Presidential debates and porn don't mix

By Tom Chick

A few weeks ago, I got a call with a fairly standard request. "We'd like to send you our game, Interactive Mind Teaser," someone had said. I explained that I was just a freelancer, so I couldn't guarantee any coverage, but I'd be happy to take a look at it and possibly pitch it to my editors. A few days later, a package arrived from Vivid Interactive and something clicked somewhere in my head. 'Weren't they the guys that did Everquest?' I wondered. It wasn't until I read the cover letter --"enclosed is the Interactive Mind Teazzer [sic] DVD and one of our hardcore titles" -- that I remembered Vivid was a purveyor of adult entertainment. I'm not sure why I know that. It must be that I'm well-read.

Trevor promptly borrowed the hardcore title. He feigned technical interest. "I've heard a lot about DVDs with this multiple angles feature...mind if I take it for a few days?" he asked. Of course, he wasn't interested in borrowing Interactive Mind Teazzer, which is a DVD game in which you match up the various parts of women's anatomy to unlock a virtual lap dance. Imagine a Rubik's Cube with breasts, only not as difficult and you get to see a woman take her clothes off when you solve it. In so many ways, it is profoundly more and less satisfying than an actual Rubik's Cube.

Just yesterday, a big package arrived from Vivid. It's got a bunch of those packing peanuts in it. Oh yeah, there were also a bunch of DVDs. That happened to find their way into the drawer where I keep my winter sweaters. The very bottom of that drawer. Under all the sweaters.

I don't want them out in the open because there are people coming over to watch the debates. Trevor and his 14-year-old nephew Donny will be here. Donny's parents are going to some Orange Country Republican fundraiser, so Trevor has to watch him. Since my girlfriend Lisa will be here, I'm hoping it doesn't occur to Trevor to return the DVD tonight. I clean the house by opening all the windows to air it out and washing the dishes that have been in the sink for the past week.

Lisa gets here first. "You cleaned up," she says when she see the dishes in the dish rack. Then Trevor arrives porno-less with a two-liter Dr. Pepper and Donny in tow. Trevor is wearing a cast because he broke his arm on Donny's flex scooter. Donny is sulking. He's mad that his parents won't let him stay home alone and he doesn't want to watch the debates. By the time we're a half hour in, he has said "this is so boring" seventeen times. I keep count.

The debate begins and Lisa starts laughing the moment the candidates come on stage.

"What?" I ask.

"They wore the same thing," she squeals, "That's so embarrassing." Actually, Gore's red tie is kind of orange and Bush's red tie has a kind of checkered pattern. It might even be gingham. But otherwise, they do seem to be wearing the same suit.

"They have to do that," Trevor explains, "It's part of the agreement so neither of them has an unfair wardrobe advantage."

"This is so boring," Donny says for the first time.

Gore begins by not answering the question he's asked. Instead, he delivers a canned and uninspired speech that features the line, "Because, you know, if we have prosperity that grows and grows, we won't be successful unless we strengthen families." Then Bush starts talking and right away I know how it's going to be: he's going for "down home" and "folksy". Talking about the social security surplus, he looks into the camera and says, "I wanna share some of the money with ya." Not "want to" and "you", but "wanna" and "ya".

"This is so boring," Donny adds.

"Do you have a coat hanger I can use?" Trevor asks.

Jim Leher is trying to get the candidates into a fight. He all but says, "Did you hear what he just said? Are you gonna let him get away with that?" to each of them. They start talking about prescription drugs for seniors and Medicare. "This is so boring," Donny observes.

At one point, Gore shrugs and holds out his hands like he's doing a De Niro impression. Gore's collar is almost too tight. Or maybe his neck is too big. Bush delivers one-liners like "the man's running on Medi-scare" and "there goes that fuzzy Washington math" and then he pauses as if he's leaving room for the laugh track. He frequently stops talking before his time is up and lets his eyes twinkle warm and Texas-y. "This is so boring," Donny explains.

Gore lets loose with the evening's first story about a Regular American: it's a man in the audience named George McKinney who has to bootleg his blood pressure medicine and his wife's heart medicine from Canada. "Under my plan, half their costs would be paid right away. Under Governor Bush's plan, they would not get one penny for four to five years."

"I cannot let this go by," Bush insists. If this were Texas, he'd ask Gore to step outside.

"Cool, you have Perfect Dark!" Donny has been idly looking through my DVDs and videogames.

"No way, Donny," Trevor says. He is untwining the coat hanger.

"What's wrong with Perfect Dark?" I ask.

"Rated M. His folks are all into this violence in videogames things. They won't even let him go to R-rated movies anymore. We went to the movies last week and the only thing I was allowed to take him to see was Beautiful. You owe me for that one, Donny."

"Shut up. You were the one crying at the end."

"You shut up. I told you I wasn't crying -- it was allergies."

Soon the candidates are interrupting each other. Bush is whining. To make sure he has said his piece, Gore does everything short of vaulting over the podium and kicking Jim Leher in the teeth. This is the kind of man who will stand up to Slobodan Milosevic. George Bush pronounces Milosevic two different ways in the same sentence, but he gets points for remembering the name. Gore then trumps him by pronouncing Kostunica without a hitch.

"Can I go play Diablo II?" Donny asks.

"No way," Trevor says. "Rated M."

"Diablo II is rated M?" I ask.

