bellocqsadeleCarriSkoczekTwenty years ago I published my first book with a small press, and it won an award my hometown newspaper described as “the prestigious Flannery O’Connor Award.” My father still thinks that’s the award name, though he says The Prestigious Flannery O’Connell Award. All writers hope that getting their first book published will change their lives. It does, variably. I got a teaching job, also firsthand insight that hardly anyone reads a small press book with a good award except writers and aspiring writers—especially an aspiring writer enrolled in your class and perhaps his mother. One day a student a few years younger than me told me his mother had read my book. I braced myself. I was in one of my grim starter marriages, and my grim father-in-law had weighed in. He’d skimmed my book and grimaced. “Trying too hard to be naughty.” He compared me unfavorably to Shakespeare, whom he couldn’t have read closely.  “Why sex?”

In a class full of oversexed boys, Willie was one of the most bizarre incarnations. He was on the smaller side, like me, scrawny, and usually clad in ill-fitting sweaters and corduroy pants. He wore his hair in a small, unkempt Afro, a stark contrast to the other black kids’ tight box cuts and fades. Willie talked and joked about sex even more than most of the other boys, but his role was more court jester and class clown than king and confident braggart.

His main act was “juggling [his] titties.” He’d cup his dark, spindly fingers under his chest and bounce them up and down slowly, as if each contained a huge overflowing breast that he could barely contain in his hand. Laughing uncontrollably, he’d cry out: “I’m juggling my titties, I’m juggling titties! Watch out, I’m juggling my titties!” Then he’d pantomime one of his “titties” coming off in his hand and pretend to throw it at the nearest kid. “Watch out, I’m going to hit you with my titties!” he’d yell as people screamed and dived away from him in every direction.

This joke never seemed to get old, to him or his victims. At lunchtime and recess, kids were often heard dashing down the hallway, their feet sliding as they careened around the corner, calling out desperate and giddy warnings to the others up ahead: “Watch out! Watch out! Willie’s juggling his titties again!”

Today, however, Willie’s titties were dormant under his lumpy gray sweater, at least for the moment. He sidled up to me where I sat, alone, at the lunch table. “Hey,” he said, “I got a question for you.” His eyes were hungry, his mouth a wide white grin.

“Yeah?” I said. I didn’t trust Willie. He had two other boys with him, who were both already on the verge of laughter.

“You ever had pussy around your neck?”

I squirmed on my stool—a sickly pale-green disk connected by a metal arm to the lunch table—and picked at a small piece of crud next to my tray. These kinds of questions always made me feel terribly small and uncomfortable. Around us was utter chaos, as usual, boys whooping and burping and punching each other, food flying, screaming, laughter. A combination of burnt pizza and cleaning solution hung in the air. My eyes rested on a large cherry pie stain on the lunchroom wall, and I thought about the question.

Pussy. The word offended me, and certainly made me nervous. Things I don’t understand often make me uncomfortable, especially if I sense they are important. At 11 years old, I didn’t understand “pussy” at all, although I could already tell it was tremendously important. I barely even knew what it was, and I was deeply aware and ashamed of my ignorance. All I knew was that it was a crude term for a woman’s private parts, but I had never seen one, let alone had one around my neck!

It didn’t sound possible. I had the impression that tightness was a virtue in a pussy, at least that’s what all the other boys were always saying. But all things sexual were very mysterious to me. My parents were both shy types who apparently thought sex was something magical, certainly not to be discussed. I gleaned what little understanding I could from the conversations I overheard at school, while trying desperately not to reveal my own ignorance, which I usually ended up doing anyway.

Where pussy was concerned, I knew you could stick fingers in it, or a penis, and probably a lot of other things too. But your whole head? That sounded absurd. And yet … I had also heard that you could “eat” a pussy, though there was fierce debate among the boys about whether one ought to or not. Some boys decried pussy-eating as disgusting or even “gay,” while others claimed it was a source of great pleasure and delight. I struggled with the terminology—surely they didn’t literally mean eating, did they? But at the very least I knew that “eating” a pussy involved the mouth. Perhaps then, I thought, as I wrestled with Willie’s question, if a person were to “eat” a pussy that was too “loose” (as I’d heard many, if not most, of the ones belonging to the girls in our class were), one’s whole head could somehow become lodged in there and one would actually have “pussy around [his] neck.” Still, it seemed unlikely.

“Well …” I said slowly, not wanting to commit myself either way. A small group of onlookers had formed around us. This was agony. What was the answer Willie was looking for? How I hated to be wrong! “No,” I said, “I never have.” It seemed to me that to say I’d ever had pussy around my neck would have been to admit being involved in some bizarre sexual act that I couldn’t even fathom. Since I had no idea what that might be, I couldn’t risk it.

“You haven’t?” Willie said theatrically, with mock surprise. For the benefit of his delighted audience, he repeated the question: “You’ve never had pussy around your neck? Are you sure?”

“No, I never have,” I asserted again, trying to sound more confident about my answer this time. “That’s nasty,” I added, as if to bolster my claim.

“Then how were you born?” Willie said. “What are you an alien or something?”

I still didn’t understand.

“Dummy, you came out of a pussy. Everybody has had pussy around their neck.” He looked smug. His two cohorts snickered at my stupidity. I was flabbergasted. He was right. I hadn’t even thought of that. Then he broke into a smile, cupped his hands under his chest and started bouncing them up and down impishly.

“Watch out!” he yelled, suddenly whirling around and charging toward the group of onlookers that had assembled to hear the answer to his strange and unsettling riddle. “I’m juggling my titties! I’m juggling my titties!”

And then, at last, I was alone again.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that wasn’t the whole story. When I was born, before I could be delivered, my umbilical cord had become twisted around my neck, and I’d actually been born by emergency C-section. I hate to think of my mother being sliced open like that, and part of me wishes Willie had been right, but he was wrong: In fact, I never have had pussy around my neck.

J.B. is quiet, talks in a soft voice. Built like Olive Oil, Popeye’s girlfriend, he could probably hide behind a flagpole with room to spare. Hair dirty and hanging in dreads, he suffers from an obvious lack of coordination. I think he’s cute, though not strikingly handsome. When he grins, full fleshy lips pull up over his teeth. He’s got a crooked kind of smile, and this makes me like him all the more.

