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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

As I wrote in “Change Is“, most Tuesdays will now be diary columns bringing you up to date on what I did the week before and what I’m about to do in coming weeks.  I also think it will be a good place to share links to podcasts and  embed video interviews I’ve done, to tell you about articles I publish in other venues, and even to thank readers for presents and the like.  That means I’ll be retiring the “Maggie in the Media” and “Presents, Presents, Presents!”  headings from TW3 columns, but the tags will persist to enable location of diary columns with items that would’ve gone under those tags.  I don’t have any media for you this week, but I do need to mention a couple of presents I received in Washington, DC and forgot to mention earlier:  when I met Eddie Cunningham for dinner he gave me copies of Guns, Germs and Steel and The Boat of a Million Years.  Thank you, Eddie, and I apologize for not mentioning your gift earlier!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in catching up on work I had to neglect in the last month of the tour; I was so busy with activities and writing new columns for August and early September that I had to neglect correspondence, plus indexing and other blog maintenance, and by the time I got home my normal one-month buffer was entirely gone.  However, you’ll be glad to know that my correspondence is fully caught up, that the buffer was restored by last Saturday, and that the indexing will be fully caught up sometime today; once I bring up the PAQ page and a few other little things I’ll be all done.  Furthermore, you’ll be glad to hear I didn’t have to run myself ragged to do it; my improved procedures are making things easier on several fronts, and that means now that I’m caught up I’ll have time to start working on a few other things.  One of them is increasing my mainstream presence by submitting articles to a few big sites you may have heard of; another is that essay collection I’ve promised y’all for almost two years now, and the other…well, let’s not say too much about it yet.

On the travel front, I’ll be back in New Orleans again the weekend of October 25th to speak at a convention of Students for Liberty, then on November 5th I’ll be speaking to the same organization at Loyola University in Chicago.  The following afternoon I’ll be leaving Chicago by train for my mini-tour to Seattle and Portland; there is no wi-fi on long-distance routes yet, so I will be out of touch all day Friday the 7th, all evening on Thursday the 6th and the morning of Saturday the 8th.  But don’t worry, everything will be set up to go, so those who don’t follow Twitter closely probably won’t even know I’m missing.  I want to get all of my activities for those cities planned before I leave, though, so if you would like me to speak or read anyplace in either Seattle or Portland please let me know by two weeks from today, three weeks at the absolute latest!

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If that preacher man wants me to repent, he better pay me more money.  –  Minnie Rae Simpson

One of the recurring themes of these harlotographies is the difficulty of ascertaining the truth of almost any given detail about the life of any given whore who lived prior to the 20th-century advent of obsessive recordkeeping.  The farther back in history one delves, the harder it is to be sure of dates and other details, and the more biography merges into fiction, legend or even myth.  By the late 19th century we can be reasonably certain of things like birthdates and residences for whores of middle or upper-class birth, but solid facts about those of the working class – especially in the frontier regions of the young United States – can be just as obscure as those of a person born centuries earlier.  Add claims made by the lady herself to entice customers or inflate her reputation, and those made by reporters, biographers and other tall-tale-tellers during her life and after her death, and we have the recipe for a legend as misty as that of King Arthur even if its subject lived well into recent times.

One excellent example of this is the story of Minnie Rae (sometimes called Mary) Simpson, a young San Francisco streetwalker of the 1870s.  According to the popular narrative of her life, she was born in or near Philadelphia in 1860 to a woman known only as Lacey; her father is said to have been a shoe worker who participated in the Great New England Shoemakers’ Strike which began on February 22nd, 1860.  He is supposed to have died en route to California in 1862, either just before or just after the birth of Minnie’s younger brother, Adam.  Lacey claimed a land grant near San Francisco under the Homestead Act and managed to build up a small farm, relying on young Minnie for assistance with her baby brother; however, she died of scarlet fever in 1869, leaving the girl an orphan (it is unknown whether Adam survived).  Without family or even friends in the area, Minnie was forced to provide for herself and did so, as so many others have throughout history, by prostitution; she lived for a time with a Mr. Simpson (from whom she took her surname) and is supposed to have travelled with him the following year to England and Scotland.  There she is said to have met the young J.M. Barrie, who in later years wrote Peter Pan and patterned the character of Wendy after her.