"Yep. I've heard there's major nudity in act III, especially if you're the sorceress or the amazon." Trevor feeds one end of the coat hanger down his cast.

Gore recounts everything that's happened in the Balkans for those of us who don't watch the news. Then Bush insists he's going to rebuild the military, which must have fallen apart while no one was looking. "The role of the military is to fight and win war and therefore prevent war from happening in the first place," he says. Apparently the military is supposed to defeat its own purpose.

"This is so boring," Donny concludes, wandering out of the room.

Bush brings up the evening's next Regular American, the Strunk family in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state. He does some quick math and then accuses Gore of wanting to spend $1,800 of the Strunk's money. He doesn't say what Gore would do with the money.

"Hey, can I use this 14th level necromancer?" Donny calls out from the back room.

Bush is asked if he'll try to overturn the FDA's approval of the abortion pill, RU-486. "I don't think a President can do that," he says, sniffing sharply as if he's just done a few lines in the bathroom.

"What's your password for battle.net?" Donny calls.

"Just the word 'password'," I yell.

Then Bush goes on to talk about education. He talks about a Regular American named Michael who teaches in Houston. Then he talks about a bunch of other stuff for about five minutes. Then, out of nowhere, he says, "What I care about is children and so does Michael Feinberg." No one knows who Michael Feinberg is because Bush had stopped talking about him five minutes ago and he'd never even mentioned his last name.

Then Gore talks about a Regular American named Kayleigh Ellis in Florida who has to stand up because her class is so crowded there's no room for her to sit down. I have a mental image of one of those clown cars at the circus. It also occurs to me that most Regular Americans live in swing states.

At this point my friend Buck comes over. "Hey, you guys, why aren't you watching the game?" he says.

I didn't even know there was a game, much less what sport he's talking about. For all I know, it's the jai alai world championship play-offs. Buck is the kind of guy who will walk up to a perfect stranger and say "What'd you think of the game last night?" He assumes everyone will know what he's talking about. Usually, he's right.

"Buck, this is the Presidential debate," Trevor explains, folding the coat hanger up and running it down his cast again. "We're not going to just watch some basketball game while this is on."

"Can we switch over to see how the game's doing at the next commercial?"

"Sure."

At one point, Gore stops talking and Jim Leher says "Governor Bush?" Bush gives a start and says, "I've been standing up to big Hollywood, big trial lawyers..." His voice trails off. "What was the question? It was about emergencies, wasn't it?" He then reminisces about a flood that displaced a family of Regular Americans down in Texas. "The only thing I knew to do was to get aid as quickly as possible...and to put my arms around the man and his family and cry with them. But that's what governors do."

"That sounds kind of gay," Buck says. "Hey, who are you guys voting for?"

"I'm waiting to see how the polls turn out," Trevor says, violently running the twisted coat hanger in and out of his cast, "I hate voting for the guy who loses. I learned my lesson with Mondale."

"Hey, good idea," Buck says, wondering if there's going to be a commercial soon. "Doesn't that hurt?" He's watching Trevor wrestle with the coat hanger, which is now caught on something inside his cast.

Donny comes back in. "Battle.net is down again. I can't believe you're level 14 and still only in act I."

"It's freezing in here," Lisa says, "Why are the windows open?"

"I was cleaning," I tell her.

"I'm cold. I'm going to get one of your sweaters," she says, leaving the room.

Gore jabs at Bush a few times by accusing him of benefiting the wealthiest 1%. Bush gets in a couple of Hallmark moments with "a promise made is a promise kept". Bush then body slams Gore with the whole Buddhist Temple thing. Gore takes it on the chin like a man of wood would.

"What are these?" Lisa is holding up the DVDs Bad Girls Get Punished and Nude Bikini Showgirls.

It's a pretty simple question, since the titles are written on the covers. But like many questions women ask, this one is a trick. I figure I won't get very far with 'oh, those are for work'. So I say, "Oh, those are Trevor's."

"What are they doing in your dresser drawer?"

"I'm keeping them here for him. Right, Trevor?" I turn away from Lisa to wink at Trevor. "His Mom won't let him keep them at the house."

Trevor is trying to get the coat hanger loose. "Dude, my mom doesn't care what I keep at the house."

"No, remember how you said she'd flip if she found them and you needed me to hold on to them until you got a chance to throw them away." I'm winking furiously.

"What does my Mom care if I have those? I'm 37. Besides, I already have that other one you loaned me. What's wrong with your eye?"

"There's no rating on this one -- can we watch it?" Donny asks, opening the case for Bad Girls Get Punished.

There comes a time in every man's life when he wishes he had hidden the porno somewhere else. That time came for me as Al Gore was talking about putting social security in a lockbox. Where do I get one of those lockboxes?

"Well, if these aren't Trevor's then you won't mind if I dispose of them, will you? We'll talk about this tomorrow." Lisa takes every last Vivid Interactive DVD and slams the door as she leaves. She even takes Interactive Mind Teazzer.

Except for Bush and Gore, no one said much after that. I was like the guy whose Mom spanked him in front of his friends. I was the omega dog. Suddenly even Donny was cooler than me and his parents won't even let him watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Gore closes with the story of Regular American Winifred Skinner from Iowa who drove out to the debate in a Winnebago with her poodle.

Trevor finally dislodges the coat hanger. He considers its twisted mangled shape. "Hey dude, do you want this back?"

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