Sunday, May 17, 2009

the pleasure chest

I traveled to New York recently. Not only did I get to see some very dear friends, and have the opportunity to eat and drink well with them, but I also got to remember what it is about the city that I love and miss so much.

It's no one thing in particular. It's the snatching grasp of relief upon finding no line for a taxi at the airport upon arrival. It's a group of black teenage girls practicing a cheer on the corner of Smith and Hoyt while a man old enough to be their grandfather stands and watches, puffing on a cigar. It's eating affogato for dessert for the first time in a cozy Brooklyn restaurant. It's finding old MTA card in your wallet with $5 left on it, but then discover it expired yesterday, and just as you're about to pitch it, a subway attendant asks for the card out of the blue and changes its expiration date for you.

I could live there again; I would live there again; and I think it wasn't so bad working a dead-end job for a private investigator there. It had its moments, like when I had to go out and buy several hundred dollars worth of lubricating jelly for a case we were investigating. Actually the investigation had concluded; the case was on the verge of going to court, and our client's intellectual property lawyer needed product samples purchased from a local retailer to present as exhibits.

Our client (a large, family-oriented manufacturer of consumer goods -- think baby shampoo) did not like the fact that another company was selling flavored sex jellies under a name similar to their own. So I needed to buy only "Doc Johnson" brand lubricants. I did this on a Tuesday after a slice of Ray's pizza for lunch. I walked uptown on 6th Ave. to The Pleasure Chest.

Shortly after 1 p.m. on a Tuesday seemed as innocuous a time as any to visit an adult variety store and purchase several hundred dollars worth of lubricating jelly. As it turns out, I was mistaken.

The adult shop was packed wall-to-wall, and not with the perverts you'd expect to find doing weekday porno and sex toy shopping. They were almost exclusively women -- almost exclusively mother-daughter pairs to be exact. And they looked wholesome -- Midwestern wholesome -- as any group of mothers and daughters I'd ever seen. They could have just as easily been perusing designer clothing in the aisles at Macy's.

There was a giggling mother helping her teenage daughter try a pocket vibrator in her Jordache jeans. There was one teenager asking another if she would ever wear a string of golf ball-sized beads like the one she had dangling from her fingers.

As I made my way through the aisles of the store, I pushed past two mothers trying to decide between different models of inflatable Chippendales. At the very back, a daughter was asking her mother what the pinky-sized hook-like appendage jutting upward from the base of a modest-sized dildo was for. Her question went unanswered as her mom, wearing a blown-out expression, examined another, less modest-sized dildo named "The Bulldozer."

I went entirely unacknowledged by anyone in the store as I proceeded to fill an entire shopping basket with tubes of warming sex cream, "Sin-amon" flavored oil, and glow-in-the-dark gel. As I made my way to the counter, without a stray eye lifting in my direction, I wondered if I may have wandered upon some truly depraved mother-daughter nympho-cult that was ballsy enough to meet in the light of day right under normative society's nose. I wished (more than I wished for any thing at any time before or since) that I had gone to high school wherever these teenage girls went to high school.

I had already developed a pretext for why I was buying so much sex lube with a corporate credit card if the cashier were to have asked -- I was a production assistant for Hand Over Fist Films -- but the cashier rang me up for $300+ as stone-faced as if I was buying groceries at Garden Of Eden.

"Is this your typical Tuesday afternoon crowd?" I asked.

"No," the cashier sighed. "Sex In The City tour."

Apparently the adult shop had been featured in an episode of the show, and their next stop was the Gray's Papaya hot dog stand above which I used to live. A scene from the show had been filmed there, as well. On the way out, I noticed their charter bus parked along the curb, and my dream of a depraved mother-daughter nympho cult was dispelled. The world returned to making sense, kind of.

But, really, my job working for the private investigator didn't get any better than that, and I forget that about city living, as well. It's as two-faced as a deceitful lover -- for every thing you cherish and remember there's another you beg in your weaker moments to forget. The oppressive heat of the summer. The difficulty inherent in escaping on the weekend. The people oh so many fucking people all the time. Ugh.

I think next time I need to travel back to California.