There are some stories whose content will “pre-date” people only a year or two younger than me. This is not to say that I’m wise beyond my years, it’s just the nature of my age. I grew up with the rare luxury of straddling the polarizing world of a non-tech existence and our American society today. I’m not too young to forget what a record player is much less when I bought my first cassette tape or CD and I’m not so old that I need a child to explain how the newest gadget to hit the market works. People that fall into this strange no-mans-land have a name. Those in my generation were born after 1982 and before the early 2000s. Many of us are better known as the “Millennials”, also “Generation Y, Generation Next, Net Generation, Echo Boomers, Eighties Babies, The Entitlement Generation, etc. Now I’m not insinuating that I have the best generation (far from it), I’m just saying that I’m from the last group of people that dabbled in a bit with the old struggles enough so that I could appreciate the newest things for what they were.
Think about it. Just over the last 10-15 years our world has changed so fast. Things like cell phones, GPS, and Facebook have become so inherently ingrained in our lifestyle that we’ve lost total comprehension of what people did without a smart phone much less all the information in the world at our fingertips.
This story only truly relates to the men of the previous generation (generation x) and those that were born in the early part of mine. Yes, it’s true. And no, none of the details have been fabricated or embellished. As always, I give a little lengthier of a back story so the younger folks can fully appreciate it and the older folks can reminisce.
By the seventh grade, I had a good group of friends that were reasonably “tech savvy” at the time.” All of us had e-mail addresses and even knew how to make cheap websites on angelfire.com. Using America Online (AOL) dialup at home, we soaked up a wealth of knowledge by finding new and interesting sites with webtools containing how to’s that taught us all about website building… but we also discovered a few places to find tame porn online for free. None of us were rich much less owned our own personal computer, but the internet fed an already bursting fascination of discovering pictures of naked women. All of us had the itch to see more, but the profound embarrassment and ensuing conversation to follow after being caught surfing the dark side of the internet on the family computer (in the living room or basement) would be worse than anything any of us could handle.
Back in those days there was hardly anything available for free. Sure there were a few websites that had a set of boobs unblurred on their homepage here and there, but there wasn’t anything in the way of massive galleries or movie sites for us to sit around go blind with. Back then you got practically nothing prior to putting in a credit card number and seeing as how none of us had one we had to be more creative. This was before peer-to-peer networks existed, Napster wouldn’t be created for another two years (launched in 1999) and thus the idea of trading of FAP worthy trash online with strangers hadn’t even been conceived yet. Hell even search engines sucked big time, the internet was great; but it was hard to find anything. Today there are literally thousands of streaming websites to suit any number of remote and bizarre fetishes. Seriously fuck kids today, I can remember stashing a few ancient copies of national geographic (vivid full page pictures of topless tribes and the like) and even passing a few of them off to friends because in those days finding anything with a picture of a naked girl on it was mind blowing It sounds absurd, but we were just looking for pictures to gawk at… for fuck’s sake.
Here’s how determined I was. During that time, my folks had HBO on our main television. Prior to the start of every movie there was a rating list that gave the viewer an understanding of what was to come. These ratings could usually could be found in the description of the movie if you hit the info button as well. V stood for violence, AC stood for adult content, and N stood for Nudity. I can remember staying up until three or four in the morning watching god-awful shitty movies just because it contained the all elusive “N” in the description. Fingers crossed waiting in the darkness patiently with the volume nearly off (so I didn’t wake my parents in the next room) I sat a few feet from the screen hoping to see something. It’s not as though I was going to do the deed in my living room. That would be gross. I genuinely, just wanted to see a naked woman. I can’t express the utter anguish associated with the effort of staying up past three watching a one star movie; whose plot I hadn’t been unable to follow for the last hour due to the volume being too low; all the while still teeming with anticipation that at some point in this boring god-awful period piece crap of a movie I might catch a glimpse of a female’s ass, nipple, or even a vagina. This mountain of thrill and wishes would often come crashing down into a near fit when I realized the “N rating” was for some idiot dude’s ass flashing across the screen a few moments before the credits. I almost took a swing at the TV once or twice, are you fucking kidding me?!
This was a time that the female body was a major source of curiosity; I remember having reeling Carl Sagen-esk rants while discussing the great mystery of boobs with my friends. How I became an assman I’ll never know.
Despite the best intentions of our public school health classes, the figures shown of the female anatomy in the text books, educational videos, and poorly xeroxed diagrams came closer to depicting a Rorschach test than a real vagina. This only fueled the curiosity and drive more. And let’s be honest, I’m aware Victoria’s secret catalogs and sports illustrated magazines existed during that time and so did girls my own age, but what the fuck, I was 12… I wanted to see everything. The real stuff. For those that are cringing already, mind you there wasn’t anything inherently devious about our intentions or mindsets in regards to any of this (contrary to what it may seem like), in our eyes it was a quest for understanding and a thirst answers.
It seemed all of us discovered the unscratchable itch to view more of the nude female body, but we were also met with profound challenges and the realization that VHS tapes and dirty magazines would reign king for at least the next few years to come. And we didn’t have access to either of those.
