Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dope (Part 8)

     Our arrival in the bar was greeted with all the warmth of a Tutsi dance band arriving to play at a Hutu wedding reception.  We sat at the bar, and those on either side of us all directed dull, hostile glares at us before pointedly returning to their drinks and conversation.  I'd heard that passive-aggressive behavior was like a collective form of street theater all Minnesotans engaged in, so I let it slide....  Although I was feeling a bit punchy, and would have welcomed a loud drunk trying to get in my face, just for the exercise of it.

     Working on the assumption that everyone in the room assumed I was a scumbag, I purposely placed two hundred dollar bills on the bar as we sat, so at least the bartender would know we weren't about to try to drink and dash.  We got our Johnnie Walkers and cast an eye around the joint for diversion.  Not much.  There was a small stage, but it was dark and empty.  Music was pop pap being piped in.  Even the TVs over the bar were dark.  When the bartender drifted up to see about refills, I asked him, "So where do people in Minneapolis go to hang out in public, at any time of the day or night?  San Diego has Mission Beach, LA has Venice or Hollywood, San Francisco has the Haight or SOMA.  How about around here?"
     The bartender looked doubtful and said, "Well, during the day there's Lake of the Isles or Minnehaha Falls.  At night though, people either go hone or to a bar or club....  Unless you want to be around street crazies.  Where are you from?"
     "Loosely speaking, San Diego," Bekka answered.  "It's not nearly as a kinetic of a town as SF or LA, but you can still go hang out near the old Belmont Park rollercoaster in Mission Beach and watch the Shore Patrol scraping up drunk sailors.   The people-watching is just as good at three a.m. as it is at three p.m."
     "Huh.  No, if you're out late at night around here, it's assumed you are headed to or from someplace, not just wandering around.  People hang out at bars or clubs, until last call anyway."  He paused.  "Ma'am, I hope I'm not being rude, but do I know you?"
     "You may recognize me.  My name is Becky Page, and I somehow became the world's most beloved porn star."
     Turning red, the bartender said, "Uh, no, uh, I don't watch those kind of movies."
     I said, "You wouldn't need to.  She's also been in Time, People, Newsweek, not to mention centerfolds in Hustler, Gallery, and she was a Penthouse Pet of the Month last year."
     The penny dropped for the bartender.  "Oh!  Now I remember!  I read about you in Time, it was an article about you and two other girls, plus your husband.  It said that you and your studio had totally changed how, um, dirty movies are made, somehow, and how those sort of movies would be accepted as perfectly normal from now on."
     "Uh, not exactly.  The article said the movies our studio in particular had totally broken with tradition about what adult video should be like, and what it should involve.  My studio, Inana Productions, has become known for making hardcore porn that actually works as intelligent entertainment.  Our features are fully-formed movies, with real stories and real writing and real performances.  Since she always had lead roles, Becky's star rose with the popularity of the movies."
     Bekka interjected, "Although Inana is definitely a maverick and doing something no one else had ever done before, our movies are still XXX videos, with all the action that implies.  What is different is that we engage viewers intellectually, not just with the cathartic thrill of watching people have sex.  Yes, our releases have plenty of sucking and fucking, but we aren't just doing suck and fuck, you know?"
     A doughy guy in a suit which a successful realtor would have worn in 1977, a toupee, and one of those "urban" Stetsons in his hand wandered up, next to Bekka; apparently there had been a delay of longer than seventeen seconds between his finishing one drink and starting the next.  The bartender was obviously slacking....  And spending his time in the company of these.... people.  Bekka was some kind of death-obsessed prostitute, and I couldn't have been more repugnant if I'd been snacking on a jar full of live cockroaches.
     Bekka nodded a greeting, and was given a (passive-aggressive) scowl back.  The bartender saw who it was and went to work without a word being said.  While the doughy guy waited, he did a double-take on Bekka.  He was a career drunk with money, and like all of that breed he had movements and mannerisms that partially deflected the truth, which was that he was hammered.  He just had a lot of practice at being hammered, and covered it up with slow, measured movements, a ponderous method of  ambulation, and a highly controlled speech pattern, to eliminate any slurring.  He tapped Bekka and said, "You make sex movies, don't you?"
     Bekka gave a stiletto smile and said, "Well, the sex is a major factor in the features I appear in.  They also have other aspects, which I am quite proud of.  Yes, it's me, the porn star who grew too big.  And you are?"
     Doughy took a couple seconds to process the words, then said, "I am Roy Krebsbach, of Krebsbach Processed Meats.  I have misplaced your name, who are you again?"
     "I am commonly known as Becky Page, less known as Bekka Schneider, and never known as a proponent of Andrea Dworkin.  The gentleman to my right is my husband, Lenny Schneider.  Good evening, Mr. Krebsbach.  What is on your mind?"
     "What are you doing in Minnesota?  I can tell you, you will not be allowed to work in this state.  We know how to protect our chil'ren, and will do so."
     "You have me a bit confused," said Bekka.  "I am an adult film performer.  Since I do not sell flash paper pajamas, drive a school bus while tripping on acid, or put razor blades in Halloween apples, I'm unclear on your implication that I am a threat to the children of this state."
     "Your movies encourage degeneracy and immoral behavior!" declared Krebsbach, casually leaning on the bar for support.
     I stuck my head in and said, "Lenny Bruce once pointed out that people don't want children to see pornography, because they're afraid they'll grow up and do the same things."
     Krebsbach aimed a slightly weaving eye at me and said, "Does this concern you?"
     "Darn tootin' it does, Sparky.  I was introduced maybe twenty seconds ago, the name again is Lenny Schneider.  It concerns me because you're talking to my wife.  It concerns me double that you're talking to my wife while drunk.  And it concerns me triple that you seem to have a low opinion of her.  Might I suggest you take your drink and return to your former location?"