I will let him kiss me today.

 

I went to a bachelorette party with my good friend, because it was for her daughter and she wanted company. I was under the impression that they were the similar to wedding showers. I’ve been to one wedding shower in my life and it was quite nice. There was actually a color scheme. Everything down to the plates matched. I was impressed with the planning that went into it. There were balloons and confetti all over, more great treats than you could eat, a big group of family and friends, tons of sensible gifts and a bonus of a really great dog to play with if you got self-conscious because you didn’t know anyone.

Victor was going with his good friend to the bachelor party. I had heard about those and wondered how long into the night Victor would last. (He made it through dinner and then he and his friend left the party to go home to bed.)

We arrived two hours early to help out, but there was nothing for us to do. So we watched one of the groom’s two 90-year old grandmas icing a penis cake. It was big and intricate. Something just seemed out of whack. (90-year old grandma icing a penis cake, you know.)

The theme of the party was “The Penis.”

The plastic silverware ended in penises.

The ice “cubes” came in quite a variety. There were penises with scrotums, naked ladies with huge bosoms, couples frozen in flagrante delecto, and vaginas, (I feel that I should repeat that last one; there were vaginal ice cubes.)

The Party “hats” were paper glasses. The eyepieces were testicles. The nosepiece was a penis. There was a choice of flipping the penis erect or flaccid. People were wearing them both ways.

I thought I had seen the full array of the penis theme of the night and there was nothing more ahead of us but the opening of the gifts and the snacks.

Then a woman came in rolling a crate with drawers and a large case on the top. She was setting up in the corner of the room while the ladies placed chairs in a half circle around her. I thought there might be entertainment, a magician, perhaps.

The mysterious lady asked everyone to sit in a booming voice.

“Has anyone been to a Passion Party before? she boomed, you are all about to find out what a Passion Party is!” She could have been a disc jockey with that voice, or a politician. (Definitely not a magician.)

She started out slowly, passing around aerosol cans of “Irresistible Pheromones” to spray on the sheets at night. There was a tube of “Tighten Up!” There was an advertisement on the side of the tube that promised “It would be like the very first time!” I wondered how that worked.

After the sprays and the powders and the gels, Booming Lady brought out the “appliances.”


“The tip of your nose is the most sensitive spot to test these babies,” she assured us. Politely, each lady placed the vibrating appliances to the tips of their noses as they passed from nose to nose from one seat to the next. Many of the devices seemed almost alive: in addition to vibrating, the apex of some of these also moved around in a circle. I can say for absolute certainty that my nose had never experienced such sensations before.

I’ll tell you about some of these things, but many are just too embarrassing to describe here. There was “The Double Bullet,” (“which equaled twice the fun.”) It had wires with which to pull the two bullets out of wherever you were having twice the fun, when you were finished having, um, twice the fun.

There were “Mini” and “Maxi Bullets,” (“press the button and ring your bell!”) No wires accompanied these items, so I wasn’t sure how one would extract them. Booming Lady didn’t sell an extractor. I looked.

Booming Lady claimed one of her biggest sellers was the “Body Wand,” which never needed batteries, since it had a “cord over six feet long!”

Imagine the lengths you could go.

This one I thought was pretty amazing. It’s called the “Flutter Frenzy” and it is worn under your clothes.

 

I pondered how this one could be used. At work? Would you get your work done efficiently while wearing this? At the movies? Would you pay any attention to the plot? While cooking dinner? Wouldn’t you be in danger of burning something in the kitchen?

There were also tubes that had metal ball bearings inside the jelly plastic. These glowed in the dark, which I thought was an extra special touch, although why a man would want parts of himself to glow in the dark was a mystery to me. I myself have never had any problems locating any part of Victor in the dark. I’m just saying.

It was all quite peculiar insofar as only my friend and I were shocked and embarrassed. Everyone else, including the almost 90-year old grandmas was perfectly at ease with all of this.

After Booming Lady’s demonstration, she asked if anyone had any questions. I asked her if her mother knew what she did for a living. She boomed that her mother did indeed know what she did for a living and was very, very proud of her. (I did not believe her. I’m pretty sure that her mother is under the impression that she sells Avon products.)

The bride-to-be was slated to win a large assortment of goodies from Booming Lady’s bag of tricks, depending on how many items were purchased that very evening. A number of enthusiastic people filed, one at a time, into a private bedroom in order to buy from amongst the products.

I, myself, made the mistake of ordering one item which I thought was so totally ridiculous that it would be a funny thing to show to people. It is called a “Car Pet.” This was an item, which could only be plugged into a car’s 12-volt power source, you know, it used to be called the cigarette lighter. It’s important that you understand that this could not plug into the wall, nor could it run on batteries. Seriously, this item was meant to use in a car! Can you imagine anything more absurd?

 

Oddly, Victor did not think it was in the least bit funny. This really surprised me, since he’s quite raunchy. He says horrendous things in public. Ask anyone! In fact, this purchase of mine made him livid. I had to cancel my order to prevent him from having a stroke or something. It was truly a bummer. I haven’t the slightest idea why it made him so upset. I still think it would be a fabulous conversation-starter at a dinner party. I thought it was hysterical, but I suppose that you have to let the fuddy-duddy partner make the decision about this type of thing.


While viewing a Ted McCagg cartoon, Jeffrey Pillow remembers an incident when he was 17 involving a bottle of massage oil, a 58-year-old masseuse, and his penis.

“We have a surprise I really think you’ll like,” my mom and sister said.

It was the eve of my high school graduation and I was about to party like it was 1999.

Because it was 1999.

“There’s only one catch. You have to be there at a certain time this coming Saturday.”

Finally, my mom had caved. She was going to sign for me to get that tattoo I had been talking about for so long. I had even drawn out the design: a skull with an old man’s hat with a safety pin sticking out the brim and a pair of dice rolled off to the side. The skull would be smoking a cigarette.

Finally.

Only that wasn’t it.  I would learn as much twenty-four hours after receiving my diploma.

“A professional massage,” my mom said. “I figured with all the stress leading up to final exams, you could use one.”

Fuck, I thought. I’m never getting that tattoo.


****

I got there early, arriving at 9:45 AM. My appointment was at 10:00.

