Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Telephone Mirror

Telephones are hand-held phones with televisions in them. You can sit and watch as your life goes by, or record yourself reacting to your environment, and then publish it so millions of people can watch you whenever they want. You don't ever have to be not on TV, even while dating. Especially while dating.

This is what the woman to my left was doing. We were outside in a Lake Oswego outdoor cafe, and she was one table over. It was one of those unusually perfect days with the clouds mere vanilla cream swirls against the blue sky, and most of the Saturday was right there for the taking.

She talked out loud to herself as she recorded herself on her cell phone, video blogging in preview of the date she was about to have. I, too, was waiting on a date. But I was blogging (web logging) the old-fashioned way, writing on a paper notepad with a pen, a chili mocha off to one side. By comparison, she looked too post-modern, a pop-chic chick out of touch with reality, while I looked like a masculine intellectual sensitive to his surroundings, a woodsy Ryan Gosling, perhaps, although we were, in essence, doing the exact same thing. I was just writing by hand onto pages which I would type later on my laptop and (voila!) post on my blog.

I glanced over and squinted at her. She either smiled or grimaced, and kept right on vlogging, pursing her lips as she over-pronounced the important words.

My Tinder date arrived first. Her name was Twila. After an enigmatic smile and hand clasp hello, our informational interview was underway. I would have preferred a bouncy hug followed by a cheek kiss, but who which one of us was the game show host, which one the contestant?

She apologized for her smart phone as she sat down, explaining her need to update her Twitter account, and then ordered a coffee from the hipster chatting with the barista, who was apparently our waiter. She had just started explaining her life story when the waiter returned with her tall, skinny, butter-nut latte. She also received a foam rendering of Machu Picchu adorning the top of her beverage, and it was so detailed she had to take a selfie. Then, another, and an Instagram photo. She took a total of twelve photos of herself while on our date, but of course they were all of her, on her side of the table, with and without her coffee. Then she started back in on her life story, picking up where she had left off as a rambunctious eight-year-old who loved animals and had a strong curiosity about the plight of underdeveloped countries, and continued on to the present day.

She was noticeably younger than I was, and there was a reason for that. I am essentially a writer, professionally speaking, and have spent the past twenty years earning less than average within my demographic. Let's just say writing isn't traditionally a wealthy occupation, especially considering the amount of work that goes into it. Journalism is the lowest-paid profession, as they make even less than teachers. And writers who can't really call themselves journalists, who don't even have the luxury of the mediocre payment that goes along with a deadline, make even less. I'm doing well now, of course, as a content provider for the NSA, but women around my age generally make slightly more, and attractive, fit, intelligent women with well-adjusted personalities generally make a hell of a lot more.

It's not that they're interested in money, per se; it's just a lifestyle thing. Most Americans in their 20s and early 30s are still working hard to make their futures more comfortable. But with any luck, a conservative ethic for several years will bring enough financial security and savings to upgrade their quality of life, and they will start replacing extra-curricular work hours with something more fun. It's time to invest in sports and hobbies, maybe buy some new toys, and travel and do new things.

So here I am, finally at a point in my life where I can responsibly finance a relationship, and most attractive, single women my age are that far ahead of the game. But the younger women are more economically accessible. The only downside is that they're young.

At this point, the woman to my left, who was waiting for her own date, made a loud announcement as her date finally showed. It was, “Oh, my god! What the hell?” He walked into our area of the cafe with the clickety-click of his cycling shoes. He held an aero helmet in one hand, and wore sweat-laced compression shorts and a mud-stained triathlon shirt.

I just had a Facebook discussion on how I should dress,” she said. “I swear to god, I was going to show up in tights and a sweatshirt, because I just came from a yoga class. But no, everyone said I should dress appropriately and treat this as a real date, although it's really just a meet-up, so here I am in a skirt and a nice-looking blouse, and you're here just off a ride, or something.”

Yeah,” he said. “Can I sit down? I have two other meet-ups planned, so I figured I'd just ride because of the parking. And I needed to get in another few miles, anyway.”
Suddenly I remember I'm ignoring my date, who is quiet. But she's fine. She's frantically texting on her phone, watching the scene unfold at the table beside us.
Oh em gee,” she said. “El-oh-el.”

Twila left after a few minutes to meet her next date, allowing me to turn my attention back to my notebook. The cyclist left soon after that, the woman at the table looking after him in amused dismay.
I have an empty table, here,” I said.

She looked over at me for the first time, and smiled. Gathering her things, phone still in one hand, she fished out a card and dropped it on my table as she walked by. I could see her thumbs moving on her device as she left the cafe patio.

