Friday, September 07, 2001

Crumpled, Dollar Bills - Episodes From My Youth:

Part 1/Part 2/Part 3

Verbally ushering out my courtier with my Greta Garbo-ish cries of "I want to be ALONE!", he exits, his 5'11", anemic-looking frame decorated with a balding crown of white hair and a protruding potbelly distending many inches over his gray, Sansabelt slacks. Normally this person's appearance would elicit a coo of "When are you due??? What trimester??, but he was neither a woman or I in good humor. Fleeing from the room he cried out in pain as he smacked his liver spotted hand against the fastening hook attached to the entry way, his cheap, tarnished wedding ring making a solid "THWACK!" against the solid metal of the hook.

Trapped in my grotesque position - part prayer/part Kama Sutra - I realized I had never secured the "privacy rope". For the uninitiated (but I mean really, which one among you would read me and be that innocent to said subject...baffling) at an adult bookstore, video booths are often given some method of insuring their occupants' privacy - if they so require. Some have doors (decidedly meant only for those who really, actually want privacy and if so, they should invest in a VCR, they're really cheap these days), some ropes, some nothing (this really sucks because you feel like your playing bouncer at the hottest club in town - "Sorry buddy, no more standing room inside...move along, now, move along"). The "privacy rope" is a 3 foot long rope encased in burgundy leather, heavy to the touch, with a dingy, silver hook on each end. Imagine the ropes used to hold off the swarms of press that line the premieres of Hollywood blockbusters and the "in" nightclubs of New York and Los Angeles; this is not that rope, this rope is it's short, weathered cousin, twice removed - through a nasty custody battle - now living in a trailer park in Yuma, Arizona with a malevolent, broken-down Lazy-Boy chair. The hook is meant to be inserted into a fastener attached to the wall - it is all very high tech. The rope is intended to be pulled across the entryway between the two fasteners, thus blocking the entryway. This simple ropes use is encouraged by The Management for your security and protection. Imagine the designer of the privacy rope first attempting to sell these beauties door-to-door under the name "Rope-Ryder 5000" - the ultimate in personal home security".

Necessity was not the mother of invention, she was a drunken sister-in-law who like to call after 1AM.

As I struggle to pull myself free from the flytrap "incident", I realize that the "Rope-Ryder 5000 Privacy Monitor" is only effective if used properly - I had left mine unfastened. Having left mine in the so-called "off" position I breathed a sign of relief that matters had not been worse.

Freed from my predicament I began the unpleasant task of brushing off my knees
- Hey what luck my lost dollar bill is stuck to my pants!.
I quickly fall back on my agnostic beliefs and renounce my so-called promises to better humanity and vacate the booth (yes - I acknowledge that I am by all probability going to hell - my much loved Irish-Catholic boyfriend, mumbles as much on numerous occasions). I wrestle (well, in as much as they really wrestle in the WWF) with my desire to continue my adventure and retain my opportunity to behave indecently. With several pints of Guiness ebbing through my blood stream, I feel my inhibitions still appropriately flattened to continue my quest. I justify staying. I mean really, what a total sense of loss it would be if I walked away in the middle of the riveting plot developments in 'Forest Hump':

Forest has gone to war (Vietnam) where without the oppression of female companionship, the moral weight of societies ethics and norms regarding tolerance of sexuality and minorities, Forest has developed deepened bonds of masculinity and brotherhood during the perils and ravages of war, allowing him to conquer his inner demons and free himself to love.

In other words: Forest is playing bottom to a really hot, black, platoon sergeant. I STAY.

As is with life, is the universe of the adult bookstore: Feast or Famine. This night is feast, but as with most buffets, the more selection we are offered the pickier we become:

"Oh, um - Nah, I'll skip the Blond Surfer, had that for lunch. Do you have any Gym-Bunnies or Discipling Daddy types?"

A parade of "himbo's", some sheep, some wolves come through the entryway of my booth. I am giving a moment to prepare, adjusting the package, checking the stance and perfecting the "rough-trade" stare; each time forewarned by the knocking sound of the unfastened privacy rope. In some ways I run my small time version of the Hollywood premiere after all, but instead of Superstars and Supporting Actors, I'm given Gaffers and Audio Technicians (I would kill for a Best Grip - I don't even know what he does, but I really think I like the sound of it).

