Monday, April 3, 2017

Groove (Part 8)

     At Jane's suggestion, we went to the barbecue place next door to the Hell's Angels' bar in East Oakland, bringing our pork sandwiches and beans and greens and bean pie inside, to eat at a booth.  That way we could accompany our meal with a beer.  Budweiser, of course.  Like every other collection of outlaw bikers, the Hell's Angels knew there were really only two kinds of beer: Budweiser, and That Other Shit.  When in Rome....

     Riley knew to expect us.  As soon as he finished his game of nine ball, he joined us at our booth.  The bar was still quiet, it wasn't even eight o'clock yet.  Maybe ten other Angels loafed at the bar or shot pool.  The jukebox was still playing at a gentle level,   The song changed tracks to "What's Your Name" by Lynard Skynard, causing me to begin dripping caustic fluids from my mouth and shoot lasers out of my eyes.
     "You didn't pick this fucking song, did you, Riley?" I asked.
     "Nope.  Why?"
     "Just....  Trying to gauge someone's utter and complete inability to grasp the idea of anything original.  This song, 'Stairway to Heaven,' and 'Purple Haze' all need to be retired.  No, not retired.  Taken behind the barn and shot in the head.  They are done, through, kaput, finished.  There are tribes in darkest Africa, totally untouched by the outside world, who know this song.  It's overplayed, and it's worn out its welcome.  There is no reason for anyone to ever listen to 'What's  Your Name' again, we all have it memorized by now.  Play anything else from Lynard Skynard's catalog, please!  Except for fucking 'Sweet Home Alabama.'  That one can go die too."
     "You don't like Skynard?" said a voice above my right shoulder.  I looked up and saw an Angel I knew as Monk standing there.  I couldn't tell by his expression if he was amused or annoyed.
     Making the same face back, I replied, "No, I'm fine with Lynard Skynard....  Except for two songs.  And those songs aren't bad songs, per se, it's just that the constant repetition of them, over and over, years on end, has made me hate them.  Think of living in an apartment next door to someone with a loud cuckoo clock, you can hear the thing every fifteen minutes.  At first it's kinda cool.  Then your brain desperately tries to tune it out.  And finally, you chop down your neighbor's door with an ax and set the fucking clock on fire.  Follow me?  I enjoy all of Skynard's catalog, with two exceptions.  Those two are like nails on chalkboard to me.  Anyway, how's things, Monk?"  I put out a hand to shake.
     "Rollin' along," he said, gesturing at Riley to scoot over so he could sit down.  "Old lady's in jail for three months, her fuckin' probation officer gave her a surprise piss test and she was dirty.  It's bullshit, she was arrested for receiving stolen property.  What's that got to do with dope?"
     "It's an unjust world, bub," I replied.  "Why is the federal government drug testing its employees who aren't operating heavy machinery or flying jets.  Like I give a fuck if Walt the postman smoked a joint over the weekend."
     The place began to fill up, other Oakland H.A. spotting Jane and me and coming over to say whassup.  Jane was a Little Sister, and under the wing of the fucking Sargent-at-Arms.  She was to be cuddled, not groped.  We knocked back our beers at a leisurely pace.  Both of us had mentioned to Riley and Buzzy we had another obligation that night, so we'd be splitting around eleven.  At 10:45 I walked up to the bar and asked the bartender to call me a cab.  The bartender stared in amazement, while the Angels on either side of me burst into laughter.
     "What's the comedy?" I asked the one on my left.
     "That's right, yer from Dago," the Angel said.  "Bubba, right now yer in East fuckin' Oakland, at East Fourteenth and Sixty-Fourth Avenue.  Three blocks from a housing project called Hegenberger Village.  It's a lovely little area.   Sorta like California's version of Cabrini Green.  And the rest the neighborhood sucks too."
     "Why do you think they let us occupy space around here?" laughed the Angel to my right.
     "Huh," I asserted.  "Okay, fucking lovely.  Me and Gator Bait got here by cab.  Any suggestions how we should get the hell back to Berkeley?  If someone's got a car, I'll gladly pay them for the ride, that's fine with me.  Fifty bucks to drive us to Berkeley."
     The Angel on my left said, "How 'bout a couple of us just double-pack you to the Coliseum BART station, gratis?  Grab a train bound for Richmond, get off at Ashby, Berkeley, or North Berkeley, you're set.  Ain't stylish, ain't private, but it works.  And it beats the shit outta being a white boy on foot in this neighborhood."
