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June 4 1998, Thursday



hat's me doing the Nancy Firedrake thing. I think she's better at it; it makes me look like a pussy.


n the tub today I was flipping through (since I don't read anymore) one of Nancy's books, this one entitled Fetish: Fashion, Sex & Power by Valerie Steele. I'd expected to find a few books like this on her shelves, since one of our early email conversations had consisted of her interrogating me about fetishes I'd alluded to in past entries, and one of the first things you see when you walk into her computer room is a big "Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman" poster.

I'd kind of expected the pictures in Fetish to be a little more erotic than they were. If there's anything that doesn't turn me on, it's a woman with a hard face, and most of the women in this book had terribly hard faces. It's a look that speaks of childhood abuse, a virginity lost at nine and thousands of dollars worth of cigarettes. I don't know why so many hard-faced women end up in the field of men's entertainment, but that's evidently the way society works. This is just one of many things that remind me that the world wasn't really designed for me.

Back to the subject at hand, fetishes. I don't care one way or the other about feet or shoes. I don't really think much about breasts. I don't even think nude people are especially sexy, and I almost never have fantasies about nude girls (except when I replay specific historic incidents in my mind). Since most of the sex I actually end up having is with nude females, my sex life doesn't usually resonate well with my fantasies. Occasionally I even imagine that a nude sexual partner is actually wearing clothes. One of the things going on here is that I like to imagine myself having sex with women as I usually see them in the real world, that is, fully (or at least partially) clothed. My fetish, then, is related mostly to women's clothes. I have a special thing for skirts and dresses, the way they can both conceal and reveal and can change in an instant. Then, of course, there's what lies beneath, and it too can both conceal and reveal. The titillation is in the layers, the fact that the outermost layer can conceal secrets of a deeper layer which in turn conceals subsequent secrets. Ideally it all gets more feminine and frou-frou with each layer of revelation, starting with what can be a very plain exterior. It's very nineteenth century, I know, but I don't think this particular fetish is especially abnormal. But I don't talk about it very much; I have a way of putting a personal container of taboo around everything that arouses me.

I also like bras somewhat. My only real problem with small-breasted girls is that they often don't wear bras. Interestingly, according to the fetish book, women didn't routinely wear knickers - panties - until the late 19th century. Prior to the 1870s, a movie scene such as Marilyn Monroe getting her dress blown up by an underground fan would have been positively pornographic even by modern standards.


  felt guilty about standing up Internet acquaintances last night, especially since I didn't really have anything else to do. But I'm nervous about trying to find places by myself in this town. I don't really know why. I'm not usually so cautious, but there is something about this place, these opulent Bethesda neighborhoods, worried as people are about break-ins and property values, that rubs off, making me conservative and old, making my car look like an unreliable death trap, driving me to drink.


gain I went again into Bethesda by bicycle, doing the same old routine as two days ago, complete with another water bottle of vodkatea. On the way, though, I got ensnared in a mesh of cul du sacs and meandering streets in a very high class neighborhood south of Wilson Lane. These classy neighborhoods are usually constructed so that they only have one major entrance way, limiting (I guess) their exposure to unsavoury elements: non-cereal-box black people, Latinos and such.

Up in the Barnes and Noble I found myself reading a computer magazine featuring special articles about the future of computing. Do you know what is the single big obstacle to advances in microprocessors? A limit to consumer demand for computing power. That's right, software designers are having difficulty writing code that requires anything much more powerful than a cheap 100 MHz Pentium. Despite the hype, there's no real need to upgrade, and consumers are beginning to realize they don't need a Pentium II after all. You'd think Microsoft could create an indispensable upgrade to Word (featuring a new proprietary file format six times the size of equivalent Rich Text Format files) that would require a 566 MHz Pentium II just to typeset a letter to Granny, but even Microsoft droids aren't quite that sloppy. What's to keep the big Intel fabrication plants running?

These days I divide Bethesda up into sectors of a circle whose center is the Barnes and Noble on Bethesda Avenue. I explored a slightly different sector today, but I found nothing interesting at all. For all its big high rise buildings and luxury automobile traffic, there's less going on here than in Charlottesville. What's inside those buildings I wonder? Strategic helium reserves?

I found myself back at the Barnes and Noble observing people again. It's really a very dull activity, but I was enjoying it as sort of an existential exercise, especially when I was able to snap off pictures unnoticed. Not that the pictures were anything too great.

