Bekka, Terry, and Velvet sat down in the living room of Terry's apartment, Velvet taking in his surrounding with slightly raised eyebrows. The only commonality between urban black culture and outlaw biker culture is both are made up of homo sapiens.... Although given the foreheads of some bikers, even that may not be true. There may still be some recessive Neanderthal genes floating around, and those possessing it are hung up on Harley Davidsons.
"I gotta ask," Terry said, sipping at a Budweiser. "How did you get the name 'Velvet'?"
Velvet rolled his eyes and said, "A combination of poor judgement and worse taste on the part of my parents. Velvet is, sadly, my legal name. One of the first things I will do upon becoming an adult will be to have it changed to Vincent. Yes, thank you, mother and father, for giving me a moniker suitable for a character in a Billy Dee Williams movie." Velvet suddenly laughed. "Or, I suppose I could embrace it. I'll wear platform shoes, a fur hat with a large feather sticking out of it, and drive a 1971 Chrysler, with wire rims and fake fur upholstery. I will insist on addressing everyone as 'my brother,' and do so without irony. And the local clap clinic will know me on a first name basis."
"Oh, aim high," snickered Bekka. "Develop a personal style based on Dolemite."
"Yes.... That does have appeal," grinned Velvet. "Dolemite seemed to spend a lot of time around naked women, and that would be nice."
"My husband will tell you the thrill wears off. And just because you are around naked women does not mean you are, uh, interacting with them too closely."
"Lenny is a fuckin' righteous dude," said Terry. "Shit, just about every other guy I know would be constantly trying to get up inside the performers. Total fuckin' dogs. Lenny has been around long enough, and is cool enough, that he'll stand there and jaw with the fuckin' girls, them totally naked, and he doesn't care. The fuckin' Inana girls are his employees, yeah, but he really does care about all of them. He looks out for 'em."
Addressing Bekka, Velvet said, "Becky, you have explained to me that there is no friction between you and your husband due to your career. Personally, he is a very understanding man. Who would you have married if not for Lenny?"
Bekka shook her head and said, "Probably no one. I would have died a spinster. The entire length of my career, my romantic life was utter shit. Yes, I was dating, but every relationship crashed and burned. I would explain my career to men I had just started dating, I wanted there to be no misunderstandings about what I did for a living. Most of these men would give every appearance of understanding, saying they're fine with what I do, it's just a job, blah blah blah. After a few months, they would start dropping little hints about how I should go back to college, or just try something different as a career. Then would come the passive aggressive jabs, sarcastic little quips about how I'd be buried in a Y-shaped coffin, or that I bought my sex toys from the McCullough chainsaw company. They would finally just snap, and tell me to choose between my career or them. They were never happy with my choice.
"All of them had been harboring lots of insecurities and resentments, which they kept hidden, so they couldn't be addressed and resolved. I was making extremely good money, but only worked twenty hours a week, and some of them were just living paycheck to paycheck. They hated that I was always the one taking them out to dinner. There were also issues with the men I worked with. Yes, porn studs have large penises. That's why they do the work, even though it is totally unrealistic. Let's face facts, there is nowhere on a woman's body designed to take ten inches of dick. Porn studs shouldn't be viewed as examples of virility, they should be seen as mutations, something very un-sexual. Of course, the guys I dated had totally normal penises, which was just fine with me. I preferred it. But by boyfriends would start to feel inadequate, insinuating that I would be unable to enjoy normal sex after a while, having been railed by hung porn studs for so long.
"Some guys heard what I did and dollar signs flashed in their eyes. Hey, cool, an ATM with a pussy! I would tell them after a while that I wasn't their father, so stop coming to me looking for a dollar. A couple I just kicked to the curb. They didn't like being told they were leeches, and it was obvious. I had a couple very conflicted evangelical types, they loved the sex for about a month, then decided it was their duty to save me from my life of deviance. A couple others were perfectly nice, but borderline retarded. I actually got rid of them. I was so fed up with explaining the jokes in Garfield comics I'd amuse myself by purposely using a lot of big words in sentences, just to see the utterly mystified looks on their faces. With the way you talk, you may as well be speaking Esperanto, they'd be totally lost."
"Yet you did marry," Velvet said softly.