     "My husband has been treated like a homeless criminal alcoholic since we arrived at this hotel, for no valid reason that we can discern," said Bekka.  "He is not in the best of moods.  Really, it would be in your best interests to not air any opinions you have of me or my career and remove yourself."
     Doubling down, Krebsbach announced, "You all are from 'fornia!  'fornia is where all those ob-seen materials get made.  That state has gone to the dogs, with the homos and Hollywood and rock stars and merry-wana and Messicans.  'fornia should secede from the union, stop having a corrupting influence on the rest of this great nation.  The devil reigns in 'fornia."
     I was ready to tell the drunk to go piss up a rope, but Bekka started laughing at him.  She said, "Oh dear, what an amazingly idiotic suggestion.  Roy darling, California is the sixth largest economy in the world.  Not the nation, but the world.  Absolutely, allow California to secede and become autonomous.  Then watch the other forty-nine states collectively become as prosperous as Latvia or a West African nation.  I must ask, what is your objection to Mexicans?  Have you ever met one?  I've only been in Minnesota for a few hours now, but I've noticed a strong lack of melanin in its citizens.  Minnesota appears to be whiter than a David Duke celebrity roast, in what way are you threatened by Latinos?"
     "Sure, deport all the Mexican," I added.  "What a stupid idea.  Go ahead and pull that off, close the border completely.  Then adjust to paying fifteen dollars for a head of lettuce, and every restaurant west of the Mississippi will be buffet style and you have to wash your own dishes after you eat."
     Krebsbach looked both of us in annoyed silence.  It was clear he was not used to being spoken to in such a manner.  He'd heard Bekka's pointed laughter and detected my sarcasm, we were clearly insubordinate and lacking in respect, more gol-darn perverts from California.
     He collected his wits (using a Shop-Vac) and addressed Bekka with his original query: "So what are you doing in Minnesota?"
     "I am here to visit a friend," she replied.  "She will show us around Minneapolis, giving us a tour that is not subject to chamber of commerce critique.  While we are here, Lenny and I are staying in this hotel, we've always put trust in the Radisson chain.  The three of us will see sights, eat, drink, use recreational drugs, and publicly mock the Vikings.  Roy honey, we are taking a five day break, a short vacation.  On Monday we will board a chartered Lear jet and fly back to San Diego, and continue producing large amounts of hardcore pornography.  On that note, do you have any heterosexual fantasies that can be filmed legally?  Tell me what they are, and we'll put you in the credits when we film them."
     Drop-jawed, Krebsbach tried sorting through the pile of talking points Bekka had dumped on him.  Sorting them would take time and focus, so he began railing at us again.  "You act so flip and clever, who do you think you are?  If you were an employee of mine, I'd give you the sack.  My employees know better than to get mouthy with their boss."
    "That's nice," I replied.  "Who gives a ripe fuck?  We're not your employees, so we can be flip and clever with you all night, with no blowback.  Screw your meat packing plant, screw your money, to me you're just an alky with a bad rug and halitosis.  You're too drunk to fight, you're too dumb to argue with, and you're too pious to be any earthly good.  Fuck off, Lumpy, go back to your seat and leave my wife the hell alone."
     Incredibly, Krebsbach stepped away from Bekka....  Then reoriented himself and aimed at me.  I got off my stool and met him.  By his expression and his tone, no one had ever spoken to him like that, not even in grade school.  I realized his anger was cutting through the alcohol fog, adrenaline killing his buzz.  I wasn't worried about him swinging on me, I could have taken him with a roll of paper towels.  But it was clear he wasn't going to let his indignity go unanswered.
     "I gotta know, fella, what it is you do.  You look like some darn rock and roll hooligan, you couldn't get a job delivering newspapers in this town.  What do you do, rob gas stations?"
     After a brief pause to laugh in his face, I said, "I make porn.  I produce videos of hot women sucking, fucking, taking it in the ass, getting cum on their faces, licking each others pussies, and generally engaging in the most decadent sexual activities possible, that are legal to film.  My average work day involves regular interaction with naked women and men, and as a producer, it is partially up to me to decide what explicit activities they can engage in that will look good on camera.  I have lost track of how many tens of millions of video tapes I've sold, all I know is at this point I'm a millionaire because I make fuck flicks the entire Western world wants to see.  You know who Becky Page is, so you must have a remote clue about the features she's starred in.  I am the one who writes and produces them, not to mention running the day to day business of the studio.  My studio's movies are loved all over the world, which makes me very proud of what I do.  And I have a shitload of fun, making money while I do.
     "Tell me, what sort of vertical expansion is there in the processed meats industry?  Is there a creative outlet, room to move, space for creativity?  Or is it just a pathetic grind, something to do while you wait for the grave, with your clothes always vaguely smelling of rotting flesh?  How would an intellectual maverick flourish in your business?"
     "What the heck are you talking about?" asked Krebsbach.  "My company is family owned since 1922, with over 130 employees...."
     "127 of whom have let all their dreams for their lives wither and die.  The other three never had dreams to begin with."
     ".... distributing to six states, adding to the economic base of Minnesota, and providing a quality product."
     "I distribute worldwide, with dubbed multilingual versions of my features in Italian, German, French, and English.  Due to the massive volume of video tapes we sell and distribute, we have seven duplication plants cranking away in California, Washington state, and Utah.  Plus printing and manufacturing.  And by taking into account our reviews, our sales, and the massive amount of fan mail we receive, I am confident in saying Inana Productions is the absolute high water mark for quality in adult video.  Other studios, ones much larger than us, can't even begin to compete with the sales we have."
     "You just make filthy movies," sneered Krebsbach.  "Nobody needs your trash.  Shoot, you could disappear tomorrow and not a single person would be effected."
