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Porn in the U.S.A.

Porn in the U.S.A.

Sometimes there's plenty to do, but there's no excitement. That's how it was last week. Friday night promised a much-ballyhooed "private" party dubbed "Swank," but as it turns out, I had a much more exciting time the night before, when a girlfriend and I went to Metro News in search of a smutty gift for a newly single friend.

Nighttime travelers on I-40 can't help but notice Metro News, the bastion of carnal vices that advertises itself in bright red neon as the World's Largest Adult Video Bookstore. It's an imposing edifice, with a motley collection of half-dressed men who hang by their cars in the gravel parking lot. Curiously, a smaller marquee plugs "bronze statues" and garden furniture, while a laminated sign on the door reads, "No food, no drink, no cameras, no crackheads." Those willing to venture inside will be surprised by the well-lit emporium, which is anything but seedy.

Stepping inside, my girlfriend and I got the once-over from the cashier/bouncer, before encountering a bunch of female shoppers on a similar mission. Though a few lone men browsed the extensive video section, the bulk of the shoppers were whispering couples or giggling gal pals. The men, a mostly Dockers-and-golf-shirt lot, moved about quietly and kept their eyes lowered. In contrast, the gals let the whole shop know when they found something amusing: peals of laughter rang out as they discovered penis pumps, "discreet" vibrating hairbrushes and so on. It was a sizable crowd for 11 p.m. on a Thursday night; in lieu of the shady characters you'd expect at a World's Largest Adult anything were the garden-variety men and women who might shop at J. Crew and Pottery Barn.

The place was so vast that we weren't sure where to begin. To our immediate right were racks of magazines followed by a long wall of incense, enhancement lotions and a collection of "My First" toys for the sex-gadget neophyte. Straight ahead were thousands of videos and DVDs, all conveniently labeled with initials and color-coded stickers, like S for Senior, A for Amateur, F for Freaky and so on. Toward the back, a female clerk was methodically pricing DVDs. She could just as easily have been stocking jeans at the Gap.

Next to the clerk was a huge selection of crossword puzzles, some tattoo magazines and several comic books. We figured a silly, smutty crossword would make a hilarious gift, but there was nothing scandalous in the book section. We flipped through a few crosswords, thinking they might work in some extra-freaky or illegal topics, but they turned out to be just normal crossword puzzle collections. Confused, we finally asked the unflappable clerk if there were any sexy crosswords in stock. She shook her head no.

"People just like crossword puzzles—especially people who don't have much goin' on," she added with a raised eyebrow and a shrug. "Do you guys carry Vivid Video with Jenna Jameson?" I asked. "No, no Jenna," said the bemused clerk, still robotically pricing the endless stack of DVDs. "Her movies cost us too much. If you want sex with a story-line, go to the aisle marked P for plot."

We made our final selections and took them to the tired cashier. "How's business?" we asked. "Well, I don't really know," he responded. "I'm usually downstairs with the statues and garden fixtures." So the marquee was right—they really did sell fountains and garden stuff? "Yeah, it's great," he said, "because we don't usually get customers. I can just draw or write or sleep."

"Come on," I asked, "you're not really hiding some kind of dungeon or brothel down there?"

"I wish!" he replied. "It would certainly be more interesting than trying to explain this video Dewey decimal system to idiots and miscreants: 'HC means hard core. Hello? Do I really need to explain it beyond that?' "

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