Sunday, September 26, 2004

Prostitution pros & cons (mostly pros)

The linked article (mouse over this post's title) is certainly fascinating and provocative, if not entirely work-safe. It certainly has an arresting first line.
I remember the first time I had sex - I still have the receipt.

The author, Briton Sebastian Horsley, has for his entire adult life, well, since 16 on up, been enjoying (and paying for) the services of prostitutes. He gives his reasons in the article, which is worth dipping into. I don't buy all of his arguments. I think, for example, that he short changes the possibility of true sexual satisfaction within long term relationships. Sure, the sexual fires don't burn as white hot as they did when you'd only known each other for two weeks. But there are advantages to the kind of intimacy that builds only over time, and even in the sex deparment there are advantages to having a partner who knows where all your buttons are and just when to push them.

But I totally agree with Horsley in his contempt for the social stigma our society dumps on anyone who works in the sex industry, especially prostitutes. I have always felt that an honest prostitute was worthy of more respect than a dishonest plumber. I have never personally hired a hustler, but that is because I have never felt any need to. If circumstances in my life changed and I wanted to try it, sure I would. I have known casually a few young men who I knew to be "rent boys," since we're talking British here, and I found them to be perfectly normal, nice guys.

When I was a much, much younger man myself I did visit gay bathhouses a few times. It's a different experience from true prosititution, though related. It's true you are paying for sex, but everyone there is both customer and service provider. Critics of bathhouses always said, "Oh, but it's so impersonal!" Well, yes, that's the point. You are able, as Horsley says, to fall into somebody's arms without falling into his hands. As with visiting a prostitute, the knowledge that there will be no followup liberates you to live this very moment to its fullest. That can lead to an immensely satisfying experience. It doesn't necessarily, but it can.

Prostitution seems to me to embody a basic core of irrationality at its heart. Consider these two scenarios:

A -- I fix your car because you're a friend of mine and I like you. I do a thoroughly competent job, and in gratitude you treat me to dinner. Everyone is completely satisfied.

B -- I fix your car, even though I don't know you, because you have offered to pay me my usual fee. I do a thoroughly competent job, and you pay me. Everyone is completely satisfied.

As stated, these are two totally ordinary events and society has no business interfering or even taking note of what's going on. But take out "fix your car" and substitute "have sex with you" and A is still legal, if a bit risque, but B has just become a serious crime. Is there any other subsitution for "fix your car" where this is the case? Any other human activity which is legal to engage in just because you want to, but illegal if someone pays you to do it?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Unexpected Hurricane Hazards

This is one I hadn't thought of, and seems to be an unexpected hazard of shifting so much business on-line. The New Orleans Times-Picayune is reporting that there were significant numbers of cases of people evacuating the area because of Ivan, sometimes whole families packed in a caravan of cars and driving for twelve hours, only to arrive at their destination to find their reserved hotel room was not available, had been rebooked. This was particularly the case for people who had reserved their rooms through online third-party reservation services like or

These services operate by booking blocks of rooms in advance, based on what their experience and stastical analysis tell them the demand is likely to be for that location and date. Since most people book at least a few days in advance, as soon as they decide where and when they're going, the rule is that if a room in one of these blocks is not reserved by 24 hours before check-in time, the service releases the room back to the hotel, which is free to book it independently. This system works fine under normal conditions, but totally broke down during the crisis, as hordes of people decided they had to get out right now. As walk-ins took room after room, people went online trying to get reservations for that same day, clicked "reserve" and thought they were safe. By the time the system processed the request and found there was nothing available, there was no way to contact all those customers and tell them. They were already on the road.

It almost happened to us. Alden made a reservation, not through a third-party service, but by going to the reservations website of the La Quinta Inn chain. He made a reservation on Monday for Tuesday evening, assuming the storm kept coming and we did have to evacuate. Monday evening we phoned to confirm. Sorry, no reservation. So I got on the phone and waited until I got a live La Quinta reservations operater, and he and I found that room in Clute.

I guess the lesson in this for the new world of online business is that if the transaction is critically important or involves your actual safety, don't trust to a mouse click, if at all possible talk to a human being.

With all that said, I really should mention that at every stage of the game the people at La Quinta treated us wonderfully. When it was getting to 5 pm and we hadn't even made Baton Rouge, I called the Clute motel to warn them about the delay. The lady on the phone said, "Don't worry sir, we have people coming from New Orleans not even as far along as you are. No matter what time you get here, the room will be ready, and if you arrive after 1 am we won't charge for the first night." I thought that was above and beyond the call of duty. Everyone was very sympathetic, even the cleaning staff. But then, Clute is five miles from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, a little south of Galveston. They know what hurricanes can do.

Friday, September 24, 2004

What's new

My first post talked about fleeing Hurricane Ivan, and these blog thingies are supposed to be about sharing your life, your opinions, whatever you like, as much as you're comfortable with.

I started out with us fleeing the moment we heard on TV that state and city states of emergency had been declared. I work at a state agency, though at the moment I won't say which. The day before the evacuation I discussed my concerns with my supervisors, that I might feel bound to leave as soon as those emergencies were declared, and that that might be a bit before they would really like me to. I was responsible, after all, not just for our dog but for a 71-year-old man with a history of heart disease and restrictions on his ability to drive. Sure, I'd been a loyal employee for ten years, and that was important, but he and I have been together for twenty-eight, which kinda trumps that card.

When we heard that Tuesday morning that emergency had been declared and we were being urged to leave, it didn't occur to me that the mayor's office would not be co-ordinating with the governor's office. Or that the governor would require state employees and their families to remain in place for four hours in the face of an evacuation order, releasing them at noon.

