BAKER STREET

by Eric J Baker

Have you heard about The Pledge?

I’m not talking about the Jack Nicholson movie from 2001 that ends with him turning into a rambling lunatic. I mean the “marriage” pledge currently making the rounds amongst GOP presidential hopefuls. This one, presented by the Christian conservative group The Family Leader, starts out rambling and lunatic… and then it gets weird. Already signed by Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann (note to Republicans: Your party is being hijacked by bat-shit crazy mental patients), the pledge contains the usual gay bashing and hypocrisy about preserving the Constitution while simultaneously demanding that it be changed. But what I find most curious is a passage calling for women and children to be “protected” from “all forms of pornography.”

Cover of Catherine Breillat's "Pornocracy." We're not there yet, Michele.

Since current laws already protect children from pornography, one assumes this means that women won’t be allowed to participate in adult films anymore and that only gay porn will remain legal (sounds like those ultra-conservative, Christo-fascist men won’t have to change their viewing habits after all). Never mind that promising to ban pornography while espousing personal freedom is slightly contradictory and that our economy would fall back into recession without the adult entertainment industry. Christian conservatives seem to be operating absent one crucial fact the rest of us understand: People like sex.

There. I said it. The elephant in the room has been acknowledged, and it is sporting a 3-foot-long erection.

**Please, god, Killough, do not decorate this part of the story with a bestiality pic. My grandmother reads this fucking shit. All I need is for her to go on another animal-porn bender**

Dear God, all we did was Google Image "bestiality." (Not that we were at all provoked.) Ah well, if you're going to sleep with a bear, might as well keep it real.

Yes, people like sex, sometimes even with the lights on. To be fair, the Family Leader pledge encourages us to crank out lots of little baby fundamentalists, on the condition that we feel guilty about the sex part of it, do it for the purpose of building a Christian army and not for pleasure, and only ever sleep with one person during our entire boring, what-if lives, simply accepting our lot when we discover our partner has a mushroom-cap of a dick or the hygiene habits of a dung beetle that lead to early onset crotch-rot.

I’m probably paraphrasing.

The problem for Rick Santorum, or those presidential candidates who aren’t creepy weirdoes, is how to stamp out all that perversion. You can ban porn (you can’t, but the sentence works better this way), yet sex is still around us in the most innocuous places. For example, have you ever been in a cigar shop? Christ, it’s like a dick-in-a-box convention. Remember, Rick, a cigar is never just a cigar! And how about art museums? Sure, they’re stately from the outside, but once you get past the front door, it’s just a bunch of sluts and whores parading their fun bags for anybody willing to look. Take a gander at this painting, The Bolt (c.1779), by versatile Frenchman Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806). That may look like a curtain on the left, but it’s actually a huge vagina. She can’t even fit it under her dress! What the fuck happened to family values in the 18th century?

One of you should be shouting, “Burn the Witch!” right about now. Go ahead. It feels good.

If, by some bizarre disaster, Michele Bachmann is elected president and tries to follow through on her anti-pornography pledge, I doubt she’ll extend her pornoclasm to the works of Fragonard, because she probably doesn’t know art exists outside of Norman Rockwell. Besides, this painting is safely tucked away in France, which, fortunately, she won’t be able to find on a map. I’ll be able to enjoy it, though, as I’ll be moving to Europe if that crazy whack job ends up in the Oval Office. As much as I respect and admire the Taliban and everything they stand for, I prefer them in Afghanistan rather than in Washington DC.

Georgia O'Keefe just painted flowers. No, really. And that's NOT a butthole, either.

Oh, there’s one more little passage (since removed) from the Family Leader’s pledge that caused a bit of controversy recently. That was the part implying African-American families were better off under slavery than they are today. I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and guess that was written by a white person?

There are three things you never do:

1. Talk about taking a bomb onto a flight you are about to board (unless you are actually a terrorist and need to work out the logistics with your confederates, which is only fair).

2. Compare people to Hitler or make Nazi jokes. For example, and this is 100% a true story, I worked with a guy who had black hair parted on the side and combed over his forehead, and he wore a black, stubby mustache. He was also quite large around the middle. One day, in a moment of particularly fine judgment, I said to another colleague, “You know, ___ looks like a fat Adolph Hitler.” Naturally, he was standing behind me. I know you’re probably judging me harshly right now, but I expected as much from a bunch of Nazis such as yourselves.

3. Imply that black people had a good thing going in the era of slavery. I guess Bachmann really is a strict constitutionalist, seeing as the un-amended version of the document, in essence, counted slaves as being worth three-fifths of a person. Oh, America, you were a grand nation that took on all comers, but you should not have ignored that termite problem in Washington.

Thandie Newton as Sally Hemmings, Thomas Jefferson's lover, who gave birth to a brood of one-half three-fifths.

I kid, of course. I enjoy hyperbole, almost as much as I like to say it. Our republic has survived a lot of bad politicians and horrible ideas. Life will go on, even with Michele Bachmann or some other fruitcake running the place. Some things you can always count on, despite shifts in political power: The sun shining, the Earth spinning, and Seaside Heights, NJ being one of the great trashy destinations of America’s eastern seaboard.

In fact, I’ve just returned from the most jerseyliscious place on our planet and am happy to report that, in the three years since I was there last, little has changed. I was curious to see if the glare of MTV’s Jersey Shore spotlight and the radiant star power of Snooki and The Situation had had a transformative effect on the place, perhaps turning it into some kind of low-grade, Disneyish beach resort full of chain restaurants and with a Starbucks on every corner. Not so. The town still offers the same rickety rides blasting club music, pizza slices the size of a small car, zeppole stands every 30 feet, and adorable eastern European girls operating games and serving food.

Stand back, St. Tropez! Behold the dazzling glamour of Seaside Heights, NJ.

Where do they get these girls? A classified ad in the Warsaw Gazette? Wanted: 18 to 20-year old girls for exciting summer in American trash mecca. Must be beautiful, barely able to speak English, and willing to flirt with shaven-headed middle-aged men who still fancy themselves decadent rock-n-rollers, despite the fact they’ve been sleeping with the same woman for the past 14 years and work in an office building. $7.75 per hour. The one who made my turkey and provolone sub at Pier Grill – a tall, lovely brunette with a nearly inaudible voice – devoted loving attention to a foot-long sandwich like I have never seen. It made me want to move to Poland, you know what I’m saying?

Lucky Leo’s arcade, sporting the same sign since the 1970’s, at least, is still the physical center of the Seaside Heights universe, with the boardwalk full of roulette games, bars, and food stands extending in both directions and a pier full of rides at each end. The town itself, four blocks wide and bound by the ocean on one side and Barnegat Bay on the other, never grows or shrinks or changes all that much, seemingly impervious to prevailing economic conditions, the presence of reality-show performers imported from Staten Island or Long Island (as was most of the cast of Jersey Shore), or good taste. Except for the freak shows. Sadly, they’re long gone.

Always saves brain wattage when a picture is its own caption.

When I was a kid, these questionable establishments were found at the north end of the boardwalk, adorned with lurid signs promising two-headed snakes, monster bears, ape men, and other oddities. As recently as 2008, a booth at the south pier boasted of possessing the world’s smallest horse, alive! All you needed was two quarters, which I happened to have. Let me tell you, it was 50 cents well spent. That horse was so small, a primordial dwarf sitting on it would be like John Wayne riding a baby donkey. Did I mention it was small?

I guess freak shows are too sleazy, even for Seaside Heights, NJ nowadays. Besides, why pay money for one when you can watch Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum interviewed on TV for free?