“I hope this bitch is hot,” I said to myself, walking up the brick steps. I popped a stick of Teaberry gum in my mouth so that my breath would be fresh.

“Just go in the room right there and slip off your shorts,” the lady said. I assumed she was the receptionist.

She was approximately 58-years-old with a soft face and gray/white hair, cut short like women cut it once they hit 46 and give up on looking like women. She wore light green polyester slacks. She had a fupa. I would later learn this terminology from my well-mannered wife.

“Fupa?” I asked.

“Yeah, Fat Upper Pussy Area,” my wife said.

It was the first time I had heard my wife say the p-word.

“Say it again,” I said.

“Fupa.”

“No, the p-word.”

“No.”

From Urban Dictionary [dot] com:

Fat Upper Pussy Area (aka. Gunt) -You’ve all seen them, most commonly associated with obese burnt out High School Teachers (Good God man, I’ve seen FUPAS swallow an entire desk whole!) and the Wolf Pack (You know who you are).

Causes: Fupatitis P.

Only known cure: Fupandectomy

Used in a sentence:

Biiiaatch, get your god damn FUPA off my desk!!

Mrs. Addis, I mean Da’aaaam! (nuff said)

Look at dem fupers over der eh. (Canadian Fupa sighting)

Bertha’s pouch above her vagina is bigger than the rest of her body. She’s bigger than the Fupapottomaus, she is a FupaSaurus Rex.

I entered the room to change and first took off my shirt and socks. I swished around the Teaberry juice in my mouth to get the flavors all across my palette. I didn’t want to have bad breath. You know, just in case. I’d read many a Penthouse Forum letter about massage clinics. I knew what sometimes went on in these establishments –- and I was 17. A man can dream when he’s 17, even if he can’t dream at any other time in his life. The possibility existed that this adventure might end in ecstasy, and if that possibility existed, by George I would be ready.

As I was taking off my shorts, the 58-year-old woman with a fupa opened the door.

“What’s taking you so long?” she asked peeking over at me. She had two small white towels in her hand.

Jesus, give me a second, I thought. I’ve only been in here two seconds.

“Well, let me know when you’re ready. I’ll be waiting in the lobby when you’re done.”

She’d be waiting? Shouldn’t she be at the front desk answering the phone?


****

I was lying face down on my stomach when she entered, my face peering through a hole cut out in the bed. I saw her clean white shoes as she entered and those green polyester pants. A towel was over my bottom. The 58-year-old woman was not the receptionist. She was my masseuse for the morning. She squirted some massage oil in her hands and began by rubbing my shoulders and neck then worked her way down my spine. Such soft, delicate hands, I thought, yet so strong.

Oh God, this feels so good. Why have I never had a professional massage before? Knead the bread, I thought as she took the muscles of my back into her hands. Just knead the bread.

Who cares if she’s not a stunning 18-year-old brunette?

“Any areas of special interest you’d like me to work on?” she asked.

“All over,” I said. “But if you could do my calf muscles and legs for a little bit that would be great. I play basketball religiously.”

She squirted some more massage oil in her hands and worked on my calves first then my feet. Then she made her way up my hammies. They were so tender. Man, I really underestimated how good this could feel.

Holy shit, she’s getting close to my thighs.

Oh my God, I’m getting a semi.

Breathe deep.

Fat women. Fat women.

Fat women in purple leotards. Fat women in purple leotards.

Fat women in purple leotards riding unicycles.

Oh my God, she just graced my perineum.

I’m sure it was an accident. Definitely an accident.

She went down my hamstrings again and to my calves.

Then she came back up.

Oh my God, it wasn’t an accident.

She just touched my perineum again. And my balls.

Oh my God, she touched my balls. Oh my God, my penis is getting swollen. Oh my God, she’s going to hit my penis with her hand. It’s facing my knees. It’s facing my knees.

Red alert.

I should have worn boxer briefs. Boxers was a bad idea.

“What is wrong with you Jeff?” my internal narrator Jason said to me. “She’s 58 for crying out loud!”

I’m very well aware of this, asshole.

“Say something.”

Like what? Excuse me, you just touched my balls and now I have an erection?

“She knows what she’s doing,” Jason said. “What are you going to do when she tells you to flip over?”

Oh no, I hadn’t thought of that.

I had to figure out a way to position my penis so it was lying flat on my belly.

There was no way to be subtle though I tried. I lifted my crotch from the table and positioned my penis flat against my belly.

This is humiliating.

“Just go with it,” my penis said.

Hey, fuck you buddy. She’s gotta at least be 58. She’s wearing green polyester pants.

“Grass on the field, play ball.”

“Penis,” Jason said. “SHUT . . . THE FUCK . . . UP! This woman’s vagina is up to her belly button.”

“Mmm,” penis said. “Vagina.”

“Alright,” the masseuse said. “Flip over so we can get your front.”

Then she began working on the front of my shoulders and arms.

She’s gotta know, I thought.

Then she began massaging my chest and ribs.

Oh my God, the towel just moved.

“Reporting for duty, sir,” penis said.

Flaccid. Become flaccid. Oh please become flaccid.

She must have seen that. There’s no way she didn’t see that.

This is the worst day of my life. Someone’s grandma is getting me hard.


****

Fifteen minutes later, the massage was over. She left the room and I stood up, erect as a newly placed statue in the town square. I put my t-shirt on and pulled my shorts up, positioning my swollen, aching penis under my waistband. I walked to the front desk with my gift card.

“Thank you,” I said to the 58-year-old woman with a fupa.

“Thank you. Come again,” she said with a smile.

That bitch is mocking me, I thought as I walked out the door and down the brick steps.


****

“How was it?” my mom asked as I entered my home.

“It felt really good,” I responded. Then I went upstairs to my bedroom and locked the door.

[Insert happy ending here]

I’ll get right to it. I could barely pee on my own without shooting a stream like a wild hose was out of control on the bathroom floor.

The problem wasn’t me. The hall commode was a cathedral of tile and fixtures with a throne set almost too high for my tippytoes to help reach.

You see, I was an independent young lad. I could clamber out a bedroom window at three years of age and walk through the dark, out to the edge of Candler Avenue in San Jose, California, and sit on the curb with our dog Candy.

