Emails From the Actual Edge

My friend Thomas Roche has been in LA for exactly one week. Here is a sample reply to my queries about how things are going:

"The one thing I cannot change is the fucking weather, and I hate it. Sunny and beautiful? That is a crock of shit. It is hot, hazy and smells like ass, all the time. And remember how they tell you ‘Oh, the heat’s not bad, because everywhere in LA is air conditioned.’ But it is not. Nowhere is air conditioned. I walked into a 7-11 today and I thought I was going to pass out from the heat. It was like a fucking oven. Even places that have air conditioning don’t turn it on because they like it warm. Oh, it’s nice and toasty warm and it smells JUST LIKE ASS, how fucking WONDERFUL!!!!"

I sent Thomas these pictures to cheer him up (not work safe, big images). "I love those pictures. Maybe I can make movies like that some time soon. Right after the climate change when LA is buried under 10 feet of snow so I can stand it."


I couldn’t be happier that he is suffering. I care *that* much.

Meanwhile, I’ve been away from my blog for a bit, with a mixture of time off and major stress. First off, I have had the unlovely discovery that I have been plagiarized in print. It is a terrible feeling. I was in a bookstore and picked up a cute new sex book — only to have the sinking sick feeling of recognizing many sentences I wrote (dozens, with one or two words changed). I wanted to throw up, or possibly become the first Cleis author in their 25-year history to actually put a Mafia hit out on another sex writer. I brought the book home and found whole sentences, every one feeling like another little dart stuck in my skin. A few years ago, while having time off from a robotics show I was working on, I saw a bullfight in a small, dusty, makeshift ring in a tiny town in Portugal. They didn’t kill the bull in the ring, but filled it with darts for hours. That’s how I felt with my highlighter pen going over the books, side by side. I really don’t know what to do.

So I ran away to Denver, Colorado, to visit friends. I am drying out my liver as I write this, and in fact it is over a towel rack in the bathroom. They have the best bar scene there and some of the coolest bars I’ve ever been in, which is probably because there is little to do in Denver except drink. I particularly liked a bar called the Skylark, which you should visit if you ever happen to be there, because it is like the kind of bar Tom Waits would take a classy dame to, and it is not too clean, yet is new, but feels straight out of the American Midwest 1940s. A real Americana dive.

Denver’s bookstores have like *no* sex books in them. I went to a few and found about 20 books, mostly from several years ago, none of mine, and the sections were ghettoized in weird places in stores. Not that I was on an ego trip, I just like to see what’s up in different communities. I was with a friend and she asked if I knew any of the authors on the shelves and I was like, well… I do know most of them but the sex writer business is so weird. I’ve never encountered such a fractured, disconnected, often mean-spirited group of writers. I mean, you think we’d all be friends (or at least supportive colleagues), trying our best for the greater good of fucking and licking and sucking and all. I mean, we’re pretty marginalized as it is, so you’d think that there would at least be a semblance of camaraderie, as in "when the water rises, all the boats rise," you know, that sort of thing.

But I’ve been feeling pretty critical of the whole business lately. Sure, it’s like any other, but it’s pretty easy from my perspective both as a writer and 6+ year sex book reviewer to see who’s in it for a quick buck, who’s in it for fame and ego and "stardom," who thinks it’s a nobility trip, and then the tireless writers and educators. There are plenty of granola-type older female writers who are really just incredibly mean, and have a rep amongst us younger upstarts for being exclusionary and cruel, big time, which totally contradicts their outer personas. And they are all so desperate to be taken "seriously," and be the absolute authority on the subject, so much that they wind up doing some really weird things at appearances and parties and stuff. It’s all incredibly interesting. I’ve been just kind of observing everyone, how they work and what they do and how they treat others, and I have a lot on my mind about it. And especially my role in it.

First of all, the egos and the quests for fame make me feel like I need to do more for things I care about. I’ve been a volunteer for the Stop AIDS Project a bit over the past year, but there needs to be more of that in my life. That’s a start.