Minnie Rae Simpson in 1871While on this tour she became pregnant, and the only known photograph of her was taken in 1871.  She gave birth to a son (whom she named Bartholomew) the following year; by this point she was no longer with Simpson and lived mostly on the street.  She was a close friend to the notable San Francisco eccentric Emperor Norton, who proclaimed her “The Little Countess”, and the association almost certainly contributed heavily to her fame; during the same time period she gave a series of interviews to a journalist, who turned them into a book entitled My Life as a Child Prostitute: The Autobiography of Minnie Rae.  Given the subject matter, it seems likely that the reason the journalist remained anonymous was to avoid controversy or even accusations of being one of Minnie’s clients.  It was a wise precaution; though the Cult of the Child was not yet in full swing in the US, Minnie’s pragmatic view of prostitution (“I get paid to be a whore.  If I married some farmer, I’d have to do it for free”) and her statements that prostitutes do the work because it’s lucrative and gives them a high degree of freedom, were almost as incendiary then as they would be now.  Only a few copies were ever printed, and these were gathered together by a preacher and burned in 1880, soon after the Emperor Norton’s death.  One copy survived, and was passed down to her descendants by Bartholomew until it, too was lost sometime in the late 20th century; only a few photocopied pages remain.  Minnie herself left San Francisco in 1873 and vanished from history; how Bartholomew knew anything about his mother or gained his copy of her book is entirely unclear, considering he was an infant at the time.  The only other concrete evidence of her existence is Minna Street in San Francisco, named for her by a politician who was one of her clients.

Now, the skeptical reader will no doubt already see a few problems with this narrative; though there are exceptions to every rule, in the late 19th century the average age of menarche in the US was about 14, and conditions such as Minnie lived in would tend to raise the age due to poor nutrition; in other words, getting pregnant at the age of 11 was even less likely in 1871 than it is now, and delivering a healthy baby from such a pregnancy would be unlikelier still.  Furthermore, though she was undoubtedly precocious, her making the kind of splash that she did in the short time she managed it seems to me less like something a 10 or 11-year-old could accomplish, and more like the actions of a bright 14 or 15-year-old with a baby face who realized that lurid narratives sell.  The intelligent, outgoing Minnie was well-known among clients and acquaintances as a tale-teller, and she even boasted that Mark Twain had been inspired by some of her yarns; it seems very likely that she ratcheted her age down a few years for the sake of marketing, but whether she told her clients that age or whether it was something she came up with for a credulous journalist is unknown.  Given that her business is known to have gone up after she got pregnant (an obvious sign of more advanced physical maturity), and that underage whores still to this day exaggerate their back-stories for gullible members of the press, the latter seems far more likely.  One thing I find fascinating is that those who retell her story never find it odd that her birth year is known with such certainty despite the fact that her birthplace, her original surname and any event of her life after 1873 are not; I reckon the wanking fantasy of the pregnant 10-year-old streetwalker is just too juicy to pass up.

sacred chaoLarger-than-life characters tend to live on in the imaginations of others long after their deaths, and Minnie Rae is no exception.  Beside Peter Pan’s Wendy, she was also named a Discordian saint in 2006 (unsurprising, given that the Emperor Norton was a major influence on the philosophy); the Discordians seem to have started a rumor that the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train system was named after her son Bartholomew.  Minnie believed in reincarnation, and claimed to have been a Babylonian harlot who was mentioned in the Bible; whether she meant Revelation’s “Whore of Babylon” is unknown.  But it seems likely that her belief inspired two modern-day strippers to claim to be Minnie reincarnated; one of them, who went by Fannie Mae, worked in Los Angeles during the ‘90’s. The other, Kitty, worked on Bourbon Street in New Orleans during the ‘50s and ‘60s, knew Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst (one of the founders of Discordianism), and because of that connection (and a tentative one to Jack Ruby) was suspected by Jim Garrison as being connected to the Kennedy assassination conspiracy.  Confused yet?  Read some of the links, and it’ll probably get worse.  But it all goes to show that when dealing with the demimonde, appearances are often more important than reality, and adhering to conventional beliefs about women and girls is foolish at best.