 I’d do that: curb sitting. Just pass the time. Just sit there with our overgrown sheltie dog, watching the clouds, watching people pass in the dark, or during the midday, or whenever.

You’d think that dog could have helped me take a proper piss in the toilet.

I had no problem whipping it out for a leak in the backyard like I was on some great adventure in the outback of my dreams.

Hell, I could drench the side of the house and shoot petals off flowers if I had to. Me and the dog—we pissed together on the apple tree. It was fun. I don’t know why she lifted her leg. But she did.

I gladly pissed in the wild. In fact, I could have been on “Survivor” at age three and won. 

Most challenges of my wayward youth were easy obstacles to defeat.

Getting out of the neighbor’s garage after sneaking in. Simple. That was just a waiting game. He left and turned off the lights. I think I just crawled into a really dark place. I popped out when there was light, terrifying everyone like I was a cat scampering from a tin can.

Once I tried to slither out of a canal as torrents pushed me down its muddy banks, determined to drown me. I escaped. I told my mother I fell into a puddle.

I solved the problem of urgency once by running toward home and pooping in my pants. I hid the evidence in my room. I don’t even think the dog ratted me out.

I found creative ways to turn Tinker Toys into bows and arrows and launched them at my brother’s skull. I could have hunted deer.

But that damned toilet.

The bathroom throne was my greatest challenge at about age three. I’m guessing here since my parents are no longer among the living. Three sounds good. It puts me at that challenging height for a youngster trying to sling his tiny dick into position for a squirt into the commode.

I was proud of myself when I reached such fathomable heights and wasn’t shooting the opposite rim, or firing away at the open door.

I remember pushing up the seat and lid. That was always a minor victory when my pants were around my ankles. Yes, that’s how I peed then. There was no sneaking it out through little portholes. The pants went straight to the ankles just like that one rejected American Idol song: “Pants on the ground, pants on the ground…”

And the dick went on the rim. Barely. That could have been a verse in that song. “Dick on the rim, Dick on the rim! Hat turned sideways, dick on the rim!”

The toilet seat fell in slow motion.

I could have moved. But it took so much energy to yank down my pants, get on my tippytoes, and then try not to shoot the dog that was watching.

I couldn’t react. Little kids can’t react. They just watch. I watched.

I watched the toilet seat smash my tiny wiener.

And then I howled in pain. I howled and did some sort of strange tribal dance, because, well, that’s what you do when your wiener gets crushed.

I howled because I had to pee and I was afraid.

I howled for my mommy. She came running in. She held me as I howled, “I want a Band-aid!”

And then she put one on.

I felt glorious.

I’m guessing it fell off somewhere outside.

Like a grown-up version of musical chairs, speed dating was all the rage during the post-9/11 urge to merge. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center left some couples clinging to each other as if their very survival depended on it. Other relationships snapped under the pressure. Young singles who were previously perfectly happy on their own suddenly felt compelled to pair off.

As with everything in those frightening months, time was of the essence. Activities that separated the wheat from the chaff were in high demand. We wanted to spend quality time with our loved ones, write our wills, donate to patriotic causes, and contemplate the meaning of life. All of this while being slightly suspicious of everyone around us.

Speed dating was just what the doctor ordered: a single location for multiple, time-limited dates in one evening without the bother of having to offer or receive awkward rejections.

Several months after the traumatic break-up of my almost three-year relationship, my friend Karen asked me to accompany her to a speed dating event. While I knew that we were both feeling the urge to merge ourselves, I was stunned that she’d consider such a thing. Of course I told her no way, but she reminded me that I hadn’t had a single date since my break-up. I honestly don’t know what possessed me, but I agreed.

The plan was that we would meet in the restaurant’s bar where the event was being held. That way, we could walk into the special event room together. The bar was filled with couples holding hands while they waited for their tables. The tables were filled with couples who ate from each other’s plates and finished each other’s sentences. The acoustics created by the high ceiling in the cavernous space made for a carnival-like experience. I waited and waited. Finally, my phone rang. I started for the exit as soon as I saw Karen’s number on the caller ID. Of course she wasn’t coming. Stuck at work. Of course I wasn’t staying.

Then she reminded me that I had already paid for the event so I may as well attend. I should “be open to possibilities.” She wanted a full report later, and she offered that perhaps the evening would make a funny story one day.

Um, yeah right…

I walked through the dining room filled with happy couples toward the event room. Dead woman walking. Perhaps I should have paused for my last meal. The Pasta Bolognese smelled amazing.

For some reason, I feared I would be the lone geek in a room full of poised and accomplished young professionals. I envisioned well-dressed lawyers and doctors sipping sophisticated cocktails and partaking in witty conversations about their stock portfolios, foreign policy, or literature. With quivering knees, I entered the room to find men segregated on one side and women on the other. Good Lord, it was eighth grade with pink girlie drinks for the women and beer for the men!

The men were clumped into small groups pretending to be in deep conversation, while sneaking quick glances to size up each woman as she entered.

The women seemed oblivious to the men. They were all gathered around one woman at the bar who was rather loud and who sucked down drinks in single gulps. The woman was statuesque, a redhead, and the sister of a friend I’d dated briefly. She turned to welcome the newcomer into the tribe and immediately recognized me. She proceeded to introduce me as her brother’s ex-girlfriend, which was definitely not how I would have described myself. Looks of pity followed from the peanut gallery.

Hey, I went out with him for a few months in the course of a ten-year friendship. And we’re all single here. Why else would we put ourselves through this torture? Keep your pity to your damn selves! I thought.

The organizer, Patrick, was obviously a cheerleader back in high school. He rang an obnoxious bell and called everyone to the middle of the room. Women were in a semicircle to his right, and the men mirrored us on his left. A peppy spiel about being open to everyone, balanced with warnings about inappropriate behavior, ensued. He provided extensive directions about the proper way to fill out the scorecard. He didn’t actually call it a scorecard, but we all knew what it was.

There were several tables with numbers on them. Each woman was directed to pick one and have a seat. The men were told to approach a table one at a time for our seven minute “dates.” We were not allowed to talk before Patrick rang the begin-date bell nor were we allowed to speak after he rang the end-date bell. At the close of each date, the men were required to switch tables. They were not allowed to return to a table they’d already visited.

