Today, we venture into Erotica. One, because I will be leaving Providence soon and have always wanted to check this place out. Two, I take my promise to feature only the world’s quirkiest people as seriously as I take pinky swears. Anyway, what better place to ask what makes people happy?
I approached the front door and immediately took refuge in the store’s tagline: “Mister Sister: more toys than the Devil has sinners”.
The inside of the shop was bursting with wall-to-wall furs, flavors, and flashing– okay, I’ll spare you. Luckily, I’d brought an accomplice to do the whole browsing act for me, so I was free to spurt out a stream of senior-year soul-searching woes or whatever would convince someone to talk with me. I found my subject immediately. He sat behind the front desk unpacking a shipment of condoms and sporting a t-shirt that proclaimed he was “feelin’ lucky”. The phone rang.
Clever. I liked the place already.
After an awkward exchange or two, I delivered the question.
“What makes me happy?” he grinned, shyly. “Well, uh, It’s kind of a geeky answer– I’d have to say I’m most content when fiddling with the plants in my tanks. You know, fish tanks.”
I guess working in an erotica store inevitably leads one to say something like “fiddling with plants” in earnest and with little thought to sexual undertones. On the contrary, this 29-year old was straight-faced when it came to plants. He’s a “master gardener” who recently transitioned from the traditional gardening your mom thinks of to the wetter side of plant life.
Over the past few years, he’s acquired over 50 different species of fish in over 100 inches of tank space around his apartment. But it’s the plants–not the fish– that get him excited. While watching extensive footage (facebook videos) of the colorful plant kingdom he’s created in his tanks, I could see why he claimed “fiddling with plants” is the answer to satisfying his inner science geek.
He seemed to love to have the opportunity to share his quirky hobby with me, and stood wide-eyed as he described why one plant species can have completely different characteristics when grown underwater as opposed to on land. He mentioned the Subwassertang plant as an example, which I initially just noted for its cool name before returning home to discover a series of online plant forums with titles like “Do you Subwassertang?”. If you’re interested in this stuff, here’s what one Subwassertang fan posted:
What is interesting about this plant is that it is really not an aquatic plant at all, or even a full grown plant! Some terrestrial plants have different growth forms, like a catterpillar and butterfly. This growth form is called a gametophyte. It usually has both a male and female organ that combine to reproduce the next growth form of the fern, but for an unknown reason this Gametophyte that has been cultivated for the aquarium is missing the female sex organs, and as a result will never transform to the next growth stage and never become a fern. It is stuck forever looking like this, and it grows like crazy underwater! It was first brought to Germany and given the name Subwassertang, which means freshwater seaweed.
After today, I realized there’s no way to predict what makes people happy– after all, the cashier of Mister Sister‘s Erotica is obsessed with Subwassertangs. I don’t know about you, but I’m pumped to meet interviewee #3.