     I sneered back, "Except for all of those who lost their jobs.  With the volume of tapes we move, there are people at duplication plants, printers, cardboard presses, and shipping companies who are reliant on Inana to make a living.  If we tanked, they'd tank too.  By the way, don't bring up the morality of what I do.  All my people are honest, moral, and healthy.  No one is exploited or coerced into what they do.  So far as the content of our features goes, I will remind you that another little behavior fillip that separates humans from other animals is we consider sex to be a spectator sport.  No other species will stop and watch two of their own going at it for the sheer pleasure of viewing.  Ask an anthropologist, humans get great enjoyment out of watching members of their fellow species mate, and have for tens of thousands of years.  All I do is provide that same visceral, primitive pleasure for modern people, recorded on video.  And I also provide the intellectual satisfaction of engaging entertainment.  If I didn't do that, nobody would know who Inana Productions was.
     "Out of curiosity, how do you know who Becky Page is?  Where did you learn about her?"
     Krebsbach suddenly looked downcast, staring at the floor.  "Uh....  The wife is a fan.   A couple of her fellow biddies were talking about Becky Page movies they'd seen and how great they were, and loaned a couple of them to the wife.  She brought them home, and I told her I wouldn't watch such immoral garbage, and didn't want her to either.  Uh, we fought.  She watched them while I was at work, then tried to tell me how these filthy movies were actually art, better than stuff from Hollywood, and how Becky Page was the most dynamic actress since Catherine Hepburn.  She talked me into watching one, it was a comedy set in an office building.  I walked out of the room after ten minutes.  It was filth, just like I thought it would be.  I was---"
     I cut him off.  I said, "By filth, are you referring to the sex?"
     "Of course!  Naked people, doing, you know, all sorts of things with each other...."
     "You're a grown man.  What do you find so disturbing about consensual sexual activity?"
     "Sex is for the purpose of procreation only!  Engaging in sex acts, especially some of the ones in the filth you make, is a sin and an affront to God!  We were given lust and desire to test our strength, to see if we would stay true and pure, or succumb to pleasures of the flesh.  Mankind should feel nothing but shame for our sensual lusts, we are all sinners and must prove ourselves worthy of God's grace.  We must not give in to temptations, especially those which tempt the flesh."
     I stared briefly at Krebsbach.  Then I said, "Okay, I'm not going to argue a moral point based on ancient Hebrew and Aramaic texts.  It would be as futile as arguing whether Pizza Hut or Domino's has better food.  I will say this, though.  The vast majority of my performers are Christians, and faithful ones.  Becky included, she knows her Bible like a Bedouin knows sand.  At their respective churches, they have been open about how they earn a living.  No one is bothered.  They are moral, honest, clean-living people who simply have strange jobs, the fact that they portray sexual acts in front of a camera does not impact on either their worth as people, or as Christians.
     "I'll let her continue her conversation with the bartender, but I will tell you that if Becky heard your feelings about sexuality, she would feel pity and sadness for you.  She believes, and I agree, that human sexuality is one of the greatest gifts God gave to humans, and it should be celebrated, not feared.  Obviously there are caveats to this.  Like, people who use sex to hurt others, as a device of control.  But consensual sexual activity between adults celebrates life, it shows that we are not animals.  Sex demonstrates humanity can share ourselves, both physically and emotionally, with others, with no conflict or property or personal gain.  It's called 'making love' for a reason, and what greater love is there than the grace of God?"
     "So uh, what churches do these people go to?" asked Krebsbach.
     I replied, "Me personally, I'm a Unitarian.  There are some Congregationalists, some Methodists, some Episcopals, and I think an American Baptist.  Becky refuses to align herself with any church.  She has great faith, but believes organized religion stymies true spiritual progress."
     "Liberal faiths," scoffed Krebsbach.  "All those churches believe God is just a gentle benevolent force who loves everyone.  They're wrong.  God is angry with us, we constantly defy and ignore Him, we put our own interests in front of the Lord's.  Mankind cannot atone enough for the sin that was born in all of us.  We must always be vigilant against transgressions against Him."
     I did a bit more staring, then said, "Huh.  Um, in the various versions of the Bible I've come across, they all have a shorter section in the later pages called the New Testament.  A lot of that section talks about a guy commonly known as Jesus, the Christ, of Nazareth, who was born without sin.  He spent the last years of his fairly short life preaching, and then was crucified by the Romans.  But his death cleansed the world of its sins, he sacrificed himself so that mankind would be in grace with God again.  By professing faith in Christ, we are absolved of our sin, full stop.  Obviously, if you go around doing evil things, you've blown it, but the consensus is that mankind is essentially good, just a bit misguided at times.  I believe Jesus Christ would find no evil intent in me or anyone who works for me, just because of the admittedly unusual style of popular entertainment we provide.  We love Him, and our lives are not led in an immoral or destructive manner.  I believe if Jesus returned next week, and showed up at our studio, he might find us to be a bit tacky, but not sinners.  We cause no harm to others, we are caring and joyful people, and we cherish the grace of God.  No harm, no foul, dude."
     "But in Revelations, it says that---"
     I cut him off.  "Oh boy.  Um, you're probably not going to like hearing this, but Revelations doesn't mean dick to me.  It was not the word of God, it was the angry rantings of a political prisoner.  To be frank, the fact that the Apostle Paul's letters to the Romans and Philippians made the editorial cut has always bugged me, too.  Paul was just a dude, he was not communicating the word of God, he was bitching to friends about the decadence he saw in Greek and Roman societies at the time.  Paul would probably be offended by one of my movies, but I'd invite him to watch one being made, so he could see we are not wallowing in carnality, we make movies, which is a fairly complex task, no matter what the subject matter is.  The set of a porn shoot is not a bacchanal, it's a place of work.  The only real difference between us and Hollywood is we use different body parts to keep people entertained, but it's still just acting."
     "The Bible must be accepted in its entirety," intoned Krebsbach.  "You cannot dismiss parts of it."
     "Oh?  Why not?"