The first gent to approach me looked very much like Bill Gates. Not rich, just incredibly and stereotypically nerdy. Now New Orleans is not known for its beautiful people, but you generally think of people this geeky living near Silicon Valley, MIT, or Microsoft headquarters. I took a deep breath and prepared to be “open to possibilities.” He’d moved to, as he called it, The Big Easy (cringe) from the Midwest. I wasn’t surprised. I was being open. Nothing inherently evil about the Midwest. I have friends from the Midwest.

I asked him what his favorite things were about living in New Orleans. His answer: the food. Great, we had something in common. I could work with that for the next five minutes. I asked about his favorite restaurants. Chili’s and Applebee’s. Um, dude, you could have stayed in the cornfields and eaten at chain restaurants. Good grief.

Okay, next subject. I asked what he thought about Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, and our general party culture. He proudly informed me that after living in New Orleans for five years, he thought that this year would be the one when he “would go to the Bourbon Street to see the Fat Tuesday.”

For the uninitiated, the syntax of this sentence was utterly bizarre. It’s akin to someone in New York going to “the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue to view the celebration associated with the annual advancement of the Gregorian calendar.”

Ding!

In retrospect, Bachelor Number Two turned out to be the most promising of the lot. He had lived in New York making a living as a writer but had returned to New Orleans to run the family plumbing business after his brother suddenly died.

I’m sorry, did you say plumbing? As in pipes and poop? Okay, I had a big ick reaction but rallied on. After all, this guy was creative and responsible. What were the odds? I was opening to the possibilities more by the moment. We talked about his writing, which was heavily influenced by Charles Bukowski. Uh oh.

Now, here I must digress. Many people have types. Some men like women with blond hair. Some women like men who are really tall. My type was incredibly specific. For years, I dated men who played chess, juggled, ran cross-country in high school, and yes, were Bukowski acolytes. What can I say? Apparently, I liked them smart, agile, and highly dysfunctional. It wasn’t like I looked for them. I attracted them. It was an odd gift.

I never found out whether the plumber fit my other unconscious criteria. Once Bukowski was out of the bag, I was done. After all, I was there to break patterns, not repeat them. I somewhat sadly said goodbye when the bell rang.

Ding!

Bachelor Number Three’s appearance immediately set me back in my chair. He was wearing false eyelashes. Seriously. Not, I have a dermatological condition and have lost my eyelashes so I wear these so I don’t look weird false eyelashes, but Mary Tyler Moore from the Dick Van Dyke Show false eyelashes. It was stunning.

Somehow, I got over my mute shock and started a conversation. As it turned out, we were both Jewish and originally from New Orleans. I knew we did not belong to the same congregation because I’d surely have remembered this guy and his lashes. I asked him if he was affiliated. Yes, he did belong to a congregation, but he wasn’t too crazy about it. I asked if he’d attended services there all his life, and he said no. Apparently, his parents paid for his membership. They’d belonged to a number of congregations over the years because his mother tended to fight with people. Uh, how many Jewish stereotypes can you fit into a seven-minute date?

Ding! Thank G-d.

Now, I feel really guilty about describing Bachelor Number Four. He was very nice and seemed like a heck of a lot of fun. But he was remarkably short, maybe five feet tall in shoes, and a rodeo clown. Yes, you read that right. A rodeo clown. I was born in New Orleans, and I had no idea that there was enough rodeo work in the area to make it a full-time job. And maybe I’m being snobby here, but it seemed to me the speed dating people used a mighty liberal definition of the term “professional.”

I tried to maintain a conversation, but my mind drifted to the image of the little fellow emerging from a tiny car with 20 of his friends. Or maybe only circus clowns do that. Anyway, I feared I was going to hell for thinking these thoughts, but the night was so surreal. I felt like I was dating on acid: distortions of space and size, warping time, ringing bells.

Ding!

When Bachelor Number Five approached my table, I exhaled. He appeared perfectly normal, handsome even. He was dressed neatly but informally. He did hold his head at an unusual angle, but I thought he was just being flirtatious. I had no idea what the next seven minutes held.

As soon as he sat down, we agreed that it seemed like we’d met before. We didn’t live in the same neighborhood or hang out in the same places. Was it work? I told him what I did. He told me that he had his own business related to the casino industry. Definitely not work.

Okay, was he Jewish? New Orleans has a small enough Jewish community that sometimes you just know people because you’re Jewish. He responded by asking me if I was Jewish, and I said yes. He said he was not, but that I’d have known that if I had looked in his wallet. No money. Dude, I’d just told you I was Jewish and your reply was an anti-Semitic comment?

By then, I was kind of checking out, so he filled in the conversation with talk of his work. Apparently, the name of his business, 1-ey*d Jack, had special meaning but not for the reason people assumed. He said that he’d had the recent experience of presenting his business card to a “n***** woman” who worked in a casino on the Mississippi Coast. After she saw the name of his business, she indicated that she knew why it was named 1-ey*d Jack—by pointing to his crotch. At this moment in the story, he gestured to his groin. Dear Lord, was this some sort of Neo-Nazi screw with the racially-sensitive Jewish feminist Candid Camera?

No, he was getting to his point. It seemed his business was actually named 1-ey*d Jack because, although his name was not Jack, he had only one eye. The other eye was glass. He tapped it with his fingernail to prove it. I nearly vomited on the table.

Ding!

Throughout these seven-minute increments of hell, my friend’s sister was having a jolly good time. She whooped it up with one and all. I kept thinking she was so much better than I was at embracing the moment and being open to possibilities. Yeah, she is generally a much more go-with-the-flow kind of person than I am, but there were also the cocktails. I wished I’d followed her lead on that.

After 1-ey*d Jack, I was done, so the final bachelor was a dream. He spent the entire seven minutes on his cell phone. Oh, he’d occasionally glance in my direction and nod, but other than that, nada. I didn’t even get his name. As I stared off into space, the rodeo clown winked at me from across the room.

Now, I have to admit, there were a few other fellows there who were decidedly less remarkable than those I’ve described. At the time, they seemed only slightly less wrong. Maybe, between the nerd, the plumber, the eyelashes, the clown, and the penis, I missed a gem. I guess I’ll never know.

But Karen was right. It did make a damn good story.

