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Earth's Erotic Pollution

If you've heard of the birds and the bees, you know there's a connection between sex and nature.

If you can’t see any connection between sex and our polluted planet, it's only because you haven't met Professor Quilp. But you'll be hearing a lot about him here. His name is going to become a household word, like Dr. Spock. I mean it. What Salk did for polio–well, that's what Quilp is doing for erotic pollution.

I didn't know any of this last night when I walked into a bar on the Strip. I just came in for a nightcap and maybe some action with this redhead cocktail waitress going off duty. But she walked right by me, heading for the door. “A trick is a trick," she said, "but that guy is something else!"

The bartender was pretty bugged. He told me business had been off all week. His regulars were nowhere to be found and none of the girls would hang around—all because of this weirdo sitting in the back booth, asking these nutty questions. I went over to see what was getting everybody so uptight. I mean, wouldn't you? Anyway, it's a good thing I went to that back booth because I'm not sure yet but I think it may have changed my entire life.

He was sitting there having his fifth gin and tonic. He looked just like every other off-duty professor. You know, around 50 years old, not too big, but not in shape either. Wearing his dress shirt without a tie and the pants from one suit with the coat from another.

But I couldn't figure out his scene. Because the minute he saw me, he said: "Come on, name me any form of sex you like and I'll match it up with pollution." How's that for openers?

"Sucking," I said. I mean, what the hell? 

"Exactly," he said. "We're given a world bursting with seed—and what do we do? Do we plant the seeds of our infinite regeneration as intended? No!"

Left via Alex S. MacLean; Right via Lucien Clergue

He banged his empty glass on the table. I took the hint and signaled for another round.

"No," he continued. "We waste it, deplete it, suck it out. Which makes us, planetarily speaking, a nation of..."

"I get the idea," I said. "Okay, what about pickups?" I guess I was still thinking of that redhead.

"Very good," said the professor. "What does casual sex offer? There's no real warmth or meaning, no lasting comfort, no real fulfillment. Why should there be? You don't even know the bird."

He started on his sixth gin and tonic. "How many of us get to know and respect our earth? She's there, so we sock it to her. But how long will she keep putting out for us without some commitment? Without love?"

He took another sip. "You may prefer sex without love. That's your privilege. But it doesn't entitle you to give every girl in town a STI or heartache."

He finished his drink. "And look at the dose we gave Lake Erie."

He had me there.

"Next question?"

"How about making babies?" I inquired.

"World's most irresponsible pollution. Next?"

"Well," I said, "I just read Portnoy's Complaint, you know Philip Roth’s novel about..."

"Aha,'' he said. ''Masturbation, from the Latin masturbare, to pollute oneself."

I didn't know that. "Oh, well," he said philosophically. "With litter piling up so fast these days, what else can people do with all those no-deposit no-returns?"

He sighed. "Especially when all our environmental Cabinet committees and regulatory agencies just sit there playing with themselves."

I ordered another round. "And tell me how incest relates to the Earth?"

Left via Luke McKay; Right via Lucien Clergue

"Elementary. Nature is our mother. Look what you're doing to her and look what that makes you."

I ordered another round and thought up another category. "How about sexual freedom?"

He perked right up again. "Do your own thing," he said. "Just don't do it to me… or to my planet."

"Perversions?" was my next question.

"Perversions do not exist... between two consenting adults. Now, that doesn't justify anything other than that. Remember, the earth doesn’t have the option to say ‘yes.’ She's helpless. You can hurt her, abuse her. But she’ll die. And if she dies, you die, as you'd die if you murdered someone. Think about it."

I did, while he sipped his ninth gin and tonic. "Oh, we may find a way to survive underground before the world ends," he said. "I suppose we could get used to life without real air or trees or animals, just as we could get used to life without sex. But who the hell wants to?"

He finished his drink. "My boy, all sex is affected by pollution. Dump DDT in the ocean, the pelican's egg crumbles, no more pelicans. Spray DDT in the air, the bee dies. No more bees, no more flowers. No more flowers, no more daisy chains." He hiccuped gently. Imagine a world without the birds and the bees.

"Who needs daisy chains?" I asked him.

"To each his own screw. All sex is affected. You may not be able to see the Strontium 90 in your bones, but look what smog does to your wind in the sack."

"Is that from smog?"

"Of course. I took a poll last year. The smoggier the city, the lousier its sex life. Know who came in last? Los Angeles."

Being a native, I guess I looked shocked. This struck the professor funny. "Dead last," he said. "Why do you think the Mayor stays away so much? He's no fool."

"But we have smog devices."

"The smog device. Ha! A gimmick to keep your car in the repair shop " The professor somehow managed to stand up. "Son, your smog device is about as efficient as a perforated condom. And its aftereffects keep you every bit as broke." I pointed him towards the men's room. Waiting, I wondered what would happen if he did get kids to equate pollution with sex. Would every teenager's bathroom turn into a mini Hudson River? Would every alley echo with the sound of trashcans banging?

As I steered him back to our table, he went on about paternity. "Watch how a corporation reacts when they're sued for decimating a virgin forest or siring poison in a lake."

Left via Turn Tides; Right via Lucien Clergue

He sat down to steady his tenth gin and tonic. "They see pollution-control laws as a threat to their manhood. Same kind of thinking that sends our boys out to Vietnam. Their answer is, keep finding ways to make more people use up more resources faster. Program new cars to wear out faster, create more junk heaps. Destroy the world, but keep that pollution coming!"

To calm him down, "Extramarital sex?"

"Earthwise, I call that pollu-gamy."

I laughed politely. After all, what could you expect from a professor?

"There ought to be some way to curb it, though," he added thoughtfully. "Maybe make it as costly to mine fresh elements as to recycle used ones. Then it would pay off taking care of what you already have." He put down his empty glass. "Spend as much on your wife as your new girlfriend, she might look just as good."


"All the time. Just follow the oil companies around. Cast of thousands. Everyplace they go, an environmental gang-bang."


"That's where it's at," he said. "The world's hit menopause. Passed it, maybe."

He thumped his glass but I ignored it. Ten was plenty. "Poor world's almost tapped out," he said. "These days, searching the woods for an unspoiled tree is like searching Sun City for a hard-on."

The professor had lots more to say—all about timing, how the world will end with a bang… what comes out of those phallic oil rigs off Santa Barbara. It's pretty fuzzy, because he was only four drinks up on me.

But I'll find out Tuesday. That's when we're going downtown to look at dirty pictures of Yosemite. 

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