     "It was created to act as a whole functioning unit.  You can't remove pieces from a car's engine and still expect it to work.  The same goes for the Bible."
     I smiled.  "A couple problems with that.  First, the contemporary Bible didn't come into existence until a few hundred years after the death of Christ.  There was no on the scene reporting.  Besides....  Well shit, I'll take a wild guess and assume you're familiar with the book of Leviticus?"
     "Okay, how much of the law laid down there is relevant today?  The closest thing I ever came to animal sacrifice at church was running over a squirrel in the parking lot of the sanctuary.  Not a lot of slave markets around either, unless you count Dolphin Temps.  What might have made sense 3500 years ago is now irrelevant, misguided, or completely alien at this point.  So yeah, damn right I'll cherry-pick in the Bible, I'm gonna dismiss the obvious gibberish and the irrelevant."
     "Then you're not a Christian," Krebsbach glowered.
     "Oh really?" I chuckled.  "Why not?  When I got baptized and gave my life to Christ, I didn't have my fingers crossed.  I accepted Christ as my personal savior, I was baptized, job done.  I didn't have to take a written quiz or provide a list of references, I made a personal decision about my faith and acted upon it.  I'm pretty sure it's not possible to throw someone out of Christianity, no matter how big of a jerk they might be.
     "You know what, Lumpy?  Debating this is about as constructive as a windshield made of toilet paper.  My faith, both personal and organized, says that we are all under God's grace, He loves mankind.  Whatever your denomination is, they think God is a vindictive, petty, vengeful prick, like an alcoholic with bipolar syndrome.  To you, mankind will never be good enough to meet God's standards.  That's not the Almighty, that's my old high school gym coach.  Us going back and forth is pointless, because the principal of our argument is really hard to get on the phone, you know?  I've met a couple people who say they talk directly with God.  One claimed he needed a quarter of China White to do so, the other was standing outside San Diego Superior Court, naked except for the handcuff the cops had put on him.  I like to think the second guy wasn't lying."
     Bekka was suddenly leaning against me, asking, "Am I hearing correctly?  Are you two talking about God?"
     "Yeah.  We have different opinions about God's relationship with His creation.  Spanky here believes the wrathful bully from the Old Testament is the one we have to answer to.  Oh, and sex should only be for the purpose of procreation.  The Inana girls are gonna have a lot of explaining to do."
     Bekka regarded Krebsbach levelly and said, "Utter horseshit.  If that was true, human females would go into heat, so there would be no question about when they were ovulating.  Human reproduction is a crap shoot, so far as initial conception goes.  God gave humans the ability to enjoy sexual activity without any need to fulfill a genetic imperative, He gave us a source of pleasure that can't be minimized, it can't be regulated, and it can't be taxed.  It was a gift to mankind, not a burden or source of shame."
     "Physical desire is a test God put upon mankind," Krebsbach croaked piously.  "We demonstrate our weakness and our refusal to put God before ourselves when we give in to carnal desires."
     "See my first point," replied Bekka.  "You say sex is only to breed?  But with no marker to tell when a woman is ovulating, we can never know when the 'correct' time is to have intercourse.  Humans need sexual desire to continue as a species, so we will mate with each other pretty much constantly, given the chance.  It's the only way the odds are improved for the sperm to hit the ovum.  It's only been within the last century that we've understood how to track a woman's ovulation.  It was always just a guessing game, so guys would shoot their loads into their wives all month, hoping to hit the jackpot."
     "Given what you do for a living, you are the last person I would allow to second-guess God's wisdom and judgement when it comes to something as miraculous as the conception of a child."
     Bekka laughed at this.  "Is that so.   Given my very direct comprehension of how humans sexually respond to each other, not to mention an understanding of women's reproductive processes, I feel I'm quite qualified.  If God only wanted us to fuck to make more kids, He can only blame Himself for such piss poor design work.  He should have given human females an obvious marker indicating when ovulation was happening, and He shouldn't have made the act of breeding the rollicking good time it is.  Or perhaps He should have had humans reproduce like salmon.  I'd just lay my eggs, then Lenny would swim over them and jack off a load."
     I added my own two cents.  "Conception is not a miracle, it's biology.  We know where babies come from these days, there are no real mysteries about how human reproduction works.  Having an answer of 'God did it' may have worked in Old Testament times when people were confronted with a mystery, but it don't fly no more.  Except for how the Dead Kennedys broke up, but the Angry Samoans keep right on rolling along."
     "I don't believe either of you have any faith at all," came Krebsbach's pious-but-drunk voice again.  "You mock and belittle, you say entire books of the Bible are meaningless, your careers are a thumb in the eye of Christian morality, and you refuse to believe God is the only true creator.  I suppose you think dinosaurs are real."
     Bekka and I looked at each other, utterly confused by this last statement.  "Huh?" we chorused.
     "Or that man and monkeys are relatives.  Or the story of the ark is just a fable.  Or that the Earth has been around for billions of years.  You deny what is taught in the Bible about the world around us, and when you do that, you mock God."
     The penny dropped for me.  I put my face in my hands and said, "Oh, fuck no.  You're a fucking Creationist.  Let's start with an easy one.  Tell me, how old is our planet?"
     "Six thousand years, approximately," Krebsbach answered confidently.
     "Uh huh.  Tell me, are you familiar with the Sumerians?"
     I smiled and said, "I thought so.  Very briefly, the Sumerians were one of man's first truly well-developed civilizations and societies.  Their kingdom, Sumer, was in a southern area of ancient Mesopotamia, in what is now modern-day Iraq and Kuwait.  They had organized government, and technology, and agriculture.  They also had a written language, a novel concept at the time, and kept records of things on baked clay tablets.  We know quite a bit about the Sumerians because they wrote shit down and preserved it, all archeologists had to do was translate the language.  From these records, we know the Sumerians were active and kicking at least 7500 years ago, or about 1500 years before Earth even existed, apparently.  What a cock-up, to learn your society didn't actually exist when you thought it did.