A typical Bethesda family with a particularly ugly little daughter (saved in this case by the lack of resolution in this excerpt of a photograph) inadvertently pose by the fountain. To the far left is a typical DC woman: long dark hair, wearing mostly black, suntanned. The bronze bucket in the foreground has a built-in leak. On the other side of the fountain is a bronze cane permanently attached to the bricks, as if someone came to the fountain, drank from its healing waters, was healed, rejoiced and walked away.

    more observations

  • The English Sparrows who hang out at the fountains all have various scams for getting food. One used boldness, almost diving into a little boy's bagel. His mother was so alarmed she felt it prudent to give the little feathered beast a bit of bagel some distance away.

  • On any nice day, there will always be some guy computing with a laptop in front of the Barnes and Noble. Tuesday's laptop guy had a little cellular phone antenna built right into his machine; that must have been some expensive web surfing he was doing. Today's laptop guy had cheaper equipment, but I still didn't understand the point, especially with all the readily-available outlets everywhere. Laptop batteries go dead in the time it takes me to warm up to a writing session.


ack at Planet off c e n t e r, I got a call from the Mayor of Bethesda Avenue asking did I want to go do something tonight. Figuring the Mayor would have more ideas for adventure in his homeland than I would, I agreed to return to Bethesda, again by bicycle. I'm gradually figuring out the easiest path to take, the one that avoids the most traffic.

The Mayor was where he said he'd be, in the middle of his humble jurisdiction. His character, pervaded as it is by a subtle but coolly mischievous outgoingness tinged with a trace of intellectual awkwardness, is a little less like the zaniness of former California Governor Jerry Brown than I'd recalled from the Aquarius Party. He had a little green road bike locked to a pole, and proceeded to unlock it, since we'd be biking to our next destination. As he did so, he recounted bike thefts he has known (in periods of time measured by bike wheels come and gone). One guy even went so far as to break his kryptonite lock. "Don't ever lock your bike near the subway station!" he particularly cautioned. A cute blond girl walked by in a hurry, exchanging hellos. "She used to be my housemate when I lived in Charlottesville," he said, adding, "She's a screamer." He then told about one of his other housemates getting pissed off about her sex screams, punching a hole right through the wall. "That's something we had to fix when we moved out." Still, said the Mayor, "I've never once gotten a security deposit back, landlords always ripped me off." I vowed that if my last landlord, Godfrey, tried the same with me, I'd blanket Charlottesville with leaflets advising tenants to trash Godfrey apartments before they move out.

We ended up at Flanagan's, a genuine Irish Bar with real live brogue-talking Irishmen working the bar. A three-piece band of plump mullet-wearing musicians played a mix of traditional Anglo-Irish tunes, bluegrass and Rock 'n' Roll covers. The crowd was pretty good for a Thursday Night, but it was mostly comprised of the sorts of people I associate with Charlottesville's miserable sports bars: frat boy-types, a Marine and his girlfriend, and a tight group of ugly girls who clung to the bar drinking beer like ticks on the shoulder of a dog. A hockey game was on the television, and when various plays went down the bar would erupt into cheers. It was very difficult to have much of a conversation over the din, but still the Mayor and I managed to discuss a few things:

  • The all-white nature of the bar's clientele,
  • But there was an Asian girl for awhile, and we discussed our mutual interest in Asian girls (and the fact that the only ones who seem to like Caucasian guys happen to be complete lunatics).
  • A black guy walked through too; the Mayor was sure to point him out to me.
  • One of the khaki-wearing frat-boy types had a wallet clearly visible in his back pocket, and the Mayor made a sport of contemplating snatching it. He even reached out and touched it at one point, using the focused deftness of a martial-arts master.
  • Regarding the Marine across the room, I suggested that I should go up to him and challenge him to an arm wrestle. The stakes would be these: if he won, he could dance with me. If I won, I'd get to dance with his girlfriend. We wondered how far into the conversation I'd make it before my ass got kicked. Semper fi indeed!

We drank an obscene amount of Guiness. I had five or six pints all by myself, most of it bought by the Mayor, though he claimed he'd gotten one round for free (a claim I didn't believe). Drinking that much imported beer in a bar is frightfully expensive, and the sheer extravagance clouded my pleasure, especially in view of the fact that we probably could have had more fun drinking Milwaukee's Best Ice on a railroad track somewhere. There's a reason I almost never went to bars in Charlottesville.

Lots of the girls in the bar were drinking Coronas, which seemed to me about as appropriate as ordering a cheese burger in a Chinese restaurant. Bethesda white people, what can you do?

A little past midnight, we went back up to the street and cycled our separate ways home. I was pretty drunk, but I could bicycle just fine all the same.


one year ago
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