Call me Alvin, call me Ane.
Every now and then, I experience something that reveals connections previously unrealized, gives birth to revelations about self, society and the human condition. Since I rarely leave the basement, the experience usually involves satellite television service.
Such is the case a few nights ago.
It’s late — not yet time to turn in, but too late to take to the keyboard and write; too deep into the evening to adjourn to the studio and paint without benefit of pharmaceutical assistance.
Since my pharma pouch is empty per doctor’s orders, television it is. Comfy, shallow, simple territory.
I kick back, cover myself with the prayer quilt the Episcopalian ladies sewed for me back when surgeons cracked my noggin, and I cruise. The prayer quilt keeps me warm, and it has a huge cross stitched to the underside. It never hurts to hedge your bets.
In the course of my tele-trek, I wend my way via remote to the best show I have seen since I watched a recent Cops marathon. It’s hard to top 24 hours of oh-so-righteous law enforcement officers with inflated egos and snappy department T-shirts entrapping prostitutes at seedy motels; or of truly noble cops stoically enduring the abuses of drunks, meth freaks, crackheads and testosterone-fueled guys in sleeveless T-shirts as the perps scream obscenities before falling to the ground to roll in pools of vomit.
I love the term “perp,” don’t you?
I click my way past reruns of cooking shows. I can’t resist a cooking show that features linguica, but nothing Portuguese presents itself this night, so I move on to a news broadcast from Denver.
Everything is “breaking news” or “developing now” on this Denver TV news show. Vital. Urgent.
Most of the content of the show (aside from weather and sports, which consume more than two thirds of the broadcast) is delivered in less-than-one-minute-long, grammatically flawed snippets by young female reporters who pose on street corners, makeup perfect, wind mussing their hair and ruffling their news team jackets. You don’t see many middle-aged to old folks reporting from the field and no one appears who is porky or more than a click off the standard look. Can’t have that. The stories are breaking, after all, and mid-market news capitalizes on male fantasies and unrealistic female images to capture an audience.
A handsome-in-a-flawed-way anchor cues the news femmes. His eyes are too widely set for him to ascend to a major market. Denver is the peak of the broadcast mountain for this goof; when he ages and begins to visibly erode, the station will jettison him and he will tumble down to a job as an adjunct instructor in the journalism/media department at a community college in Wyoming, spending his nights in a doublewide with a crippled Labrador retriever, a fist full of Nardil, and a quart of cheap vodka.
Our wide-eyed boy prompts the evening’s top story.
“We go now to Darla Perkins in Commerce City for breaking news. Darla, we hear an injured mother cat and her litter of helpless kittens were found this afternoon, abandoned next to a youth center. It’s a situation that has animal lovers up in arms and the kids at the center traumatized. What can you tell us about the investigation?”
Darla tells us, in 30 seconds, that a weepy employee at the center rescued the felines and the kids have “speaked” to counselors. As Darla smiles her “want a lap dance?” smile and pushes her windblown hair from her face with the back of her hand, she returns us to the studio for more news.
The news is developing, and I’m developing an urge to scream.
Earlier in the day, I watched a video of Michelle Obama delivering a speech concerning the responsibility of parents — in particular, males — to empower their daughters, to provide them with the platform they need to ascend in societies that restrain, restrict and condemn women. The address was beautifully composed and delivered skillfully, with dignity. The contrast with the 30-second news kitten is extraordinary, and distressing.
I read a story in an online edition of a British newspaper about an attack on African villages by extremists that left an estimated 2,000 people dead — most of them women and children.
What do I get from Denver?
Darla, and cats.
I need substance, not breaking “news” from nymphs.
I click to a rebroadcast of a soccer match pitting Aston Villa against Manchester United. I learn Man U is not what it used to be, crushing a hapless Aston Villa side in this tilt, but lagging behind Chelsea and cross-town rival Man City in the standings. I zip past one of those shows where a ruggedly handsome chap searches old buildings for ghosts but, oddly, never finds them. I finally light on a home shopping channel, and I hit pay dirt.
A special sale extravaganza is underway, flush with high-energy excitement: a full 30 minutes of “adult toys.”
Two women sit on a couch. The top of the coffee table in front of them is littered with brightly colored boxes and smooth, space-age objects.
The woman on the right, my left, is Ane (pronounced Anne). Ane looks like a realtor: neatly coiffed, dressed in a conservative blouse, jacket and skirt, neutral colors. She smiles; she has beautiful teeth. I remember that “ane” means “ass” in French.