     "The Egyptians were a bit behind in the race for structured civilization, but catching up.  The only problem is that according to the Young Earth Creationist timeline, both civilizations should have been wiped out by Noah's flood.  They weren't.  It is generally considered that Sumer bought the farm around 1700 BC, the cities abandoned over the previous few centuries.  But the Sumerians were the first to get away from an oral tradition and keep physical records of events, both large and small.  That's how we know they were there, and when."
     I got a snotty, supercilious look from Krebsbach.  "So what happened to them?  Where did they go?"
     "If I remember correctly, the soil in their agricultural areas slowly built up levels of dissolved salt, due to poor drainage.  Crops got worse and worse, their wheat yields kept going down.  They tried barley, but couldn't generate enough to support the citizenry.  Remember, Sumer had actual cities, with populations in the tens of thousands.  Vast swaths of the population were entirely dependent on Sumerian irrigation agriculture, an entirely new concept at the time.  As crops kept failing, the people just started to disperse, abandoning their homes and hitting the road over the course of about four hundred years.  They just scattered over the greater region, heading in all directions."
     Bekka added, "Inana Productions was named after Inana, a powerful Sumerian goddess who had an insatiable sex drive.  Uh, I learned a while back we've been spelling wrong all these years.  There should be three 'N's, not two."
     Looking slightly confused, Krebsbach asked, "Um, so did they believe in God?"
     "Several of them, actually," I answered.  "Plus hundreds of minor deities, who were only recognized in particular towns and cities.  Sort of like sports mascots.  But no, they had no concept of Jehovah, of a single all-powerful god.  Personally, I believe they would have dismissed the idea as simplistic.  Their four --- five? --- central gods were the creators and ultimate arbiters of the major aspects of civilization, they created and recorded the knowledge needed to do everything from irrigate fields to construct buildings to fight wars to bake bread.  They institutionalized how things should be done, so the Sumerians would all be on the same page when working together.  Really, as powerful of a document as the Bible is, it's really light on practical advice, like how to grow crops or build a house.  Sumerian gods all had tangible, practical aspects."
     "So....  These people supposedly existed before the Earth did?"
     "The area known as Sumer was originally settled around 5500 BC.  Obviously they didn't immediately begin constructing huge cities and temples and complex irrigation systems, but they were there, and they were getting down to business.  These original people had permanent villages with basic political organization, they had stopped being drifters like the rest of the species.  It is known as the cradle of civilization."
     "So why aren't they in the Bible?" came the terse question.
     "Because the Sumerians were staying put, and while the early Jews wandered around a lot, they just never got that far in that direction.  If you don't know something exists, then to you it doesn't exist at all.  So each group would have assumed the other was about as real as leprechauns, just an improbable rumor."
     "If these people really had existed, they would have been in the Bible," insisted Krebsbach.
     "Please explain that assertion," replied Bekka.
     "Because God would have known they were there!  God is almighty, nothing is hidden from him!  You say some big civilization existed, but somehow God didn't know about it?  That's impossible.  These Sumerians never existed at all."
     Bekka began making a hissing noise in her throat.  I plunged ahead, saying, "Okay, two issues.  First, there is solid historic record of the Sumerians, all the clay tablets they inscribed on, noting events big and small.  There is no question about their source or authenticity.  Next, uh....  Do you believe the Bible is the literal, unfiltered word of God?  I think the Jews would want to debate you over that.  The  first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses, who lived somewhere between 1300 and 1500 BC.  Stories from much earlier, like the creation and the flood, had been passed down orally for hundreds and hundreds of years, there was no physical documentation.  I'd like to think God has a good degree of foresight.  If He wanted the early stories properly documented as His own words, He'd have jolly well also provided the knowledge of written language and permanent documentation, instead of just relying on people to accurately repeat the same stories over and over since about 3500 BC.  Ever play Telephone?  The early stories were passed on in the same way, strictly orally, and in their case the game of Telephone lasted for centuries.  Saying the Bible is the literal word of God is like saying mankind has now reached its ultimate technological peak: even a cursory look at history disproves the statement."
     Waving his drink (he'd been knocking them back the entire time we'd been talking), Krebsbach shouted, "You blaspheme!  You question God's choices and methods!  It's people like you who will destroy both America and Christianity, you absorb the hooey put out by the secularist academics, sitting in their godless universities all over the country!  They wish to destroy faith, to let the Dark One slowly get this country in his grip, by telling their captive audiences they have studied and researched and found no evidence of divine creation.  There should only be one textbook on the desk of every student in America, and that is the Holy Bible.  All the answers are there.  The Bible is the only source of truth in the world!"
     With an evil chuckle, Bekka said, "Tell me, Roy, am I wrong in guessing you use the King James Bible, and only the King James Bible?"
     "Absolutely.  If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me."
     After Bekka and I caught our breath from laughing at this statement, I said, "Lumpy, you're on a roll.  The more things you say, the narrower your mind gets.  I take it from an earlier statement that you consider colleges and universities dens of humanism, with Satan as the puppet-master.  You reckon study and investigation and research only weakens faith, as students are presented with contradictory evidence.   Out of curiosity, have you ever been to a doctor in your life?"
     "Of course," he frowned.
     "And he made you well?"
     "I had a ruptured appendix, which was removed.  I hope I never go through that again."
     "Since you only have one appendix, you're fairly safe.  So when your appendix ruptured, you immediately went to a hospital and put your complete trust for your well-being in the hands of people who had all spent many years at various secular cesspits, learning their trade.  Why didn't you simply accept your ruptured appendix as the will of God, and pray your faith would heal you?"
     "It was a darn ruptured appendix!  The doctors can fix that!"