Most of all, these cranky, serious "sexperts" really need to be pranked. I don’t know what I want to do yet, but I am inspired by Ali G, the British comedian who came to the US presenting a bizarre comedic persona to everyone he encountered in a public capacity: that of a gangster rapper journalist from Kazakhstan. It seems that he made many appearances on TV and did several interviews with famous TV personalities and US government officials in his persona and they bought it, and he really effectively pranked them in a truly hilarious way. Like when he got Conan O’Brian to touch his penis on the air, goading him onto doing it by accusing him of being a homosexual for *refusing* to touch Ali’s cock. These cranky sex writers need to be pranked like that; harmless, hilarious. I want to put them all in a room together or on some really tweaked reality show and see what happens, see if they can MacGuyver sex toys to help them survive on a desert island or some sort of public version of putting fighting ants in a jar and shaking it up really hard. I had an idea a while back to give a group of "sexperts" the same assignment in a reality-style setting to see if they could each, say, help a couple to perform a certain type of sex act. But that’s not funny enough, and it definitely doesn’t give enough room for diva temper tantrums, arguments about bizarre sex practices and hair-pulling antics over the best lube flavors, etc. I mean, these people need desperately to be made fun of, especially now that sex guide writing as an industry is turning into such an amusing bloodbath, that anyone can copy a bestseller and write a book about sex with no experience, than prance about like a fancy ham thinking they’re all sexy and mysterious because they wrote a book about sex, or worse, thinking they’re hip or extra literary. Come on, these people make up freaky hippie words about sex like "coreplay" and take very serious the fruity names they give sex acts, such as "cradling the yoni" and "tickling the pickle." Cranky sexperts need to be made fun of. After all, it’s just sex.

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Free Hot Smut

Hooray for free hot smut! Blowfish, those erudite, pervy purveyors with a great toy selection, now have a free online erotica magazine, Fishnet. And like their toy-buying sensibilities, you can expect heavy doses of explicit kink. Updated Tuesdays.

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Hurricane Roche

I’ve been out of the blogosphere for a week, and what a week it’s been. Mostly I was on a self-imposed editing exile to finish the final *final* edits on The Ultimate Guide to Sexual Fantasies, an exile where I go over the whole thing like a little monkey looking for fleas, finding last-minute typos and checking URL’s, etc. The only frustrating thing is that in this stage, it’s in its "galley" form, already through layout, and I can’t make any major changes that would upset the formatting. Like add this nice new women’s sex toy site, Girls’ Night In. I did update and spruce up my cunnilingus and fellatio pages; the design is simpler and there is more information, and external links. If you have recommendations for more, do let me know.

Life has been like a crazy tornado. I’ve gotten lengthy and aggressive emails in all caps from certain best-selling sex authors, had cool conversations with a very helpful, sweet and funny Anka Radakovich, enjoyed a pleasant lunch/porn watching afternoon with Carol, hid in a foxhole while Fleshbot declared a War on the War on Porn, interviewed with a London TV show getting serious about having me on, and saw my best friend blowing out of town amidst a bizarre trail of debris.

That would be Thomas. Last week marked his final days at GV, and I could only sit and watch the chaos, with a mixture of sadness, resignation and apprehensive amusement. On Wednesday, his last day, I was waiting to go on the radio for Sirius Q’s Derek and Romaine Show, and Thomas asked me to hang out with him while he shredded all the evidence, er, I mean, all the sensitive documents. He had two stacks of file boxes, one as tall as me, three mail bins he was sorting ancient files into that were labeled in dripping gothic letters, and still the place was a disaster area. I found some weird archaeological stuff from the ghosts of GV’s past, including bizarre S/M pictures of a long-ago former video buyer. Were they promo pics of some kind? Yikes. I left them on Carol’s chair as a present.

That scene didn’t compare to Thomas’ “yard sale.” In fact nothing compares to it. I was all excited about a Thomas Roche yard sale — I mean, this is the guy who lectures about necrophilia to sex ed students, has a ponygirl, and writes handfuls of crime, Mafia and S/M novels a year. This had to be good.