Even at the age of 13 I was too ambitious to get my hopes up. I remember riding bikes with friends up to the window of a little book store in a shopping a center about a mile away from where a few of us lived. We would glare at the top rack of magazine section from outside the store. Sealed in plastic, we could see magazines with dirty titles like, “Fiesta,” “Penthouse,” “Lustful,” and “Pulp Magazine.” I remember during entire days that summer we spent hours sketching out plans on how to pull off the biggest porn heist that book store had ever seen. Yet none of us had the gall to ever follow through with any of the wild ideas we came up with because the agony of being caught for such a crime wouldn’t out weigh the risk.
By the end of 8th grade some of us had made great strides with girls but regardless of what we did or lied about doing, we still had need for viewing material .In just that short time we had become more clever and even a bit more brazen. We knew that the very same book store had to throw away their old stock of outdated magazines to make room for the new issues. Employees would often tear the covers off all their magazines to prevent someone from reselling it later as they pitched it into the dumpster. During the summer, a few friends and I would try to dumpster dive a couple days prior to the end of the month in search of treasure with minimal success until one day an employee from another store saw us on their smoke break and threatened to call the police as we ran away. Of the small stash that we got away with, we managed to hide a few of the magazines in places that we hung out at regularly (the woods, the pool, a creek or two) and we even sold a few off for a profit. It wasn’t until a couple months into my Freshman year of High School that I would catch my big break.
Me and a friend that lived a few houses away from me used to walk to and from school together in the mornings and after football practice. We both got out of practice at the same time so naturally it was always a little more entertaining to chat with someone on the 15-20 minute walk each way. For a while we cut through yards because it trimmed an extra couple of minutes off our journey. We regularly cut through one yard when we were running late in the mornings but it required a fence to be scaled and the old man that lived there was a dick. The old man kept to himself and was rarely seen around the neighborhood. After he saw us a few times, he began to wait by the window every morning; just to see if we were daring enough to jump the fence and walk through his back yard once more. On the rare days that he “caught us” he’d rap his old knuckles against glass barely peeking out from behind the drapes while yelling unintelligible things our direction until we were out of sight. It was weird. But it’s not like we were fucking with the guy, if it was going to shave a few minutes off our commute time and that would be the difference between being late for class or on time, we were hopping that old fucker’s fence regardless of his attempts to be a dickhead curmudgeon about it.
On the way to school one day we noticed that a massive pile of junk had accumulated by the curb of the old man’s house. Judging by the amount of stuff and what was out there, it was pretty evident that he had passed away recently and someone had cleared out a bunch of his belongings. There was a ton of junk, large cardboard boxes spilling over the top with clothing, assorted wooden furniture pieces, a couch, a couple of mattresses, a dozen or so boxes haphazardly sealed with a thin strip of packing tape, smaller sturdier boxes of dusty old books, probably close to 20 larger paper bags filled with what looked like old newspapers, and a whole lot of other odds and ends.
We were running a bit late that day so we walked by it briskly but both agreed that there might be some pretty cool stuff worth looking into if we hurried back after football practice. It was like a free yard sale and after all we were both 14 and reeked of adventure.
After football practice we both rushed out of the locker room and made our way straight to the old man’s place.
“It’s just junk man,” my friend said in the dimming late afternoon light as we got closer.
We didn’t want to look like vagrants riffling through somebody’s trash so we did a couple of slow passes. On the second pass my friend lightly kicked one of the 20 or so paper bags resting against the couch. It toppled end over end off the edge of the couch landing in the street. As the heavy bag hit the pavement, a sea of pornographic magazines splashed onto the asphalt in front of us.
Our jaws dropped….
“Oh fuck…” I gasped.
We both slowly unshouldered our book bags and set them on the ground beside us as we continued to stare at the paper gold laying on the street. Our eyes widened as we looked at each other with slight grins in complete disbelief like we had telepathically confirmed that neither of us had imagined what had just happened. We had found the Holy Grail, El Dorado, and Superman’s Secret Hideout all wrapped up into one and it was all ours. We hadn’t even grasped the sheer size of this porn collection yet as we were both trying to comprehend what a miracle looked like.
“Y-You know what all of this is Right?” I stuttered.
My hands shook as I couldn’t quite figure out whether to fold my arms or place my hands on hips while in complete awe.
My friend didn’t respond It was as though he couldn’t hear me. He silently raised both his arms into the air resting his hands on top of his head as he looked upwards aimlessly towards the sky; deep in thought. It was one of those rare inexplicable spellbound moments. In that instant, you’re so appreciative with life; where words don’t find you. Things… just are.
I took a few cautious steps over, using the edge of my foot, I lightly pushed a few of the magazines further out of the bag.
Bright red and white titles flashed into eyes. “Hustler,” “Penthouse,” and “Genisis.”
There were easily another 20 large paper bags just like it around the trash pile and each of them contained nearly 70 magazines. We had hit the mother load. This was a porn collection whose contents were carefully assembled over decades.