     "But the doctors didn't gain their knowledge of medicine by reading the Bible, they got it through study and investigation at the colleges and universities you claim are worthless houses of lies.  To be honest, I'm not sure if your statement that the Bible is the only valid source of information about the world makes me want to laugh or cry.  You have to acknowledge the world around you, you can't dismiss it and hope it goes away.  This includes learning institutions.  Did you attend college?"
     Krebsbach replied, "No.  My parents forbid me.  My cousin Stuart, who was a few years older than me, went off to California and to school at Berkeley.  He came home after his freshman year and was a totally different person.  His hair was down to his shoulders, he wore sandals and a buckskin coat, he'd only shave every few days, and he kept telling everyone how everything we believed was wrong.  He refused to attend church, he told his parents that God was nothing but 'an imaginary friend' and Jesus was a hoax.  Old friends would stop by to say hello, and he'd laugh at them when they told him what they were up to.  Sure, a civil service or factory job isn't very interesting, but they pay well enough --- they did, anyway --- and you get a pension.  Stuart told his friends they were cowards and fools.  He said they'd chickened out, they'd decided to have safe but empty existences or something like that, just because they were all working full time.  He called them 'consumers' like it was a dirty word.  I'd sort of wondered why Stuart hadn't come home over winter break.  Turned out he'd gone to Mexico with a bunch of other people, boys and girls, six of them all piled in one car together.  They had gone someplace, uh, Teno-something, so they could visit an Aztec pyramid.  It didn't have anything to do with school, they just wanted to see it.  Stuart told me that he'd traveled with two other guys and three girls, and over the course of their travels he'd, um, had relations with all three girls at some point.  Called it 'free love.'  Heck, he tried to talk me into leaving home and going to Berkeley or San Francisco, with no money and no job lined up or anything.  That sounded like a bad plan to me, so I asked him what I would do once I was out there.  'Studying,' he said.  At what school?  He said, 'None.  You will learn through experiences how to be a true member of the human race, not just a mindless consumer slaving in your family's meat plant.'
     "I kinda got mad and told him what he was saying didn't make any sense.  He sneered at me and said, 'And as long as you remain on your treadmill in this worthless city, you never will understand me.'  A few days later, he came up to me and offered me some LSD, of all things.  Claimed it would unshackle my mind, whatever that means.  Well, I was no dummy, I wasn't about to take hard drugs, no matter who was offering them to me.  Stuart said my refusal to take his drugs was proof that I was another coward, like almost everyone else in Saint Paul.  He took some of the stuff right in front of me, it was just a sugar cube.   Then he got on the bus for Minneapolis and didn't come home for four days.  We were worried sick.  When he finally did show up, he was with some girl who was barefoot and didn't have a bra on.  She told me her name was Phoenix, then started going on about how my aura was poisoned and would die, leaving me with no psychic defenses.  I asked her what I should do, and she said I had to abandon my current life, it was destroying my soul, and become a 'student of the universe.'  Her and Stuart left two days later, they said they were going to someplace called Drop City in Colorado, so they could 'commune with free minds.'  Nobody understood whatever it was that Stuart was trying to say, it all seemed like a bunch of hocus-pocus.  Right before he left, he told his parents to give away all his stuff, he had no need for it anymore, and was never coming back to Saint Paul again, not even to visit family.  That's what one year at a supposed high quality college like Berkeley did to him, it made him break off from his own family, take drugs, hang around with loose women, and spout nonsense.  That's why I never went to college, it was obvious being there would brainwash me into rejecting my family, God, and any sense of proper living.  All colleges do is subvert the basic values that made this country great."
     I had to ask.  "So where's Stuart now?"
     Krebsbach stared at his shoes.  "Uh....  He's some kind of executive at Capitol Records.  Lives in a big fancy house in the Hollywood Hills, drives a Mercedes, and married a woman who's originally from Egypt.  He lied, he did come back to visit once.  For two days.  Him and his wife refused an offer of a room at his parent's house, insisting on staying in a hotel a half hour away.  His wife is pretty, I guess, but is also dark skinned, I don't know what he was thinking.  He looked okay, but talked to everyone like we were dumb hicks, acting like he was better than us.  Kept bragging about all these different rock bands he'd hung around with.  He and his wife had driven all the way from LA in his big Mercedes.  I asked him why he hadn't bought a Ford or a Chevy, something solid and American.  He gave me this patronizing look and said, 'Because I can afford a real car now, something that isn't purposely designed to break.'  I asked him, and what the heck is wrong with Fords and Chevys, especially Fords?  He spoke to me like I was four years old and told me American cars were poorly built, unreliable, gas hogs, ugly, and underpowered.  He said that the fact that Ford and GM were still in business proved just how many 'jingoistic knuckle-draggers' there are in America, dummies who would buy anything, so long as it was U.S. built.  I got mad and told him that Hitler drove a Mercedes.  He made a rude gesture and told me to go back inside and watch TV, talking to his family members for longer than twenty seconds at a time made his brain hurt.  I told him to burn in heck and went in."
     Bekka had been chuckling quietly through all this explanation about Stuart.  She said, "From hippie to Hollywood hack.  Yeah, I can see that happening.  I guess it all depends on who you're partying with."
     I told Krebsbach, "Actually, our girl Jane will be attending UC Berkeley after high school.  We've visited the campus and city, they're clean and safe, although many of Berkeley's non-student residents seem to take pride in cultivating eccentric personas and appearances.  Too damn many white people with dreadlocks."
     Looking shocked, Krebsbach said, "Didn't you hear a thing I just said?  You're going to send a young girl to Berkeley, by herself?  Didn't you pay any attention to me?"