I was drunk one night after work, singing in a noraebang (Korean karaoke) with co-workers, when Robbie cornered me in the dingy little bathroom. It was awkward. I barely knew the guy, except that he was a co-worker’s boyfriend and a notorious alcoholic. He was a big solid Irish guy, and I couldn’t place his age – Thirty? Fifty? His face was wrinkled and only his bright blue eyes shone out from the mess of grey stubble.

“Your hair, David,” he said. “Your hair is shite.”

“Thanks.”

“I mean, you’re a handsome fella, in all. You look like Johnny Depp… But that hair… No… That hair has to go.”

I said that I’d been meaning to get a haircut for a while, which was true. The heat made my long hair heavy and hot.

When I was married to my first wife, I kept thinking about having a vasectomy. I had lived in a place where there was a population problem, big-time, and as an undergraduate I’d been taught by Paul Ehrlich, who wore a little broken male symbol on his lapel. I believed that population control should be a priority for everyone, and that by foregoing reproduction, I was doing my part.

My wife agreed, but every time I talked about getting an appointment with the urologist she said, “No, please don’t do it, because it’s going to make me feel as though you’re mutilated,” so I didn’t get snipped and tied off until after we divorced.

This went on until we were both nearly 40 and she said, “I want a baby.”

Surprise! But I’ll skip over everything between that and the first contractions.

It was time to go to the hospital, yes, so we went, but the nurse said, “You’re having contractions yes, but enough dilation no, so go back home.”

Bummer! We went back home for a while, and when we came back, yes, it was clearly underway. So we sat in a little room waiting.

We knew it was a boy. We even had a name for him, no problem there. I did tell a full-of-himself neighbor that we were going to name the kid Lud, and he believed me for a long time, at least until we got back from the hospital with the kid.

“So this is Lud,” he said, and I said, “Nope.”

But although we had decided on his name we had not decided what to do with his little dick. Some said the father and child’s dicks should match, and since I was born the child of middle class WASP parents in the forties I was cut.

On the other hand we had been living in the rain forest with men and boys whose dicks had not been cut, and had gotten used to seeing boys with intact foreskins, and I, at least, had gotten used to seeing grown men with their foreskins, such as when we swam across rivers or had to piss.

One time this old guy died and when the women were washing his body I noticed that he had been circumcised, which surprised me, so I asked how that had happened. They said that during the war with Japan he was up at the American base for a while, and he saw Americans with no foreskins and he liked the look, so he convinced an American doctor to cut his off. If I had heard that story without seeing the guy’s dick I would not have believed it, but there it was. Wasn’t, actually.

So we were in this little room at the hospital waiting, and in came this nurse. I thought she was very pretty and I liked her long hair and she was shapely, too. She reminded me of an R. Crumb woman, except she was normally-sized and not weird.

She hopped right up on the bed next to my wife and said, “What are you going to do about circumcision?”

My wife said, “We haven’t been able to decide one way or another.”

And the nurse said, “Well, I can never predict what anybody’s going to do unless I know they’re Jewish. Otherwise I never know and then sometimes when I think I probably know, I’m wrong. I get a lot of heavy-duty natural people in here and I figure they’re going to leave it alone, but then they say, all surprised that I would ask, ‘Oh no, of course we’re going to have it cut off.’ And I’m polite so I never say ‘What, you’re heavy-duty natural people so you should leave it on, what’s wrong with you?’”

I said, “You asked us.”

She said, “I asked, but I didn’t give my opinion. I never say anything, because it’s none of my business, and I’m only telling you so that you won’t think that just because you look like sort of natural people, you know, long hair, beard, I’m assuming that you’re automatically going to let it stay.”

And we looked at each other, actually all of us, and I was thinking, Well if this isn’t a clusterfuck I don’t know what is. Am I being told I’m a light-duty natural person so it’s OK to circumcise my son, or am I being told that since I’m at least light-duty maybe I shouldn’t, or am I being told I’m not heavy-duty even though I spent years in the rain forest with people who didn’t wear a lot of clothes and only one guy was circumcised, or just what am I being told here? If I do it does that elevate me to heavy-duty? Do I even want to be a heavy-duty natural person?

And I had other questions, too. If it’s my wife’s baby then at least is the kid’s dick mine? Am I being the patriarch by controlling his little wiener or is she being the matriarch and controlling his wiener herself, in which case that’s not a very good thing since it’s not her dick. Of course it’s not mine, either.

It was confusing.

I looked at my wife but I couldn’t judge what she was thinking so I said, “We’ll decide later, but thanks for the tip.”

And then of course everybody started laughing, but I hadn’t meant it to be funny. Even so I pretended I had, so as to be thought of as wittier than I really was.

The labor was long and hard and she went for the epidural block and I had no criticism of that, Lamaze or no Lamaze. But I have to say that when the midwife grabbed these big scissors and made the episiotomy I was a little taken aback. I knew it was likely to happen but it was so matter-of-fact, grab from the tray, open, snip and there’s a huge fat cut, which of course made me think of the foreskin even though I knew it wouldn’t be done like that, since I had at one time held a little Jewish infant while the mohel did his thing.

Then eventually he starts coming out and my most enduring memory of that is looking at my wife’s pudendum and thinking, Oh my God, that’s what it’s really for, which forever changed the way I thought about a woman’s sexual parts.

Then he was out, OK, head first and that was fine, here’s the umbilical cord, fine, and then Jesus Christ here are his genitals, hugely swollen, and I thought, Is that what we men really are, mostly dick?

Then when he was out and lying on her chest and I realized that no matter what I did he would always be more hers than mine, I said to the nurse, “We won’t be circumcising him.”



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In Part I of This Post:

I’d been asked by the school nurse to give my fifth grade boys the puberty talk. A couple problems, though: First, I’d never given anyone the puberty talk. Next, the nurse had asked that I refrain from discussing too much about sex while giving the talk.

Yeah right, I thought. That would be like trying to discuss the Theory of Relativity without ever mentioning E = MC 2.

Still, I felt I owed it to my students to do whatever I could to help usher them into manhood.

So I agreed.

To give the puberty talk.


Part II – The Puberty Video:

Finally the day had arrived.

It was time to give my students the talk.

The puberty talk.

