How to do the wrong thing right

One recent Saturday morning, in the flashy pink neon glow of the fabulously retro Lucky’s Café, I posed this following impromptu question to total strangers: “Aside from basic species-survival needs — food, shelter and ejaculating into a fertile vagina — what are five things that you just can’t live without?” Stunningly, the same five answers popped up over and over, with near assembly-line regularity: 1. Porn; 2. The gym; 3. My phone; 4. My dog; 5. Music.

Now, this wouldn’t necessarily come as surprising, considering the area of town in which my very scientific survey was conducted. But, fellas, I mean… really? Nobody’s can’t-live-without list includes family? A husband, or boyfriend even? Last night’s Grindr trick? Did every gay person simply have to raise himself?
Naturally, Howard’s immediate follow-up question was a no-brainer: “So, what kind of porn category do you enjoy viewing most — Bareback? Daddy/son? Extreme BDSM triple-fisting taboo torture bondage? All the above … combined?” Who would have dreamed the answer — “pre-condom era” gay porn DVDs would ignite a veritable vinyl-records’-worthy comeback, or that we would have a virus — venal bitch, Rona, of all creatures! — to thank for their phoenix ascension out of yesteryear’s technological tarpits? More baffling, as porn DVDs go, it’s the vintage classics (roughly, the 15 years between 1969 and1984) that have been reborn from long-extinct production houses with names like Nova, Magnum Griffin, Catalina, Vivid Man and Hot Desert Knights — lint in all the film frames and all. They have it all! And such gleaming, shiny-buffed models, too — not a single one of them narcotized, dead-behind-the-eyes methheads. What a refreshment from nowadays’ pierced, pasty and polluted zombies who can’t even hitch their own Doc Martens into the dungeon sling’s straps without having to be carried to it foamily gurgling in tongues.

Anyhow, enough of vintage gay porn DVD’s mirthful comeback, it’s time to get serious again. Everybody, together now — slowly, slowly, just take a deep breath and let’s get right to it.

By now, you’ve all received your form letter, printed on mock White House stationery, gushing, “My Fellow American: Your Economic Impact Payment Has Arrived,” accompanied by your now long-gone $1,200 grant to survive on for, well … infinity? “We hope this payment provides meaningful support to you during this period. Every citizen should take tremendous pride in the selflessness, courage and compassion of our people.” (Wait, time out: Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t this same buttery comfort doled out, using these exact same milquetoast adjectives, to Tony Soprano’s psycho sister, Janis, by her useless shrink in the scene just before Janis murders her goon boyfriend on the stairs, and then phones Tony to please come clean up her mess?) “America’s drive, determination, innovation and sheer willpower have conquered every previous challenge — and they will conquer this one, too. Just as we have before, America will triumph yet again — and rise to new heights of greatness. We will do it together, as one nation, stronger than ever before.” Signed, in the autopen forgery that looks like a pervert’s brain scan, President Donald J. Trump.

And what inspirational comfort, too, L’Orange’s “eConOMIC relief” indeed offers to the American people! Meanwhile, the arrow on our daily COVID-19 risk level meter here in Texas still remains firmly entrenched at the furthest extreme edge of Code Red’s STAY HOME/STAY SAFE; yet, possibly, it’s meant to be held up to a mirror and deciphered in reverse? Across the country every day, about 20,000 new COVID cases are identified, and more than 1,000 people die. Each day! According to the New York Times, even though 20 to 50 percent of those infected may never show outward signs of illness, their antibodies “only last two to three months — especially in people who never showed symptoms while they were infected — offering a very strong note of caution against the idea of ‘immunity certificates’ for those people who have recovered from the illness.”

Statewide, Texas — national leader of the reopening movement (and swaggeringly proud of it back on April 30) — has to date surpassed 100,00 infections and more than 3,000 deaths! So the real question becomes, are the long-term benefits worth closing down any state’s behemoth economy to save 3,000 lives? Or, say, 30,000 lives? 3 million lives? Even just one life matters, after all. The restaurants of swanky Uptown Dallas are now packed, and hospitalizations have, since Memorial Day, begun upticking ever higher especially amongst our one community taking Rona’s lopsided punches hardest. I can’t breathe!

Yes, it’s nifty Phase 3 of the restart. What a pretty pass, too, we all now find ourselves bulldozing away at: Retailers are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity; bars, too (as long as patrons are seated). Restaurants were allowed to plow ahead to 75 percent capacity expansion, and outdoor Fourth of July celebrations will be at the discretion of “local officials.” Amusement parks are also permitted to “gradually expand capacity.” Amusement parks? Are you kidding me?