     I replied, "Oh please, Spanky.  Okay, first of all, it ain't the fuckin' Sixties anymore, all that shit from Berkeley is ancient history.  Next, like I said, we've visited the place.  It is clean, well patrolled by both city cops and the UC system's own police force, and all the students we saw were just normal college students, not atheist subversives.  Sproul Plaza had some lames playing in a drum circle, but the campus looks like a normal college campus, in fact a real nice one.  Yeah, if you go down Telegraph Avenue you'll come across standard-issue street crazies, but they're pretty harmless.
     "And lastly, oh brother.  You haven't met our girl Jane.  Just as well, because she would probably permanently fracture your grey matter.  Jane is five foot five, seventeen years old, has spiky blue hair, and usually wears alligator skin pants so tight they look like they were sprayed on.  She wears those with any of her large selection of leather bustiers.  She enjoys her Harley Sportster, her Cutlass 442, playing bass, listening to hardcore punk, getting high on Ecstasy, and fucking.  The girl has a sex drive that would embarrass Wilt Chamberlain.  She would have listened to all your bullshit tonight, laughed in your face, then changed the subject so she could tell you about how she'd trained her boyfriend to eat her pussy so well he could make her come in under three minutes.  Or about how she's proud that she has cut down on her masturbation, now she only devotes about ninety minutes over the day to playing with herself.  Or how she figured out that at a certain RPM, the engine on her Harley can give her an orgasm.  Oh, and over the summer, she visited a nudist colony in Italy and has decided to become a nudist.  The moment she is not in public, she removes all her clothes and stays that way, regardless of any other people around.  They can ignore her, or they can blatantly stare.  She really does have a hot little body on her, and gets off on being ogled.  Even before the nudist thing, she once told me that if she only gave five guys hard-ons on any given day, that meant she had to try harder the next day."
     Staring at me with vague horror, Krebsbach asked, "And just who is this girl to you?"
     "Jane is our roommate," elaborated Bekka.  "She has been for nearly a year now.  Her parents kicked her out of their home in Gainesville, and she took the bus to California and looked us up.  We took her in, got her parents to legally emancipate her, and enrolled her in high school, where she is an honor roll student.  Jane is a high energy, high danger nymph.  Lenny is the only man she has ever had sex with who was able to wear her out, telling him she'd had enough.  Apparently it took a few hours of serious work on Lenny's part.  What else....  Oh, sometimes she likes to watch gay porn, just so she can look at all those big hard cocks at once.  When meeting people like you, Ron, she will purposely say and do things to horrify and enrage them, for her own amusement.  She says she'll gauge the reaction she's causing by the number of veins throbbing in the other person's forehead.  And through it all, Jane is a sweet, kind, intelligent, caring, graceful young woman who loves those close to her and still sleeps with stuffed animals.  Jane is not a girl, she is a force of nature."
     "Sounds like she belongs in a reform school.  Or a mental facility."
     "Hah!  She is very strong-willed, and has both the moxie and intelligence to support her positions.  Excluding physical restraint and large amounts of Thorazine, I don't believe either place could hold her back, if she didn't want to be held.  It would probably take a decade of intense sadistic effort to damage her psyche, her sense of self-worth is quite robust.  No, Jane will not be locked up.  She will graduate from college with her stated major of business, and begin the process of conquering the world."
     Staring into his currently-empty glass, Krebsbach said, "So she's, uh, sexually active?  You said she's only seventeen?  How come you let her, you know, do that?"
     With a cool smile I said, "Jane's libido is turbocharged.  It has been since the age of twelve or thirteen.  She lost her virginity rather young, and under less than optimal circumstances.  But by the time she was fourteen, Jane thought her pussy was a playground and everyone was invited to play.  She was a straight A student, but still seduced three of her teachers, just for the thrill.  By some miracle of chance, she never got pregnant or contracted anything, she stayed healthy.
     "Her libido is what got her thrown out of her house, her parents caught her in bed with some guy.  And it wasn't her regular boyfriend, it was just a dude she thought was cute and wanted to take for a test drive.  When she came out here, we helped her rein in her more outlandish behavior.  She didn't sport fuck, but she danced around that line mighty close.  We explained to her that if she pursued boys in the manner she was used to, she would get known as a slut, which carries a heavy social toll in Southern California.  So at school, no switching boyfriends every two weeks, no making out with guys just because you thought they were cute, no hand-jobs under the table in the cafeteria, and no flashing guys in the hallways for fun.  With our encouragement she landed a steady boyfriend, whose virginity she stole in two weeks.  He's been attending Sex God Boot Camp since.
     "Anyway, how would we possibly prevent her from having sex, if we even wanted to?  Follow her everywhere?  Chastity belt?  Sew it shut?  No, she is playing safe, she is being responsible, and she has broken bad habits she used to have.  She is not a slut, but is so highly sexually charged that it is part of both her personality and sense of self.  I am twenty-three and Jane was sixteen when we became lovers.  The first night we spent together, she wanted to do some very unusual role-playing games, which caught me off guard.  I just wasn't expecting a sixteen year old, not even her, to have thought up such things.  She engages in good old fashioned teenage sex with her boyfriend, and indulges her kinkier appetites with me."
     "Have you tied her up yet?" asked Bekka.  "I know she wanted to try bondage with you."
     "No, and for purely practical reasons.  There's nothing in her room to tie her to, we'd have to use the railing out on her deck, so we'd be doing this in full view of the beach.  I put cuffs on her one night, but that just limited the use of her arms, she didn't get the restraint and submission kick she craves."
     Krebsbach exhaled loudly and said, "This is disgusting.  I can't believe a teenage girl would want to do these things, and that you encourage her.  This girl is sick, she should be in the funny farm, thinking and acting the way she does.  And you say you and her are doing stuff together?"
     "Me too," Bekka coolly added.  "Jane and I are both bisexual."
     "I've half a mind to call your local police and tell them what you all are up to.  They'd put you in jail and her in reform school."
