Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Getting Here: Part III On the Obverse

 When I graduated from high school most people considered me a "good" person. After all, how could I not be, I was President of the Methodist Youth Fellowship. I was not a troublemaker in school. By high school I was popular among my classmates. I was considered smart, funny and only a little weird, I mean, I wrote poetry for Pete's sake. Girlfriends' mothers liked me, sometimes the mother liked me even better than the daughter.

By worldly standards, and what people saw, I supposed I was "good". I was shy and quiet around people. I had worked since in grade school and had a great work ethic. I did anything I could to earn some spending money. When real young I would run to the neighborhood store to pick up milk or bread for people. They might tell me to buy some penny candy for myself. By third grade I was mowing lawns and washing cars around the neighborhood. I cleaned garages and sheds. I washed celery for a greengrocer. I had a paper route. When we left town in my mid teens, I worked on farms in the summer picking crops. I shoveled parking lots of snow in the winter. I worked loading baskets of produce on trucks in Amish country. I hung samples of cleansers on doorknobs. I even babysat.  In other words I wasn't a bum.

I was clean cut, didn't drink, didn't smoke and didn't cuss, which is the me they saw.

But I had a darker side they didn't see. When I was junior high age I was a very trouble youth. My father was on the road so much it was almost as if I was the son of a single mother. When dad came home I was shuttled off to the grandparents. This was fine with me because I both feared and resented my father. I resented him because I had mom wrapped around my little finger when he was gone, but he got all her attention when he came home. I feared him because he was always belittling me, calling me Gertrude or threatening to take me up on a tower because I was afraid of heights or throw me in the deep water because I couldn't swim. "You'll either learn to swim or sink," he'd say.

At school I was constantly dodging bullies or being taunted. I had a few close friends, as I've explained before, but a lot of time I simply withdrew into myself. I read and I wrote, which were healthly outlets, but as I turned thirteen some of my pursuits were less pure.

I had always liked girls. I had friends that were girls and there were girls I had crushes on, but I didn't really know anything about S-E-X. This was the 'fifties and sex was a hush-hush subject around children. When I reached thirteen there was a strange tingling my body experienced around a girl. I also noticed their bodies were looking less like my own. My own  body was changing in strange ways, too. Somethings that happened scared me to death. I thought there was something wrong with me. Nobody had prepared me for these things.

My curiosity about how the girls might be different from me physically was growing stronger. I really wanted to see a naked girl, but how?

Now I was always an honest person. Even as a young boy I would tell a cashier if they gave me too much change. I went to a restaurant after school with some of my friends one day. For some reason the waitress gave everyone a check except me and I left without paying anything. The next day I went back and told the manager what happened, what I had eaten and paid for it. But now with this new desire I found myself with a moral dilemma.

In the local newsstand was a section of magazine and a sign, "Not for sale to anyone under 21". It those days you were not an adult until twenty-one years old. These were "Men's Magazine" and I thought they probably had pictures of naked girls inside (I was actually wrong about this. It those days the pinups were never shown naked. The "naughty bits" as Monty Python called them, were always hidden.) However, I wasn't old enough to buy these magazines. So I glanced around, grabbed a couple at random, stuffed them in my shirt and walked out.

This thievery continued for quite some time. When I had my paper route I would stuff the magazines down in the papers until I reached some private section along the route, then fish them out and look at the pictures. I am not certain what I did with them afterward. I wasn't keeping them at home for fear they would be found. I think I was dropping them in trash cans along my bike route or tossing them away back in the woods.

One day I put three such magazines under my clothes and turned around to leave. The owner of the stand was standing at the counter and he motioned to me. He pointed at my shirt and I put the incriminating evidence down on the counter. He then told me where he was going to put the magazines if he ever caught me stealing again. They would be in a very uncomfortible place where I certainly couldn't read them.  I never stole another thing after that day.

I went home scared to death of what would happen when he called my parents, which is what I expected he would do. I awoke every day for a month waiting for this, but nothing happened. I guess he let it drop with his warning. I didn't go in that newsstand anymore, though.

There was another instance that happened around that time that could have been more serious. I had expected what I did would have gone unnoticed, but the week after at school I was called to the principal's office. When I walked in there was a policeman with the principal. He confronted me and told me I could go to reform school for what I did. This time I spent sleepless nights not only fearing what my parents would do, but also expecting the authorities to haul me off to jail at any time.

Again nothing else happened. Of course, I also didn't do what I had done again either.

Since my crime spree ended I was doing without these magazines; however, I didn't go without for long. A man opened a stall at the nearby farmer's market. He sold paperback books and magazines. His stock was probably illegal. The covers had a portion cut off. I didn't know what that meant until years later when I worked in the publishing industry. These publications were return stock and should have been destroyed. The clipped covers singled they were not for resale.  I didn't know that then, but it wouldn't have mattered. I was interested in the curtain that divided his stall.

I peeked in through a break in the curtain and here were all these "special" magazines and a sign, "Adults Only Admitted". As I stood with one leg slightly across the line I heard a voice behind me. It was the stall owner.

"Interested, eh, kid?"

I expected another threatening warning, but instead the guy says, "I can see you ain't 21 (I wasn't even old enough to drive yet), but you look like a good kid; the kind of kid that wouldn't say anything to anyone." He sold me some of those magazines...every week there after.

They were even more reveling than those I had hooked from the newsstand. They were published in Sweden, even though the text, what there was, was in English. They had titles like, "Artist and Models" and claimed to be for the study of figure art. I hid them in a cubby high up in my bedroom closet. These were the magazines I wanted to be alone with while my folks were at church.

Nobody knew about my growing addiction to pornography. I didn't tell anyone, even Richard, who was my closest friend and the one I was joyriding in "borrowed" cars every Saturday night before either of us had a driver licence.

Nobody knew about our car "borrowing" either.


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