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
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
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,"
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
"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
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
"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
"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,
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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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