To Ane’s left, my right, is Dr. Kat, clinical sexologist. The doc also looks like a realtor. A realtor who spends time each day cruising Internet porn sites. She, too, has beautiful teeth, and smiles constantly. I imagine Kat had other jobs in her time.
The gals are excited, to say the least. Why? Well, the big sale, of course.
For both of you.
There is enough sculpted plastic, glass and soft gel on the table to service a battalion of sybarites, given a sufficient supply of batteries.
Ane displays the newest model of the Rabbit Vibrator. She holds it like a hand model holds a bottle of detergent. During a close-up, I spot a blood blister beneath the nail on Ane’s middle finger, left hand. Probably got it while changing a tire. Or opening a pack of batteries.
“It’s a woman’s best friend,” says Ane, smiling broadly, turning the impressive blue device — including “rotating tip, with the G spot Rabbit” — while glancing over at Dr. Kat, who nods with a knowing look on her face. I get the impression the doc is familiar with the Rabbit and its work.
“It’s a best seller,” adds Dr. Kat, “with three fast-vibrating stimulators and a curved tip to find that elusive G Spot.” Oh, that pesky G Spot: always hiding.
“And, it’s waterproof!,” says Ane.
I’m glued to the screen as the dynamic twosome spotlight the G3 Massager (silicone, and USB rechargeable), the vibrating silver bullet (enhanced ergonomics, easy to clean, with vibration levels adjustable all the way up to “unbearably strong”), and the platinum power bullet (slimmer than previous bullets, easy on/off switch at the base, made for tub or shower and, thus, waterproof).
Watching Ane and Dr. Kat review the complexities of the devices set before them, listening to them promote the promise of satisfaction the devices offer, I can’t help but reflect on the remarkable lineup of creative geniuses who made American industry (with the help of factories in China) the productive behemoth it is today. From Thomas Edison to Henry Ford, to Steve and Woz, to the inventor of the G Spot Rabbit, we dominate the vanguard.
We’re Number One!
Then, Ane and Dr. Kat make a seamless transition to items for us guys, with nary a blush between them. This is science, after all.
The Super Head Honcho Masturbator grabs my attention: simple in concept and, according to Dr. Kat, the “perfect companion.” Oh yes, Dr. Kat understands men.
I learn from Ane that there is a famed “sexpert” by the name of Sue Johanson who selected this item as Sex Toy of the Year on her award-winning cable television show. The Honcho features two openings for easier cleaning and a longer tunnel for guys who need the room (I haven’t met these fellows). It’s made of smooth TPR (which I thought was a drug used to prevent damage from strokes) with a redesigned structure and amped up AA power to make sure the enhancers do their job. Best of all: the Honcho is manufactured in America. Not necessarily by Americans … but, in America.
Dr. Kat holds the Honcho in her right hand — a queen gripping a scepter as she sits on her throne, passing judgment on the serfs.
For him and her, Ane has the perfect device: the Big O vibrating cock ring. Multi-stage, a top-mounted vibrator delivers the mail in no uncertain terms, (battery good for more than an hour), nubbed ring keeps him up and harder than ever. And, it’s waterproof!
If the nubbed ring doesn’t do the trick, erectionwise, there’s the Pro Pump. It features a super accurate pressure gauge. And, it’s waterproof!
I’m speechless, unlike Ane and Dr. Kat. Watching them, I realize there is a future for the young news waifs once they turn the corner to 40 and fail to get promoted to the anchor slot. From breaking news to developing orgasms.
I sit there, toasty warm under my prayer quilt, and what I see unleashes a flood of pastograms, providing a connection and, ultimately, an insight. At my age an insight, any insight, is a gift.
I won’t go into too much detail, given there are likely several “officials” still interested in finding me but, many years ago, I was involved in an underground publication that began as a parody of the then all-too-available and always seamy adult tabloids. Any city that had an adult entertainment industry had one of these rags. So, while we courted financial ruin operating a failing art gallery, two friends and I decided to create a parody publication in Denver to see if we could weasel money out of advertisers and readers who didn’t realize we were making fun of them.
I wrote the entire thing, 32 pages each week, creating all the copy, laboring under several pseudonyms: Alvin “Call me Al” DeTerio (the editor, with his weekly column “This is My Turf” chronicling adventures with his short, rotund wife, Carmen, as they battled a crazed minister and a coven of bloodthirsty henchwomen); intrepid young reporter Merle Box, a feckless journalism school grad; eye about town Carla Fursberg, the disgraced debutante (a regrettable incident in a parking lot during Cotillion); and Renata Santini, sexual astrologer and part owner of a suburban strip mall swingers’ club.