     "A stellar idea, and an offer I will take with gratitude....  Although we don't have helmets."
     This prompted more laughter.  "Scooter trash with no helmets are the least of the concerns for Oakland cops.  Shit, they figger if we crack up, we'll kill ourselves, and we're one less worry.  Don't sweat it."
     The Angel (whose name was Iggy) grabbed a buddy (Mad Mike), telling him the two of them had a quick errand to run, getting Little Sister Gator Bait and her bro Lenny, from Dago, over to the BART station.  We went out to the street, where the Angels fired their putts to warm.  We were standing there, finishing cigarettes, when a car going past had a passenger yell, "Fuck you, peckawoods!"
     The Angels didn't even bother to turn their heads to look.  "Fuckin' coons," one of them muttered.
     Jane and I swung onto our respective bikes, then the pilots mounted up.  The BART station was just a few minutes away: down East Fourteenth St. to 66th Ave, then to San Leandro St.  Nothing happening at the Coliseum tonight, so no heavy crowds.  This was also the BART station which served the Oakland airport.  There was a shuttle service between the two places for those too broke to afford a cab.  The passengers were easy to spot, they were the ones clutching their luggage with death grips.
     We fed the machines and got our tickets, then went through the stiles.  Up on the platform, it was much quieter.  The display overhead told us it was 11:02 and the next Richmond train would arrive in six minutes.  I poked a cigarette in my mouth to kill time, but Jane gestured at the NO SMOKING signs on the walls.  "What the fuck?  We're outdoors," I complained.
     "Yeah, well....  People in the Bay Area are a lot more anal retentive about smoking than they are in SoCal.  I've noticed that in a few places.  Berkeley is the worst.  I light a Newport standing on a fucking public sidewalk in Berkeley, there's people who give me a look like I just unfurled a Nazi flag.  Your average Berkeley nonsmoker has a shitload of self-righteous zeal, and has a vast overreaction to what is, at its core, a small tube of smoldering dried leaves.  They really hate it when you point that out to them, too."
     "I've heard that shit," I commented.  "'Do you know what's in cigarettes?'  Yeah, shredded dried leaves and a couple preservatives.  If you want me to tell you the fucking chemical breakdown of a tobacco leaf, forget it.  Tell you what, dick-nose, lemme go over to your house and figure out what sort of chemical hazards you're harboring.  You want to cut down on pollution?  Insist military planes meet emissions guidelines...."
     "There are no emissions guidelines for aircraft," Jane pointed out.
     "That's half my point.  See, tiny little paper tube of burning plant matter isn't the problem.  It's just the one assholes like to snipe about, because they can see and smell it.  A valid concern has turned us into a nation of petty, annoying little quibblers.  Looking at the big picture is hard, and scary, and you have to really think about it!  It's easier to be a little bitch with a stranger smoking a cigarette, or your neighbor having a barbecue with charcoal, or people in the mountains who use wood stoves to heat their homes.  Knock all those out, and it won't even make a dent in air quality."
     We could hear the train coming.  The overhead display said 6 CAR TRAIN, so we shuffled closer to the center.  There were maybe seven other people waiting to get on.  Just as the weird electronic-sounding hoot of the train's whistle was going off, I heard feet stomping on metal, and someone yelling, "Dudes!  Dudes!  It's here right now, hurry up!"
     And three young men throw themselves onto the platform.  They're wearing shorts, Nike tennis shoes --- the actual shoes made for playing tennis --- baggy t-shirts, sunglasses, baseball caps, and amazed expressions.  They're also carrying duffel bags in one hand, and lacrosse sticks.  It's obvious they've just arrived on an airplane, as they fit in with East Oakland like I fit in at a gathering of Rastafarians.
     One of them hustled up to me and asked, "Dude!  Is this the train back to Berkeley?"
     "Yeah," I deadpanned.
     "Where in Berkeley does it stop?"
     This puzzled me: how had he departed Oakland airport without taking BART there to begin with?  I answered, "Three places.  The Ashby stop is on Ashby Avenue near Shattuck, the Downtown stop in on Shattuck between Addison and Allston.  North Berkeley is, um, around Sacramento and Cedar.  Where do you want to be?"
     "Fuckin' home, man!" one of the others said.  "Um, Warring and.... Dwight?  Or Channing?"
