Pure imagination is the fuel of little kids, especially up to the age of twelve. Their minds provide all the stimulation needed to create entire universes of fantasy. But something happens around twelve years of age, some slowing-down of the imagination apparatus. Perhaps life has shown itself to them sufficiently that they’re becoming a little cynical, a little more knowledgeable about the world around them. That’s when they need some supporting materials to help kick the fantasies back to life; some have sports, some read books or watch movies. Some draw, some make little plastic models.
Playboy magazine was the fuel for our particular little band of perverts.
We, the boys of Woodland Avenue, had grown up together, played together, had sleepovers at each other’s houses, gone to grade school together. We were together through thick and thin, we had each other’s backs and we shared all our secrets. One of those secrets, the one that garnered the most attention amongst our troop and was the most closely-kept, was our discovery of porn.
I have to take the blame for this one. My brother Mickey had kept a stash of Playboys in the bottom of his shop-cabinet in the basement. Being an electronics technician and a short-wave radio enthusiast he had accumulated an impressive amount of gear and stored it all in an old wooden wardrobe cabinet in the shop. I hung out with him on occasion, especially when he was operating his ham radio, and I would marvel at how we could listen to the BBC News or listen on commercial marine traffic. He would have a 25-watt lamp on the desk, but other than that the room would be dark save for the lighted dials on the big Hammerlund shortwave rig.
But when Mickey was out working overtime at his job at the sugar refinery on a Saturday was the time I would sneak into the shop, check to make sure no one was looking, then open the cabinet and go right for the Mother Lode: the stack of Playboys on the bottom-right shelf.
See, up until recently girls to me were merely carriers of cooties. For some reason that all changed when Donna Raguso started developing a pair of small bumps on her chest.
Oh, who am I kidding? Small bumps? Donna had a healthy Italian ancestry, and that meant she was primed at birth to be particularly well-endowed. It wasn’t until those bumps started expanding in 1970 that I took any notice at all of her or her female friends.
But when it happened, it was spectacular. It was like one of those time-lapse National Geographic films that focus on the growth of a flower from seed to full maturity: Donna was an exquisite flower blooming before my transfixed eyes.
What was until now a humble little seed (or pair of seeds, I guess) was now a giant sunflower, its face turned toward the sun and its petals extended.
I already knew about the face, but those petals! Ishkabibble!
The only problem was that, although she invited me over after school every day to watch Love American Style with her in her bedroom (door open) and as a result, we were an “item” in sixth grade, we still weren’t ready to go much beyond a few kisses and a couple of awkward gropes. I knew that I had some work ahead of me: I would have to learn more about the female anatomy in order to be ready for The Big Day.
Hence, the Playboy magazines.
I could fall back on the age-old justification of looking at them for the stories, but the stories were the furthest thing from my mind when presented with those nubile, glossy young ladies. I envisioned Donna’s face on those college-aged bodies when I looked at the magazines, and the results were amazing – I got hot flashes and odd stirrings in places I’d never had odd stirrings before.
So it was that on a warm spring Saturday (another Saturday!) in May my best friend Michael Salerno came over for our morning slot-car race and bullshit session. I told him that my brother had gotten a new issue of Playboy and he immediately begged to see it. I told him we had to be careful since my Mom was often up and down the basement stairs on a Saturday, and when he agreed we snuck into the workshop like little elf-thieves to see the wonders of Miss June (of course, the issues were printed a month in advance).
We opened the cabinet and lo and behold, on the very top of the stack of smut sat Miss June in almost all of her glory. We sat down Indian-style on the linoleum floor and started satisfying our juvie lusts.
Mom yelled down “It’s a beautiful day out there – why don’t you guys go outside and play for a while?”
MOM! She always had that mother’s instinct of exactly when to interrupt a fun time.
I called up “Okay!”, and as we quickly started putting the porn back in place an idea struck us simultaneously – let’s take the magazine out to the shed with us! In fact, let’s take a BUNCH of them out!
Dad had gone to work early that morning, but I recall that he said he’d be back around lunchtime. It was now 11am, so I knew we had to be quick. We grabbed a bunch of issues, stuffed them under our shirts and innocently sauntered out to “the shed”, our make-shift clubhouse, fort and parachuting base.
Miss June and Miss May
I made a quick run inside to scrounge up some snacks and sodas, then returned to the clubhouse. We started off leafing through the issues, munching our snacks and sipping our sodas and discussing the relative merits of Miss June over Miss May, and how Miss October’s nipples were kind of weird-looking, and how we’d like to “do it” to Miss January (although at this point in our lives we weren’t totally sure what “doing it” entailed – oh, we had a rough idea but nothing comprehensive).
Dad’s truck pulled up in the driveway and Mom called us both in for lunch. In those days it wasn’t unusual for a mom to both MAKE a lunch instead of buying it and to feed your best buddy while he was at your house. It might just be hot dogs or mac-and-cheese or our favorite, peanut butter and jelly, but whatever it was it always gave us the energy needed to run faster, jump higher and scan more porn.
Before we left the shed we had an epiphany: we couldn’t leave the magazines on the floor of the shed. What would happen if Dad decided to do some early-season landscaping and walked into the shed to grab the lawnmower? We tried hiding the mags under various boxes and bags, but there always remained the chance of their discovery.
The Shed Roof
Then I had a brainstorm: hide them up on the shed roof! No one would look up there since only Michael and I had the ability to climb up there. We quickly stashed the magazines on the roof and, congratulating ourselves on our cleverness, went in for lunch.
We devoured the lunch in record time, but before we could head back outside Mom made the Pronouncement of Death – Michael had to go home because we were going food shopping at the A&P.
Our plans dashed but our bellies full, we didn’t quite realize the precarious position we had put ourselves into. What if it rained? Mickey would surely miss several issues of Playboy. But boys being boys, with the attention spans of goldfish with ADHD, we totally forgot about the porn and went our separate ways.
Just before we left Dad was futzing about in the yard with a large metal rake. Mom and I were waiting in the car in the driveway, and Dad finally finished his work and came down to the car. One look made me turn white with fear: he was carrying the stash of Playboys!
The Big Reveal
“Now how did THESE get up on the shed’s roof?” he asked, a rhetorical question if ever I heard one. Mom’s face turned a bright shade of red as she turned in the front seat to give me “The Eye”. Dad was chuckling in the background as I tried to shrink into the mohair upholstery.
It turns out that our crime was discovered not by being ratted out by the neighborhood snitch, nor by a low-orbit observation satellite, but by the simple expedient of the wind blowing. It had started turning the pages, which had caught my Dad’s eye and caused him to pull the porn down with the rake.
I received a long, thorough talking-to by Mom which lasted most of the way to the A&P, picked up again in the Dairy aisle and lasted until the checkout line. Dad just grinned.
The moral of the story? I guess it would have to be never to stash your porn where it’s likely to get blown.