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I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.  –  Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Maggie speaking at LOTR LA 6-5-14Long-time readers know I’m a creature of habit; I tend to keep a pretty regular schedule of eating, sleeping, bathing, working and everything else, even down to which days of the week I usually work on which features of my blog.  So the announcement of such a long tour must’ve taken many of you by surprise; some of you probably wondered whether I’d be able to complete the ambitious itinerary I set for myself.  For over three months (with the exception of a single week at home around the 4th of July) I totally discarded most of my normal habits to drive from coast to coast, living in hotels or guest rooms and eating restaurant food.  The trip was a litany of firsts:  the first time I had ever spoken to people who specifically came out to see me,  the first time I had tried a number of foods, the first time I was ever in many of these cities (or even states), the first time I had ever traveled so far or so long alone, the first time I ever undertook such a major project without any clear idea of how I was going to pay for it.

And yet, despite there being a number of extremely good reasons why it should never have worked, it did.  I embarked on the tour because it was something I felt had to be done; not only did I want to talk about my book, I also wanted to meet people and talk face-to-face with them about why the War on Whores is a spectacularly awful idea, and why they should care about it.  And so I took a leap of faith; like Blanche Dubois I depended on the kindness of strangers, though I achieved much better results than she did.  From practically the moment I left my home people I did not know helped me to plan my trip, arrange my events, pay for my expenses and get where I needed to be when I needed to be there.  People sent me money, invited me into their homes, fed me, gathered audiences for me, listened to what I had to say, bought my book, encouraged me and went out of their way to assist me when I was sick or lost.  Everywhere I went I was made to feel welcome and important, and I was often treated like a celebrity.  It’s an overused phrase, but the experience really did renew my faith in humanity.

The journey took me from west to east and north to south, through hot weather and cold, across wildernesses to the largest population centers in the country; altogether, I logged almost 13,000 miles.  There were days when I was so busy I barely had time to think, and others in which I had nothing to do but catch up on my blogging.  I had experiences that frightened me or made me very nervous or uncomfortable, and others that were among the best of my whole life; I got sick a few times and made a number of new friends.  I spoke to enthusiastic crowds in packed rooms, and enjoyed quiet one-on-one conversations with individuals.  One of these days I’ll write about the whole thing at length for my memoirs, but for right now I just want to let y’all know what an amazing gift y’all gave me by making the whole thing possible; it was literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’ll be thinking about it and drawing on it for my writing for many years to come.

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Change Is

…changes aren’t permanent, but change is.  –  Pye Dubois and Neil Peart, “Tom Sawyer”

hamster on wheelThough I’m a creature of habit and tend to keep doing things the same way for long stretches of time, that doesn’t mean I never change; if you look back at my columns for 2010 and 2011 you’ll see that my procedures have shifted substantially since then.  Originally, days of the week had no significance, though holidays and months did; over time some features became fixed, and at the beginning of 2012 I started my first weekly feature, “That Was the Week That Was”.  After July I added the “Links” feature on Sundays, then in 2013 I fixed Q&A columns on Wednesdays and reprints of my Sunday Cliterati essays on Fridays.  Harlotographies now appear every fifth Thursday, and guest columns on the second Monday of every month (though this month was an exception due to tour-related scheduling difficulties); as of this May I started featuring my tour diaries every Tuesday.  You might think all this self-imposed structure would create more work for me, but you’d be wrong; it actually makes the Herculean task of keeping up a daily blog all by myself (even the guest columns take editing) easier because it eliminates the need for figuring out what sort of thing I’m going to write for most days.

Needless to say, this summer’s tour made it far more difficult to keep up my usual pace; though I prepublished everything but Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday columns for all of June and July (and a part of August) before I left, that still meant a lot of time sitting in hotel rooms between speaking gigs and driving.  And though I did manage it, there were a few times I didn’t hit “schedule” until just a few hours before publication time (and once when a column actually posted in an unfinished state).  Given that my travel and speaking schedule is only likely to get busier, this shows me a need to once again adjust my procedures to give myself more breathing space.  Fortunately, there’s an easy way to do it:  I discovered a couple of tricks to make writing the “TW3″ and “Links” columns quicker and more efficient, and I also found that the tour diaries were really easy and fast to write.  Given that I will be doing more outside projects, travelling, speaking and the like, I think y’all would welcome a regular Tuesday feature discussing what I’ve done and what I’m about to do, including videos, links to podcasts and all that sort of thing.  It will not only save me writing time, but will also save trouble fitting such events and features into the TW3 column; to me, that’s a win all around.  So for now, that will be the new schedule…until things change again, and I have to change with them.