As the screen begins to flash, my last crisp dollar buys me only 60 seconds more; a new entrant comes upon the scene. Perhaps he would be a character actor - one without top billing - but notable after the movie. He wouldn't have many lines, but the ones he does are pivotal. He is "Movie-of-the-Week" handsome, Sunday Night, not Friday Night. Think Gregory Harrison: handsome, a little over 40, well built. Somehow like a pair of Kenneth Cole, black, square-toe, dress shoes that you have had for a couple of years - they still look good, but admit it - they've lost their luster. (Yes - I also know, if it is possible - I am going to hell for comparing men to shoes.)

In a bookstore, a bar at closing time or any place in Wisconsin, there is a phrase often used in describing your prospective choice to friends: "Good for Here". I don't waste time with a self-inflicted, psychological interrogation of the morals of right and wrong (22 year olds rarely do), instead I run through a well-rehearsed mental checklist:

  • Am I Single? - check
  • Am I Drunk? - check
  • Am I Horny? - Sheep should be afraid
  • Is he "Good for here"? - Oh Yeah!

    Flashing lights, ringing bells, choirs sing, dogs bark - Jackpot, Baby, Jackpot!"
    I take a deep sustained breath - I smile, THAT smile - and watch as his masculine, tan hands reach to undo his brown leather belt.

    To Be Continued

Thursday, September 06, 2001

Crumpled, Dollar Bills - Episodes From My Youth : Part 1/ Part 2

A small, forest green plaque adhered with super glue to the entry of the video booth warns:

"No sexual conduct of any kind is permitted. One person per booth. Violaters will be asked to leave the premises - The Management".

The Bush and Clinton administration combined issued edicts more grounded in the truth and more certain to be followed through on than this banal threat. Since the plaque is eye-level and is afixed to not one, but to the entry way to every booth - my fellow vagabonds of the night are also aware of the rules. So it is with mob-mentality that we deliberately disregard these posted rules of acceptable behavior. For in a bookstore there are unspoken "rules of conduct" as in all sports, all board games and all horror movie trilogies:

  1. Do not speak, unless first spoken to. This is less courtesy then helpful to the mystique, some hot, rough trade guys - only look that way, open there mouth and your hanging with the gay version of "Screech" from 'Saved by the Bell'.
  2. Ask him if he's a cop, if he looks like one and says no ask him to just play along for fantasy sake. Woof!
  3. No chewing gum - what horrific blow job catastrophe could come from an over-eager, Doublemint-chewer turned sword-swallower in the dark.
  4. Never give your real name - sure your not Dirk Diggler, but hey this is your dollar bill, your booth - you're calling the shots.
  5. Never show the goods first. If his package looks like it was deliberately lost by Fed-ex then you'll be able to make a quicker exit.
  6. Keep your eye on the goal... and on your wallet.

    Honestly, we have all come here hoping to break the posted rules and the third unposted rule we breathe, each time, only to ourselves:

    I am never allowed to come back here again

    This is usually spoken softly when we pull into the parking lot and then mumbled loudly as we exit the parking lot wiping here and there and "aw shit, how in the hell did it get on there!"

    A pale bluish glow off the video screen affords the only light one finds in the booth (WARNING: This lighting often makes it possible to mistake a Tom Arnold for a Tom Cruise, it is safer to make decisions on conquests once your eyes have adjusted to the light). Images - sexual, erotic, disturbing and sometimes seemingly impossible, flicker from the screen - a pornographic strobe light giving way to your movements. "Forest Hump" ( Go Forest, Go!) plays on one screen, a soundtrack that would make the producers of 'Kojak' tap their shoes and well dialogue that leaves you reaching for the volume control - only to regret that it's already been touched (INSERT HERE: "Rule of Conduct" # 7 - Always carry a hankerchief or a roll of Bounty). A second screen offers previews of the other 1,185 channels of 'adult entertainment'. I feel vindicated with this buffet sampling of pornography as if I have hit double-coupons at the Piggly-Wiggly or stumbled upon a 2-4-1 at my favorite bar.

