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SMUT STAND REPORT: June 6, 2015 (Exeter, UK)

WHEN: 5.25 hours (2:45-5:30pm and 9-11:30pm), June 6, 2015. WHERE: corner of Gandy and Little Queen streets, Exeter, UK. OUTPUT: 2 full-lengths and one micro (first shift), four micros (second shift), from some rough sex on a picnic table for a young couple moving in together to a lyrical lead-up to a blow-job for a couple on their first date (I somehow felt a little involved in anything that might have happened for them that night).

I have never set up shop as a double-header before, or split shift, if you prefer to think of it that way, and I probably never will again. I got a bit of business in the afternoon, with a lot of interest in the show, but the spot I had found for the afternoon had a dead zone of two or three hours, so I rushed back to my billet, roasted a chicken for the rest of my dinners here, and then raced to get back in time for a few more hours. I had high hopes for the evening, since I would be back next to the gay bar, at a time when it was actually getting patrons, and usually gay bars feel like a safer place to be near. It wasn't that I expected to get a lot of takers for my flyers, but since I hadn't set up the stand on the night that I arrived in town, I was down one day's worth of smutting and felt some financial urgency to catch up. I did catch up, but had to take a bit of psychological pummeling to get there.

For starters, when I set back up in the same spot, a … fellow busker? I guess?… who I had passed in the narrow alley on my way from the high street to my target corner, came up and accused me of horning in on his pitch. I immediately felt guilty, but then caught myself and analyzed the actual situation: he was sitting more than 100 feet away, on the other side of a busy intersection, playing the same four chords on a harmonica over and over. No one stakes out a pitch that big, not without flaming torches or chainsaws involved. I knew this, but still, my ever-lurking angst about being a carpet-bagger took a while to recede.

And then the front-door staff at the gay bar was surprisingly ambivalent about my presence. I was a good 20 feet down from their entrance, but was getting side-eye from door staff all night. No one said anything directly, but every now and then I heard bits of conversation they were having about me, and it was not a positive vibe. I should have come up and talked to them when I first approached, but i was far enough away that I thought it was out of their sphere of influence. Apparently not.

All this to say that it would really easy to get all woo-woo about the weirdness of the night, like, maybe I deserved the flak that I got, that it was a message from the neighborhood's collective psyche that I shouldn't be there, but for fuck's sake, if I pulled the Smut Stand down any time I got any funny looks, I'd never set it up anywhere. So, I just kept breathing and started typing, and eventually got a few customers, a couple of really nice ones, actually. The couple moving in together said they were going to frame their piece, which is always very flattering to hear.

I said "weirdness of the night"; it wasn't that weird, actually, compared to shit that has gone down on, say, Frenchmen Street in New Orleans. It was just the first time I have done night-time smut in the UK since my first Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, when I didn't know any better and tried to do late-night work in Cowgate. Why didn't I remember that shit-show before setting up here in Exeter? Because BOY HOWDY, British drunks are lousy fucking drunks. Sorry, my British friends, but I have been in party neighborhoods on two continents, and British drunks are, by and large, mean fuckers. The lads get exponentially laddier, and the birds get super nasty—plus they don't know how to walk in these uber-high heels—and everyone is going about getting drunk in this really stolid, determined way, not like they are having a good time, but like it's a civic responsibility. It is extremely unpleasant to be in the middle of. And the drunk switch happened suddenly on this night. One minute people were walking around normally, just looking where to start out the night, and then the next minute, right around 9:45 or 10, everyone was WASTED, the collective blood alcohol level just SKYROCKETED.

So, as you might imagine, the douchiness was unparalleled by anything I had ever experienced before. The real trough of the evening, I mean, the real swill-filled low, was when three guys came up and were asking me about the stand. The fact that they kept interrupting me while I was going through the quick details gave me that bright red flag, a signal that I should brush them off quickly and completely, but before I could do it, one guy pulled out a handful of change and asked what 20 pence would get him.

Nothing, I said.

"Okay, will £1.45 would get me laid?"

I beg your pardon?

"Will £1.45 get me laid?"

Not by me, it won't.

"You wouldn't let me fuck you for £1.45?"

At that point I just stared at him, waiting for him to catch himself and mumble an apology, but he didn't. "Don't give me those eyes," he said. I wanted to say something really cutting, but I didn't feel confident that the bouncers at the gay bar would actually have my back, so instead I pulled out my phone and was getting ready to take a photo of the offender. He thought I was calling the cops, and chose that moment to grab his mates and wander off, muttering some insults about me.

That's when I knew it was time to go. The vibe was not going to improve as the night wore on, and even with this season's slightly raised rates, I don't get paid enough for that shit.

*****

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