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New Orleans at NightAnd so we finally come to the end of my first – and almost certainly longest – national tour.  After leaving Kelly’s house on August 30th I spent the night in Tallahassee so as to break up the long drive, and the next day I arrived at Denise’s house in New Orleans.  On Monday night I visited Frank and Olivia; on Tuesday I bought myself three new dresses at the flea market, then went to dinner with journalist Jillian Keenan (who had hosted an event for me in New York); and on Wednesday I visited my old friend Charlie and my cousin Alan, then had a lovely dinner with Krulac.  I managed to leave fairly early on Thursday, and resumed my normal schedule as soon as I got home.

Well, that last isn’t quite true; while I did cook dinner, put the animals in and all that stuff, it’s going to be several weeks before I’m actually back to normal.  For one thing, though I doubled the size of my “buffer” before leaving, it’s entirely gone and will take weeks to build back up to its normal one-month size.  For another thing, very few of the columns published after the first week of July were indexed, so I need to catch that back up.  Then there are bills to pay, a huge backlog of correspondence to answer, the next book to compile, and my November mini-tour to Seattle and Portland to plan; all in all, enough to keep me busy for the rest of the year.  About the mini-tour:  though I did manage to make it work, it was extremely difficult (and sometimes frustrating) to have to plan events as I went along, and I’d rather not have to do that again.  So, I’m going to start working on my plans for the Pacific Northwest immediately; I hope to have my basic dates locked in by the end of the month, so if you’d like me to speak or read someplace please email me next week with the details.  Though relaxation is not in my nature, if I can get the schedule worked out before I leave I at least won’t be quite so stressed.

Given all that, I think it would be a good idea to continue this feature for a while longer; not only will that keep y’all up to date with what’s going on, it’ll also help me to catch up since these diary posts are quick and easy to write.  On the 18th I’ll discuss the tour in general, and on the 30th I hope to have the firm-but-not-set-in-stone dates for Seattle & Portland.  And in the weeks after that, I can keep y’all appraised of the progress on the new book, the mini-tour and any other activities of mine that y’all might find interesting.

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You would think they’d want an actual sex worker…but somehow that’s not important because we’re seen as victims; voiceless and having no agency.  –  Jules Kim

License to Rape

Cops raping sex workers is so ubiquitous, non-cop rapists often pose as cops to facilitate the crime:

…Desiree Patton said that her assailant, Guy Dietz, found her through online advertisements placed by the exotic dancing agency she works for…when she arrived at Dietz’s…California home, he informed her that he was a police officer, placed her under “arrest,” and handcuffed her hands behind her back…Patton claimed that Dietz said…he [could] arrest her and trump up charges…

Check Your Premises

Nick Olivas became a father at 14, a fact he wouldn’t learn for eight years.  While in high school, Olivas had sex with a 20-year-old woman…State law says a child younger than 15 cannot consent with an adult under any circumstance, making Olivas a rape victim…Then two years ago, the state served him with papers demanding child support.  That’s how he found out he had a then-6-year-old daughter…he now owes about $15,000 in back child support and medical bills going back to the child’s birth, plus 10 percent interest.  The state seized money from his bank account and is now garnisheeing his wages at $380 a month…

Follow Your Bliss

…Florida youth pastor [Lucas Dillon Brandenburg] was arrested…after investigators said that they found a computer at his home “sharing” images of child pornography…

Legal Is as Legal Does

Yet another example of why legalization is almost as bad as full criminalization:

Taiwanese authorities said…they busted a prostitution ring exploiting young Chinese women…Prostitution [was criminalized in 2001 due to American pressure] but the parliament in 2011 passed a controversial bill to allow red-light districts…no such district has been set up yet…

Above the Law 

The report calls it a “romantic encounter” but I suspect otherwise:

…an Atlanta police officer killed a woman that he met online, then set her body on fire to cover his tracks.  Tahreem Zeus Rana was arrested…[while] trying to board a flight to Mexico…Vernicia Woodward…was linked to Rana through her phone records...The two appear to have met on Backpage.com…

And in The Nation, others appear to finally be noticing what I’ve been screaming about for twenty years:

…sexual assault is a significant issue in police forces, as The American Prospect and Truthout have reported.  According to the Cato Institute, more than 9 percent of reports of police misconduct in 2010 involved sexual abuse, making it the second-most reported form…Comparing that data to FBI crime statistics indicates that “sexual assault rates are significantly higher for police when compared to the general population”…Jen Marsh of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network…said…“[cops are] targeting victims seen as vulnerable or ‘less credible,’ whether they’re engaged in sex work or are committing a crime”…

The Widening Gyre

Instead of commenting on this ridiculous nonsense:

Denver has evolved into a breeding ground…for sex-traffickers who lure young runaways, often in exchange for drugs…Tom Ravenelle with the FBI said he’s seeing more print and online advertisements — chock-full of keywords like “4-20 friendly” — that attract young girls.  “We’re dealing with people who are pimping these girls who are sometimes gang-related.  These are people with low morals”…

I’m going to let somebody else do it this time.

An Enormous Big Nothing (TW3 #33) Gates daughters on ferry

Another predictable result of “sex trafficking” hysteria:

After my family arrives on the Cape May ferry for our annual vacation to the Jersey Shore, I take pictures of our two daughters…as we leave the harbor.  I’ve been doing this since they were 3 and 4 years old.  They are now 16 and 17…Getting just the right exposure and interaction between the two has never been easy…But this year…a man came up beside me and said to my daughters:  “I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you were okay.”  At first none of us understood what he was talking about…then it hit me:  He thought I might be exploiting the girls…I told the man I was their father.  He quickly apologized and turned away.  But…the more I thought about [it]…the more upset I became.  My wife and I, both white, adopted our two daughters in China when they were infants…we have often gotten strange looks and intrusive questions from strangers, but nothing like this…I walked outside to where he was standing and calmly said:  “Excuse me, sir, but you just embarrassed me in front of my children and strangers.  And what you said was racist”…He replied:  “I work for the Department of Homeland Security.  And let me give you some advice:  You were standing there taking photos of them hugging for 15 minutes”…

The Public Eye

Sydney Journalist and mother-of-two Amanda Goff has revealed her secret double life as…Samantha X…who started working as a sex worker two-and-a-half years ago…[in] a tell-all book about her experience.  After working in British tabloids including The Mirror and Sunday People, Miss Goff came to Australia and worked as the health and beauty editor for Prevention Magazine and at New Idea…[then]  became a TV spokesperson for health and beauty…she believes she can help save marriages…”I hear a lot about marriage from the man’s point of view.  They say they are not listened to, they aren’t heard.  I give them intimacy, it’s not necessarily about sex”…

Down Under (TW3 #49)

Sex workers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are hopeful that…the…Health Minister…Michael Malaba…will keep his public commitment to introduce legislation that decriminalises sex work and same sex relationships…Malaba stated that he recognised that the decriminalisation of sex work was a key reform essential to tackling HIV/AIDS and that he was committed to reforming PNG’s “colonial era laws”…

Absolute Corruption

[On September 2nd] Bernard Baran died suddenly at his home while talking with his partner, David, and his niece, Crystal”  The autopsy results are not yet in, but a heart attack or stroke (resulting at least in part from more than two decades of gross maltreatment by the state) seems likely.  Perhaps now the utterly loathsome Martha Coakley will consent to allowing his record to be expunged.

Original Sin (TW3 #321)

Video games and “sexting” cause “sex trafficking”!

Real Battle Ministries is partnering to attack the rampant sex trafficking in our local communities!  Drug cartels and gangs have nearly controlled the prostitution market, planting “bottom ho’s” in our local schools, and utilizing social media & online games to “befriend” our kids for the sole purpose of entrapping them into slavery!…Porn addicted adults produces “Johns”…exposure to porn during childhood produces promiscuous children and kids who post sexually suggestive photos on social media.  Pimps and…enslaved kids…target our kids, befriend them on social media and play online games with them, eventually luring them away for abduction into sex slavery…one pimp with 5 girls generate nearly $1 million in revenue annually.  No wonder organized crime has focused on abducting one million kids yearly!!!!