     "Between the two," the third lacrosse sporto said.  Addressing us, he elaborated, "The Sigma Pi house."
     Jane (who had memorized the Berkeley city atlas more thoroughly than I had) said, "Oh yes, down the block from the Oscar Wilde co-op."
     The three lacrosse jocks fixed Jane with looks of both surprise and annoyance.  They had to break their concentration, however, as the doors to the train were opening.  We all got in, the lacrosse jocks acting like it was the last train leaving East Berlin in June of 1948.  They landed in some seats which faced each other, we planted ourselves in a forward-facing set ten rows away.
     One of the jocks was doing an imitation of a prairie dog.  He kept raising up and staring at us, then dropping down again. We could hear muttered conversation.  After about the seventh time, he yelled, "Hey!"
     The other five people on the train looked up.  Jane said in a quieter voice, "What?"  She was ignored.  She said "What?" a bit louder, then gave up and gestured impatiently with her arm.  The jock approached.  Stopping where we were seated, he looked at Jane and said, "Are you in porn?"
     With a look she stole from Bekka, Jane replied, "I have been, yes.  Why?  Are you a fan of the 'Naughty Novices' series from Inana Productions?"
     The jock, a bony guy with blonde hair, seemed a bit surprised his question hadn't resulted in hurled invective or a slapped face.  It took him a moment to recover, then he said, "Yeah, that's where I seen you!  The 'Novices' tapes, you're on a couple of those.  You're with that dude from that one Becky Page movie, um, the one with all the fucked-up cars...."
     "'Succubus'?" I gently prodded.
     "Yeah, that's it."  He seemed a bit lost as to go from there.  "So, um.... Are you.... still working?"
     "No, I'm a full-time student now," Jane answered.  "I made four loops over the summer between graduating high school and starting at Berkeley.  I'd wanted to try performance since I was sixteen --- possibly younger --- and Lenny here let me give it a shot.  For reference sake, this is Lenny Schneider, the man who runs Inana Productions.  Anyway, I made my first loop with Roach, decided it was easy and fun, so I made three more.  Some extra spending money for school."
     "How much did you make?"
     "$950 per loop.  That breaks down to $750 for the scene, plus an extra $200 for taking the money shot as a facial.  Not bad for a morning's work.  On the sound stage around 8:45, off at noon.  Shower, eat lunch, socialize, then go home and surf.  If I didn't have goals that demand a college education, I'd work as a porn star in a second....  At least for Inana, anyway."
     From further up the train, one of the other lacrosse jocks yelled, "Ask her if she wants to party!"  The yelling bro and his pal busted up with laughter.
     Jane instructed Blondie, "Tell your friend that yes, I do.  That's where I'm headed right now.  Call me small minded, but I have a hunch your idea of a party is very different from mine.  Thank him for the offer, though.  I know where the three of you are located on Warring Street, just up from Oscar Wilde co-op."
     Blondie frowned and asked, "Hey, how come you know about that place?  You're not, like, a dyke or nothing, are you?"
     The fixed stare Jane focused on Blondie lasted five or six silent seconds.  She finally said, "Well.... The Oscar Wilde house is on UC Berkeley-produced maps of the area....  In fact, your fraternity house is also shown.  It's one of the larger housing co-ops, and their parties are legendary, I can't wait for one.  And, to use your vulgarity, I'm half-dyke.  I'm bisexual, although my hetero side is the dominant one.  Do you have any more questions, or may I ask one?"
     "Um....  Okay...."
     "Are you and your friends drunk?"
     "You heard her," I needled.
     Blondie gave an aw-shucks smile and looked around the car.  "Aw, well, we been down in San Diego, at a series at San Diego State, you know?  SDSU is the major rager!  We got there Wednesday afternoon and everybody just dove into the whole scene, you know?  Warm sun, beers, honeys, the beach, everything.  SDSU is so awesome, no wonder it's ranked one of the highest schools in the country over and over."
     I chortled briefly and said, "You are aware Playboy's 'Top Ten Party Schools' annual list does not reflect academic standing, right?  SDSU and Chico are two places for those either too stupid or too poor for a UC school.  Are you listening to yourself?  You go to UCB and you think San Diego State is a better place.  Jesus.  I hope you're still hammered, because you're demonstrating a horrible lack of reason."
     He got vaguely defensive.  "Yeah?  What do you know about San Diego?"
