem to get her attention and I can’t quite remember why I followed them out tonight. But there’s something in her eyes. There’s a mystery there that demands solving. And so I’m finding myself locked in that corner I’ve found myself in before - forcing myself to learn her. Drawn in by her magnetism, which I’m pretty sure is rooted in how little she’s noticed my existence. 

I’m feeling paralysed and trapped right here, in this place in this moment, like I’m claustrophobic in my own skin. It’s not lost on me that that’s the feeling I was running from when I left New York in the first place. It’s also not lost on me that it might actually be a real reaction to asbestos or black mold in the ceiling.

I guess these guys expect some the ceiling to open like the heavens with a golden hue and some scantily clad angel to slide down like Dennis Leary in Rescue Me. But this place isn’t that kinda place. This is a low budget establishment.

And the men stare upward and I stare at them and Fanny stares at nothing and Amelie sips her drink and Edith floats around the room like a pixie, completely oblivious.

But then there is a golden hue, but it’s not from the ceiling and she’s definitely not an angel, because she’s tethered by gravity like the rest of us. A door that I didn’t know existed opens and the men hoot and holler and out walks a girl. Completely naked.

“Isn’t it a strip club?” I ask Fanny. 

“I thought they were supposed to strip,” she says.

And this naked woman climbs up on stage and spins around the pole while old men with cigarettes in their mouths throw reals and I turn to Fanny and she turns to me and we’ve both had enough.

“It’s time to go,” I say.

And we walk back outside, past that bouncer and onto the street, where the air isn’t stuffy and I can breathe again. And Edith walks with Amelie and I walk with Fanny. And then I feel her hand on mine and our fingers lock.

[Music fades and airplane sounds rise]

We spent the next three days together, watching sunsets from Ipanema and cruising around the harbor on a little boat and she introduced me to perfect strangers like we were high school sweethearts. But travel drops you in and pulls you out, and she continued on her way and Colombia is calling my name.

And as that old lady beside me munches on peanuts, I wonder if I’ll ever see her again, that Vaguely Exotic woman who looks like she should be wearing a satchel in a rainforest but actually comes from the tundra, from northern Quebec. But lightning forks below and rain falls on the Amazon. And maybe I'll just be fine with whatever happens. 

[Theme Music Begins]

That was Baggage Claim: travel stories no one tells.

I'm Will Conway and hey, I want to tell you about a show I've been listening to and really enjoy.

It's called Greetings from Somewhere, and it's an immersive documentary-style podcast that explores different road-trip destinations throughout the United States. Each episode takes a trip to a different destination, like Marfa, Texas or Burning Man. One episode tackles Disney World during the pandemic. It's the weirdest, creepiest most eerie thing I've ever heard. It's so worth checking out.

Subscribe to Greetings from Somewhere wherever you listen.

Alright friends, that was the closest I've come to an ad but I didn't get paid for that, so.

If you have a question you want answered on Baggage Claim during the intermission episode, text QUESTION to (332) 877-9540 and I'll get you sorted (NOTE: you're reading this on the website, so skip the text and just click here).

See you next Tuesday.

[Theme Music Ends]

Will Conway

About

Former political software guy. Now a traveler and adventurer, which isn't a job, and host of the @heybaggageclaim podcast, which really isn't either. Travel stories no one tells.