I picked up the card, and turned it over. The print was a simple design with stark colors, revealing her SnapChat profile.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


There was one good water fountain in the entire school. You're familiar with the bad ones. They just drool out a film of water, with no pressure, no arc. You have to put your lips right down, almost on the metal to get a taste of any water, and this was how all the fountains were, except one. The one water fountain with any amount of pressure was located in the lower main hallway, next to the outer doors leading to the gym, and this is where the cheerleaders would spread out, along the hallway floor, painting and marking on rolls of construction paper.

This was where I first met the cheerleaders, as a high school freshman getting a drink after a five-mile run. High as hell from the endorphins, and about four percent body fat, I would chat with them, and they were very friendly. I didn't know why everyone thought cheerleaders were self-centered bitches, but I concluded that they must have been jealous.

The football team was jealous. The football team only won two games in four years. They were too cool to practice, more concerned about their hair than actually completing a pass. The football players weren't athletic in any sense; they were just on the team because they were popular. And they were second-rate, at that, because the most popular boys were on the soccer team, where they could keep their hair nice while posing on the field without breaking a sweat. The only reason anyone went to football games was for the cheerleaders.

The real athletes were the distance runners competing in track and cross-country, but we weren't that popular. It was too bad there wasn't anything like mixed martial art in high school, but more on that later.

In college there were cheerleaders, and it was basically the same story. They had athletic scholarships, and a better win record than the football team. And they also dated guys a couple years older, and rich. Why wouldn't they?

So at this point, I'm just wondering where all the cheerleaders have gone. They're still cheering in schools, of course...I just mean, where do they go from there? Some of the professional sports teams have cheerleaders, but as professionals they make only minimum wage, if that. Some of them dance for nothing but the privilege of wearing a uniform. So they're really less professional cheerleaders and more part-time dancers and/or students or baristas.

The cheerleaders, the professional ones, are all strippers. That's how the social phenomenon has evolved. Years ago football games became sporting representations of war, sometimes pitting schools against each other to form bitter rivalries before the young men were shipped off to serve in the military. The cheerleaders served to work up the crowd and, like earth-bound stewardesses, give the participants a reason to keep going. So when you're a single guy working a 40+ hour workweek and you need motivation to keep going, that's where you go, apparently. You find your own cheerleader at the local bar that features nude dancing. And if you want to date a cheerleader, now that you're a bit older and finally have some money, that's where you go.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hell's Angels

Mary Alice sauntered slowly to her heavy wood desk, enjoying the sound of her lemon corduroy pants. She dropped into the overstuffed office chair and braced herself, slightly spinning left. She would soon lose her virginity.

Having sex for the first time would be her idea, but she hadn't yet put that idea together. Right now, it was just the beginning of a notion that had been brewing for a while. Sister Mary Alice opened a drawer, and then closed it. She should be working, but there was nothing to do, as it was one of those brief moments when everything in the convent was in absolute order.

Loosening her scarf, Sister Mary Alice shifted in her chair. Today would be the day, and she didn't even know it yet. But she was already prepared. At 68 years of age, she was prepared for anything.

That was an excerpt from my latest piece of erotica, a sweet romance entitled, “Nun Too Soon.”

But once I wrote several erotica stories, I realized it was too easy to get published. After the “50 Shades” phenomenon, where an amateur writer wrote a best-selling erotic novel based on her love of the Twilight series, which was, itself, soft-core adolescent romance pivoting around a mundane, two-dimensional female protagonist and her asshole boyfriend, publishers expanded exponentially to publish any and everything erotica to get a piece of the action.

There were now so many new imprints and small presses publishing electronic forms of erotica online, with absolutely any word count, that there's little assurance any one story would be actually sold. All but gone are the ways of conventional marketing and promotions. Volume is key, and you publish as many stories as you can, hoping someone will make the connection via social media, word-of-digital-mouth.

I needed to do more research to gain a journalistic advantage. Portland, Oregon, was the stripper capitol of the nation, and little has been written about this social phenomenon. This brings to mind Hunter S. Thompson's first book, “Hell's Angels,” the true story written in classic journalistic style about biker gangs. Like the celebrated hunter of Kumaon penning details of his dangerous excursions among the man-eating tigers of India, Hunter Thompson studied biker outlaws. He was never fully accepted as one of them, but he gained enough of their confidence to be able to live among them, interacting on a personal level, and at times getting into dodgy situations with the law.

This is the sort of thing I had in mind. With rare insight into the time-honored career of exotic dancing, my stories would thrive. Hell's Angels, indeed.