     "I grew up in San Diego, Skeezix," I shot back.  "I still live in Encinitas.  Inana Productions has two studio facilities, one in La Costa, one in Oceanside.  I've lived in Clairemont, El Cajon, Logan Heights, Kensington, and Mission Beach.  Yeah, I know State.  It's a great campus, if you think making your foreign language requisites means drinking both Heineken and Sapporo on the same weekend.  People think SDSU is there for higher education.  No.  SDSU is there to delay adulthood an extra four years, only you're not living at home and it's easier to spot for beer.
     "One of the good things about SDSU is they do have some great bands play, either at the amphitheater or Montezuma Hall.  I've been on campus plenty of times, at all hours of the day and night.  Everything about the place seems to announce, 'Attendance at SDSU means you will live every stereotype of being a college student possible.  It's not about education, it's about living out a slow-moving fantasy.'  And their frat row, Jesus...."
     "What's wrong with the frat row there?" demanded Blondie.  "They rock!"
     Jane burst out laughing, and so did I.  With a bit of effort, I expounded, "You have got to be kidding me!  Holy fuckin' shit!  I don't give a fuck if they throw parties that are a cross between P.T. Barnum and Caligula, they're bums.  You look at one of those houses and it tells the world, 'We're all too busy getting drunk and scamming pussy to have self-respect.  We live in the sort of dump usually associated with Detroit crack houses, not colleges.'  Seriously, think about this.  If you let your chapter house get as run-down and trashed and terrible as the ones on SDSU's frat row does, the university would be looking to shut you down and kick you out.  You know that for a fact, don't lie.  And when your national charter calls the school to ask what's going on, all the school would do is send them a photograph....  And the national charter for Sigma Pi would say, 'We no longer have a chapter at UC Berkeley.'
     "But I like to think, just by dint of having the moxie and intelligence to get into Berkeley, you would also have more pride than those bastards in San Diego.  You know something's amiss when Hell's Angels --- yeah, those guys --- ride down Frat Row and think, 'What a shithole.'  They've got pride in what they have, which is usually damn little.  But the collective property of a chapter, be it a clubhouse, a garage, a business, tools, whatever, will be cared for, because H.A. knows it's the right thing to do.  And trust me on this, Hell's Angels know how to fuckin' party."
     "You guys hang around with Hell's Angels?" Blondie asked suspiciously.
     Jane shrugged and said, "Well....  Yeah.  Due to one thing and another, we got introduced to the San Diego chapter, a.k.a. Dago.  We hit it off with them, really damn well, and after a couple more visits, we were told they thought we were good people, we could come down to the bar or wherever the party is anytime we felt like.  So, we made friends.
     "Then last year's Labor Day, we went on the big run to Pismo Beach, where we were introduced around and made friends with people from chapters all over the West.  That included the Oakland chapter.  Their Sargent-at-Arms, Riley, clicked with us, so we hung out a lot that weekend.  Now that I'm going to school up here, I'll go down to visit the Oakland chapter, hang out at the bar.  I'm what's called a 'Little Sister.'  Basically it means, 'This chick is righteous, don't jack her around or try to hustle her, she has friends here.'  In my case, friggin' Riley.  So I go down, or a few of the brothers will come up and we'll hang out at Blake's.  Tonight, we found out cabs won't go into the neighborhood where the chapter bar is, so we both got double-packed to the Airport station, in order to get home.  If you're bored and brave and don't mind losing teeth, go ahead and check out Andy's Saloon, at East Fourteenth Street and Sixty-fourth Avenue.  Sit politely at the bar, drink your beers, and see if someone starts a conversation with you.  Don't feel snubbed if they don't, H.A. is as insular as Shinto monks."
     "Teeth missing?" Blondie suddenly snapped to attention.  I think Jane and I both realized the slip of the tongue that had just come out, and around the wrong sort of person.
     I covered, "Oh, yeah.  Teeth missing, black eyes, broken nose, cracked cheekbone, dislocated jaw....  Angels fight hard, they fight mean, and they don't stop until the other person has stopped moving.  Here, go like this...."  I made a fist and held it up in front of me.  Blondie did so.  I looked and said, "Yeah....  If you decide to visit Andy's Saloon, be at your most deferential without being fawning.  Just act like you happened to be in the neighborhood and wanted a beer, no clue as to who would be there."
     Blondie's other two friends came up to see what was occupying their friend's time.  A prick who would look perfectly natural wearing a yachting cap (I named him "Skip") asked, "What's up over here?  So hey, we've seen you in porn.  Are you still making porn?  Where can we see more of you?"
