Thursday, October 09, 2003

Fashion in the sex shop

AOG, London

These post-birthday days have been spent by me looking for a job part of the day, and staying outside of the house the other part.

Needless to say, it is a curse of modern life that one cannot survive outside one’s house without having to spend money, and London is a Mecca for that sort of thing. In true little-American-capitalist fashion, I have decided that the best way to use my birthday money is to spend it.

I suppose that a greater man would have saved it and bought some property with it eventually, I regret to say that I am not that man. I am instead this man, and this man spends like there is no tomorrow.

I remember a 1980s movie starring Rob Lowe called “Oxford Blues.” Lowe plays a valet in Las Vegas. One day a rich lady client offers him money in exchange for sexual favours. What always stuck in my mind was the interesting conversation they had: “What would you do with $100?” “Blow it!” “And with $1000?” “Spend it!” “And $5000?” “Invest it!” He then goes and plays it all on the roulette, wins, and gets to go to Oxford.

The moral of the story is that sometimes a little bit of money is neither here nor there (please note the British-ism I have picked up). So my birthday money is to be mostly spent- not that I planned it that way, I don’t plan to spend it all I don’t think- but I am spending it on things I believe are necessary.

Since I don’t have a coke habit, nor do I drink or smoke, I spend most of my money on my other vices: music and books. Unfortunately, I still have the shopping habits of someone raised in an American home- id est, with room to spare.

My psyche has a hard time realising that the matchbox I call home is not apt for the spending habits. I have books draped unto walls, crammed unto corners, hidden under beds, in short, all over the place. As for my music collection, it follows a similar pattern of storage. If there is a square inch of space anywhere, chances are there will be either a book or a CD or both. And a jumper on top.

With that in mind, I decided this week that I would continue with my recent mania of storing my CDs on a portable CD case. This in itself was not an easy solution to arrive at since often the only way to store a CD is by destroying part of the case, or booklet, or something.

Though I try to keep as much as possible intact, it is hard to do so, and I am mourning many of the clever and unique casings some of the CDs came in. Silly perhaps, but my collection stood as I liked it: neat, intact and stored. Unfortunately, it not only takes up physical space, it takes up psychological space too. I have wanted to tackle the collection for a few years now, but it is one of those things that one never gets around to doing for one reason or another.

A while back, I decided that for sanity’s sake the CDs had to be stored somehow, and the cases are the only solution I had at hand. Needless to say, as with all else in life, these cases I need are rather pricey, so I have been able to buy one a week, or sometimes every two weeks.

At first the cases held loose CDs without booklets, mostly copies of friend’s CDs. Only after a couple of months did it appear that the operation was bearing fruit and I could see some room in my shelves.

Naturally, CD cases containing 168 CDs are big and cumbersome, and they too need to be placed somewhere out of the way, but the space taken up by them is fractionally less than that taken by 168 CDs. With this is mind, last Monday I thought I would go to Soho where I have discovered a stand in a street market which sells the fangled cases for £9.99 and not the nearly £30.00 I had been paying until now at various outlets which shall remain nameless. Argos.

Monday was one of those days which seem to be covered in molasses when everything takes longer than expected. I left my flat thinking I would make it to the market and buy the case, but I was too late. The stand was gone.

There I was, walking the vegetable strewn street where once there was a market, thinking about what to do next in the day. I turned on my heel so as to head home again when suddenly, out of the blue, I spotted a familiar book cover. Amidst a dangling multi-coloured plastic curtain I could make out a book with the shape of Lisa Fonssagrives on the cover.

Nothing all that strange there, except that the curtain led one into a sex shop. I was slightly hesitant at first, not because sex shops daunt me in any way, but because here was a particularly sleazy looking specimen and I was not too sure if the shop sold magazines, toys, or indeed sex.

If there is one thing which offends my gay spirit it is girls throwing themselves at me for money. I cannot explain why but I always says to myself “Can't you see that I am gay madam? How dare you even try!” It is one thing to avoid street and portal hookers, it is quite another to go into the dragon’s layer to ‘look’ at a book. With this in mind, I mustered up some courage- the price of fashion- and went inside, tripping on the step and twisting my ankle along the way. But of course.

Once inside, “mind the step” comment aside from the chap at the till, I saw before me a veritable fashion ‘cabinet de curious.’

Not only was there a book about la Fonssagrives, there was also one on Rudi Geinrich, Yves St. Laurent, Kenzo and other fashion related titles. To my right. To my left were a collection of porn videos, adult magazines, and other assorted paraphernalia.

What a strange combination of pleasures this shop served side by side. None of the fashion books were in new condition, though they were prized as though they were. I leafed through a couple, found one that interested me and asked its price.

Five Pounds did not seem excessive and the new chap at the till said that they had been there for so long that he was just glad to be rid of them. I thought ‘great!’ but being a Libra, I could not decide on more than two titles to buy. So I just got two and left.

Because my life is at it is, within 24 hours my brain had decided upon buying another couple of books from the sex-shop-a-la-mode. At five Pounds each how could I not? I planned my day around the next shopping jaunt and headed off to Soho savouring the pleasure of buying again from this fountain of fashion books.

When I arrived, the chap that had waited on me the day before was gone. In his place was another guy, no less friendly but much paler, and a costumer sampling some of the visual wares on video. So I chose carefully over the next 20 minutes. Kenzo, Yves St. Laurent, Fortuny and Lanvin where the next titles in the series. I went to pay and to my surprise, I was asked to pay THIRTEEN Pounds each this time! I explained what had happened the day before and the chap looked unimpressed. He tried to strike a deal by lowering the price to ten Pounds.

My left eyebrow could not have been raised higher in disapproval. How dare he? So back to the shelf they went.

I suppose that I could go back one day and try and find the original salesperson and strike once again the five Pound deal, but that entails going back to that place and, more importantly, having the money to spare.

Needless to say, between now and then, who knows how many other articles may have crossed by visual field and desire button? How many more trinkets, books, CDs and nonsense will insinuate themselves unto my unconscious? I do not know. The shop had its window and lost the opportunity. I have bigger fish to buy!

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