Bekka stared down at the carpet and bit her lip. "Yes. It wasn't an easy path to get there, and that was entirely my fault. Lenny and I were just friends at first, he was the still photographer at the studio. We decided to have our relationship get physical, just for fun. Only Lenny had a crush on me, which he confessed. I rejected him, I had been fucked over so many times at that point, it seemed safe to assume Lenny would fuck me over too. We remained friends and lovers, but Lenny was pining for me deep down. And the thing was, I loved Lenny, but kept that feeling smothered.
"For me, the turning point was when we were on vacation together. We were in San Francisco. We'd befriended a Romanian girl, and helped her set up a life in the City, including getting an apartment. The first night she was in her new place, the property manager we'd dealt with showed up at her place wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun. He had every intention of raping the girl.
"Lenny and I don't really believe in psychic powers or anything, but Lenny snapped awake that night just knowing our friend was in big trouble. He pulled on his clothes and told me of his premonition. I told him he was dreaming, and to come back to bed. He ignored me and headed out the door, heading to our friend's new apartment, and was right. With a bit of cunning, he got the rapist out of the apartment. They struggled for the gun, and Lenny got shot in the side.... But still kept fighting, and finally dropped they bastard. He had a hole in his lung, but still managed to truss the guy up with duct tape and have a neighbor call 911. He managed to struggle back up the stairs to check on our friend, who was okay, overall. Then he finally passed out from his wound.
"While I was sitting at the hospital, waiting for him to regain consciousness, it finally struck me: here was a man who loved me and cared about me, and had just demonstrated that he was willing to sacrifice all to protect those he cared about. He was the first totally selfless man I had ever met.... And I wanted to push him away. I sat and cried for two hours, but I finally admitted to myself I loved Lenny. I was still a coward, though. I waited another six months to give him the news.
"Lenny is a very rare man. He is a genius, loving, selfless, brave.... They didn't build many like him. When he proposed, the feeling I had was like coming across an oasis after walking through the desert. I had been rescued, I would be with a man I loved forever." Bekka paused. "Terry will attest that Lenny is one of a kind. He looks like the punk rocker he is, but he flummoxes those he meets, because looks can be deceiving. While he hates being called a genius, he is. He became a script writer and movie producer with almost no training, then turned around and made movies which utterly destroyed records. He changed the way the world thinks of hardcore porn, he showed it's possible to have porn that is valid entertainment."
"And not just a good movie, but shit that makes you think," added Terry. "People totally obsess over the fuckin' movie 'Bewitched' because he put in all these little mental fuckin' puzzles into the script. He said he wanted to make porn that you had to use your brain to enjoy, and fuckin' a if he didn't. He always says his only goal has been to make porno movies that didn't suck as entertainment, but he's practically created a whole new fuckin' genre of movies. His shit has the thrill of hardcore sex, yeah, but are so engaging as movies they end up entertaining people on different levels at once. Haw, it's like gets both your brain and your crotch working at the same time."
Bekka said, "Velvet, you're too young to have seen much porn, but the state of affairs in the industry was abysmal, and had been for years. Plenty of triple-X features had been released, but they were generally horrible as movies. The plots were just excuses for the sex, the writing was lame, the acting was terrible, they looked like crap because the budgets sucked.... People watched porn for the sex, and that was it. Then Lenny became COO of Inana Productions at the age of twenty-one, and began kicking holes in the walls of the industry. He hated porn features, for the reasons I've mentioned, and could think of no reason why it would be so damn hard to make good porn. His first movie, 'Lust Instructor,' was made for $180,000 and was shot on a single sound stage, simply redressing the stage over and over. His fourth movie was the now-famous 'Bewitched,' which cost a whopping $480,000 due to the special effects. Yeah, that's a huge budget in the adult film world, but a fucking pittance compared to what Hollywood spends. In the industry, 'Bewitched' was the straw that broke the camel's back. No one had ever seen a movie like that, it had never even been attempted. And everything else he's made has also been groundbreaking, Lenny keeps cranking out these fuck flicks that work better as entertainment as most Hollywood stuff."