     "But you're not going to.  First of all, Jane isn't sick, she's sexually active.  Her interests are rather.... intense for someone of her age, but she's not into anything risky like heavy masochism, or gang rape fantasies, or knife play, or torture.  Also, if you did somehow manage to have us arrested for statutory rape, we would know who had fingered us, and your life as you know it would end.  Without getting into any detail, Lenny and I have certain connections and friends who would be very upset at the news the Schneiders were in legal trouble.  When they learned it was because of some prick in Minneapolis, they would destroy you, your business, your property, and any sense of safety you have ever had.  They wouldn't just beat you up, they would ensure that your life would be one of calamity and poverty for years.  So no, get that idea out of your head, it's in your best interest."
     I added, "Here's a hint as of whom we speak.  Bekka here is full-blooded Sicilian, and is closely associated with lots of other full-blood Sicilians and Italians.  Get me?"
     A red-faced Krebsbach said, "A court may not judge you, but God will, and you will pay for His wrath for all of eternity.  You are corruptors and perverts.  You will be judged and---"
     And with that, Krebsbach dropped to his knees and fell on his side.  He was heaving for breath and his face was now almost purple.  I took two long steps and leaned over the bar, yelling, "Hey, dial 911 now!  That fat fuck we've been arguing with just keeled over."
     The bartender stepped rapidly towards me and looked over the bar at where Krebsbach lay.  I swear he rolled his eyes.  Instead of grabbing the phone, the bartender walked around the end of the bar and approached Krebsbach, rolling him onto his back.  He said, "Roy.  Roy.   What pocket are your nitro pills in?"
     "Don't.... got 'em," was the wheezed reply.
     "Aw, come on....."  Looking annoyed, the bartender came back behind the bar and began digging in a drawer.  He found what he was looking for, and headed back to the fallen Krebsbach.
     Kneeling down, the bartender said, "Roy, you damn fool.  Now aren't you glad I made you give us a bottle of spare nitro pills?  Open your mouth."
     Bekka and I alternated between staring at the fallen manufacturer of processed meats and each other.  I muttered, "Holy shit, did we just hector a Bible-thumping Midwest bigot into a coronary incident?"
     "Actually, I've been waiting for him to fall over for a while, just not for this reason.  He's put away enough Jim Beam to pickle a horse."
     A couple of the locals helped get Krebsbach into a chair by a small table.  I wandered over to see how he was doing, but as soon as I approached, I was rebuffed.
     "Do not speak to me," said Krebsbach.  "Look where talking to you has gotten me.  You are not a man art all, you are an imp, you can spread ill health just with your voice.  Be gone, demon."
     I could think of a few things I wanted to respond to that with, but none of them would have been constructed.  I loosely gave him the heavy metal devil horns with one hand, then stepped away without a word.  Bekka was collected, tab was paid, and we shuffled into our suite.  Neither of us said a word about Krebsbach, we were both sick of even thinking of the man.  In a broader way, I wondered if men like Krebsbach were not such a rarity in the area.  A dude like Roy Krebsbach in Southern California would be a major anomaly:  While San Diego in particular is pretty conservative, the fire and brimstone regressive style of Christianity hadn't also flourished, as it had in the South....  And apparently in the Midwest, too.  I felt sorry for Krebsbach years ahead of schedule.  When he was old and mentally infirm from decades of paranoid cultural jingoism scorching his brain, Krebsbach would certainly end up losing all his money to a televangelist.  He would hear his simplistic, narrow-minded, and fearful views of the world and faith expressed succinctly by some big-haired asshole bellowing into the microphone, then telling his brothers and sisters of the high cost of doing the Lord's work, so he needed those watching to show the veracity of their faith in a direct way.  Cash, checks, Visa, American Express, and Discover all accepted.
     As we got in bed and turned out the light, I gave Bekka the revelation that Mrs. Krebsbach was a Becky Page fan.  Her husband had sat through ten minutes of one Inana feature, then stormed out, sincerely revolted by the nudity and sex.
     Bekka sighed, "Okay, there are plenty of people in the world who feel uncomfortable seeing nude men and women.  That's not just a Christian hangup, almost all cultures worldwide have a taboo of public nudity.  But Krebsbach and all the others of his theological ilk don't just feel that nudity and sex on public display are in poor taste, they believe anyone who does such things is actively trying to give the finger to God, working like dogs to somehow inflict evil upon the world.  Shit, at Inana we may as well have pentagrams of salt on the floors, and set fire to a goat before we shoot each loop.  The fact that we are not bad or evil people doesn't matter to that subclass of the faithful, they would just insist our actions speak louder than our words.  Our loops and features are proof that we are all proponents of Satan, or whatever."
     I chuckled.  "Oh boy.  I'll bet when we released 'Good Girl/Bad Girl,' the conservative Christian media analysts went into overdrive, finding hidden messages and meanings planted everywhere.  Just the fact that your character never gets any comeuppance will be seen as a signal that we of Inana are actively campaigning for Ol' Scratch to return to Earth, ready to take over.  Yeah, when Satan returns, his first stop will be the studios, to see if he can stay in the penthouse, and maybe borrow the Plymouth to get around in. Did you bring any of your devil horns to wear while we're here?"
     "Yeah, my favorite pair.  Yes, I will keep them on every day we're here.  They should work as an excellent filter, helping us spot conservative Bible-thumpers on the wing.  I'm sure they view Becky Page as a demon already, with her career and public comments championing sexual liberation, my open bisexuality, and my ability to mesmerize men and women into treating me like a demigod.  To them, Becky Page is an activist for the destruction of all that is pure in the world.  Becky Page would put copies of Hustler in elementary school libraries, her movies in every multiplex coast to coast, and complimentary condom jars in all Girl Scout troop meetings.  Yeah, from now on, when I do interviews, I'll have Venom or Mercyful Fate playing in the room."
     I said, "Well, goodnight,dear.  May our lord Satan hold you in his foul embrace."
     "Yes, you too, honey."

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