Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sex, Death and the Fear Inbetween 29/5/14

Pelvic mesh. 

What’s that all about? 

When I first moved to the US five years ago, I was struck by how many cures there were advertised on TV for conditions I never knew I potentially had. What fun I had trawling the aisles devoted to female hygiene in my local Rite Aid, as opposed to the 12 inch shelf in my local Boots Pharmacy back in the UK. Now, though, it seems to me, there has been a sea change: forget the cures, it’s all about drawing your attention to something not only you never knew you had, but for which there is no cure.
Take this pelvic mesh scare. I have no idea what pelvic mesh is, because every time I hear the word “vagina”, I tend to put my hands over my ears. Unlike a lot of women, I am a much bigger fan of the C word than the V word. The V word sounds like you’re offering a nice little boat trip around the coves of a Greek Island; the C word actually sounds like what it is: a whacking great cavernous hole whose main job is to trap unsuspecting penises and never let them out until the alimony cheque comes through. 
The States is far more graphic than the UK on BTW (Below The Waist) problems both for men and women. In the UK, women’s monthly cycles on TV are still represented by somebody pouring coloured ink on an all too absorbable material, as opposed to the advertised product, which could, according to the pictures, absorb a Hewlett Packard ocean of ink before you can say “Replace this cartridge now”.
Durex has come a small way (geddit?) to change the nature of TV commercials, but they are still on the tame side. Among the most recent, a man and a woman are in bed, both in rather nice nightwear, and then . . . To be honest, I’m not sure what happens then, because I’m always distracted by the glamorous nightie (do people still wear clothes to bed? Heck, I don’t wear underwear in the daytime, having worked out you could save eight years of your life by not buying and donning unnecessary clothing – but that’s another story). I’m also distracted by the mystery of how anyone, without eight pints of Stella, would end up in bed with either of these people.
I have managed to glean  that the commercial is for a gel that will get women excited in a way they have apparently never been before (again – what’s wrong with Stella?). Trust me on this: the price of said gels when you look at your receipt will quickly diminish any excitement you might have anticipated before you reached the other side of the cash register.
By far the biggest BTW problem in the US appears to be an erection lasting over four hours (or is it six? Or eight? I forget; when you’re used to the UK average of 40 minutes - or 40 seconds, in some cases), including tea and biscuits, I’m hardly going to call 911 for a couple of extra hours.
These commercials are quite terrifying in their graphic descriptions, but apparently there are even greater horrors out there on the BTW front. Aaron Spelling’s widow, Candy, has just published a new book, Candy at Last, in which she describes dating a man called Larry who, owing to his “penile implant” (I believe the correct word is penial; penile is about slavery . . . actually, on second thoughts . . .) could keep at it for five or six hours. No one, she says, wants to have sex for that long. Speak for yourself, love. I would imagine that having been married to Aaron Spelling, she would have been well used to non-stop serial drama (or should that be penial?).
The reality is that all these commercials represent an inherent fear of growing older, especially for men. In the UK, when men start to lose their sexual prowess, they just shrug their shoulders and spend more time in the pub, ogling women they couldn’t even get the first time around, let alone with the melting wax candle between their legs in these later years. But in the US, the ability to keep going is what makes not only men, but women, keep popping pills, because hey, if you’re still having sex, you must still be young. Right? 

Sex is the cross we hold to the vampire of death to keep it at bay for as long as we can.
Never mind about the warnings – do stop taking X, if you suffer blurred vision, cramps, muscle weakness, forgetfulness, numbness, or have an erection lasting until Christmas – we all want to believe that we will live forever; and, whether it be good or bad, sex is the one thing that makes us momentarily forget that we won’t.

Another pint of Stella, please.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cops and Robbers

My predilection for being robbed or losing valuables every time I take a trip has been well documented in my blogs. After a month away, first in the UK and then in New York, I can this time report that my travels were almost incident free.
I was parted from my iPhone just once, after leaving it on the subway, but it was picked up and, thanks to Find My iPhone on my computer, I was able to trace it and retrieve it.
For the first time ever, baggage security staff resisted going through my bags and rifling anything they could sell on eBay, and I made it back to my LA apartment with everything I had taken away, apart from my iPhone earphones.
In fact, this trip started to bring me closer to items stolen in the past. Suddenly, the messages “Jaci Stephen’s iPad has been found” and “Jaci Stephen’s Airbook has been found” appeared on my computer. These related to the items I had in my hand baggage that was stolen from LAX when I returned from Miami in January. The messages show up when the items are connected to the internet, and would also have flashed up a message from me, saying that they have been lost and giving a number to reach me on. No one has.
Trying to get anyone to do something about this is as stressful as losing the valuables. When the same thing happened in Miami, the Miami police were on it in an instant, racing to the house within half an hour, where, alas, they were still unable to locate the thief. Los Angeles’ Burbank police are showing no such enthusiasm. They say it’s not their case and I have to go back to the airport police, who will then pass it on to them.
I have decided against going to the house myself. While never having had so much as a parking ticket (I was brought up to be terrified of the law, which may explain my obsession with that profession), I am unlucky when it comes to law enforcement, having a propensity to over-react.
When in Paris for Six Nations France vs Wales rugby match last year, I saved an entire bar from almost certain attack when I yelled at everyone to get down on the floor when a sinister figure in a motorcycle helmet tore in, brandishing what appeared to be a gun. When I, the only person lying prostrate on the ground, finally stood up, it was to be greeted with howls of laughter – the man was a friend of the owner and had been “joking”. Ha bloody ha.
A similar incident, also in Paris, took place several years before, when I saved the city from almost certain terrorist annihilation. On that occasion, it had been prompted by a man reading an Arab newspaper, refusing to move his bag from his seat because he said it was a bomb.
One emergency cord, one halted train and a dozen armed men later, the centre of Paris was at a standstill. As I sat in a cafĂ© with my glass of wine, watching the gendarmerie tear down the steps of the rue de Bac metro (naturally, I had waited until my stop before pulling the cord), I pondered whether the “terrorist” had actually said that his bag was on the seat. I only hope that the poodle, yanked at breakneck speed from the train by its screaming owner, survived.
I have been just as much a law-abiding liability in my own country. When I lived in Bath, women’s greatest fear was a rapist who had been on the loose for over a decade. Finally, though, it seemed as if the police were moving in, and there were posters all over town of a possible suspect, whose hunting ground was local night clubs.
I was having lunch at the Garrick’s Head, a city pub in which one side of the bar was largely occupied by gay men. On the other side, as the afternoon wore on, the man who had joined us from out of town began to look suspiciously like the man on the poster. When he asked me and my friend if we would like to go to a night-club later, that was it: I was sure I had my man. I went round to the gay side of the bar and asked the guys if they thought the interloper looked anything like the man on the poster. 

Asking a gay man not to dramatise a situation is like expecting the Pope to give you directions to a sperm bank: it ain’t gonna happen. Yes, they insisted, the man was the spitting image of the poster suspect.
I called 999, which gave the event an air of urgency it did not perhaps warrant, but asked the police to tread lightly and just question the man. Too late. Within seconds, three armed cops were in the bar, frogmarching the bloke out onto the street for questioning. I really hope he made it to the Verdi concert he was in town for, in which he was going to be a starring tenor.
So, no, I don’t think I will be heading to Burbank to rescue my items, and I only hope that the LAPD start to act a bit more like they do on the telly, or, at the very least, like the cops do in Miami.
In the meantime, it’s back to the Apple Store to replace my earphones. 

The inevitability of that journey after every trip back home is something I have learned to live with.