     Jane replied, "Yes it's me, not at the moment but that may change in the spring, and if you have the 'Naughty Novices' tapes I'm on, all four, that's all.  As I was telling this guy, it was a way to pick some extra spending money for school over the summer.  Beat the hell out of mowing lawns."
     "So how do I make that sort of money over the summer?" blared the third one, a surprisingly heavyset guy for a lacrosse player (I named him "Lumpy").
     I looked him in the eye and said, "Have two X chromosomes."
     I got a confused look back.  I didn't want to give a lecture about genetic determination of gender, so I changed my answer to, "Be a woman.  That's how you make good money in porn.  You don't make good money in porn if you're a man.  You're too easily replaced."
     "Why is that?"
     Jane rolled her eyes and said, "Oh Jesus.  Because it is far easier to find men willing to appear in porn than it is to find women willing to do so.  Especially for women, it takes a certain type of personality to make it as a porn star."  She considered and giggled.  "If more women had that little bend in their personality, there would be no need for the Equal Rights Amendment.  The chauvinists would be too damn scared to oppose women."
     "They think SDSU sucks," Blondie complained to his friends.
     "And since I'm a San Diego native, I feel I'm qualified to make that statement.  It's a fucking college campus, not Club Med.  You shouldn't go to college thinking, 'Am I going to have a shitload of fun?'  No, you're supposed to be there to become well-rounded and knowledgeable and employable.  You want to go to a lot of parties?  Quit college and become a rent-a-clown."
     "Here's something else I'm curious about," said Jane.  "Um....  Have none of you been on BART before tonight?"
     All three laughingly confirmed this was true.
     "Okay....  How did you get to the airport to go to San Diego?"
     "We rode the Bears bus," said Skip;  "The whole team was in San Diego, but we decided to, you know, have sort of a layover.  It was such a rager the first two nights we had to see what a weekend night would be like."  He looked at his two friends and they all started laughing.
     "I can't wait to hear it," breathed Jane.
     Lumpy drew near and announced to both of us, "Some of the dudes from the San Diego Sigma Pi chapter took us to Tijuana!  Oh man!  I barely remember walking back across the border early this morning.  The San Diego brothers were telling us we had to help them find 'the donkey show.'  It's where...."
     I cut him off with a derisive snort.  "I know what the donkey show is supposed to be.  It doesn't exist, your buddies sent you on a snipe hunt.  If it did exist, I would know about it."
     "Yeah?  And why izzat?" asked Blondie with his own note of derision.
     I considered my words before responding.  "Because how I live, and people who I'm associated with, would demand it.  It would be my business, literally.  To salve your wounded hearts, I can assure you there is pornography of the activities which would happen in a donkey show....  Just don't expect to run to the local porn shop and find it.  But such things have happened, and there is photographic evidence."  I gave another few ticks.  "So, how did things go down there?"
     It was raging," said Lumpy.  "The last place I remember being in was some sort of strip club.  When the dancers weren't on stage, they'd actually work the fuckin' audience, and suck your dick for twenty bucks!  Shit,  we were down for that.  But I guess 'cos we were all pretty sloshed, it was like, as soon as I got close to coming, the chick would ask for another twenty 'cos I'm taking too long.  I ended up getting eighty bucks in, when I realized I was down to, like, fourteen dollars.  I finally just told her sorry, ain't gonna happen."
     Jane and I were both turning red and snickering into our fists.  Jane managed to chuckle out, "Yes, those girls are very talented."
     "What do you mean?" asked Skip.
     "Okay.  Those girls have sucked a hell of a lot of cock in their lives.  They're good at telling how far along a man is, if you follow me.  So when they know a dude is getting pretty close to coming, they announce the five minutes is up, they need another twenty.  Of course, this knocks the guy's progress back, and she's covering old ground.
    "The bar girls have to be good at sucking cock.  If they were doing a mediocre job, they wouldn't keep guys interested.  Guys would just be telling them to get lost after the first twenty.  These girls can gauge how close a guy is to coming, and adjust accordingly, to string him out as long as possible.  You got played, boys.  Don't feel bad, though, now you know better."
     "So where were your buddies from San Diego during all this?" I asked.
     "Oh, they were up towards the front at a table, drinking beer and watching the show," said Lumpy.
     "Did they know you three were getting sucked for bucks?"