I knew none of this, as we were already on the road. I kept in touch with my supervisor as best I could by cell phone in the following days, and he warned me that the top levels were pretty pissed off with me. So I was prepared to face anger, letters of reprimand, disciplinary action. I was not prepared to find out they wanted to fire me.

That was a shock, one I have been slowly absorbing in the two days since the head of the agency's letter arrived. I of course have replied, with a certified letter giving my side of the story and disputing facts or characterizations of his I think are in error. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't.

Things like this make you think new thoughts, and they force reassessments of things you had thought were settled. For example, if they back down and say, you can come back, how much do I want to go?

There's a wonderful blues recording by Bessie Smith, and most of it is fairly standard blues lamenting. My man's done left me, found somebody new, left me all alone in this cold and empty bed, and so forth. But then she throws a twist into it at the last moment, with the last two lines before the end of the song, sung with a sort of ice-cold anger: "But if he can stand to leave me / I can stand to see him go."

I'm beginning to understand that.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Insulting Our Intelligence

So the meltdown at CBS News just glows hotter and hotter. I'm sure I am just one of multitudes who have gone from raised eyebrows startlement, to amusement at the circus this has turned into, to rapt fascination, and finally to slack-jawed astonishment. Now it's become officially established that when a rabid Bush hater wanted a high level contact in the Kerry campaign, CBS acted as a go-between in order to get their phony documents. And I'm not even surprised. But this is ridiculous. From the NY Times:

"It is obviously against CBS News standards and those of every other reputable news organization to be associated with any political agenda," the network said in a statement.

Now come on. Everybody has an agenda. Because everybody has opinions about how the world should work, and everybody would like to see them reflected in reality, and unless they're hopelessly apathetic, everybody does something to see them put into action. By definition, that's an agenda. In my case, I vote, I write letters to newspapers, and rather to my surprise, I now seem to be blogging.

Organizations can have agendas as much as individuals can. The political agenda of CBS has become painfully clear. Fox News has an agenda too, but a somewhat different one. The thing is, they're just a bit more honest about admitting they have an agenda. Yeah, yeah, they report, we decide, but just like everybody else they decide what to report, and how, based on what they believe. Based on their agenda.

As Jeff Jarvis has been saying forever, having a political agenda, even if you're a news agency, is not necessarily the worst thing in the world. Having one and not admitting it, having one and pretending you're as apolitical as the dictionary, that's another matter entirely.

And if you think a dictionary can't have a political slant, just ask a dictionary editor. Be prepared for an earful.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Oh, Daddy!

I see that the Gay Patriot has acknowledged paternity. A dangerous thing to do, as it can commit you to support payments until the age of eighteen. Except that in blogosphere years that period would have expired -- let me check -- about six minutes ago. Dang.

You're off the hook, Pops. At least that hook. I'm sure you'll find other hooks. Cheers!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

That last post

Note: I am rarely that maudlin, but this was a special case.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

That We Still Mourn

Going through the mail after getting back from Texas, I found a small letter from my father. It began as follows:

September 14, 2004

Dear Steve,

Today would have been Jim's fiftieth birthday, something to remember if not to celebrate.
I read that, and I crumpled and cried. Jim was my brother, my big brother, for a horribly short time. He died of leukemia when he was five years old, and I was only three, but I do remember him. I do have a few memories.

But Jim did help to shape my life, brief as his life was, and for the better. It's a commonplace assumption that teenagers get into so much trouble largely because they simply do not believe, on a gut level, that something really bad can happen to them. That they can actually die, in a car crash or some other catastrophe. Somebody else, maybe, but not me!

I never thought that. I knew from the age of three that my big brother had died despite every desperate attempt my parents and the doctors had made to save him. I never thought it was their fault, not at all. There was nothing they could do.

The point is that, because of Jim, I never ever dreamed I was invulnerable. I knew I could die. And I therefore didn't take quite as many stupid teenage chances as I might have taken otherwise.

Oh, Jim, Jim. Though you never knew it, and couldn't have understood it if told about it when you were alive, you helped protect your little brother. Your death warned me to be careful.

Oh god I wish you had lived.

And They're Off

So I am actually adding another blog to the list? How many would that make now? Couple billion?

Well, if I'm questioned, I can say that Blogger seduced me into this. If you have tried to leave a comment on a Blogger blog, you'll find that you have the choice of doing it anonymously or through your Blogger account. Which you can set up in just three minutes!! In my case I wanted to leave a comment on the Rather/memo/forgery mess at GayPatriot, ran up against this procedure, and figured, since I don't really like leaving anonymous comments, aw what the hell, I'll sign up.

Which meant that before I knew it, I had a blog. Does that make GayPatriot my blogdaddy? Goodness, the psychosexual echoings implicit in this scenario are intriguing.

So it's a strange ending to a strange string of days. We live in New Orleans, and with hurricane Ivan threatening us, we turned on the TV at 8 Tuesday morning to see Mayor Nagin and other regional political leaders essentially screaming into the microphone, "Get out, you fools, get out!!!" My. So we did, and since we needed a motel that would take a dog, we spent thirteen hours, driving nearly 500 miles, to arrive at 1:00 am at the only remaining room available, in a La Quinta motel in the tiny town of Clute, Texas, about an hour south of Houston. And we hunkered down, prepared to watch, with horrified fascination, all the TV coverage of the inundation and utter destruction of our beloved home city.

And at the house, back home, we didn't get so much as a drop of rain.

So, Ivan having taken a sudden jog to the east and sparing us, back we come, taking a sensible two days to do it, stopping in Lafayette, instead of another panicky thirteen hour push. And so we stagger in at 3 in the afternoon, the dog greatly relieved that this really, really stupid game is over, and I wind up starting a blog.

I must be punch drunk.