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C’est Unique–Me, Monique, and The Big Box of Playboys

I received a link to the official Playboy website recently, where it seemd Bunny Nation has uploaded its entire history, every last word, every last airbrushed nipple, every last cheeseball article on how to be a sophisticated man.

The answer is yes, I followed the link–right to a number of well written articles, including a rather predictable story about returning the Long Island Ice Tea to it’s 1970s mastery, as well as great short stories by David Foster Wallace and Chuck Palaniuk.  There was some cheesecake, too, but I found it interesting–and indicative of our times–that Playboy is using literature and journalist to market it’s new all-access membership.  And it’s tempting, too, but explaining why requires a story:

The first time I ever saw a non-maternal breast it was within the pages of Playboy Magazine, provided generously by a new kid in town, Mike LeBlanc, sometime around eagpg8odncqfdocpthird grade. I thought to myself: hey, that’s not bad.  If the opportunity presents itself, I would be open to the idea of inspecting similar subject matter again.  Fate, it would seem, was on my side. New editions of Playboy magazine would appear at roughly one-month intervals, as if by magic, between the mattress and box spring of Mike’s parents’ bed. Thank you, Mr. LeBlanc–and thank you, also, to Former Miss Norway Ingeborg Sorensen. I owe you both an incalculable debt of gratitude for the richness you unknowingly contributed to my youth.

A few years later, Mike moved away, and my source for inappropriate “lite-core” mens’ entertainment went with him, along with my main source of camaraderie. We’d grown to be best friends, to the detriment of my other relationships, and the summer after sixth grade was brutally lonely.

I actually found a photo of the exact same bike--mine had a seat.
I actually found a photo of the exact same bike–mine had a seat.

Fortunately, I was twelve and the owner of a sweet Sears Free Spirit 12-speed bicycle–top of the line–for which I had saved and saved until I had the $89 necessary.  For a department store bike, it was pretty nice–it’s 27″ size was perfect for my rapidly growing body–I would be 6’1 and 190 by the end of seventh grade. I rode that bike all over the county, sometimes 40 or 50 miles a day. My mother, to this day, has no idea that I roamed so far, but it was always the same: bored, I’d ride and ride and find myself in some town 15 or 20 miles from home, and say “Oh, shit.”

Aimless wandering around town was also a viable way to kill a day. It was on one of these adventures that I stopped at a yard sale, looking for “cool stuff” and maybe some comic books (I bought a copy of Fantastic Four #48–now worth about $400–for a nickel about the same time, and threw it away after reading it–doh!).

They had nothing good at this sale, except–a 10″x12″x24″ box of old Playboy magazines from the 1970s that was listed at $1.  I had fifty cents in my pocket, but the lady cut me a deal: 45 cents for the box, since she didn’t want to take my last nickel.

Now, I have to ask: who sells 4 or 5 dozen playboys to a kid on a bicycle for what was then the price of soda?. Answer: Mrs. Anderson of Oakland Avenue.  She wanted rid of those things. Badly.  I was only too willing to lug that box home–it must have weighed 25 pounds–4 miles on my bicycle, and hide it away in my closet.

eahxc9r7d014e4hdYears later, I spent a winter at my mother’s house taking care of her after an illness, and found the box in a closet full of my abandoned junk, and decided to steal a peek at my old childhood sweetheart, Monique St. Pierre. This was before the internet, let me remind you–1991. I opened the box, found Monique, smiled a little but shrugged too–you know, once you’ve got to the place in life where real naked women are readily available, perspective changes. At least it had for me.

I found myself, surprised though it made me, fascinated by the articles and interviews, none of which I’d ever looked at as a pimply pubescent–and I digested the box, top to bottom, glossing over the airbrushed glamor porn for the substantive journalism.

It was only later that I enjoyed a good laugh at myself–I’d devoted not hours but days to reading Playboy…for the articles. Afterward: when my mother recuperated enough to take care of herself, as prepared to depart, I hefted all those old magazines to a used book store and sold the entire box for $100 bucks–except for the carefully removed centerfold of ol’ Monique, which is still pressed neatly inside the cover of a large format picture book of renaissance artwork. Seemed fitting.

tumblr_mh7lqhVFkB1r0jp08o1_1280As for Monique, she became Playmate of the Year in whatever year that was–1979, I think, but I’m not going back to look.  Not only that, she’s become one of the legendary models of Playboy history.  They even made a statue.

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Narrative/Journal

Winter Photos: Safety First

Safety First

I figured that it was time to start posting some cool “found” winter pictures, the way I do for summer.  The thing is, it is not nearly as easy to find fun, photos of winter–it’s a more serious season, in many ways.  Google “winter” and you get a lot of landscapes and snowy foliage, as opposed to the surfing and bikini babes a ‘”summer” search turns up.  Nevertheless, I found a few.

The image above reminds me , however obliquely, of my own The elementary school days.  My school was at the top of a hill–not a precipitous slope by any means, but in winter before the age of kneejerk school cancellations, and during the heyday of large, rear-wheel drive american cars, there was no shortage of tire-spinning mechanized behemoths churning halfway up the street before surrendering to gravity and backing their way back down the hill.