Clearly, with no vaccine in sight, the new street ’tude is to fiddle and watch Rome burn. COVID is, plainly, just going to have to burn its way through the population. It’s too entrenched now to hope we could still contain the spread. National unemployment filings have rocketed up for the 14th straight week. Steady, reliable paychecks and basic food (label-less tins from a charity pantry, be damned!) have suddenly stolen center stage over any formerly quaint fears of catchin’ piddling coronavirus.

Any you boiz ever courageously viewed the continuously updated “Gay Porn Stars in Memoriam” vid on YouTube? For those who have, you know swollen eyes start flowing at about minute eight: Sober, smiling images (of the deceased at their radiant best) scroll past in two-second intervals, announcing the years of each individual’s life span and what they died of: The ever-wrenching usual suspects in predictably conga line order of complications from AIDS just ahead of suicide, “accidental” overdoses (sometimes labeled “heart failure”) and, finally, vehicular accidents pulling up the rear (more often than not involving a motorcycle) … with only but the rarest death from anything, say, “unexpected:” a freak electrical accident, drowning, murder or meningitis.

I’d like you all to read this letter/poem from one of those circling centenarians. Put yourself in his shoes. Stamp down those sociopathic tendencies. Show some empathy. See through another’s eyes! Especially here in Dallas, where each day of our “recovery transition” only witnesses a higher increase in COVID-19 cases than the preceding day, having knocked at its 300th local door. Still, waayyyy back on June 12, all restaurants and clubs sure well entered Phase 3 (in bars, one is provided lip-service to “Please, stay seated,” and in restaurants the 75 percent must be some kind of operational hologram, ’cause it sure looks like capacity to the sighted). Because none of us want to acknowledge the extremely elderly among us, they have taken it upon themselves to reassure us instead. Please do enjoy the following, courtesy of a third-generation, pedigreed Dallasite.

“Dear Neighbor, I am 91 years old, holed up in my apartment thanks to my daughter, who is protecting herself carefully. I am a happy man, and wish to share my solutions with others who may not find their isolation satisfying. I sleep 10 to 12 hours each night. Sometimes, when my left brain insists, I get up at night to write what the left brain is considering. My interests are quite diverse. I read every day: fiction, history, archaeology, anthropology, art, folk art, and fun like Calvin & Hobbes; watch courses on DVD; and add something different almost every day. I am never bored. I watch little TV, finding it too depressing.

Occasionally I watch a film I choose to record. I write observations on our world, including a couple of dozen essays beginning with one on human diversity. I write about my life as an architect, photographer and observer of life, such as how almost all of us talk ourselves out of making-and-doing as children when we begin learning about letters and numbers. I walk laps in the corridor outside my apartment door for exercise, where I see no one. I phone and email people. I respond to communications from others. I contribute money to help others. I occasionally send gifts. I am alone, but not isolated. My challenge to others who do their part by isolating themselves: Do your thing. You are unique. No one else has your diversity of experience. Use that diversity. Enjoy it. Communicate and encourage others. Be happy. Stay safe. With congratulations and best wishes to each person in retreat. — Leonard Volk”

So, retreat back a little from Rona with that, bois! You’ll feel better, less constantly … queasy. Or at least not always like Kim Novak’s oxymoronic turn in Vertigo. Yes, progress for civilization’s forward march requires a vaccine, now! Until then, I’ll just be shivering here alone, ‘neath the covers — me and my pre-condom vintage gay porn DVDs — waiting for my immunity certificate to arrive on mock White House stationery, courtesy of our mock leader. My own personal interests are, like Mr. Volk’s, actually quite diverse: I, too, am an observer of life.

Oh, and the five things that dear Howard here can’t live without? 1. My long-term husband (who still always insists on remaining 100 percent anonymous in my columns); 2. My little brother (the only immediate blood family I have left); 3. My two grizzled orange cats, octogenarian Roo and centenarian Boo (who is pushing 110 years old!); 4. Memories of my parents, at their gleaming finest; and 5. Same as everybody else: Extreme triple-fisting taboo/torture gay BDSM gimp porn, in DVD format, of course. Everything old is new again!
As Mr. Volk calmly advises, kidz, “Be happy. Stay safe.”

— Howard Lewis Russell

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