Once the girls had left for the library to have their talk with the school nurse I gathered the boys around the VCR.

“Alright you guys,” I said. “You’re gonna watch a video that’ll discuss the changes you and your body will go through over the next few years. When it’s done I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Alright?”

No response.

All the boys had that deer-in-the-headlights look in their eyes.

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This seemed a bit ironic.

When it came to discussing their favorite gross-out moments on South Park, or movie violence, or gang violence that frequently occurred in their inner-city community you couldn’t keep them quiet.

But when it came to learning about how they’d soon develop into young men, they had no idea how to respond.

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This fear of theirs.

It was the same fear I’d experienced at their age, when confronted by my parents and teachers continually bombarding me with pamphlets, instructional films, and lecture upon lecture concerning puberty.

This puberty thing.

Back when I was a kid, it seemed even bigger and scarier than The Big Bang.

And it was all happening right inside my body.

“Don’t worry,” I told my students. “Really. Maybe you’ve heard some of this before. Maybe not. But puberty is just a part of growing up. It’s nothing to be afraid of.”

A student raised his hand.

“Jose,” I said. “What’s up, my man?”

With those bewildered brown eyes fixed right on me, he asked: “Have you gone through puberty, Mr. F?”

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“Absolutely,” I said. “And look at me now. I don’t have three heads or six eyes or anything. Everything’ll be fine. Trust me. You guys just need to learn a few things to help you along the way.”

Jose and a few other boys breathed sighs of relief and flashed gentle nods.

Still others couldn’t shake that stunned look from their eyes.

“Don’t worry,” I repeated. “It’ll be all right. Trust me.” I started the video.

It went through the basics:

•    How the boys would sweat more, grow taller.
•    Their skin would become oilier, maybe causing pimples.
•    Hair would grow under their arms, on their legs, faces, and in the pubic area.
•    Their voices would crack.
•    Their penis and testicles would become bigger and sperm would begin to be produced.

The video featured these two clean-cut white kids, and an African American boy.

That was fine.

One problem though: all my students were streetwise Hispanics.

And while I wasn’t sure how well they could relate to the boys in the video, I sure could.

In particular, this one little white boy kept complaining about how, whenever in the gym locker room, he felt inadequate when comparing the size of his penis to the other boys.

“Whenever I look at those boys,” he whined, “I always wonder why they’re so much bigger than me. Will Ialways stay this size? Will my penis ever grow?”

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“Damn,” I thought. That insecure, ill-equipped little brat was me when I was his age.

With that shameful realization, my hands grew clammy. My face flush.

A few beads of sweat gathered on my brow.

It was like I was re-experiencing that earth-shattering Big Bang puberty all over again.

Right in front of my students.

B-BOOM!!

I glanced around the room, wondering whether or not any of my students had spotted my discomfort, thereby picking up on my deep, dark secret.

Coast clear.

They hadn’t noticed me at all. They were completely entranced by the video’s discussion of erections and wet dreams.

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Once the film was over, I surveyed the boys for their reactions.

A few sported wisecracking grins, but most still maintained that stunned look.

“Well,” I said, hoping for the best. “Anyone have any questions?”


Coming Soon: Part III – The Final Installment – The Q & A Session.


So there I was, one testicle deep in the world of Spanish porn, unsure as to how I got there.

It began back in October of 2005 when I saw an article in El Mundo (a right-leaning major daily periodical) and a full-page ad in a reputable national music magazine for Follar Tour: La Gira del Infierno (Fuck Tour: The Tour from Hell).

According the website and ads, an entourage of real people—which ostensibly means people who aren’t porn stars—tour various cities throughout Spain and Portugal and engage in coitus on stage or within roped-off areas as the public looked on en masse.

Coitus?

I initially thought these events only happened in the American subculture that is hedonistic Southern Cali in private houses where seemingly normal people get together and grope, pull and penetrate strangers with invitations.

But no, this was not merely a swingers subculture or phenomenon.

It was something more insidious.

Tickets were 40 euros per chico, 25 euros per pareja (couple) and chicas got in free.

Eye-brow raising titles to events included:
“sex boxing”
“pool sex”
“uniformed exhibition”

As well as your standard hardcore completely-devoid-of-erotica in any way:
“gang bang”
“threesomes”
“facials”

In all, there were supposed to be 35 events along with DJs and live bands starting at noon and ending at midnight.

This was to be held in November 2005 at La Riviera, a covered dome where I’ve drank beer many times before and been wowed by such acts as Wilco, LCD Soundsystem, and Jane’s Addiction (and one time seriously disappointed by Jack Johnson) since I moved here.

I almost went to this, somewhat out of curiosity but more in hopes of selling the idea to any one of the trendy Maxim-style offshoots such as FHM, Stuff, and Loaded.

I even queried Penthouse and Hustler.

Hustler pays about $1,000/article.

That’s a lotta cabbage, let me tell you.

But a good friend was visiting me from the states that weekend and I didn’t think this was the kind of sightseeing she would’ve had in mind.

Several reports corroborated a lackluster outcome:

No one showed up until 5 pm.

Low ticket sales and a disproportionate number of men put the massive public orgy into slow-starter mode.

Music was intermittent–since initially there was really no one there to place music for–and later it was spotty, sometimes not having a DJ or band for up to two hours at a time.

And it ended early.

If the first follar tour was a failure, you couldn’t tell.

Several months later, Exposex billboards began popping up all over Madrid.

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Then, the next day, as I’m thinking about what all this odd exhibitionist sexual behaviour means, a strange email comes into my inbox.

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A Spanish porn actor, Whilly, was looking to get his website translated.

In exchange, he couldn’t pay me but he offered the possibility of witnessing one of his scenes being filmed.

I really didn’t want to see porn being filmed, but I thought there might be a story in it.

So in pursuit of amateur journalistic excellence and a few emails back and forth, we met for a drink in his flat.

He offered me a beer, which I accepted graciously.

He drank orange juice and wiped his palms on his jeans twice.

He checked his cell phone.

The apartment looked like it hadn’t been dusted or cleaned properly since he moved in, nor had he spent any time considering how to best utilize what little space there was.

In explaining this, he revealed that Barcelona was his hometown and he sometimes goes back to film scenes there.

