SFR welcomes columnist Dani Katz, a former denizen of Los Angeles whose bid to take the Southwest by storm includes a recent residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute and a current stint at the Helen Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, where she is “putting the finishing touches on her big, fat bestseller-to-be, Love in a Time of Chemtrails.”
My introduction to Santa Fe’s own kicky brand of conservative intolerance came innocently enough while thrift-store shopping with my boyfriend, Ross. We went to the Goodwill on Cerrillos Road in search of an 8 1/2-by-11 inch frame—preferably wood, inclusive of a crack-free pane of glass and not entirely smeared with rote secondhand-shop goo of questionable origin. It took me less than two minutes to find the frame and another hour to dig for treasures I didn’t yet know I couldn’t live without.
We were poring through the crammed mixed-media section—books, DVDs and the odd airbrushed unicorn print—when, at the very same moment, we spotted it. We inhaled in harmonious sync, reaching for the unexpected holy grail that was a six-CD, seven-hour audio intensive offering instruction on "the art of engaged love": David Deida's Enlightened Sex.
Deida, for the uninitiated, is "one of the most insightful and provocative spiritual teachers of our time," at least according to whoever wrote his web copy. Having read a handful of his books, including The Way of the Superior Man and Intimate Communion: Awakening Your Sexual Essence, I happen to agree.
Ross and I had been dating for a couple of months, which is to say that sex was still a dazzling new frontier, teeming with the multi-sensorial delight of smell and curve and taste and touch and sweet spots yet undiscovered.
Nevertheless, we were interested in deepening our connection and expanding our shared experience of pleasure. We peered inside the case to find six hand-burned discs—which was fine by me, as long as their listening would carry us to the ecstatic sexual peaks Deida promised.
We scurried to the counter, tickled by our good fortune. The cashier blushed while examining the box and then excused herself. She returned from the other side of an "employees only" door empty-handed and informed us that she wasn't able to sell us the discs.
"Great," I chirped, thrilled to be gifted seven hours of sexual wisdom for free. "We'll just take 'em."
But she wasn't any more willing to give them to us than she was to sell them to us and, because of their "sexual nature," had added them to a back office pile where they were slated to be thrown away. (Marketing Manager Ryan Stark confirms that Goodwill does not sell, and in fact destroys, material containing sexual content.)
She wouldn't take our money—nor give us the goods she claimed Goodwill didn't want in the store—and was instead choosing to deprive the organization of its profit while withholding the audio series the two consenting adults standing in front of her were excited to acquire, inexplicably preferring to throw them in the trash.
Had we unknowingly slipped through a wayward wormhole and time-traveled back to the Dark Ages? Since when was trashing a parcel of information—the educational kind, at that—preferable to sharing it? And who was the cashier to get all holier-than-all-of-us and decide what was or wasn't appropriate material for me to engage?
Having tied myself into a cluster of knots trying to wrap my mind around the incident, I donned my journalist hat and set out to wrangle some answers.
A phone call later, I was talking to Marty, the store manager, who told me it was company policy to not sell "anything sexually related."
"We're a nonprofit organization," she explained. "We have our core values." While Marty listed those aforementioned core values as "integrity…accountability and…um…," the Goodwill Industries' mission statement delineates them as "respect," "stewardship," "ethics," "learning" and "innovation." I wasn't inspired to dither, but I was inspired to determine how an instructional audio series that teaches couples how to connect more deeply and enjoy broader vistas of ever-more-satisfying, transcendent lovemaking breaches either of the "core values" Marty mentioned.
When pressed, it seemed Marty wasn't too clear, either.
"We're a family-based organization," she said testily, patently forgetting that sex is where families come from.
We're all doing it, regardless of what God we pray to, or which (reductive, divisive) political party we identify with, so doesn't it make sense for us to learn how to do it better—to excel at it? In fact, to engage a course of study with the intention of gleaning new and improved ways to erotically relate is precisely aligned with Goodwill's stated core values, specifically "learning" and "innovation."
"Sexually related items are the only things we destroy," Marty explained, as though demolishing books and audio discs was a perfectly reasonable policy. The rule bodes well for folks in the market for weapons, racist propaganda and errant drums of asbestos because, according to Marty, it's only the sexual stuff for which they have no tolerance, "whether they're spiritual or cult-like or whatever."
I'm not sure how we got onto the topic of cults but, given the ritualized book burnings I was envisioning at rollicking after-hours, employees-only bonfires, it (sort of) made sense, and I wondered: Did we learn nothing from Footloose?