Stopping briefly to laugh, Bekka said, "Hollywood hates Inana Productions, and hates Lenny even more. Here's a small porn studio in San Diego which keeps releasing dirty movies that have critics saying, 'Why can't the big studios make films this good?' Then the studios find out how much our budgets on our movies are, and collectively wet their pants. See, Inana's budgets are huge compared to the rest of the porn industry, but pocket change in comparison to what Universal or Fox would spend to make the same movie. They stand there saying, 'This is impossible, how can he do this? And it's porn, why is everybody spending money on porn videos?' The studio big-wigs publicly bitched about some pervert named Lenny Schneider, a smut-peddler who was making Hollywood look bad by releasing these mega-hit videos. The press asked Lenny to comment, and he just ripped into Hollywood, totally bashing the studios and the people who run them. In a nutshell, Lenny said Hollywood was bloated and corrupt, what little talent available was wasted, the studio big-wigs were all pathetic whiny bitches, and the whole industry should collectively commit suicide out of guilt and shame. He said every studio CEO should die of brain syphilis, except for Barry Diller, who should choke to death on a penis. And Lenny said all this to reporters with a smile. When he was done ranting, the reporters asked him if he wanted to amend any of his statements. He thought about it, and said, 'Yeah. I forgot to mention, Frank mancuso should be set on fire in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard, then run over by the responding fire trucks. Fuck Hollywood, the sooner they die the better.'
"Okay, all this got printed in Variety. The studios had a fit. They know Lenny ran Inana, was in his early twenties, was rumored to be some sort of street thug, and was making them all look bad with his sales. Who the hell is this bastard, talking shit about us? They tried to look into his past, only he had none, There was no career to investigate, Lenny was just some kid from San Diego who appeared out of nowhere and started making porn videos which sold tens of millions of copies each, better sales than a lot of mainstream movies. The big-wigs bitched to the papers about that little prick down south who didn't know his place, and won't he be sorry when he came looking for a job at the studios?
"So, the press asked Lenny for his feelings about their response. He laughed at them and said, 'Why would I look for a job at one of the studios? Fuck Hollywood, I hate the industry, I wouldn't work for them with a gun at my head. I don't give a shit what they think of me, they have no meaning in how I run my business, make my films, or live my life, so their low opinions of me is just so much whiny noise coming from LA. Aw, they don't like me, I said mean things about them. Yeah, I'll let their opinions of me and my studio bother me sometime after the universe goes through heat death. Tell 'em to stop sniveling and make movies people want to see, not the same lame garbage they always release. And Barry Diller can choke on two dicks.'
"So it's gone around like this for months now. The big studios bitch about Inana and Lenny Schneider, Lenny laughs at them and heaps on more abuse, telling them to all go kill themselves. They tell the press that Lenny Schneider is just a sleazy pornographer. Lenny asks what their point is, since Inana's sales would indicate millions of people like the porn he makes. And they should all kill themselves. And round and round it goes."
Velvet sat and nodded slowly, as if mentally indexing and filing all the information Bekka had given him. He finally said, "Quite a life your husband has lived. I will confess my ignorance of his films, I've never seen one. I do know they are very unique for both porn and the movie industry overall, he seems to have found an untapped desire in the public. Newsweek said Inana has legitimized pornography, it's no longer something to be ashamed to admit you watch.... Or at least not Inana's films. If you have one around, could we watch it? my curiosity is piqued."
Terry snorted, "Dude, I got all of 'em, but sorry. I ain't gonna show porn to a fuckin' fourteen year old kid, no matter how much he's had to grow up. Tell you what, we'll compromise. Come over on your sixteenth birthday and we'll watch a few then. But at fourteen? Sorry. You may be wise, and you may be street smart, but I just won't do it."
"All right," sighed Velvet. "Becky, I hope to meet your husband at some point. He sounds like a very intriguing person, something of an enigma. Your love and devotion for him are laudable. You are known as a very strong-willed and independent woman, so any man who is capable of holding your heart must have very strong qualities himself. You have mentioned him having an unsavory past, a drug dealer like me, and also a brawler, someone who has thrown a lot of fists in his time. Do you think we would get along?"
"No doubt in my mind," smiled Bekka. "You keep cool in tense situations, a quality which impresses Lenny, as he's had to do the same thing on many occasions. You're intelligent, and you seem to think before you act, marking your options. I think Lenny would absolutely love to meet you."