    Look at me - I'm multi-tasking! I'm thrifty!

    The floors never fail to make you shudder, elliciting a sound like masking tape pulled of shag carpet, with every step you take on the floor. A veteran knows to never, NEVER, retreive any item dropped to the floor. A dollar dropped becomes the priceless diamond around Rose's neck in the 'Titanic'; it, the neckless and some guy named Jack, are all forsaken once they disappear into the mysterious, murky darkness of the floor.

    I settle into the seat, a bright orange, plastic scoop creaking with distress under me. As I fumble with my belt and pull down my zipper I curse the choice of confining briefs. Urges build, among them a terrible simple yearning for release. My mind vascillates between shame and want.

    I grasp to remember the rosary - "Hey! I've heard them recite it in those 'Exorcist' movies".
    I fall to my knees - OOOOOH SHIT, BAD MOVE! - in prayer.
    Caught like a fly in a S&M flytrap, I struggle both physically and mentally to escape my sin.

    "Our Father who aren't in Heaven, who sure as hell wouldn't be caught dead here. Please forgive my trespasses and forgive those who trespass upon me - unless it's that really, really hot frat boy in the hall in the snug grey tshirt with the faded Abercrombie & Fitch logo and cargo pants - he can trespass ALL OVER my sweet little ass...uh, never mind - just please forgive me and unstick me from this floor and I promise I will never, NEVER come here again (is this being tape recorded?)"

    A confused passer-by mistakes my position to be an invitation and finds me unwelcome, unfriendly, embarrassed and quite filthy.

    To Be Continued.

Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Crumpled, Dollar Bills - Episodes From My Youth


(Oh Shit!)

In a bookstore (of the non-Borders, Barnes & Noble and B.Dalton respectable variety) a crumpled dollar bill is a terribly inopportune and frustrating thing indeed. For those envisioning neatly ordered rows of bestsellers, self-help books and coffee table free-weights ("Why - YES - I do find Ecudorian Animal Mating Habits fascinating, but a 75lb Copenhagen oak table isn't meant to hold up a 200lb coffee-table book") organized helpfully (yet not thoughtfully) for Stepford-esque Housewives who rampage through suburbia aided by Prozac and a disbelief of 25MPH restrictions on their shiny, leased SUV's, the piped in Muzak meant to resemble Enya (or more likely, modern day Enya meant to resemble piped in Muzak) and icy cappuchino's - slick with condensation prepared by disgruntled, disinterested, verbally disembowled teenage boys with multi-colored hair ("shaved here, yet oh, not there, thank you") waiting to be discovered and praised for their artistic genius; "Is that merely froth accenting my Latte or a mindnumbing work of Degas ?"

If you are envisioning this, don't, I'm not speaking of those places.

Instead, close your eyes, loosen your belts and picture something dirtier, seedier and honestly - undeniably, more arousing to most. Parking lots full at the witching hour (130AM bar closing time in most states - "I don't care where you go, but your not staying here" still ringing in my ears), hallways darkened enough to hide but with subtle, unflattering splashes of light - invariably red, sometimes blue -disclosing faces, bodies, the scurrying of the shamed or the bravado of those too drunk to care. Men linger, more shadow then real and less real then the air they breathe: stuffy, used, stale and spent. Here they are not searching for Grisham, Updike, Irving or Sedaris, but "Stealth-mode" cruisers seeking companionship and solace in the hands of a ten-minute friend with the aide of a few, crisp dollar bills. In the place of the music of Enya, is a symphony of sounds of the red light district, an orchestra of moans with an accompaniment of zippers (down, then up - for some: REPEAT) and of course the whirring of dollars finding their new home). Nightly the twenty-year-old stained, trampled-on and matted-down carpet surrenders and becomes an ashtray, a repository for things unsaid, undone, under foot - condom wrappers mingle with cigarette butt's, forsaken phone numbers linger - crumpled up used to dispense of chewed gum, and splatters of jizz, cum, spunk - dropped, shot and freed, plays havoc - impersonating tell-tale land mines carried away on the perpertrators shoe. The hallways appear to bow under the weight of it's visitors. Each carrying the burden of fear, apprehension, lust, want, need, hope and desire as if they were each a stick - tied neatly in bundles and slung over each man's shoulder.