     "That's whey they moved to that table, they said they wanted us to have some privacy."
     I sighed and put my face in my hands.  "No.  See, boys, your fellow Sigma Pi in San Diego are not your friends.  They were playing you, big time, for their own amusement.  A common term for people like that is 'motherfuckers.'  If those dudes are your friends, you don't need enemies."
     "Now I wonder what they got out of you," pondered Jane.
     "What do you mean?" demanded Blondie.
     "If they looted your gear, or went through your wallets for credit card information, or...."
     Lumpy said, "Oh.  Yeah."
     "Um, we spend all our cash partying in TJ, um, we needed air fare, plus a little money for food and getting on this train, and shit....."
     "Go on," I prodded.
     "Oh.  Well, all three of us have credit cards attached to our parents' accounts.  We can't use them like ATM cards, we can't get cash with them, and of course when we do use the cards, our parents can just look at the monthly statement and see where we used to cards.  So, we weren't about to use the cards in Tijuana bars, you know?
     "So the brothers in San Diego said, 'No problem, we'll loan you the cash for air fare.  You get the cash back from your bank accounts and send it to us.'  Um....  But they wanted to, uh, hold our credit cards as collateral."  Silence.  "Hey, we hit the bank Monday morning, they have their money back Wednesday and mail us our cards, we have the cards back Friday!  No big deal!"
     Jane and I were staring at each other and very slowly shaking out heads.  I had to ask.  "Tell me, why didn't you just use your ATM cards at branches of your banks in San Diego to get air fare, if you have the money in the bank?"
     Skip said, "Well, they told us that not only was it Saturday, so all the banks would be closed, San Diego has a weird law about the operating hours of ATMs.  They aren't allowed to operate from midnight on Friday until six a.m. on Sunday.  It has to do with cutting down on sailors getting ripped off by prostitutes or something...."
     In a low growl, Jane said, "And this made sense to you."
     "Uh....  Yeah."
     Somewhat louder, "It made sense that a major urban area like fucking San Diego would have a bizarre and arcane law in place, governing the operating hours of ATMs, to try and stop low-level crime aimed at sailors.  Nothing rang false about this information."
     "Hey, they're Sigma Pi, they wouldn't rip off fellow Sigma Pi brothers!" protested Lumpy.
     I gave all three of them a steady, singular look, one after the other.  Then I said, "Boys, the very first thing you do when you get off this train is find a pay phone with a phone book, so you can call the theft alert number for your respective credit cards.  Report the cards as stolen, and hope your pals in San Diego haven't maxed out all three cards yet.  What sort of limits do the cards have?"
     "Since it's, you know, technically my parents' card, it's whatever the limit is on them.  Um, I think....  $60,000 or something?  My parents have good credit, so Visa lets them run high balances."
     "They had good credit, anyway," Jane muttered.  In a louder voice, she said, "So!  People at SDSU have sent you on a wild goose chase, humiliated you, stolen all your cash by proxy, and defrauded you.  Tell me more about what a wonderful place San Diego State's Frat Row is.  You got ganked by fellow fraternity brothers, and they probably still haven't stop laughing.  First task is to get those cards deactivated...."
     "My parents will be so pissed if they think I lost the card, or it was stolen!" whined Blondie.
     "And they'll be way more pissed when their Visa or MasterCard is drained dry!" shouted Jane.  "Get those cards deactivated.  Get some fucking sleep. Then work on getting some revenge.  All three of you got fucked by your own brothers, no lube.  Fuck them back."
     "That's up to you three.  You know these assholes, we don't.  You'd know their weak spots.  You'd know their weaknesses.  You'd know the skeletons in the closet.  Exploit weaknesses, erode the foundation, and collapse the house.  Get me?"
     The three of them stood and silently nodded like mental patients, staring at the ground.  All of a sudden Blondie says, "Hey.  Didn't you say you go to Berkeley?"
     "Yes, I did.  This is my freshman year.  I'm a business major, I'm a Haas student."
     All three choked on their own spit.  "You're a student at Haas?"
     "Indeed I am.  Since I intend to rule the world through economic brute force before I begin menopause, Haas has a lot it can teach me.  Boys, I intend to make Warren Buffet look like a news stand operator when it comes to wealth, and I will make Idi Amin look like Gandhi when it comes to hubris.  In chess, players learn to look multiple moves ahead.  This is a wise strategy, but after a while I won't need it, because I'll own the playing pieces, the board, and the fucking table the game happens on.  In forty years, you may see me on the news --- or on a currency --- and think, 'Hey, I met her on a BART train one night in college.'  And I'm sentimental enough to look you up.  I'll buy the three of you the Maldives, you can rotate whose turn it is to use them."