"Lenny is one righteous motherfucker," said Terry. "He has no tolerance for bullshit, but he gives everyone he meets a chance. To me, it's totally hilarious. Okay, Lenny Schneider is a fuckin' genius who totally turned the world of adult film on its ear, making all these great movies and turning the studio into a powerhouse, at the age of twenty-three. Everybody calls him a visionary. Then people meet him face to face, and freak the fuck out. Here's some dude in a beat-up denim jacket covered with spikes, he'll probably be smoking a Marlboro, and sorta keeping his eyes peeled, the way anyone who's been in a lot of brawls does in a room full of strangers. Shit, there's no other way to put it, Lenny looks like a fuckin' street criminal. Okay, this is the dude who wrote and produced 'Bewitched?' And 'Dangerous Desires?' And 'Succubus?' No way. He's fuckin' proof you never judge a book by the cover."
"Hey Velvet, can I ask a nosy question?" asked Bekka. "I've noticed the Dog Park dealers seem to carry multiple products. What are you moving?"
The question amused Velvet. "Dear woman, that is hardly a prying question. I would not stay in business for long if I kept my inventory a secret from the public. I have a variety, which reflects the demands of the local demographic. Ocean Beach, being Ocean Beach, has a powerful collective taste for methamphetamine, so I always have a good stock of that, and of near pharmaceutical quality. I can get mescaline and psylocibin mushrooms on order. I have marijuana, as you know. Also available are Valium, China White, the Ecstasy known as Smiley, blotter hits of LSD, and powder cocaine. I refuse to carry crack cocaine, in my opinion, those who deal in rock don't have souls. I carry methadone, as sort of a public service. Heroin addicts would sometimes pester me to split a quarter bag of China White, as they were short on funds and in desperate condition. I would sympathize with them, and occasionally acquiesce for those suffering from severe dope sickness. I did a bit of research, and found a line on methadone, which is far cheaper than any black market opiate. my mark-up on methadone is fairly small, to keep it affordable to all. I let word get out with our community addicts that I had the methadone, and was selling doses for five dollars. That way, even the most penurious junkie would be able to take care of their dope sickness, all they had to do was find Velvet. In the five months I've carried the methadone, it has been a worthwhile product to carry. Not only am I aiding the afflicted, it has been profitable, just by the volume I shift.
"I have had success in a competitive market due to my reputation for high quality in my stock. I believed that people would pay a bit more for outstanding quality, rather than save a few dollars and have a mediocre product. This has proven true. I told you of my marijuana when you purchased it. I've been lucky, I was able to locate wholesalers of the products who had a few granules of ethics, they neither chisel on their prices or dilute their products. I did start using different wholesalers for my China White and LSD. One began cutting his product, the other was incarcerated. Still, I've been in business for eleven months, and am becoming a fixture with both my wholesalers and the denizens of Ocean Beach."
"Ever worry about a bust?" asked Terry.
"Oh, absolutely," chuckled Velvet. "Constantly. Commerce in illegal drugs at a consumer level has the highest risk, and pays the worst. If I had my druthers, I would somehow start wholesaling, probably moving Smiley. However, I do not have the funds to set up shop, as it were. No, I will be at Dog Beach for a while. I have a good sized and fairly loyal clientele there. The disadvantages for me at Dog Beach are that I am very recognizable. I will assume the wino you spoke with told you to find the black guy."
"Well.... Yeah," Bekka said, feeling a bit embarrassed.
"It is a blessing and a curse to be easily recognized," Velvet grinned. "I am sure you can sympathize, ms. Page. Anyway, another disadvantage of Dog Park is the vast amount of open space. There is literally no place to hide if the police decide to raid. my only advantage would be that I would see them coming."
"Okay, and then what? You said there is no place to hide."
"I will run," grinned Velvet. He pointed at his shoes. "Yes, these are Nikes, but notice they are not Air Jordans, as one would expect on a black teenager. No, these are running shoes. They have no fashion cachet, but they are a bit of insurance. I am a very fast runner. I became one when younger. At a couple different residences, not only was I the new kid, other children in the house would slander me to their friends. Animosity towards me would grow, eventually blossoming into violence. Getting into a fight was one thing, but there were occasions where literally every male child on the block would come after me at once, malice on their minds. I knew better than to try and fend them off, it would have resulted in me being beaten by a mob. So, I would run from them. This happened often enough that I became blazing fast.