But it also had to be Thomas, my lovingly neurotic best friend who kept a candy jar of anti-depressants on his desk. I cannot describe the scene I walked into but I will try… In a seedier part of SF’s Mission district, I came up the Victorian apartment stairs, around the corner and there, in the hall, leading up to the open door, began the piles, the boxes and the trash bags — and all the trash. Just inside the door were Thomas and a sexy little Suicide Girl — and the mouth an avalanche, or perhaps some kind of freaky postmodern barricade, knee-deep of Thomas’ stuff.

Somehow the cute girl (not Ponygirl) had been suckered into helping Thomas shovel piles of crime and sex books, garbage from when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and piles of notes, receipts, bills, and porn into garbage bags. I asked if I could come in; the reply was a happy, "If you can!" I stumbled into his apartment hallway, bruising my shin on an overflowing plastic bin and tripping on a few boxes, all of which left about four available inches to squeeze though the hallway. Books were piled to the ceiling along the entire length of the apartment’s north wall. It was an event. It was mind-blowing. I mean, I’m a minimalist in my house; I love the clean, modern look. I could only watch.

I went into the livingroom/bedroom and surveyed the piles on the floor and bed, accidentally stepping on a blanket on top of a box on top of a lamp, crushing the lamp. I didn’t think he would notice. The entire apartment was littered throughout with loose change and antacids. I sat down and noticed the boxes and boxes of porn. Really bad porn. I took a visual inventory of the room: a case of Girl Scout cookies, and one empty box of shortbreads next to the bed. Where was the Girl Scout? I shuddered. One box of disposable gloves. Random high-quality S/M toys scattered to the four corners of the room. A giant box — Stratego: The Star Wars edition. I shuddered again. A Kegelscisor on the floor, along with a copy of Gun Digest Book of Assault Weapons, How to Host a Murder, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plastic Surgery. A shredder sat silently next to the bed, an obvious accomplice of some sort, resting in a nest of empty Bite Size Dorito bags.

There was an industrial chain lying over a few boxes, ending at the floor next to a pair of panties. Suicide Girl asked, “Thomas: Throw these away?” “No! They’re sentimental, I cut them off someone.” “They’re dirty.” she wrinkled her nose. “Ew,” I concurred. Thomas and SG picked about the room, going back to the kitchen to shovel more trash. I eyed the regulation white straight jacket hanging on the closet door, considered the implications, then let my eyes wander back to the floor amongst the stained copies of Writer’s Digest, the unopened package of black Bondage Tape, and the entire contents of The Godfather 1 and 2 complete disk sets at random intervals. I admired the Holy Bible on the bookshelf among all the Mafia books. A drawer yawned at me, sticking out its contents: a Voodoo doll, a copy of Lez be Friends, a Goodfellas video, and many obscure vitamin bottles.

I didn’t know if I could help. Actually I knew I couldn’t. I really just wanted to hold myself and rock in a corner, except I couldn’t *see* the corners. I abjectly found an empty coffee cup and set out to gather all the loose change while heckling the pair and teasing Thomas about his porn choices. At one point I lifted a half-eaten Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups package to scoop up a few pennies, and out popped a straight razor. I survived, but decided it was time to get back to editing my book, no matter how dangerous and amusing Thomas’ life had become – but of course I was not allowed to escape empty-handed. I took one overflowing box of porn (“Just *one* box?”), was forced to take sixty cans of Budweiser (even though I don’t drink Bud), two barely-sipped bottles of whiskey (no force needed), and a strawberry iMac — actually, the first computer I ever owned, that I sold to Thomas several years ago.

I am pretty sentimental about that iMac. But Thomas, though he is now in LA, is not gone forever. First of all, he left every single one of his twisted little bookmarks on the iMac’s Explorer. Some are the kind you’re afraid to click on because you just know the FBI will move you a bit closer to the top of their list, know what I mean? And, of course, I gave him a key to my apartment, so he always has a couch to crash on when he’s here. But I better not find any Girl Scouts forgotten in the cushions when he leaves.