     Conversation ground to a halt just before the 19th St. station in downtown Oakland.  The lacrosse jocks just took seats where they were, sort of staggered up and across from us.  The train began to fill a bit at 19th St., 12th St., and also at MacArthur.  It was about the sort of people you'd see using BART at that hour on a Saturday: young, urban, and mostly black.  This held all the meaning of a copy of "Dianetics" to me.  The jocks, however, were a bit spooked.  The train was not only filling up with Black People, but Black People....  from Oakland!
     As people boarded and sat at the MacArthur station, a black guy, around thirty, stopped next to where Jane and I were sitting.  He was dressed fashionably, but needed a shave, and a lower BAC.  He looked at me and said slowly, "Hey man, I know you."
     "Really?" I asked.  "Where from?"
      He smiled in a groggy way (I wondered if it was more than just alcohol) and said, "I seen you in Newsweek.  You the dude who makes those Becky Page movies.  Shit, thass right, you married to the girl, too.  Dang.  How's it going, dawg?"
     "No complaints here," I replied.  "Up from San Diego visiting friends.  Becky is at home, she had business to take care of this weekend.  This is Jane.  She goes to UC Berkeley."
     "Dwayne," said the man, putting a hand out to Jane.  Then he repeated himself and offered me his hand, too.
     "What's your favorite Becky Page movie?" Jane asked.
     "Dang.  Aww.....  Whass the name of it.... Oh, shit, 'Dangerous Desires.'  That one is off the hook!  Dang, a triple-X movie with a car chase and shoot-outs?  That shit was gangsta, you know what I'm sayin'?"
     "That was the whole idea," I told Dwayne.  "I wanted it to be gritty as hell.  Have you seen the sequel, 'Blood-Stained Kisses'?"
     "Naw....  I know it's out, but I ain't seen it yet.  What's it about?"
     "Okay, Becky's character from the first movie has started her own agency.  She's scraping by at first, doing auto repossessions and process service to get by.  Her first big case is a murder case.  A wealthy family wants to find their adult son's murderer.  The son was found naked and strangled with a pair of fishnet stockings behind a notorious 'meat market' of a singles bar.  The further Becky digs, the deeper she finds herself in different sexual subcultures in the anonymous Southern California town she's in.  While kink wasn't the reason or focus of the sex in the film, there's more kink in this one than other Inana movies.  It's fun as hell, and it'll keep your brain moving.  I put just enough clues into the script that if someone is really paying attention, and has an analytical mind, they can solve the mystery before Becky does.  Not too much sooner, but enough to make a person feel kinda proud of themselves, you know?"
     "Right on, right on," said Dwayne.
     Jane added, "To me, what was funny was.... Okay, Becky, as the detective, is following leads that are taking her into all these twilight sort of sexual cultures.  She's around the fetish scene, and the domme-submissive scene, and the bondage scene.  She's cruising a domme-sub club, looking for a particular regular, a male submissive.  So she's in serious black leather, of course, along with the boots and the whip on her belt.  Oh my God.  You would not believe the amount of fan mail we got saying, 'You have to get Becky in leather again!  We don't care how flimsy the excuse, dress Becky up like a domme again!'  We could put a whole new twist to Becky's career, it would seem."
     Dwayne laughed at this, then said, "So, Becky Page all in black leather, like them women who whip their men and shit?  Dang."  He grew briefly silent, then laughingly declared, "Oh yeah, I got to see this movie!  Dang!"  We all laughed.  Then the horn sounded for Downtown Berkeley, and Jane and I stood up.  We shook hands again, and left the train.
     As we walked towards the turnstiles, I checked my wallet and swore.  I'd spent all my small bills, and the local taxi drivers were unswerving in their insistence of, "Driver Only Carries $5 Change."  Jane checked her cash, and had a few fives and ones.  The lacrosse jocks started to go past, then Skip stopped when he saw us.  "Oh wow, when that colored guy stopped and started to talk to you, I didn't know what to think!  What did he want?  It seemed like you talked to him a while."
     "'Colored guy'?" queried Jane with contempt.