"Not only can I run fast, I can run far. my ancestry is primarily Kenyan, according to an aunt who did a bit of genealogy research. As you're probably aware, Kenya is well known for its export of record-setting marathon runners. The genetic makeup which provides this innate ability seems to have been carried over to me, five-fold.
"So, if the call goes out that a raid is starting, I will run like hell. I will go towards Robb Field, then cut across to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and continue northward on Sea World Drive. I have every confidence I can get as far as Sea World at a fairly high speed, all the while keeping watch for a place to secrete my attache case. If I feel there is no safe place, the attache will go in the deepest water I can find. The loss of my stock in the attache will be a bit of a setback, but not injurious. I only carry a small percentage of my stock with me, enough for a day's business. I would still have my main store of products, at home under lock and key."
Terry said, "Hey, I was wondering. Uh, okay, those skinhead motherfuckers were planning on stomping you. What if me and Bekka hadn't been there? Would you have run? Seems to me you're in a line of work where you'd want to protect yourself."
With a very wide grin, Velvet stood up from the sofa. He gave his right arm a jerk, and suddenly his right hand was holding what appeared to be a shrunken version of a katana. Its narrow blade was nine inches long, and shined like a mirror. He pulled up his sleeve to expose an odd contraption strapped to his arm just below his elbow.
"This contraption is of my own design and build, but it is not an original idea. I was inspired by the movie 'Taxi Driver.' You may remember Travis, Robert DeNiro's character, had a spring holster on one arm, functioning in the same manner as this gizmo. I didn't want a gun, but a blade would be of use in a confrontation. The blade itself is of Korean origin, if I recall correctly."
"Yes, very nice," said Bekka. "Please put it away now, I am very phobic of large knives."
Velvet caught the stress in Bekka's voice and put the blade away, pulling down his sleeve quickly. "my apologies, ma'am."
"Why not carry a gun?" asked Terry.
Chuckling and shaking his head, Velvet responded, "A myriad of reasons. First, and simplest, is that a blade cannot run out of ammunition or jam. Any conflict I get into will certainly be face to face with someone. To put it in rather brutal terms, I can gut an attacker like a trout with my blade.
"While I can undoubtedly purchase a gun in my neighborhood for around thirty dollars, I wouldn't want it. The pistol du jour in my area is a small .25 caliber automatic, concealable in a pants pocket. These pistols are cheaply made. They have low muzzle velocities and are prone to malfunction. Simply put, they're junk. Whatever I could find for sale would also be stolen.
"So, I would be a minor in possession of a concealed and stolen gun which may or may not fire when I pull the trigger. If I was arrested, the length of my incarceration for dealing drugs would pale in comparison to the sentence I would get for having the gun. California laws regarding guns are rather draconian. A black teenage drug dealer carrying a stolen gun? I may as well set the American flag in the courtroom on fire, too. If I was lucky, I'd be freed at the age of eighteen, but would probably be remanded to a state prison for another few years.
"If I was to own a gun at all, it would be purchased after I turn eighteen, and would be of high quality. However, so long as I do not falter in my plans, I would no longer have a need to carry a gun, or any other weapon. my days of extralegal entrepreneurship will have already ended.
"I have been curious about the pistols you ladies carry. It seemed rude to ask earlier, but now that the subject of firearms has come up, well....."
Terry smiled and pulled her Colt out of its holster, setting it on the coffee table in front of Velvet. He looked at it, but did not touch it. "Bekka and I carry identical pieces. It's a Colt Defender. Nine millimeter hollow point ammo, holds eight in the belly. muzzle velocity of around 1100 feet per second. Decent weight, and an easy trigger pull, just a couple pounds of pressure. Very reliable and easy to clean. Real fuckin' accurate, too. As you can tell, the size makes it perfect for carrying concealed..... And before you ask, Bekka and I do have our CC permits. We ain't crazy."