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Making Pris

has reintroduced their latex doll, an IKEA-style doll you assemble yourself. Body doctors
Living muscle powering robots fueled by glucose nutrients.
Robotic hand and arm does all movements of a human — also
Android head projects — this site is a gold mine for this discussion.
Sex programming: Vivid has been making "virtual sex" DVD’s with various pornstars for years; their formulas could become template programs for a pleasure bot, including ‘tease,’ ‘foreplay,’ and ‘sex’ with numerous positions. Their execution of the programs have received low reviews, but you get the idea.
And to make Pris complete, you have to give her a fake personal history; or at least tell her who her father is.

I could continue but now I’m really hungry.

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Cabana Pony

Right now, my best friend Thomas is driving to LA. Which means it’s time for me to face the music and blog about some news I got last week, news that I’ve been in total denial about.

Thomas is my closest writing pal, the one who (years ago) published my first article ever and encouraged me to write books — and as a professional technical copyeditor and copywriter, and a guy who has written over twenty published novels (mostly under pseudonyms), he’s helped me with advice every step of the way. I repaid him by helping him get a job a Good Vibes, in fact he’s the only person I’ve ever been able to help get a job there, and I don’t think you can exactly call that a favor. In fact, right when he got the job I was once again at the center of a political shitstorm and I called him and told him *not* to work there, if he had any sense of reason as a human being, he’d stay far, far away.

But like when you tell a kid not to put a bean in their nose, he defied me, and the past few years at GV have been very cool indeed with Thomas as GV’s Marketing Manager, my supervisor, and black humor co-conspirator in all things overly politically correct. But then, last week, that bastard had to go and get himself offered a job. A fucking sweet job.

He broke the news to me last Thursday, in the junkie-infested alley behind our offices. I actually had to choke back tears, except I was also laughing like a crazy beeyatch at the outrageousness of his new life. For his "interview," they flew him down to Los Angeles (!) with the full red carpet treatment. He was picked up by their "personal assistant," a stacked Finnish blonde wearing a half-shirt tank top and low-rise jeans, in a mini-Cooper with two yippy microdogs, named Boris and Gepetto, respectively. Can you get anymore LA porn industry than that? Thomas will work one week out of each month in Panama, where they will fly him for who knows what shady website operations, in addition to the fact that they are paying to relocate him. I though only Microsoft did that. And if that’s all not crazy enough, his predecessor made seven figures a year, and quit to take a year to write screenplays. I’ll say it outright — he’s working for the gay mafia, an empire that owns over 70,000 gay websites. But the even weirder twist is that the owners themselves aren’t gay.

Sheesh, flown all around and paid well. Ummm, okay, I’m really looking forward to going back to the office next week, with the bordering alley and all its acrid piss smell, shit-strewn walls, and puddles of blood on the sidewalk from the junkies. I don’t wear sandals to work, ever, because of all the needles in Mary Alley and Natoma Street — and Thomas gets a cabana boy, or at least a tropical stable for his girlfriend, Ponygirl. She’ll be clop-clop-clopping around the world. Globe-clopping. I told Thomas he’s going to walk in on his bosses cutting up a body and boiling eyeballs, and they’ll make him swear an oath of silence on his mother. Know what I mean?

How can Thomas be my friend if he lives in LA?

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Vagina Twain, SF Pride, Meeting Betty Dodson

Violet Blue with Betty Dodson

Last weekend, Pride took over The City, as it always does, with swarms of smiling, happy families, horny LGBT tourists from all over the world and bringing out residents ready to party. It’s a big see-and-be-seen event, and the hot sunny weather had everyone out doing something; sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily even matter, it’s just our city festival and everyone goes out to have fun, wear Pride beads and feel all puffed up about how cool and progressive and diverse our city is. That’s definitely what I did, and I have the sunburn to prove it.

Friday night I went down to the Valencia St. Good Vibrations store to help hand out goodies and donated Odwalla juice to the participants of the Trans March. This was the first march of its kind, and especially important because of the horror-movie-like slaying of trans teen Gwen Araujo, and last week’s unjust mistrial ruling that will likely see the boys who did it get off with minimal punishment.