The adult bookstore is a perverse playground of funhouse mirrors - devilishly entertaining, offering distorted glimpses of who we could be at certain moments.

"Whadd'Ya into Slugger??", hoarsley whispers one-passerby, a garage mechanic maybe - grit still beneath his nails, perhaps a high school football coach - still wearing recent victory on his brow, but more likely an accountant at Boring, Bored and Tiresome, Inc. - trying to forget the wife and kids at home.

I wish the younger one leaning against the wall, curious, embarassed (making him all the cuter) and strong (making him all the more desirable prey) would follow, yet it's the others - out from the red-laced shadows who wish to play "Tag" to your "It". Oh to be a young, Drew Barrymore in "Firestarter" and just implode these trolls in flames. Stare-Glare-Zap-Poof! Hah! Your a burnt marshmellow in the shape of a troll.

I select a booth, head swimming, crotch throbbing and fall prey to the wait...anxiously ironing out crumpled dollar bills with the heat of my hand.

To Be Continued

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

"Hold on to your hat, " my father said, "because here's the guitar you've always wanted."

  Surely he had confused me with someone else. Although I had regularly petitioned for a brand-name vacuum cleaner, I'd never said anything about wanting a guitar.

excerpt from Some Day I Talk Pretty, by David Sedaris

Monday, September 03, 2001

More than 25 years ago, back in 1977; I was the smallest kid in school (well I think there may have been a girl or two smaller, but they usually ended up being "March of Dimes" spokes models). Certainly, at the ripe, old age of eight, I was the smallest boy in the 3rd grade at Sabold Elementary School in the painfully, middle class suburbs of blue-collar, white-collar, junkyard dog-collar, Philadelphia.

Each Thursday at 1pm (following a well-balanced lunch of the color brown, green and white - served warm and red served cold and jiggling), my tiny 3"9', 58lbs frame could be found, but almost not seen, rushing down the hallways. My sweet-faced, melon-sized head (accentuated with a chestnut brown mop of hair with bangs that looked like string cheese and spent most of their time encaging my big, brown eyes like jail cell bars) often full of thoughts of Hardy Boys adventures and Evil Kenevil heroics. I would rapidly shuffle my perpetually untied Buster Browns down the stuffy, overheated - "class-is-in-session-better-have-a-hall-pass" halls with the shamelessly painted, orange glazed concrete floors and posters screaming "Reading is D-Y-N-A-M-I-T-E!".

My destination:    Speech Therapy

From age seven to my early and tortureous years of junior high school, I was cursed with a rapidly running mouth, a nasal-garrish-Philadelphian accent and "a lisp". Each attribute difficult to take at face value, unless your with the tour company for "RENT", but far more horrific grouped clumsily together

Weekly lessons, diligent practice and constant pressing of my tongue to the back of my front teeth when I was reciting, "She sells seashells by the seashore" (ala Cindy Brady without the curls and well only "half" the sass) didn't offer nearly half the encouragement to improve, that bullying and put-downs from boys with names like "Rusty" and "Pepper" during 7th grade gym glass (an oddly homo-erotic and homo-phobic institution for pubescent humiliation if ever there was one) brought forth in me

My parents were always so proud at how quickly I overcame my lisp once I reached Jr. High school - reasoning that the timing with puberty must be more than coincidence - and be credited for the transformation. I weakly smiled and often retreated to my boyhood bedroom and practiced words like "Stop saying that Stupid Shitheads" and rubbed my scraped knee or bruised arm, like a genie's latern for good luck.

This is all came to mind the other day when the drunken straight guy at dinner seemed so amazed and admiring of my bruiser physique, quick wit and rough exterior...maybe I let myself down by not telling him how I earned it, maybe I should have just smiled and not let it matter, but somewhere in the back of my head - hidden behind years of forgetting, I heard a kind little boys soprano voice chirping - lisping - "thhhhee thhheelllssssthh thhhheashellssthhh by the thhheashore".