Labor of Lust

Homesick for Baltimore, a couple in Colorado decide to have sex for 101 straight days -- and write about it

July 01, 2008|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,SUN REPORTER

When Doug and Annie Brown were forced to leave the Baltimore area they had grown to love to look for work, the couple ended up downhearted in Denver - so much so that they were willing to do anything to put Charm City spark back in their lives.

"Let's have sex for 100 consecutive days," said Annie to Doug one night two years ago.

"What the hell, let's do it," Doug replied. "There's nothing else going on."

Eager to spice up their marriage of 14 years, the couple resorted to a personal, no-excuses course of Sex 101 (later tacking on an additional day).

Doug, who took a job as a reporter for the Denver Post, chronicled their sexcapades in a tell-all book, Just Do It . Since debuting last month, it has made the couple a hit on the daytime-talk circuit, with three appearances on NBC's Today show, two on Sirius satellite radio and a feature in the United Kingdom publication the Guardian. The book yesterday was ranked 73rd on Amazon.com's list of 100 hot new releases.

Many have become enamored of their story, as well as their perseverance. Even when staying on schedule became cumbersome and exhaustive because of the demands of work and caring for two young children, the Browns stuck with it, finding creative ways to keep their passion burning brightly - from romps in pricey hotels to risk-taking moments on unstable chairs or atop exercise balls.

And to think that one of the primary reasons for the sexperiment was their inability to find full-time work in the Baltimore area, prompting Doug, then a freelance writer whose articles were published in Baltimore Style and Washington Journalism Review, to pursue a job opening in Denver.

"It was so painful to leave that we wrote love letters to the house on the basement beams," said Doug, 41, a Philadelphia native.

The couple moved to Roland Avenue between Hampden and Roland Park from Washington's upmarket Glover Park neighborhood in 2000 after prices there were more than they could afford. Though neither knew much about the city before house-hunting, they fell in love immediately with its quirkiness, hidden charms, fiercely proud residents and their vast, reasonably priced Victorian townhouse that would have cost a fortune in D.C.

By then, the couple had lived in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Albuquerque and South Florida. Yet Baltimore for them had more appeal than the other locales.

"I miss my friends," said Annie, "and I miss the feel and the texture of the city - the smells and the grittiness and the realness."

The couple's home quickly became a social magnet, one of their friends in the area recalls. "They would have crab feasts in their backyard in the summer," said Jason Loviglio, director of media and communication studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "They had a backyard that they turned into a lovely garden, and Annie was involved in a mom's group that made pasta and sold it at the Waverly [32nd Street] Farmers' Market.

"One time, Doug purchased a deep-fryer, bought all this food, and invited friends over. We deep-fried everything - batter, Twinkies, Snickers, strawberries. They were great Baltimoreans and great hosts. For years they talked about how they could get back to Baltimore."

Change of plans

With Annie then at home with their infant daughter and Doug working for a trade publication called Interactive Week, the two planned to take root in the area. Then his magazine folded shortly after Sept. 11. Doug found freelance work, but ultimately, it wasn't enough to pay all the bills.

"It was so sad to leave Baltimore. We had the most eccentric neighbors," he said. "But when the magazine died, Annie was pregnant and we already had a 3-year-old. I was the sole source of income. Freelancing bought us two years in Baltimore, but at the end of the fourth year, I was getting kind of desperate."

The couple moved four years ago from their quirky Baltimore surroundings to Stapleton, Colo., near Denver International Airport. "The job was good and at least we had a cash flow again," Doug said. "But I just ached for Baltimore. For the first year and a half, there was an air of melancholy and wistfulness about us. I had left my family behind in Philadelphia and felt guilty about yanking my daughters away from their grandparents.

"We were just kind of bummed out when Annie handed me this idea, and I said that it might be kind of fun and put some spark back in our lives. Baltimore was the kind of place that generated its own spark. We wanted to see if we could do the same in what we began to call our sensory-deprivation chamber."

Just Do It is one of two recent books involving couples who chronicle their tries at daily intercourse. In 365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy, Charla Muller recounts having sex with her husband, Brad, each day for a year as a present for his 40th birthday.

Dr. Barton Goldsmith, psychotherapist and author of Emotional Fitness for Couples, pinned the release of such books perhaps to the nation's economic doldrums.

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