Got into a long-and-drawn-out exchange with someone last week. The discussion concerned webcams, streaming live, and how a regular person can realistically expect to stream 3 cameras and an audio stream all at once, 24/7/365.

The 24/7/365 goal is gluttonous and bad manners unless one either ponies up money for extreme bandwidth and computer processing power, or else spends money to delegate the streams out to other sources via a single conduit, or proxy, or whatever the macho technical term.

Here is how my last 12-hour stream of three cameras and my Piano Practice Room Radio looked and sounded. Not gonna lie, I kinda like it.

Am I really the only individual in Astoria, or even Western Queens, who has a personal webcam at all? Most webcams I find nowadays are professional, or else government-run traffic cams.

I don’t know what to make of those Axis cams, which are meant as security/surveillance cameras and not necessarily intended for public view. Three said to be in Long Island City (at the moment I write this) all appear to be of the same property, indoors, and not an attempt to be atmospheric or scenic. That might make them more interesting than I think, given my ability to stare at a ceiling and find plenty of adventure.

But that’s not what I mean when I say personal webcam. That’s when someone deliberately invites you in to some facet of their world with a hope of engaging interpersonally with spectators or else simply enriching the lives of passers’ by with a little slice of reality mixed with exhibitionism.

I’ve been naked on the internet for hundreds of hours over the last 25 years. I feel genuine, clean, and honest in that state. But I still do it in ways that make it impossible to know who those cock and balls belong to, and where to find them.

I’d feel happiest if I could be a full bore exhibitionist, but only if I could somehow feel safe being that way. Safe and secure from those who see a naked man and think it must be common, lowest common denominator pornography.

Before the graphical internet I spent hours naked on Aline, the tawdry/not-so-tawdry chat room echoed from France. Aline was such great fun, and I’m sorry I lost track of the woman in Belgium, who had said she was moving to New York but I, in 20-something recalcitrance against all things that would be good for me in life, rebuffed her, same as I’d done to most of the girls who came after me in grade school and high school.

I know not if the Belgian woman ever made it here.

When the graphical internet came along and I heard about CuSeeMe I made a beeline to that shit. I did not want to miss one hot second of whatever streaming entertainment was to trickle through my 14.4k modem.

Actually I don’t think it was called “streaming” yet. Different protocol. On that count I’ve always been amazed how the word “streaming” has become such a fixture in the vernacular of entertainment. Do most people even know what that means? Streaming versus stateless http?

My love affair with CuSeeMe never waned, until its virtual obsolescence. My only caveat concerned all the cocks that kept showing up. Either it wasn’t like that at first or I just wasn’t finding those reflectors, but at some point I started finding reflectors with 8 or 9 windows, a virtual glut of bandwidth to be poured through the narrow funnel of a dialup modem.

One night I landed on one such reflector, filled to the maximum of nine attendees upon my arrival.

I thought I’ll go to the kitchen and make some dinner while all these cameras download.

I came back to the computer and found a wall of cocks. Nothing but 8 dudes jerking off and I, unwittingly, the sole spectator.

I would get a laugh out of it today but at the time I thought there had to be channels like this of all women masturbating. Right?

Nothing doing. I found nothing like that until, among my favorite websites ever. It was not because there were women there showing their boobs and demonstrating how they used their vibrators. It’s not that some of them posted sequential still shots, in real time, of the sex they were having with their boyfriend(s) as the likes of I watched on, salivating and masturbating furiously in anticipation of the next nearly-live image.

All that was entertaining and righteous but what kept me glued to camwhores was the joy, and the innocence I would not come to appreciate until that site was gone. I loved the low-key, genuine honesty of the place. It had its damaged individuals, but even in that respect I loved it for how it came along before the internet and online sex got completely commercialized, commoditized, and industrialized. Today I doubt I could find a single exhibitionist I could trust.

I could go on with these reminiscence but I need to WALK. I’m trying hard to stay off liquor, and I just took a couple of pills that could cause serious damage if I do drink, which is every reason, unquestionable, not to drink. Knowing I will not touch the stuff can still drive me crazy, though, can it not?

I walk with a passion. It keeps me alive.

Here is the earliest webcam image I have, from 1995, when I had CuSeeMe set up on the T1 at my first Time & Life Building office. 17 sizzling frames per second.