With a cocked eyebrow and a sarcastic grin, Velvet quipped, "Well! An accurate and reliable pistol, by a brand name maker? Presumably purchased legally? This is a foreign concept to me. I will assume that, even stolen, this pistol commands a higher price than what my neighbors would be willing to spend."
"Around $800," said Bekka. "But at the same time, you would never have to replace it, unless you really abused it. It will last a lifetime."
Laughing loudly, Velvet said, "$800? Where I live, that is what someone spends on a car, not a firearm. The only way anyone in my neighborhood would spend that much on a gun would be if the gun was also capable of oral copulation with the owner.
"Of course, the homeboys in my area buy cars every bit as reliable as the ghetto rods they have in their pockets. A used car will have problems with it, but the new owner will ignore them, even if he has the money for repairs. The car may get eight miles per gallon, change direction randomly while in motion, and have gasoline spraying from the dashboard vents if you accelerate too quickly. All this will be ignored, so the money can be spent on what matters: the stereo. I fear many of the people who live around me have very skewed priorities."
Smirking, Terry said, "Well, you spend money in a strange manner too. At least it's strange to me."
"You seem to have lost me," Velvet replied. "In what way am I being profligate?"
"Your caps. I know those things ain't that cheap. Besides, for someone who doesn't care for b-boy culture, you sure look the part with those in."
With a cunning grin, Velvet said, "Those are not caps. They're solid gold. Yes, that sounds frivolous, but I have my reasons. I lost those teeth in a fight when I was eleven. Having the gold teeth installed meant no longer having to use the partial plate the orthodontist at county health had given me. Yes, it is a bit of b-boy affect, but in East San Diego, it can be to my advantage to look like a homeboy, one of scores in the area. Also, they are a bit of emergency money. If I was desperate, I could pull them out with a pliers and sell them for the weight of the gold, and have several hundred dollars. I had them put in about five months ago. I had the money for the work, so I went ahead. Terry, is the clock on your wall accurate?"
"Sure is," Terry replied.
"Then I must take my leave. Regular customers of mine, purchasers of China White and methadone, are going to be headed towards Dog Beach looking for me. They will be highly distressed if I am absent."
"Do you have a phone number?" asked Bekka.
"I carry a pager. As I am reliant on pay phones for calls, I am happy to exchange information over the phone, but long conversations are out. Could I get the numbers of you ladies?"
Terry wrote down her number, while Bekka handed Velvet an Inana business card. "Leave the message for both me and Lenny. I'll let him and our secretary, Gina, know to expect a call from you. Sound fair?"
"That sounds fine, Bekka. And I am easily located. I am on my bench at Dog Beach from around ten at night until eight in the morning. And to be frank, I would enjoy the company of those who have an interest in me as a person, and not a narcotics vending machine. Good morning, ladies. Take care of yourselves." And out the door went Velvet.
"Jesus fuckin' Christ," said Terry after he had gone. "That dude is.... Wow. Fuckin' fourteen years old, slinging drugs on the street, looks like a b-boy.... And he talks and sounds like he stole the fuckin' brains from a professor at Yale, or something. And too cool, he hates hip-hop. I'm gonna swing by tonight and let him know he's fuckin' welcome to stop by here when he wants. He seems like a pretty righteous motherfucker, you know?"
Bekka chortled, "I have got to introduce him to Lenny. They should get along like a house on fire. Shit, I hope his plans work out. It's obvious he has a lot of brain power, which would be wasted if he got chucked in CYA."
"I kiinda get the impression he's happy hanging around Ocean Beach. Being in a neighborhood as white as this, he won't get a lot of his buttons pushed, you know?"
Bekka shook her head. "No, that doesn't make sense. He said his contempt for his peers is based on economics, not style, you know? Ocean Beach is not exactly the home of a lot of upwardly mobile people, and it's pretty obvious. Almost all of his customers live here, he can't hold too high of an opinion of OB. To him, everybody here probably has a drug problem of one kind or another...."
"Yeah, but compared to East San Diego, this is a pretty fuckin' tranquil area. You never hear gunfire around here, there ain't much fuckin' graffiti, no gang bangers hanging around in front of the liquor store or 7-11.... Things are more relaxed. Apartment burglaries are our biggest crime."