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SMUT STAND REPORT: Sept 13, 2014 (Cincinnati, OH)

WHEN: 4 hours (7-11pm), Sept 13, 2014. WHERE: On Ludlow Avenue near the Esquire Theatre (Clifton), AND on Hamilton Avenue near Chase Avenue (Northside), Cincinnati, OH. OUTPUT: three custom pieces, including a nice homo-erotic face-sitting scene; a loving bondage scene for a straight couple, with nipple pinching; and another bondage piece, this one for a straight guy who wanted her bent over a chair and helpless.

Last night started out fine, if a little slow. I picked the same spot as last Saturday—in front of the Mexican restaurant that was not yet open for business—and hoped for the same luck. I got the gay face-sitting commission early on in my time on Ludlow, and then just got the same sort of foot traffic going past, a combination of couples on dates and a few family units, a couple of groups of impertinent youth, who are generally easy to brush off.

Around 8:30 is when things started getting weird. I saw a cop car roll by. I always notice cop cars. This one rolled by REAL SLOW. Uh oh. Ten minutes later the cop car had pulled up in the parking lot across the street and the cop lady came up, a short lady with a blond ponytail looking a little incongruous under that hat. "You're going to have to leave," she said, without much preamble. "This is a public sidewalk." I thought it was legal, I've seen buskers, I said. "No," she said, "we close them down when we see them. And you can't block the sidewalk." Ah, I said. Now, I wasn't blocking the sidewalk, there was totally room for a wheelchair or a stroller or 2-3 people to pass, but whatever, so I started packing things up.

Twenty feet away some young people had been setting up some kind of amateur film shoot, but their attention was obviously drawn to the cop talking to me. At some point one of the young men came over with a video camera and started taping my encounter with the cop. She got a little edgy, but kept going. "Also, we got a number of complaints. The Mexican restaurant doesn't want to be connected with what you're doing, and a few people called in about the obscenity." What obscenity, I said, there's nothing obscene on my signage. "No, but this is a family-friendly neighborhood, and the words 'smut' and 'erotica', when a parent has to explain that to their kid…" Ah, I said again, loading as much scorn into that one syllable as I could, and kept packing up. "Have you considered trying this in Northside?" she said, after a short silence. What, I said. "The Northside neighborhood, down over the bridge over there. This would probably go over really well there." Wait, I wasn't being shut down, I was being Moved Along. What the hell. Thank you for the recommendation, I said icily. The young man finished with the videotape and then came over and gave me his email address so I could get the video of the encounter. When I walked past his group to my car, the cop was talking earnestly to him and his colleagues, and when drove past the location on my way out, they were no longer there; I'm pretty sure they were "blocking the sidewalk" too, and that the cop had told them to leave too.

NOTE: I don't ever argue with cops about the law. I might ask them a few questions, or ask them to clarify what is the problem, or who is complaining, but that's just for my own internal database of Places That Suck (it's a very small database, but it needs to stay detailed and up-to-date). I don't ever try to hold my ground or argue about ordinances.

I was tempted to just pack it in for the night, for the rest of my time in Cincinnati, and then I was overcome by a serious case of FUCK-ITS. Fuck it, it's not even 9pm yet. Fuck it, I need to make some money. Fuck it, that cop lady suggested Northside, and I don't know what that's about, but she's not the first person to recommend Northside, it's kinda the queer part of town, so fuck it. So I went and rolled up to Northside for a couple more hours. AND THE NIGHT GOT WEIRDER STILL

I found a spot right away, a little triangular patch in front of a closed private tattoo parlor space, definitely not on the public sidewalk, but still very much in the eye of passersby. Within 15 minutes, a straight couple walked up, a very tall leggy lady and a short barrel-chested dude (I mention this because I have a fondness, for obvious reasons, for straight couples who defy the gendered height expectations.) ANYWAY, they ask, I give them pitch, they are both like FUCK YES and he runs off to an ATM, and she turns to me and says, "Weren't you up at Mount Adams last night?" I mean, yes? "I knew it, I saw you from across the street, I was out there meeting some friends and I saw you, that's why we had to stop." Her man came running up and she said, "Honey, didn't I tell you about her last night?" He nods, a little out of breath. "I said, you'll never believe what I saw out at Mt. Adams last night, there was a lady selling erotica on the street. And now here you are." They did the interview, and then paid me extra to mail it to them, because they were running off to see a movie… down at the Esquire Theatre on Ludlow Ave. Whoa. They were destined to find me, clearly.

Wait, there's more weirdness!

  • An older gentleman with lots of tattoos on his arms walks by and says, "whoa, you write erotica? Me too!" He writes a lot of things, in this sort of doing-research, "oh, and I have to find an agent" sort of way, but he was interesting to listen to. Somewhere in the middle of his writerly enthusiasm, he says, "But haven't I met you online?" Ah! Hello, OKCupid person! I thought you looked familiar, too! We had had a brief exchange online, and then I said, I'm only here for a little while, but drop me a line if you want to try to get together. The ball had been in his court, and then there I was on the street corner, pounding out pornography. It's a great place to get to know what I'm all about, that's for sure.
  • A young pair, boy and girl but not dating, stopped by the stand. No, they came to a screeching halt by the stand, enthralled. The girl in particular was just stunned, and expressively so; she was blown away by the whole concept. This happens sometimes. We talked about erotica, and about what exactly I do on tour, and when I handed her a leftover Phone Whore card, she actually jumped six inches into the air. "Oh my god, I've seen this card!" she shrieked. "I saw this, last week, it was sitting out somewhere at UC (University of Cincinnati), I picked it up and wanted to go, but it had already passed, I TOTALLY HAVE THIS CARD ALREADY OMG I WANT TO SEE THIS SHOW." When she found out I was going to Atlanta, she got even more excited: "A friend of mine in Atlanta just invited me to visit sometime this year, I NEED TO GO AND SEE THIS SHOW." So. A little excitable, but I appreciate the sentiment.
  • We further discussed good times and neighborhoods for setting up the smut stand in Cincinnati, and when I explained that I had been pushed out of Clifton by the cops, and briefly described the encounter, including the fact that the cop lady had recommended Northside, the young man was like, "Wait, did she have a blond ponytail? Pretty short?" Uh, yes? "That's the LGBT liaison for the police. There's only one cop lady with a blond ponytail in the Fifth Precinct, and that's her." Whoa. What. Really? How did you guess that? "She suggested that you move your stand to Northside. This is all queer shit down here." I don't… um… I really don't like cops, but … now I don't know what to think. "I know, right? It's kind of her job to be a slightly less shitty cop."

I'm still emailing that guy for the video, though.

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