Then we heard it from far down the street. That familiar noise every kid knows growing up in any neighborhood from suburbia to the city. The deep thunderous growl of its heavy diesel engine, the familiar ringing screech of its brakes and the mechanical wine and draw emanating from its colossal compactor.
A large blue trash truck came into view at the end of the street, seemingly out of thin air. My heart practically leapt out of my chest. Of all the times and all places, why now?! The trash men were were only 10 houses away from taking our greatest discovery away from us. We had to act fast.
“Fuck that!” I screamed at my friend while pointing at an old Volvo station wagon 20 yards away. “Empty your book bag and throw everything in it under that car!”
I wasn’t about to take this one lying down and certainly wasn’t letting this ship and its precious cargo go under without a proper fight. This was to be a showdown. Grabbing my book-bag by one hand, I made a mad dash for the old Volvo, fumbling to unzip my bag as my friend chased close behind me.
It felt like a war zone. I swear there were bullets whizzing just past our heads the whole time.
I got to the car first and without a moments hesitation I dumped the entire contents of my heavy blue Jansport backpack onto the street while kicking clunky text books and binders further under the car as they hit the ground. Once my book-bag was empty, I turned and darted past my friend back to the pile of junk. Now this might be one of the most profound metaphors I’ve ever put into writing. I tossed all of my learning materials into the street in an effort to be able to grab hold of a large pile of some dead old man’s fuck books.
There wasn’t time to think much less be picky as I shoveled handfuls of magazines from the bag that had fallen into the street into my bag. I looked over towards my friend who had already opened four other bags and was moving on to check out a fifth.
“There’s no time, just fill your backpack now! We’ll dump these at our separate houses and then make it back for one more load before the trash truck gets here!”
“All of them Taylor, they’re all filled with porn.” He said astonished just above a whisper as he finally chose one bag and began furiously shoving magazines into his backpack.
I got finished first and took off in a mad sprint for my house, looking over my should I yelled back to my friend, “Dump your bag at your house and come back quick for one more load!”
“Got it!” He yelled at me quickly throwing his arms through the straps of his backpack as he took off running towards the shortcut in the old mans back yard.
The trash truck was only 8 houses away.
I rounded the corner and ran high kneed up the large hill towards my house. I cut past a few yards and tore through a bush to make it to my house faster than if I was racing someone for money. I burst through the front door and down to my bedroom where I flung the contents of my bag onto my bed and threw a blanket over my treasure. Without a moment to waste, I spun around the corner, up the steps, and flew out of the door again. I managed to snag my bicycle without breaking stride which was conveniently parked right beside the garage. I side hopped onto seat and peddled as hard and as fast as I could straight back to the mountain of porn.
My friend and I got back at nearly the same time, our faces dripping with sweat; both of us practically wheezing because we were so out of breath.
We watched in a disbelief and horror as the trash men hurled large paper bags; one after another into garbage truck. Each bag was no doubt been filled will endless pages of pornography that at one time we could only speculate about. There was nothing we do but watch in silence as our newly discovered treasure was swept away forever, never to be seen again. It was devastating.
In a very odd way, I found that something was poetically tragic about what happened to us that day. It’s like you’ve been scouring the earth for this one thing for so long that it becomes more than just an object. It’s a status, an idea, knowledge, power, proof of growing up, a thing that you just can’t quit, what you’ve set your mind to and yet when we did finally come so close to having more of it than we could ever imagine by chance; the pendulum of luck swung right back the other way.
However that’s only half the lesson here. Nothing on those pages was going to give me anymore powerful insight into the thing I was the most fascinated by all along. It was a temporary fix to a more interesting problem. I was looking for a girl, not a bunch of pictures of one. It was a divine, “how you doing” and an unbelievably powerful gesture from nowhere. It put tangible things of seemingly infinite value into a very focused perspective and by that token an end to a useless fascination. Those pages didn’t carry any answers at all- but as a whole, but they taught me a great lesson about the perception of treasure and how subjective that word can really be when compared with what you’re really looking for. I liken it to a car enthusiast watching an entire lot of pristine Ferraris getting crushed by Truckasaurus. You don’t fully understand what a simple object is until you’ve watched countless of them get destroyed… it’s only stuff…
I think the greatest part about the entire ordeal was when my friend and I went our separate ways to inspect what we had salvaged. We each had managed to get away with about 75 or so magazines give or take a few. But the joke was on us, this was porn from 1970s. Blurry pictures, hairy buttholes, massive bushes, droopy pancake tits, and terrible tan lines dominated every page. I grimaced as I flipped through the 3rd magazine of the lot before I let out a big sigh… Fucking great.
My friend ran up to me the next morning as I approached his house before we headed off to school, “Hey, were the magazines you got gross stuff from the 70s too!?”
“Yeah man, it’s fucking awful! Women from the 70s were fucking nasty!” I shouted as we both laughed so hard we had to stop walking and sit to keep from falling over.
Life sure does play some interesting jokes if you’ve got a sense a humor and a pretty good set of eyes.