At any rate, I found myself in front of the store, when up walks a celebrity trio of magnitude — Carol Queen, Robert Lawrence… and Betty Dodson! I was floored, to see Betty Dodson just walking up and I nervously introduced myself to her. She’s the most famous of all of us I think, hailed as the "Mother of Masturbation" and she wrote books on female masturbation that changed literally everything in the world of women and sexual education. And at 75, she’s a force of nature. In a few minutes I realized how strong and outspoken a woman she is and just about died listening to her and Robert crack jokes — she dropped a pen and Robert said, “If I wasn’t so old and crippled and such a lazy bastard I’d pick that up for you.” Betty replied, “This old granny can still lift a vibrator, thank you very much!”

To my blushing surprise, Robert and Carol introduced me as “one of the *good* ones,” and Robert immediately started gushing to Betty about my work at SRL as a roboticist and welder. Betty oohed and aahed, and said, “Wow, no shit!?” when I explained a bit of the machine work I do.

Then, the Mother of Masturbation punched me in the boob.

Maybe she meant to hit my chest. I admit, my shoulders are not as manly as Madonna’s, so maybe she missed. My b-cup boobies are not too huge or sticky-outy, but I was wearing a push up and my boobies were feeling sassy, so maybe they jumped in at the last minute like football players intercepting a tackle. I just squeaked, “thank you!”

Betty and company careened wildly around the store admiring vibrators, and gossiping loudly and hilariously about other sex educators like retirees out on a medicated break. I walked up and came into a robust conversation about one female author in particular who was being made fun of for having a ghostwriter and they all took a round imitating Swerengen on the HBO series Deadwood, “SHE’S a COCK-sucker!” while I accidentally shot water out my nose. It’s true; we all talk shit about each other in this business, though there are definitely two camps — the people who genuinely educate and the writers who have marketing backgrounds and celebrity ambitions. And when the worlds clash, it makes for hilarious stories we tell each other over drinks, or whatnot.

Anyway, I clued in on a vibrator that Betty was admiring and snagged one for her, slipped a battery in it and snuck it over to her in the book section of the store, evidently where the party was. They were lamenting the new Eve Ensler show, about how now Ensler has to make peace with her belly by having a big show about it. Betty told me, “Jeezus, I saw that damn ‘Vagina Monologues,’ and all it was was Vuh-GYNA, Vuh-GYNA, Vuh-GYNA, over and over!” She put her hands around my throat, and continued, "If I heard Vuh-GYNA one more time, I was going to strangle someone!" Then, the Mother of Masturbation strangled me a little.

I giggled. Strangled by a legend, that’s me. I held out the vibrator like an orgasmic peace offering, whispered conspiratorially “It’s loaded,” and Betty smiled and said “excellent” like Mr. Burns on The Simpsons. I was now her minion. I made a little hopping motion like a kangaroo and asked if she had a pouch to hide it in. She looked salaciously at Carol and grinned. “I dunno!”; She pulled her waistline out on her pants. “Does this look like a pouch!?”

Then, the Mother of Masturbation flashed me her clam.

Carol said, yup that’s a pouch. I laughed hysterically and wished Betty Dodson was my grandma, or at least my eccentric aunt Betty. Which I guess in a way, she is. I stayed and listened to her talk to a full house about her amazing life doing sexual therapy client work teaching masturbation to women and her humble beginnings selling and sending her women’s masturbation books through the mail, carrying over 150,000 copies to the post office in Manhattan. Granted that’s a small drop in the cultural bucket, compared to, say, Shania Twain’s 19 million albums. But hey, I’ll take a Hitachi Magic Wand and a punch in the boob over a tube of “Shania Red” lipstick any day.

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The Other Hollywood Expo

Xeni Jardin emailed me a special secret link to her pictures form the Erotica LA Expo. Boy did I feel lucky; her photos told a photojournalistic story of the experience that really had me spellbound. Like a photoblog. They also recalled all my strange disconnected and hypnotic feelings I experienced at the AVN porn expo over a year ago. Kind of like when a smell triggers a memory. Now she’s letting me share them with you, so do take a minute to investigate the "other" Hollywood expo through the eyes of Xeni. Beautiful, ghastly, chilling, shiny, distracting, American. Each piece is moody and compelling, and they’re my favorite photo set from her to date.

She also investigated the cybersex toy, the Hi-Joy.


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