Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My Dad Found My Playboys

Originally posted: August 7, 2006

My dad found my playboys… 20 years too late.

My dad found my Playboys… twenty years too late. Technically they weren’t mine. My neighbor Sean would steal the Playboys from his dad and sneak them into the second level of my garage. We formed a club called the “Playboy Club.” I know, I was always very creative. Originally, it was the “Bubble Yum Club,” and we would only chew grape flavored gum, a pack at a time. But we outgrew that club pretty quick and quicker because of comments from people like Ted who called us gay. This was back when everything was gay. And saying gay was acceptable. “You playing basketball today? No, what are you gay?” And Ted was pretty cool, by seventh grade he had already formed a band that played mostly Rush covers. The Bubble Yum Club was in Sean’s basement, but the Playboy Club had to be in a far more inaccessible place. And my garage had this second level that was not used by anybody. Mostly because you had to climb up a ladder backwards through a small hole. Easy to get in, impossible and scary to get out. But for naked chicks, it was worth it. A philosophy that would follow me my entire life.

“What the hell were you doing up there?,” I asked my dad, partly impressed he was even able to get up there. “The person who owned the house before us came over and wanted to look around,” he told me. This was a very religious family who put up a priest in a room in the attic. Which would explain why in strange crevices in hard to reach places, between exposed pink insulation, I would find crucifixes and pictures of Jesus Christ. I also remember finding books and old medicine bottles. It spooked this young boy. And I’m sure it spooked the previous owner to find the Playboys.

But it was nice to be reunited with my Playboys. An old friend, the gift of a memory. My dad handed me a stack and on the top was an issue with Steve Martin on the cover. I guess I was doing research.

I grew up in a small town outside of Boston that seems even smaller as I get older. Everyone knows everyone and you could leave the house without your wallet and cell phone and still be safe. Under the word “STOP”, on the one stop sign in my neighborhood, somebody scribbled “Bush.” At Halloween the farm down the street places pumpkins in the middle of a rotary and nobody smashes them. It shocks me every year. We don’t lock our doors. When the mailman came to the door the other hot day, my mom offered him water. When my dad noticed a neighbor’s plants looked in need of watering, he called to remind them and offered to do it if they were out of town. It’s a real community. Quiet. Respectful. Very few get out. Houses are passed down to the next generation. Change is slow. I did notice something new downtown-- huge planters obstructing a driver’s view if taking a left out of the depot onto the main street. “That’s not safe,” I thought, “Who approved that?” You have to inch out and basically cause an accident to go left.

So when my dad found the Playboys, we did what you do in a small town, we marched right over to Sean’s house to return them. Sean was shocked, but you could tell they jarred the same memories inside him. My dad tossed them down on the whicker patio table. Sean laughed, had a look of a man who committed a crime that was well beyond the statute of limitations and no longer punishable. Shaking his head he conceded, “Jim’s Playboys.” Jim is his dad. The one who sold him his house. Jim was a bit of mystery to all of us. A bearded man who hid inside his house. And only allowed Sean and I to play in certain parts of it. But when he was not there, we would go into his closet and steal Playboys. I asked him if he thought his father ever noticed, He said, “Jim noticed everything.” I said, “Oh, then let Jim know we’re done with these.”

Sean was quite a bit older than me. Even older than my older sister. He was my smut dealer. He was also the one who taught me how to swear. I saw him get hit by a car on his bike. He was about twice my size. We would socialize in the neighborhood, but he wouldn’t be caught dead talking to me in the center of town. I understood. What was even more shocking was the moment we realized the other night, that he was only three years older than me. But back then, it felt like decades. Now a three year difference is nothing, in fact I try to convince younger women that ten years is nothing.

My dad left and Sean and I caught up. I heard names I had not heard or thought of in years. I was curious to know if my town had produced any senators or congressmen, anybody making an impact on the world. But all the while, I kept looking at those Playboys, thinking the last time I saw them I was too young to understand them sexually. I knew having them was wrong, I think that is what I liked about them best. The ads in these old issues were hilarious. Way outdated electronics and Wrangler jeans. But one thing was constant—the women. It’s been that way since the first one blessed us with her presence on this planet. The landscape of the world is in a state of constant flux, but the power of women and their hold over men will never change.

