clairec_big.jpgThe Basics
Age and occupation. How long have you lived here, where did you come from, and where do you live now?
I am 39, and I co-own and help run Toys in Babeland, a sex-positive sex toys retailer. I came to New York 5 1/2 years ago from Seattle to open a store and I forgot to go back. I grew up in Wyoming (honest) and now live in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is the dreamiest place in the world to live, partially due to its proximity to Manhattan.

Threesome
1. Apparently cock rings are available in several different materials - rubber, aluminum, leather - are there any real differences?
You bet there are, and you'd know right away if you got stuck in an aluminum one. You'd ask yourself, why? Why didn't I buy rubber, or leather? Seriously, we recommend rubber and leather cock rings to beginners, so you can get out of them easily if you find yourself erect and unable to ejaculate and lose your erection. Aluminum cock rings are fun to use if you know the size you need and have some familiarity with how cock rings work.

2. I once saw a very involved harness contraption hanging from the ceiling in your store. How many of those do you sell and do you offer in-store product demos?
That product is a sling, and we sell more than you might think. You attach it to your ceiling, get in it or get your sex partner into it and Presto! Gravity becomes your friend. You can penetrate your partner and swing him or her on and off your penis or dildo, or tie your lover to it and torture him or her. You know, torture in a loving way.

3. This is an extremely wild generalization to make, but what city is more "adventurous" - New York or San Francisco?
More sexually adventurous? Choose your flavor - it's a toss-up. The west coast is known for its openness to experimentation, and all its sex stuff happens in the metaphorical sunlight, without shame. In that way it seems more sexually adventurous. The east coast is known for its respect for tradition and can feel a little stodgy, but New York has a long history of sex work and sex activism. As the nation's marketplace, it's got this great decadent, sexy undercurrent.

Proust-Krucoff Questionnaire
Please share a personal (and hopefully interesting) NYC taxi story.
A taxi driver helped me get laid once. I was visiting New York for a lesbian sex conference and I met a handsome Swiss academic who seemed unattached and ready to hook up. I flirted with her, but I was on the fence about going any further - I felt overwhelmed in this big scary city and by everything I'd seen and heard at the conference. Day turned to night, and my friends and I took one cab to the after party, and my Swiss Miss was in another. As I talked through my feelings with my friends, the cab driver was a silent witness, as cabbies usually are. I hemmed, I hawed, my friends listened and cajoled. Finally, the cab driver grumbled, "You only live once." And that did it. I had my first one-night stand.

What's your New York motto?
We're all in this together, so try to be nice.

Best celebrity sighting in New York, or personal experience with one if you're that type.
I sat next to Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson at a performance at BAM. I know that's not the rarest celebrity sighting in New York, but it was more meaningful to me than when I ran into Ethan Hawke (physically) or when I was pushed into Joaquin Phoenix. They are the people I would have chosen if some benevolent power had given me a choice. I felt like I was in the presence of culture-makers who affected my life. And like I was at the center of a universe that matters to me.

Describe that low, low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
Like a lot of other people, I thought about leaving New York after September 11th, 2001, not because I don't love New York, but because that kind of event makes you ask yourself just what matters the most in your life. I felt a strong pull to be nearer to my family, including a niece and nephew near L.A. Like most other people I didn't leave. Once the shock wore off, I decided that I'll leave when there's a nuclear attack here, or when the first suicide bomber blows him or herself up in a crowd. What a world.

Just how much do you really love New York?
New York is my girlfriend, that's how much I love New York. When I miss a train going home from work, and I have to wait in the subway, I don't feel frustrated or angry because it's not as if I am nowhere, I am in New York. I may not be home, but it doesn't matter because I'm in New York. That's how much I love it here. I believe New York is unique and necessary to the nation, and the USA will always be ok if New York is ok, even though it's different from the rest of the country, and kind of hated for the most part. New York will always have a civic life, and may be the keeper of that concept through the dark times ahead. New York is the best thing humans have ever made. I just really love New York.

If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
Drop August from the calendar. I can't stand it here in that wet heat. (So, now you know, I summer here.)


Photo: Toys in Babeland co-owners Claire Cavanah (L) and Rachel Venning (R). Credit: Debra St. John. Claire and Rachel are the authors of "the first full-color guide to gear for satisfying sex," Sex Toys 101.