These are the most insanely-exaggerated claims I’ve seen yet.  Fight “sex trafficking” with exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!City of Lies

A War for Peace (TW3 #323)

City of Lies features eight tales…all names have been changed, as have certain details…Each focuses on an individual, but [author Ramita] Navai uses these personal stories to observe how people live, love and survive in a society ruled by fundamentalists.  Iranian youth read “Harry Potter,” watch Hollywood films…smoke joints and listen to Metallica and Radiohead — all the while knowing that one misstep can ruin their reputations and lives…For women, sex outside marriage could mean “up to 100 lashes.”  If convicted of adultery, a woman could be executed…

Imaginary Evils

Remember, huge police operations have never found more than a single-digit number of “sex trafficking” cases in the UK:

…Greater Manchester’s police chief [imagines that]…predators have changed their tactics and are now targeting Eastern European teens and trafficking them into the region for sex…some 180 men are currently under suspicion of child sexual exploitation…of 17 and 18-year-old girls – notably above the age of consent…

Yes, they’re claiming the “child sex trafficking” of girls over the AOC.

Everything Old is New Again

Just in case you were unsure about “sex trafficking” mythology’s origin in racism and xenophobia, take a look at the kind of sites that gleefully quote the propaganda to promote their own agendas.

What Next? 

Clueless, ignorant old American continues to demand that other countries increase violence against sex workers in the name of “rescuing” them:  “Former US president Jimmy Carter has written to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other members of the Oireachtas urging them to adopt a recommendation to criminalise the buyers of sex

Property of the State

Delusional authoritarian thugs presume that women have absolute control over our bodies:

…police reportedly “swarmed” a Texas high school because…a school custodian notified the principal…after finding a “possible fetus” in one of the bathroom stalls…The principal contacted police…Dallas Police Department’s Child Abuse Unit detectives were investigating to find out who may have abandoned the fetus.  The person involved was being considered a “suspect”…Alan Elliott of Baby Moses Dallas explained…that the mother could have avoided any criminal charges if she had taken advantage of Baby Moses laws by carrying the child to term, and then dropping it off at a safe baby site like a fire station…

“Abandoned”.  Seriously.  By that standard, some 10% of the women reading this are “criminals”.cops harass Java Juggs

Prudesville

The headline The Blaze put on this is infuriating; moronic cop masturbatory fantasies are cast as “knowledge”:

The owner of controversial bikini coffee stands in Washington state banked more than $2 million in just three years because her baristas were also selling sex acts, [cops imagined]…Carmela Panico…was charged with promoting prostitution and money laundering by Snohomish County prosecutors, who allege she was the madam of drive-thru brothels…[where] baristas would expose their breasts and genitals and charge for sex acts…In a raid last year, investigators [stole] $250,000 [from] Panico’s home.  Her profit margin at times was twice that of well-run, established coffee stands…One barista [was bribed via a plea deal to tell] investigators she earned half a million dollars working at Panico’s stands…

Traffic Jam (TW3 #432)

This scare story starts with the arse-backward claim that “sex trafficking” causes youth homelessness and then goes all over the map:

…those who study the issue believe any steps to address sex trafficking in Utah also will help solve the problem of youth homelessness…Tammie Garcia Atkin…of the…Office of Victim Services…said girls often are introduced into prostitution by men who they believe are their boyfriends…“It’s all sweetness and likes [sic] and then it turns into this violent relationship”…[fireman] Fernando Rivero…said…he was able to recognize a sex trafficking business once when he visited an area doing a building inspection…Rivero is hoping to eventually steer Utah’s thinking more toward a victim mentality as seen in other states…Kevin Donegan…at Janus Youth Programs in Portland…sends out a strict warning to parents who think their children are hanging out at the mall, because they could be…recruited into sex trafficking…Peter Thorpe…of the Oak Ridge shelter in Vancouver [Washington], said…the average age for a girl to enter prostitution…“just keeps going down and down…it is a renewable resource…you can sell a girl over and over again”…

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #433)

Three Sydney sex workers have staged a protest at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas over the representation of their profession in a panel discussion on the global sex industry called “Women For Sale”…they handed out pamphlets to festival goers and posed with a…sign that read:  “I am a sex worker.  I am not for sale”…Jules Kim…the acting chief executive of…Scarlet Alliance, applied to festival organisers…to be included on the panel…but had her request denied.  However…the…journalist Elizabeth Pisani invited Kim to replace her on stage and she was allowed to take part…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #433)

There’s a word for people who try to control and profit from whores but disregard their welfare:

…It has…come to light that local Conservative politicians and elected representatives from the Christian Social Union (CSU) are…involved in…construction [of an FKK-Club in East Dachau]:  developer…Wolfgang Moll; electrician…Helmut Erhorn; and architect…Heidi Lewald…it remains unclear why the…politicians didn’t make their stakes in the project known earlier…

