Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sometimes you just know...

For those of you not living around here, there is a section of downtown Minneapolis known as the “Warehouse District”. It’s basically what the name implies, a bunch of old warehouses that have been spared the city’s wrecking ball and converted into new uses. There’s a stretch of bars that cater to the city’s young singles and then there’s a patch that’s become fancy lofts for the urban affluent. In between these two sections is Minnesota’s version of a red-light district. As far as those things go, it’s pretty tame: a couple of cut-rate dirty bookstores, a handful of strip clubs and one impressive three story porno superstore called Sex World.

I was across the street from this last place one evening last week, waiting for the light to change so I could cross. Beside me at the curb was a man who I will call Mr. Unappealing. I don’t give that name lightly, either: he was cursed with rat-like eyes, a pinched-up face and overall scrawniness. To make matters worse, he was refusing to slip gracefully into male-pattern baldness. The goofy toupee that dangled its synthetic strands down his forehead gave away that this was a man who would not go gently into the disgraces of middle age. He had a shifty vibe about him, it was a humid day but he was twitching like it was November. He breathed in such a way that I could hear it over the passing traffic. Now, I won’t go so far to say that he was wearing a trench-coat, but the dark-brown sport jacket he was wearing was too big for him and so the effect was the same.

I took one look at him and I just knew that he was headed to Sex World. But then I scolded myself. I told myself, “Kevin, you’re an asshole. Adult entertainment is a huge business patronized by a broad swath of the American public. The days of the dodgy men with shifty eyes lurking around peepshows are long over, if they ever existed. And besides, you don’t know this man. Who are you to judge him? He could be a gentle family man, productive and kind, and here you are smugly belittling him in your fevered mind just because you both happen to be standing across the street from a porn store. And it’s not like you’ve never seen a dirty magazine before, Kevin. I mean, be honest with yourself here, you jackass. I mean, it’s not like you see anything wrong with buying smut, is it? And, if that’s true, what right do you have to be picking on others? What right?”

It was a long light, so I had the opportunity to berate myself for a good long while. Before I got the walk signal, my thoughts had turned to apologies to the man beside me: I’m sorry for leaping to conclusions about you, sir, based on nothing but my own insecurities and prejudices. And I’m also sorry to you, porn industry, for holding unpleasant stereotypes about your patrons. With this guilt racking me, the light finally changed and Mr. Unappealing sprinted through the crosswalk, up onto the opposite sidewalk, and right into Sex World before I had the chance to make it to the center median.

That made me feel a little better, I guess.