One of my partners did the artwork and functioned as staff photographer Spazzio Spazzatura. The other partner, known to advertisers as “Jim Steele,” took care of the business end of things while perched behind the wheel of a rust-eaten, gold Monte Carlo.
It was exhausting work and, without a thrice-daily boost provided by cheap Mexican white crosses, it would have been impossible to complete. Four of those crumbly babies first thing in the morning, chased with several cups of Columbian Supremo, and the day was off to a rousing start.
My partners and I (I won’t mention the surviving partner’s name since, for sure, there are “officials” who would like to contact him) worked our asses off putting out 20,000 copies of this rag every week for seven months, distributing it via quarter-fed news boxes in clubs, parlors, adult bookstores and film emporiums in several cities before failing to make enough money to pay production costs and purchase the additional Mexican white crosses we needed in order to continue. We exhausted our love of parody and humor at the same time we finished off our stash of amphetamines, quickly transformed the paper into the real thing via a connection with a shifty character from Las Vegas and sold the operation to a crew of less than law-conscious characters who had neither senses of humor nor any desire to develop them.
Ah…the ’70s. Were it not for these unexpected pastogram deliveries I wouldn’t remember anything from the decade.
How does this connect to Ane and Dr. Kat?
One of our most reliable advertisers was a mail-order distributor based in New Jersey that led the way in the newly burgeoning sex toys biz. The number-one seller was a device called the Accu Jack — a crude predecessor to the Pro Pump. The Jack featured a tube made of rigid plastic that, with even moderately aggressive use, could shatter and do serious organ damage. The device plugged into the cigarette lighter in a car, thus adding electrocution to its possible effects should a Slurpee tip over during a frantic drive-time interlude.
Pity the poor soul who rode the bus and glanced down into the wrong car.
This is the point in the memory chain where things come together, past to present, paving the way to insight.
Some things in Sleazeland have changed as the domain annexes territory.
In the mid ’70s, the touts for “toys” appeared in our publication in the company of ill-designed display ads for incall/outcall massage services (most featuring a poorly focused photo of a bored woman with a tattoo of a bunny on her abdomen) and topless/bottomless strip clubs located in an unincorporated section of a neighboring county. This crud was circulated to a limited audience.
Now, we have the Internet with its many doorways. The crap has gone mainstream, accessible to all. Where once a solitary figure sat hunched over a battered magazine, or in a dark room or plywood booth with an 8mm image flickering on the wall, stimulation now streams unimpeded via modem to teens and old farts alike, across the globe.
Where once a guy in a Buick Skylark convertible sat back at a stoplight, plugged in his dangerous tubular pal and placed it on his lap, his descendent now drives a Tesla and has a NASA-worthy Pro Pump for company.
And, there are things that haven’t changed.
Little doubt, most purchasers of the Rabbit or Super Head Honcho employ their devices while alone, just as they would have 40 years ago. The devices were and are mute, battery-powered, jiggling, suctioning, cold companions (unless you own the Microwave Safe model), complements to cheap porn — stand-ins for real flesh that speaks, has opinions and needs, and requires a more diverse, complex relationship.
The ennui remains the same, the despair runs just as deep.
Don’t get me wrong: I am no moralist, broadcasting exaggerated disdain in order to curry favor with ethical lightweights and mask his own peculiar interests. For shit’s sake, I was Alvin “Call me Al” DeTerio.
Then, it hits me: past and present, things changed, things the same.
Ane and Dr. Kat are … today’s version of me!
We are Alvin.
If that’s not bad enough, considering the nearly three decades I spent in the small-town journalism biz supporting my painting habit, I’m also that clown at the Denver TV news desk! You know, the guy with the widely spaced eyes, at the peak of a minor mount, with nowhere to go but down.
I climbed a small hill. I slid.
Fortunately, I changed from the day I was Alvin “Call me Al” DeTerio and I ended up with more than a damaged dog, a prescription for antidepressants and a doublewide. I’ve got a wife, daughters and grandkids, friends, satellite TV, eight hours of writing and painting a day, and a reservoir of other pastograms to tap. I’m not alone, hunched over in front of a computer screen, a plastic tube clutched in my paw. I’m not being pursued by the authorities for peddling malfunctioning sex toys. I recognize despair, but I don’t share in it.
And I have a prayer quilt.
Some things stay the same. Some things change.
Note to self: invest in the battery industry.
Call me Alvin, call me Ane.