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SMUT STAND REPORT: Sept. 30, 2014 (New Orleans)

WHEN: 5.5 hours (8:30pm-2am), Sept 30, 2014. WHERE: Frenchmen Street, New Orleans. OUTPUT: one piece of microsmut and three custom works, including a surprise picnic lunch out on a remote hiking trail and a structurally unsound reverse-cowgirl scene where a thumb in her ass was the only thing keeping her from falling over.

The night before last was slow-ish and boring and not very lucrative—$60 for the four-hour session. LAST NIGHT was slightly better on the money side and INFINITELY more interesting.

First of all, Matt-the-Poet came out for the first time since I've been back. I will say it again, for the people who have joined this party since last October: Matt is the one person who I have found in the world to be a true friend and colleague in the realm of literary busking. I know there are other street poets in the world, and I work next to some of them some nights here, but he is the only one I've met so far who I really like and respect. I respect his attitude, toward the work and the passersby; I respect his process; and I respect the material that he produces. In turn, he is the only poet there who a) really gets the value of the work that I do, and b) doesn't look down on me in the slightest. I love it when we are out there together--we converse easily, but also seem to know when we need to work—and also, and not insignificantly, I have someone to watch my stuff while I run off for a pee break in d.b.a.

My first couple of commissions were pretty standard and good, for their type. First one was a young German man, out to party with some friends, who clearly thought it was a joke at first, but as the interview progressed he sobered up. The second one was a lovely straight couple, clearly still in love and in lust with each other, totally ready to step up and lean in. The fact that the woman listed "receiving anal" as one of her favorite activities, that was just the icing on the cake. Yay, butt-sex sisterhood!

The third and final commission came at the witching hour, around midnight, when, as Matt has observed, things can start picking up and getting weird. On first read, this would be a fairly straightforward consultation: straight couple, mid- to late-30s, husband considerably more drunk than the wife, but she's buzzing, too, and they're both into it. She had mentioned being curious about some of the stuff in Fifty Shades of Grey; okay, I can work with that. However, as the conversation continued, I found myself wanting to lean further and further away. This was the most dysfunctional relationship that I have ever had the misfortune to write smut for, BY FAR. I don't know the details, I don't know how they got to be that way, I'm sure there was a lot going on behind the scenes. but I found myself blaming the man, his actions were the asshole ones, right there in front of me. Hear me out:

He kept jumping all over her answers, interrupting her to explain something further about his shit, egging her on to be more open with me. He clearly had a few more ideas rolling through his head, but godDAMMIT, his aggressiveness and jumping around and grandstanding was working against any amount of trust that I could build with her. The real kicker was the way he used a not-really-stage whisper in telling me, several times, that she was "sexually retarded." First of all, NO, NOT THAT WORD, NOT EVEN THAT CONCEPT. Second of all, SHE'S RIGHT THERE YOUR WIFE OF 15 YEARS IS RIGHT FUCKING THERE SHE CAN HEAR YOU EVERYONE PASSING BY CAN HEAR YOU AND BY YOUR OWN ADMISSION YOU ARE TRYING TO GET HER TO TRY NEW THINGS AND THIS IS HOW YOU DO THIS INSULT HER SEXUALITY FUCKING FUCK FUCK WHY ARE YOU EVEN TOGETHER ANYMORE. She finally walked off while he was answering the last question, she actually walked off. I took the twenty dollars and his cell number, and was so profoundly relieved when he walked away. That was a challenging piece to write; I tried to give them each a little of what they wanted, but the lingering bitterness of their toxic life made it very difficult to focus. They never came back for the piece. (I will text them again today.)

My host pointed out that New Orleans can be a relationship catalyst like that, as people drink and get drawn in by the anything-goes atmosphere. People let loose and see other options, or just feel a certain kind of freedom, for the first time in a long while, maybe ever, and if a couple's dynamic is already weak, that kind of experience can do serious damage to the facade. I have seen people having wonderful and powerful healing and joy and love connections as result of my work. I don't think I've ever catalyzed a breakdown, though. It was terrifying.

FORTUNATELY, the night picked up after that. I was ready to pack it in, but I'm glad I stuck around to hang out with Matt. First, a balding older man, who I had seen passing and circling us as part of a group of other men (a convention, I'm guessing), he approached. I had been tracking him for about a half-hour; I was sure he was going to pull out something sleazy. Instead, he said, to both of us, "I'm from Australia and I've never seen anything like this, poetry and smut right here on the street. Can I take your picture? I'll give you money." I was, like, "we'll take your money," and Matt laughs. The guy takes his pictures, and then takes out his wallet, and I'm thinking, maybe a fiver. Nope. He hands me a 20 and asks me to split it between us. Suh-WEEET.

And then, maybe 15 minutes later, a young man in a maroon patterned dinner jacket stands before us swaying, points at Matt and says, "Bourbon." Matt and I blink at each other. What? He then points to me and says, "Gin." Ohhhhhh. You want to buy us drinks! "Yes." In that case, I will have a rum and coke. Matt says any kind of whisky is good. The well-dressed drunk comes back in five minutes, somehow managing to carry six cups of booze without spilling anything. He then asks us each to write something short in our respective genres for $5. Fair enough. He's respectful, and he just bought us drinks. He surprised me a little during our mini-intake interview, by requesting softcore, and something to do with water. I was pleased with the result, and so was he, so much so that he gave me another dollar. Then… he just stood there, or sat in front of us and talked. About writing, about a girl that he never got over, about doing food service in this town, about what we're doing is really real.

Toward the end of the conversation he was fumbling around with his phone, and Matt's poem for him fell out on the sidewalk and was about to blow away. I felt myself getting suddenly maternal and said, here let me. So I reached right into his inside jacket pocket where I had seen him put my microsmut, pulled it out, nipped the poem out of his fingers, put both works into one of the letter-sized envelopes that I bring out to the stand now, sealed it up, and slipped the envelope into his outer pocket. There, I said, patting the pocket. Now reaching for your phone isn't going to endanger the literature.

He walked away, weaving from one edge of the sidewalk to the other. What is that called, I asked Matt, in a sine wave, the height and depth of the wave? "Amplitude," he said. I pointed at the receding figure of the patron, who was very nearly bouncing off walls and garbage cans, and Matt laughed. "Yes, that is a high-amplitude drunk."

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