steve ivory (2014)

Steven Ivory

*“I wish they never invented that shit,” she is saying to me over dinner one Saturday evening at a bustling Harold and Belle’s, the popular New Orleans Creole style restaurant in South Central Los Angeles.

She’s having the “Home-Style Combination” of Jambalaya, red beans and fried chicken, while I’m relishing this scampi in front of me. We’re hoping we’ll have room for peach cobbler. Both middle-aged and health-conscious, we realize we can’t eat like this all the time. But having her email me and suggest that two old friends kick it is as good a reason to chow down as any.

I’ll call her Val. Known her since the middle ‘70s, when we met here in L.A. through her  boyfriend at the time. She dumped him and kept me. There’s never been anything between Val and I except hardy laughter, the kind of love siblings share and lively, informal dialogue about everything under the sun.

And tonight, after months of being out of touch, the Detroit-born Val—an early 50-something, ever-so-fashionable, strikingly attractive, cocoa-colored portrait of innocence…until she opens her mouth–wants my ear for her wicked fulmination about life with her husband of 20-something years, and sex. Well, not really sex, but her disdain for Viagra, the catch-all name for what Val terms “dick pills.”

“When they sell men this stuff,” she is saying, reaching for her tumbler of Hennessy on the rocks, “they need to tell y’all that ‘hard’ don’t equal technique and affection,  and that  an erection don’t  make you the motherfuckin’ police.”

Apparently Val’s husband turned to the Little Blue Pill six months ago and things haven’t been the same at the Ponderosa since.

“At first, it was cool. I thought, ‘Heyyyy, okay, we can do this!’ It was like the old days. But now I can’t keep him off me.   I wanted to see you tonight and all, but I’m REALLY here to get away from HIM. I’m like, ‘Hey, man, RELAX. Give this shit a rest.’ ”

I tell Val that the idea of erectile dysfunction pills causing a man to go BOING! at will, for anybody at any time is a fallacy. As a physician once told me, if the man is not attracted to the woman in question, the pill does nothing.   “Just means your man is into you,” I say. “What’s wrong with that?”

“It’s outta control, that’s what’s wrong,” she says, dipping into her potato salad. “We used to do it maybe once a week…twice a month. That’s all I need, you know. He wouldn’t take long. I could catch some TV before I fell asleep.

“But ever since that pill, he wants it damn near every night. I ain’t tryin’ to do that. And what is it with men and war movies?”

War movies? I don’t know nothing about that, Val.

“Yeah–war movies. Lately he’s been watching a lot of those. When he finishes one, he’s horny. Explain that! I came back from the store the other evening and heard ‘Booom!’ ‘Pow!’ coming from the TV in the den. I thought, ‘Oh, lord, here we go again.’”

Indeed, since coming on the market in 1998, dick pills—ahem–PDE5 Inhibitors have forever altered our sexual/cultural terrain. Presumably, the playa’s field has been leveled now that the older gentleman’s  time-honored experience can be supplemented by some solid potency.

No one snickers anymore at those stylized TV commercials hawking Viagra and Cialis brands. It figures that one of the first Cialis ads to air on TV did so during the 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII—overshadowed by another sex-driven escapade that evening, Janet Jackson’s infamous halftime “wardrobe malfunction.”

You know it’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world on steroids—more precisely, Viagra—when, while other diseases abound, man invents a way to keep his penis erect during sex. Priorities, you know.

I’ve long imagined the scenario in the research lab on that fateful day: A scientist in the requisite white coat bursts into a lab and barks to a nerdy, bespectacled researcher peering into a microscope: “Jones! What are you working on right now?”

Jones: “Well, sir, I am about an hour from something that will cure at least two types of cancer and the common cold,  all at once.”

Scientist: “Leave that. Get down the hall and help Mackavoy. He’s THIS CLOSE to coming up with a way to keep dicks hard!”

Of course, the Pfizer scientists actually credited with inventing Viagra–Andrew Bell, David Brown, and Nicholas Terrett–are no doubt so rich they don’t even need the pill; with that kind of dough, you don’t have to fuck.

And to think, the drug was initially created as a way to treat pulmonary hypertension. Since then, Viagra has been proven to help with altitude sickness, prolong the life of cut flowers in vases and remedy jet lag in hamsters.  Seriously.  The critters still had to pay that extra luggage fee, though.

None of this information consoles Val. “Last night he got all revved up again,” she continues, taking a spoon to that warm cobbler. “He decides he’s  gon’ go longer. I said, ‘Uh, Uh, Boo. We not doin’ this shit tonight; I got to get up in the mornin.’”

“He said, ‘What you talkin’ ‘bout?’

I’m talkin’ about this marathon shit. Wrap it up.

“He say, ‘Baby, I’m makin’ sweet loooove to you….’

“I said, ‘That’s what you said you was doin’  forty-somethin’ minutes ago. NOW you just fuckin.’”’

He say, ‘C’mon, baby….’

“I said, ‘Negro, this ain’t Soul Train, get the fuck up off me…”

I dare not ask what Soul Train has to do with any of this, for fear Val (who said I could tell this story) might actually tell me.

The cobbler, however, is orgasmic.

Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]