     I answered, "He was a fan, he recognized me from a picture in Newsweek a while back.  Um....  You guys know who I am, right?"
     Blondie stammered, "Um....  You said, um....  I was busy talking to her!"
     "Lenny Schneider, Big Cheese of the adult video studio Inana Productions," said Jane. "Also the man who has given me unconditional love for over two years now.  We also love each other in a more direct way, but that's no one else's business."
     "So what did that colored guy want?" pressed Skip.
     "The black guy," I said pointedly.  "This isn't 1954.  He was a fan, that's all, he just wanted to say hi and tell me he likes my  movies.  Easy enough to start a conversation from there, so we did.  He loves 'Dangerous Desires,' but hasn't seen 'Blood-Stained Kisses' yet.  He will be soon, though."
     "But what did he want?"
     I was getting confused.  "He didn't want anything, he just wanted to meet me, and shake my hand.  He was a fan, like a shitload of other people.  It still feels a little weird, having strangers going out of their way to introduce themselves to me...."
     With a sudden wave of recognition, Lumpy said, "Hey....  That's right.  You're married to Becky Page!"
      "Oh God," muttered Jane.  More loudly, she said, "Yes, that's him.  Becky Page's husband, Lenny Page.  Or, Lenny Schneider, the guy that wrote and produced the first twelve of Inana's features.  Whichever."
     "Whoa," noted Skip.  "What's that like, being married to Becky Page?"  He started snorting at his own wit.  "Is she wild?  Can you keep up with her?  Can you handle Becky Page?"
     I replied, "Well, since 'Becky Page' is a fictional construct, she's very easy to handle.  Becky Page is the screen name of Bekka Schneider, the woman I married, and the woman I love.  My wife Bekka and I complement each other well, we're on the same wavelength in nearly every aspect of our lives.  It's a funny thing, screen stardom.  Idiots confuse the character with the actor.  Like, I'm sure there are people in the world who believe Leonard Nimoy is half-human, half-alien."
     "Nimoy is older now, but he's still pretty hot," giggled Jane.  "If he goes into Pon Farr, I'm volunteering to do the ceremony with him!"
     Skip was being obstinate.  "But, come on....  This is Becky Page, she's a total dynamo!  I've seen most of her movies, and even some short videos of her, no plot, just sex.  Becky Page is like..... She's the Tasmanian Devil of sex!  She's like a natural force or something!"
     Jane tried this time.  "Uh, yeah dude, this may come as a surprise, but what shows up on a screen doesn't match what happened in real life.  Okay, first off, there's a special talent called 'acting.'  Bekka is a talented actress, she can make you believe she is in a state of joy, or terror, or anger, or sexual ecstasy.  Also, dude?  Video gets edited.  It gets cut up and spliced together so that actions look like they're nonstop.  You don't think car chases are all shot in one long take, right?  Or even dialogue?  Bekka is a normal woman....  Okay, somewhat hornier than most, but so am I.....  And she has the acting talent to look like the sexual dynamo that shows up on her videos.  She's not Wonder Woman, okay?"
     To hell with this, I thought.  I was tired of trying to explain different aspects of reality to lacrosse-playing frat boy dimwits.  I gestured at Jane, we fed our tickets into the turnstile, and exited the station, heading for the escalator up to the street.
     We were nearly to Addison when someone began yelling "Dude dude dude dude dude!" and we heard running footsteps.  I turned to see Skip and Blondie approaching rapidly.  When they got up to us, Blondie said, "Hey, um, do you have a couple quarters you can spare?  We just checked our cash, um, we have six ones and twelve cents.  We need to use the pay phone, so we can call the house and have someone pick us up."
     I shoved a hand in a pocket and grabbed some random change, which I handed to Blondie.  "Keep it," I said.  "You may need to call more than once."  A thought struck me.  I asked the two, "Isn't this Rush Week?  Aren't all the fraternities and sororities throwing huge parties all weekend?"
     The shock struck them both.  "Oh shit, we're missing Rush!  And we're officers!" cried Skip.
     Trying to hide my smile, I continued for him.  "And odds are, nobody's gonna hear a phone ringing upstairs over the noise of the party.  Gentlemen, it's a good thing you're athletes, because you've got a bit of a walk ahead."
     "Twelve blocks, by my estimation," Jane inserted.  "Not too much distance, although you'll be headed uphill.  Goodnight, boys."  We turned and walked to the line of taxis along Addison St.

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