 

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Well, to be sure, what’s one man’s meat is another man’s poison, and the same is altogether as true of women.  –  Henry Fielding, Tom Jones (VII, vii)

Most people understand that everyone is different, and that things which are vitally important to one person may be of no consequence to another.  In fact, some people might invest a great deal of energy in avoiding that which others invest equal energy in seeking.  There are morning people and night people, city mice and country mice, carnivores and vegans, introverts and extroverts.  But it seems as though economics often favors one set of priorities over another, so that the things which are prized by the majority are more expensive – often much more expensive – than those prized by the minority.  That’s usually a boon for those of us with minority preferences, but trying to explain that to those with majority preferences can result in strange looks and expressions of incredulity.

penthouse viewTake real estate, for example; needless to say, property in a city is more expensive than property farther away from one (and the farther out, the cheaper).  I discovered this the very first time I bought real estate: the things I felt were important in a property (such as its size, relative isolation and lack of laws, rules and covenants restricting its use) nearly always reduced its price rather than raising it.  Similarly, my aversion to annoying bells and whistles that make machines far more likely to break results in a preference for less expensive models with fewer options.  Even most of the food I like best tends to be on the cheap side; I find that with a few notable exceptions, expensive restaurants are not usually better restaurants, and that larger numbers in the price column rarely translate into better taste, larger portions, more interesting selections, better service or anything else I value in a dining experience.

During my book and speaking tour this summer (which, BTB, ends today; I’m leaving New Orleans this morning and should be home by dark) I discovered another way in which my priorities are almost upside-down from most people’s:  what I consider the important and desirable qualities of a hotel.  To be sure, I value some things just as much as everyone else; I want my room to be clean and well-kept, with attractive furnishings and a comfortable bed.  I want it to be conveniently situated in a safe neighborhood and to have helpful staff that are available when I need them, and it’s nice if there are restaurants nearby.  But beyond those basics, it seems as though the more expensive hotels are less likely to have amenities I want, and more likely to have qualities I find annoying, unpleasant or even infuriating.

First and foremost, I like to know exactly what I’m paying for a room when I check in.  Obviously, if I were staying in a five-star hotel on someone else’s tab this really wouldn’t matter because I’d still know exactly what I was paying, namely zero.  But that generally isn’t the case, and there’s no better way to irritate me than to subject me to a constant barrage of nickel-and-dime charges for parking, internet, telephone (back in pre-cell days), coffee, things “helpfully” left in the room and other “incidentals”.  Next, I like my privacy; one would think most people do, yet the more expensive hotels are the ones more likely to pry into guests’ business, spy on their comings and goings, and rat them out to the thugs should they decide something is amiss.  Oddly enough, expensive hotels are also busier and noisier than mid-range ones; in my escorting days I discovered that the noise level and number of obnoxious drunks per capita was often almost as high in the four-star places as one would expert in a scary no-star dive.  And since the fancy hotels are often downtown, that means a lost guest is much more likely to find himself on skid row than he would if he were staying in the suburbs.

Hilton breakfastAll in all, I find that I tend to enjoy the two-and-a-half or three-star business-class hotels best.  The rooms are just as clean as in the ritzy places, and the staff friendlier; most of the guests are businesspeople rather than tourists or locals going “out on the town”, and that means they’re quieter and much too busy minding their own business to be minding mine (the staff tends to be the same way).  Many of them have refrigerators and/or microwave ovens in the rooms, and many have free breakfast (which in the case of Hilton properties is really excellent, with lots of delicious choices).  These hotels generally don’t require complicated rigmarole (or entrusting my car to a stranger) to park, and since they regularly deal with accounting departments they know better than to provide amenities a la carte.  And since they are used to dealing with businesspeople, the staff at such places are much more accustomed to dealing with practical issues like “can you print this for me?” and “where’s the nearest post office?” than the staff at the snobbier places…and they don’t have their hands out afterward.

I’m beginning to get a lot more requests for speaking engagements these days, and will thus be staying in a lot more hotels (rather than just visiting for an hour or so) than in the past.  So if you find yourself in charge of making my arrangements, please keep this column in mind; a Hilton Garden or something of that type will make me much happier than a “better” hotel which would cost  you much more.  And I’m a sucker for those delicious fresh cookies they put out for guests in the evening.

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