He stays with his family.

They don’t know what he really does.

His phone rang, he answered it and politely said that he couldn’t speak right now because he was busy.

“I’m with a friend,” he said.

He hung up and explained something: he considers his life somewhat difficult because he usually answers his phone by his screen name, which is (errr—I highly recommend you don’t visit the following link if you are under 18 or offended by porn) Whilly Foc.

Of course, when friends or family call, he has to make sure to answer it coolly and reply to any questions about life as if life is normal at the bank.

He used to work at a bank.

He showed me his latest doctor-signed STD certificate–to prove that he was clean.

Sure enough, he was “clean”.

He then said that the previous offer of getting me into a shoot was off the table.

Getting a director to agree to allowing a journalist be present during the filming of a scene is extremely difficult.

So in exchange for translating his website, he would be able to get me into this upcoming ExpoSex conference.

“The world of porn”, he explained as he pulled out his phone again to check the time, “is very closed. This expo is the first of its kind in Madrid and I can get you interviews with actresses or actors, even directors.”

He wiped his palms and looked up at me and smiled.

“Hell, if you want, you can get up on stage and fuck a girl.”

I respectfully declined this offer but said that I was interested in the interviews—for the article.

For what felt like the 10th time in 20 minutes, he looked at his phone.

“I’m waiting for a call from a director,” he said.

“The thing about this business is that you have to be on call and ready to be somewhere within an hour.”

No wonder he quit working at the bank.

As I was about to leave, he opened up his dusty laptop and said, “Have you seen any of my scenes yet?”

“Ahh, no. I’ve seen the pictures on your website from your scenes though.”

Wrong answer.

I should’ve said Yes, I’m a huge fan.

Low and behold, he fires one up.

“It’s with this Romanian girl,” he explained, “who is morbid.”

Morbid (or morbosa in Spanish) means she’s nasty, that she’s really into it.

So there we were Whilly and I, in his apartment, watching one of his scenes with a morbid girl.

Foreplay was peaking and I couldn’t really do anything but watch the screen in silence, with him.

If I looked toward him, it would be awkward; if I looked away, it would somehow seem that I wasn’t interested in Whilly the “actor” as my lurid-Spanish-human-interest-piece-for-Stuff.

“Look at the way she does that. Isn’t that incredible?”

“Yep.” I answered.

The video, he revealed, took over an hour to shoot and the final scene was anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes long.

He wondered what they did with all the excess.

He skipped through much of it, showing me the highlights.

I nodded in agreement and offered the occasional “uh-huh”; he wiped his palms.

Whilly Foc looks like this in every photo I’ve seen of him.

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He dons a broad, schoolboyish smile on his wide face and a thumb is up.

Always way up.

Sometimes he points (with his index finger) directly at the person he’s next to and extends his thumb up without even trying.

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Either way, the thumb is up.

So I accepted the invitation to ExpoSex, an ultra-trashy sort of Oscars for the world of Spanish porn.

Its objective, according to the website, is “to normalize the sector at all levels, cinematographic, distribution, industrial, etc.” and to provide “an integral meeting point for people in the business, including the public.”

It was held in a now defunct bullfighting ring an hour outside of Madrid.

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Inside, there were four stages and a slew of stands with all types of standard pornography (thousands and thousands of DVDs and videos), sexual toys, penis enlargement kits and all other types of tangible spam related to this business.

A woman, dressed head to toe in a black leather suit, looked like a mannequin.
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Normally mannequins look like women.

A naked woman leaped and sprang on stage to a rock band behind her.

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There was no singer.

A strip tease act by a porn actress picked a manfan from the audience and put him in a chair…

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…while a pop song repeated the chorus melodramatically: “Nothing is better than your love.”

Finally, after being there for two hours, Whilly introduced me to an actress.

Her name was Alba Sanz.

After seven years of being in the business, she sees no reason to get out of it.

After such time, she is still getting nominations for “best actress”, like this year, and thinks that she has a good four or five years left in her.

The interview was conducted at a table situated directly in front of a large plasma TV where a film–her film–was being shown.

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It was the one for which she was nominated as best actress.

I found it difficult to maintain eye contact with this plasmatic distraction pulsating in the background.

I asked if I could have a photo of her trying to look sexy.

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I didn’t have the heart to ask for another one.

She looked wholly spent by years in front of cameras that had sucked every last drop of soul she had left in her.

She didn’t look demeaned or exploited but simply hollow.

A shadow of her original self from when she began in this business.

Sex was just her job.

I wondered when was the last time she had sex for the in-itself enjoyment of it or if she had ever had sex that allowed her to feel interconnected to someone.

Or when was the last time she had sex without a camera recording every action.

An elephantine sensation of pity covered me.

I felt a sudden urge to escape.

Almost three hours in a sex-filled porn-worshipping dome and seeing the general public all together  in this “integral meeting point”, I was exhausted.

On the way out, a fetish crew had wrapped a man in plastic like a piece of luggage in an airport.

They were deciding what to do with him.

The crowd seemed to take notice when the woman pulled out a clothespin and tried to attach it to his nipple.

Then a man started burning a candle behind them, grinning maniacally.

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(Of particular interest are the crowd in the back—now rather alert—and the perplexed expression of the bald man on the left and the short 60 year-old red-haired woman who hasn’t quite grasped the essence of what’s going on.)

I’ve never understood S&M and after witnessing this, I am sure I never will.

After the show, I came home and got a message from Whilly saying that he had won best actor.

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(I wonder if the trophy’s raised arm had its thumb up. And it seems very odd yet quite fitting that he looks like a human-sized thumb pointing skyward.)

He invited me over for another drink to discuss his future plans for the website.

I politely declined.

I’d had enough of erotic-less sex tours for one lifetime.

But Whilly was now widow-peak deep in that world.

And that this most certainly meant more scenes, trophies, tours, conferences, excess and undoubtably many, many more thumbs up…

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Good luck Whilly.

Yesterday I went to the opening of an exhibition at a small art gallery.

I love exhibitions. Especially when they’re small and quirky.

The invitation to the opening was nondescript and black, and gave no indication of what the art was going to be like, or even what medium it was going to presented in. All we could discern from such an oblique invite were the artists’ names, ksubi and Kane, and the title of the new collection.