Reach out and touch someone

Despite the indiscretion with which I recount my activities in the sack and sling, my sex life is very vanilla. For example, I've never explored either side of prostitution. When I lived in New York, I occasionally frequented hustler bars in pursuit of vicarious thrills. Alas, no one ever mistook me for the genuine article. I probably didn't look bored enough.

The closest I ever got to swapping bodily fluids for material gain—aside from that guy I shagged so I could tape his copy of the Seekers' ("Georgy Girl") first album—was in the dark days of the Internet, when I worked for a company that ran chat rooms. As an "animator," I posed as a variety of young men and women with one thing on their minds, so paying customers would stay online longer. The experience of struggling to eat a bagel while using my free hand to pass myself off as a horny high-school cheerleader to some lonely Wall Street type sharpened my writing skills remarkably.

Aaron Lawrence also knows about chat rooms, making money, and parlaying that experience into a literary career. And as his memoir Suburban Hustler: Stories of a Hi-Tech Callboy (Late Night Press) discloses, Lawrence learned quickly—just as I did—how to adapt his personality to suit various clients' needs. Despite some truly gruesome episodes, the New Jersey native never forgets that the customer is always right. The author has a boyish countenance, pert buns, and an 8-inch endowment to brag about in his ads, but judging from his prose, it's largely his heart and brains that earn him repeat business. The 24 episodes here are explicit (my review copy is signed "Don't Stick the Pages Together!"), but they're also penetrating in another way, showing that not all hustlers are the beautiful losers films like Johns, Hustler White, or My Own Private Idaho portray.

Sadly, the fictional protagonist of Henry Flesh's novel Massage (Akashic Press) isn't nearly as savvy as Lawrence. Randy's career as an erotic masseur entangles him in the AIDS-related decline of author Graham Mason. Featuring crudely drawn characters plucked from the late-'80s/early-'90s downtown New York landscape, Massage compels the reader along a twisted narrative to an ugly conclusion. As grim as it all gets, Randy's aspirations to a greater station and his drug-enhanced delusions are remarkably affecting because Flesh writes about hope and romance just as convincingly as loss and failure.

During the weeks these two texts lingered on my nightstand, it occurred to me that I might be happier in bed if I stopped reading about rent boys and just sampled one. But I couldn't bring myself to do it . . . yet. For one thing, I'm egotistical enough that despite my chronic loneliness, the notion of hiring someone to service me has always seemed pathetic, a recourse limited to closet cases and the physically undesirable. But Suburban Hustler impressed upon me the practical aspects of seeking professional help, especially when the consumer is a) picky about partners and b) as busy as I like to believe I am.

Look at it this way. Say there's a new hard-to-find German import CD I want ASAP. I can spend all day driving around Seattle perusing stores, and quite possibly come home empty-handed. Or I can locate the title online, order it with my Visa, and have it shipped via Fed Ex. I'm paying more, but saving time and getting exactly what I want. Why hang around a dreary bar all night, hoping to meet somebody suitable for my deviant purposes, when booking a pro who meets my aesthetic specifications and is guaranteed to satiate my desires—because that's how he earns his living—seems so much easier?

But for an isolated writer, tracking down the right hired gun is trickier than locating obscure albums. In a cruel twist, doesn't specialize in lovable ruffians; it's a record and CD mail-order site. Other options? My stash of print pornography reflects my preference for decades when body hair was de rigueur and six packs were for drinking. Even if Rent-A-Studs did advertise in my vintage issues of Honcho, they'd be a bit long in the tooth by now.

Mercifully, I've just received 1-900-GET-KHAN (Matador Records), the latest CD from prolific electronic producer Can Oral (stop snickering), alias Khan. Pop in these 12 sleazy-listening masterpieces, and luxuriate in pulsating post-modern blue moods engineered to send your blood rushing down south. Unlike some musicians, Khan takes responsibility for the reactions his art evokes. That's why he's not only set up a hot-and-bothered 900 number, but provided advertising space for authentic call boys on the CD sleeve, too. So there's hope even for music geeks like me. Maybe finding the stud to act out my fantasies about Limp Bizkit's testosterone-soaked dressing room is just a phone call and a credit card away.

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