My children today fixate on the possibility of delayed schedules the moment word reaches Mercthem of even a single flake, but back in the day snow meant getting ready and going to school a half hour, maybe even forty minutes early, in order to join the daily round of “smear the queer” (yes, I know how that sounds, but I guarantee that not once of us ever gave pause to consider sexual orientation and, in fact, in this game “the queer” was generally the role of the bravest, boldest, and most athletic of the lot of us) which wasn’t as bad as it sounds: in short, one kid has the ball and he runs like hell while all the other kids try to get it from him.  We played in snow over asphalt.  There was often blood.  It was wonderful–we all wanted to be the queer.

Even better, however, was when twenty or thirty of us would be busy beating the living tar out of each other and a car would start spinning tires on the slick hill, and we would run out into the street, en masse, and push it up the hill, laughing and shouting, erupting into a boisterous cheer.

Can you imagine that happening today.  I’d be terrified of the liability issues if a horde of children surrounded my car on a slippery hill.  Eventually, a driver called the school to complain and the principal herded a bunch of us into the school library and proceeded to shout and foam at the mouth along the way towards banning that tradition.  He stopped “smear the queer,” too, just because he could.

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National Poetry Month: Whitman Weekend & Boys’ Night Out

I get a kick out of thinking of wild-minded Walt Whitman and the decidedly staid Emily Dickinson as something between Adam and Eve and a prism.  There was American poetry before, and American poetry after the pair–but almost everything before led to them and everything after sprung from them, through them, and what didn’t was still illuminated by their refracted light.  I imagine some sort of cultural birth story–Walt Whitman as father figure, consuming all the verse from history before him, processing it into a seed, then planting it deep in the womb of Dickinson, the “Virgin Belle of Amherst”–it’s conveniently very Christ-like, when one thinks of it.

Some of my favorite memories include a series of nights, back in the way back, when I worked for several summers in Grand Teton National Park.  It was a rather transitional time for me, arriving in Wyoming on the heels of a few dark years, embarrassingly sullen and depressed and emerging a few years later a completely different person, rippling with joy, affection, gratitude and an enthusiastic optimism which must have, to those who followed me through, seemed both cloying and redundant, certainly worth a good bit of head-shaking and eye-rolling.  It’s an odd process, having to learn to be happy.

But I digress.  Among the many great people who charitably shared their friendship with me–a few of whom stop by this blog now and again–were a great bunch of guys who shared my affinity for both playground basketball and poetry, two of the closest things to religion I’ve had in my life.  You guys know who you are. One evening, after beating the crap out of each other at a parking lot hoop, we went looking for some trouble only to hear from our friend Kim that a bunch of girls were going into town, but we weren’t welcome.  “It’s a girl’s night out, sorry” she drawled, in the sweetest Carolina voice I’d ever heard.

Chuck Wagon,
Chuck Wagon,

We were immediately indignant, but undeterred.  We’d have ourselves a “boys night out” and, girls be damned, we’d have a hell of a time.  We wasted no time loading up the back of my old station wagon with firewood, sleeping bags, a bounty of cheap canned beer (Busch?  Keystone? shiver at the thought), and some books and rolled out to a favorite camping spot near “the Buddha stump” on Pacific Creek–an improbably big cut stump in a wash at the edge of about 8 million acres of wilderness.  Our goal: build a big-ass “white man’s fire*,” drink beer, and talk shit on the wimmin who’d abandoned us.

Old Scans_322
Jeff sitting on the Buddha Stump, Pacific Creek campsite, 1990

We stoked a blaze, flipped some pop-tops, and got onto the disrespecting women, at which point, to our great consternation, our failure was evident–it quickly became obvious that we loved women, possibly more than we loved ourselves, missed them, had nothing at all bad to say about them, and quite frankly wished that we had some with us** right at that moment.

Talk about depressing.

But we moved on to the poetry, and quickly discovered that we shared an appreciation for Mr. Whitman, who quickly became Poet Laureate of Boy’s Night Out–an irony we appreciated only many years later.  We read, drank, and bullshitted deep into the night before, too tired and too drunk to continue, we fell asleep in the dusty soil around the fire–taking time to all piss on it, surrounded by fresh, empty, scattered beer cans in the heart of Grizzly country.  Genius.

images66The Boys Night Out theme was repeated, with various personnel added to the core, several times–though probably not as many, or as often, as my memories encourage me to believe.  When Steve got married (to one of those women who went to town without us on that fateful night), his local stag party was Boys Night Out Writ Large–though I didn’t sleep in the dirt, but in the cab of Jeff’s truck, having spilled beer down my shirt and become paranoid about being bear bait.

Of all the electric verse we quoted on those nights, I can’t help (owing to my supreme, juvenile nature, I’m sure) thinking of this one first–in which the overtly gay Whitman, who vacillated between denying his sexuality one day and playing coy about it the next, overcompensates his testament to heterosexuality just a little too obviously, not to mention humorously.

Leaves of Grass 106. To a Common Prostitute

BE composed—be at ease with me—I am Walt Whitman, liberal and lusty as Nature;
Not till the sun excludes you, do I exclude you;
Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you, and the leaves to rustle for you, do my words refuse to glisten and rustle for you.

My girl, I appoint with you an appointment—and I charge you that you make preparation to be worthy to meet me,
And I charge you that you be patient and perfect till I come.

Till then, I salute you with a significant look, that you do not forget me.

____________________________________

*from the line in that year’s hit movie Dances With Wolves, “only a white man would build such a big fire.”
**the happily married 47-year old me smiles at the idea of being unable to summon up words to whine about women–ah, to be young and single…actually, no thanks.