It was a story that never got the ending it deserved, which is to say it never got one at all. Even bad stories deserve an ending, if only to put them out of their misery.
The premise first came to me in the late 90s. Like a lot of ideas that pop into my head, this one started with “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if…” and ended with something completely fucked up. In this case, the fucked-up part was a man lying on the floor naked, high on ecstasy, and lathered in beef boullion while a pack of pugs licked him clean. “Pug rooms,” as I dubbed them, were the places where this service would be performed. For a fee, mind you. Nobody rides for free.
At the time, I hadn’t considered using pug rooms as a premise for a story. I wasn’t writing any fiction then. I had even slacked off on scribbling in my journal. Instead, I thought of it as an idea for a business. It was the dot-com era so everyone was an entrepreneur, even me. All you needed was a web presence and hype. I didn’t seriously consider becoming a pug-room mogul, of course. That didn’t stop me from bragging about my idea to anyone who’d listen or if I was drunk enough to not care if they were listening or not.
Looking back, maybe I should have pitched pug rooms to the folks on Sand Hill Road. Worse ideas than mine, at least in terms of revenue potential, were getting fat checks from venture capitalists (Webvan immediately springs to mind). Also, the internet loves pugs.
Eventually, the boom went bust, as booms tend to do. The economy was getting reamed by recession with 9/11 providing the donkey punch. My fantasy of striking it rich was too depressing to think about, even as a joke. As a result, I ditched the whole business angle and tried to turn the idea into a song. It seemed like a logical next step. I like both money and music. I’m just not very good at making either of them.
Unable to either play an instrument or sing, I stick to writing lyrics. For the melody, I usually steal some or all from another song as I’m incapable of coming up with my own. In this case, I borrowed the verse part from the Dictators’ “Stay with Me” and didn’t bother having a chorus.
The words to “Pug Room” live in one of the dozen or so spiral notebooks packed away in my closet. As songs go, it’s far from my best, perhaps a little better than “Two Flusher” though not nearly as good as “Apocalyptic Luv Phlegm.”
I think I was trying too hard. The last line “This pug room called Planet Earth” was not only a strained metaphor, it was nonsense. The world is not a pug room writ large. It might be a more entertaining place if it were. If you want to know what it means, or at least your version of it, you have to look within.
Fast forward to 2007, the year I decided to write a story about pug rooms. I had the premise, but no real story arc. No matter, I’d write what I had in my head so far. I’d think up some more later and write that. By making myself the main character and having the pug rooms run by the Russian mafia, I’d create enough narrative momentum to have an entire saga knocked out in no time.
I never made it beyond part two. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of more of the story to write. I just didn’t see the point in trying. It was bad, but it did have its moments. (You can check out parts one and two, and judge for yourself.) It wasn’t so awful that I was ashamed of it. Then again and as regular readers of my stuff will attest, I have no shame when it comes to my writing.
I blame cocaine, but only indirectly.
I was doing a lot of it at the time though never while I was doing any writing. I may have been shameless, but I wasn’t a complete idiot. I remember the 1980s and what cokehead scriptwriters did to movies and television. I would often sit in a bar and write until the fog of booze overtook me, but if blow entered the equation, my pen took the night off.
The coke proved to be more than a mere distraction. If a pug room symbolizes anything, it is how our desires can overtake us. If mine actually involved the attentive tongues of a pack of pugs, I would have been eager to churn out a toy-breed bodice ripper, sparing no detail. I might even, all in the name of research, created an IRL pug room, putting me on the SPCA’s most-wanted list.
Pugs and pug owners can rest easy. My thing is different. I like powerfully built women who want to hug the life out of me. It’s weird, but decidedly inside the realm of consenting adult humans. Maybe it found its way into my psyche during my late-tween, embryonic-lust phase when girls were bigger than boys. Who can say?
So now that you know the back story and have mentally substituted pug with She Hulk, I can continue with how my pug-room quest would play out.
Coke was pretty easy to get back then and I was probably on my dealers’ preferred-customer list because I was looking to buy at nine at night rather than at four in the morning. I didn’t have any regular drug buddies so I flew solo, doing a fat line in the restroom then returning to my barstool and ordering another Jameson on the rocks.
With no one to talk to, I was able to go quietly insane. I wanted to get crushed and thanks to the magic of cocaine, pursuing that goal seemed like a reasonable idea. At the time, men were off the table despite having greater upper-body strength. However, transwomen offered the best of both worlds. I remembered that line from the song “Lola.” “When she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine” was all the convincing I needed to hop on the 49 bus heading toward Divas, a pug room built for me.
Or so I thought. The thing about the world is that it doesn’t owe you anything no matter how much booze and coke you have in your system. Even in my drug addled state, I knew that my desires were mine alone. There were some working girls, normally in the business of giving blowjobs or handies, who might cater to my proclivities if the price were right. Alas, my discretionary budget was already blown on the drugs that brought me here in the first place.
I don’t know how many nights followed went bang to whimper like that. I’d catch a cab home and lie in bed, too high to sleep and too spent to do anything else but have a desultory wank. Orgasm, when it finally did arrive, would feel less like a climax than a confession beaten out of me.
I quit doing blow in the fall of that year. I don’t remember swearing it off. Eventually, I realized I’d quit because I hadn’t done it in a while. I still drank, but that alone was self-limiting and resulted in early evenings. Neither kind of pug room had a path to victory so I threw in the towel on both.