Pinball and Prostitutes on Court Street

Playing pinball and negotiating a business deal with a prostitute are not usually two things that are done at the same time, unless, of course, you’re on Court Street in Jacksonville, NC.

Every Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune in the 1980’s remembers Court Street. It was the center of our world, because, well, our world was centered on pole dancers, titty bars, tattoo parlors, and on occasion, a good game of pinball.

Now I’m not exactly the Pinball Wizard, but I’ve played my fair share of the silver ball. But the most memorable game I ever played was on Court Street not long after I arrived at Camp Lejeune to begin my service with an artillery battery in the 10th Marine Regiment.

Being fresh out of boot camp and unschooled in the ways of the world when it came to purchasing whiskerbiscuit from a working girl, I had no idea of the existence of the golden rule. But after that night on Court Street, I learned my lesson and learned it well.

The end of an era. Court Street was cleaned up in the late 1980’s. It’s all law offices and bail bondsmen now.

I was hanging out in one of the snack bars with several of my fellow Marines just playing pinball and marveling at the fact that in just a few months I had been transformed from a lost high school student into a very focused U.S. Marine. I was surrounded by a world that up until that time in my life I had only seen in the movies.

“You looked at her twice,” replied the salty Marine sergeant standing next to me as he watched the prostitute make her way towards us. “Now you’ll have to talk to her.”

Who knew that the golden rule with prostitutes was that you could look at them once and not be committed but if you looked at them twice they took it as a sign that you liked what you saw and wanted to commence negotiations?

Sure enough, I had looked at her twice and the game was on.

I could hear her heels clicking as she approached me. Then I felt her arm around my shoulder as she moved in close. Her scent was a combination of mint chewing gum, cheap perfume and cigarette smoke and that scent, along with her arm around my shoulder made it a struggle to keep the silver ball out of the gutter. Only my raw skill at pinball kept me from losing my quarter.

“Hey baby, you want a date?”

A date? I thought silently to myself. Did she want me to take her to the movies and then for cheeseburgers before we broke out the condoms? I was in uncharted territory.

In hooker lexicon, a “date” is the actual act. You take a girlfriend to the movies on a date. You take a hooker to the alley for a date. Often the outcomes of both scenarios are the same.

Now abandoned, this building was the site of the infamous game of pinball.

I lost my quarter in the pinball machine that night, but I gained something much more valuable. My negotiating skills failed me and no business transaction took place, but there would be other transactions in my future as my skills with decent women, as well as prostitutes, improved. From that point on I made it a point to remember the golden rule.

But of all the working girls that would cross my path in the many foreign ports I travelled to, none would hold a place in my memory like that gum chewing, fake mink shawl-wearing, high-heeled business woman that interrupted my pinball game that night on Court Street so long ago.

As any Marine can tell you, you never forget your first working girl.

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