Last night in Orlando…
In the afternoon I headed to Rachel’s, a strip club that bills itself as a steak house, for a late lunch/early dinner. Inside, I was met with (surprise) the same problem I keep running into: single female, no male escort, no entry. They did allow me to sit in restaurant side of the building, however, where I could see the club part of the building, including the main stage and girls giving lap dances. I could even hear conversations between dancers about how someone got beat up. But I couldn’t sit in the club area. I was the only person in the dining room, which was very, very dark. It was like being sent to my room for misbehaving.
It was pretty early for a strip club, so the chef actually came out of the kitchen to wait on me. I told him I was looking for people who’d been in Pulse Saturday night when the shooting happened, and he showed me a Facebook video of one of his friends who was there.
I asked him where I should go next; he told me Parliament House. If you’ve been watching the national news, you might have seen it already. It was on CNN right before I left for Rachel’s. Parliament House is a gay haven if there ever was one. A gay-ven, if you will. It’s a motel, with a pool area with a really big stage, there’s a theater (?), a big dance floor with another stage, seven bars, lots of friendly people. Signs posted around the front desk area directed those in need of grief counseling to rooms 101 and 103. When I arrived around 7 p.m., a group was circled around one of the bars, playing Bingo. A queen in full stage makeup and heels was calling the numbers out over a little microphone. Prizes for the winners included boxes of Cracker Jacks, packets of beef jerky, boxes of Hamburger Helper, toilet tank bleach tablets, and glow-in-the-dark necklaces.
I met an off-duty employee of Parliament House who talked on the condition of anonymity about some of the rumors getting passed around.
“People are saying there were two shooters,” he said. “The ballistic reports are saying there was one shooter but people say they saw two. People are waking up from their comas who’ve been shot or have been injured, and are saying there were two shooters.”
This employee also said that Omar Mateen had been going to Pulse for several years.
“There are a lot of conspiracies [conspiracy theories] but the conspiracies are coming from the people who were there.” With regard to motive, this employee doesn’t think religion really played a part, but that it was a personal vendetta, possibly stemming from jealousy. “He just blamed it on his religion to sound more just.” Also, “We have housekeeping and some of the bartenders who’ve recognized him,” suggesting that Mateen may have stayed overnight at Parliament House.
Despite the casualties to the community, this employee was touchingly sympathetic. “You know what? God bless him. Because Lord knows what he’s about to go through when he gets to that gate, you know? Personally, I pray for him. Who knows what he’s about to experience on his journey to the other life.”