Now, I have never been a Playboy reading type of guy. I like to look at women I have a chance at. It’s very intriguing what is attractive to certain men though. My sister got married yesterday and I found myself trying to understand what drew certain couples together. Some of these girls I have known their entire lives. And I can see how they are attractive, but I never looked at them in that way. But yet to another guy, this is the girl he wants to wake up next to for the rest of his life. Fascinating.

My one contention with family functions is having to explain my story over and over again to different people. It’s nice that they care, but it’s not an easy story to tell. I have finally outgrown the need to justify my occupation, thankfully. Sometimes I wish I had a boring job so I wouldn’t have to carry so many conversations.

I enjoyed catching up with my elementary school principal. Now, I had gone to a school aptly named “Adams School,” which shut down due to budgetary reasons when I was in third grade. But my last year at Adams was an interesting one. We had this teacher, who I should probably not name, who we drove absolutely insane. You could easily describe my class as obnoxious. We had a reputation for being the worst the town had ever seen. We outnumbered the teacher and we knew it. I spent more time in the hall than in the classroom. One day, after we sang these lyrics from “America” (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)-- “Land of the pilgrims' pride, from every mountainside let freedom ring!,” I grabbed the bell off the teacher’s desk, that she used to quiet the class, and rang that bell. Man did I ring that bell. And man did she lose it. It was great. I had desecrated the sanctity of that bell. “Out into the hall!,” she screamed. You mean I have to go sit in the hall instead of in the boring class learning, what a punishment? I had that system beat. Halfway through the year, she quit. We returned after winter break-- but she didn’t. And we celebrated because we won. We had driven her out. We still celebrate when reunited with old classmates. But I was always suspicious that there was more to the story. That maybe we weren’t all that bad. She seemed off. Even as a kid, you kind of pick up on certain signals, even if you don’t know what they mean, you know things just don’t seem to add up. And in this case I was correct. I asked my principal, “Remember Mrs. X, what really happened to her?” Sure enough, Mrs. X had a whole set of problems which may have included not wanting to hear loud bells when hung over.

As I bounced from conversation to conversation I ran into a good family friend who is a town selectman. I told Norman about those planters obstructing driver’s views. I told him you could probably pull them back ten feet and it’d be fine. He assured me he’d look into it first thing Monday morning. It’s 1pm on Monday now, and I’m sure if I went downtown I would see a bunch of people dragging those dangerous planters back ten feet. How lucky these people are to live in a real community.

The day was nice. My sister got married. I gave a toast. I realized something when I was writing that toast. I realized that with all my successes and all my failures (I wanted to say a shitload of failures. But it was inappropriate, so I do this thing were I say the word in my head, but not out loud. And hopefully the audience can sense it.) I realized, all you need is love. The Beatles were right. A partner in crime. Someone to agree with you. When people ask me what I am looking for, I tell them a woman that hates the same things as me. I don’t want to hear, “Maybe you’re overreacting.”

My sister married a real sports fanatic. And we grew up in a family that only used the sports section to start a fire in the fireplace. But they say opposites attract. They met on a blind date. And the probabilities of that working are astronomically low. In fact, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning holding a winning lottery ticket than finding a mate on a blind date. And I’m not even going to tell you what the probability is of having a successful blind date the same year the Red Sox won the world series.

I got home from the wedding and I knew exactly what I needed to do—go up in that attack into some strange crevice and find that bell Mrs. X never came back to claim.

© Copyright Orny Adams, Icrushed Productions 2006

1 comment:

mj said...

Of course you don't need to justify your situation to your family cuz you've ended up successful.

Isn't it easier to meet someone once you're successful/well-known/famous?

Also: could you write something about overcoming failure? You said you've had a lot, but how did you overcome it?