I’ve been uninspired lately. I have ideas, but nothing seems to want to be put down on the page yet. So, when I heard that Hugh Hefner died and then saw all the men fawning and thanking him and then saw all the women either doing the same or not doing the same, it gave me a moment to reflect on what I think about Hugh Hefner, and this morning, because I was awake at 3am, I wrote.
My father has stacks of magazines and newspapers in our living room and out on the screened in porch, on the back of the house.
He reads for many hours a day, loads of newspapers and magazines, never books.
I never ask him why he never reads books, because I don’t care to hear the answer.
He gets newspapers delivered from the places he’s lived in the past, Michigan, Florida and sometimes he gets The Wall Street Journal.
One stack of magazines that sits on an old wooden side table comes up to my chest, fitting, because this stack has Playboy, a few Penthouse and another called High Times.
The Playboy get delivered by mail and the others come from a magazine shop in Columbia, SC. Columbia is more than 30 minutes away from our trailer home on Lake Murray. We drive into Columbia in my dad’s blue Plymouth Satellite. My sister, Judy, calls the car, the blue bashy, because it has a few dents, but you can also see right through the rusted floorboard to the ground, especially in the back, where I sit, so it’s more than just bashed, but it rhymes, and it makes us laugh, so we carry on with it.
The magazine shop is in a part of town that we never go to other than to buy magazines. It is full of magazine racks. Dad goes here to buy magazines of all kinds, but this store is where he buys porn, and he takes my mother and me with him. Dad greets the guy behind the desk, as always, and heads to the back of the store. I stay as far from the porn section as I can, in the financial section. I pretend I’m looking for a magazine to improve my financial future and I suppose in a way, I am. I open the slick gloss covers with business buildings on the front and look at the rows of numbers and clean black type and think to myself “One day, I’ll work in one of those and maybe I’ll even know what these numbers mean.”
Mom runs her hands across other racks in the store, not picking up anything. She reads some of the papers my dad buys, but not as many. I’ve never seen her read any of his playboy or other porn. I don’t ask her whether she does or not, because again, I don’t care to hear the answer. I do wonder what she thinks though.
My dad reads these magazines as if they are The Wall Street Journal. I walk into the room and see the cover of Playboy, him behind it, sitting in his reading chair, turning the pages, unfolding the centerfold and holding it up. My shoulders rise up and I sneak back out before he sees me. My dad is 72 and I am 16!
After an hour or so, dad comes back to the front with a few magazines in hand. He doesn’t offer to buy me anything. He pays the guy behind the desk for 4 or 5 magazines. We then drive to another part of town and go grocery shopping, at two different grocery stores, because my mom won’t buy meat at Food Lion, but they have better produce, so we have to get the produce there. We also have to walk through every aisle in both stores, even if we don’t need anything in some aisles. Mom says “I might need something that I didn’t write down and I will only remember it if I see it.” She also has to talk to everyone in the store, the meat guy, the produce guy, the lady buying fat back, the cashier. Dad stays in the car reading his new magazines.
At home, when my parents have gone out to run errands, or to a doctor’s appointment, I sometimes look through the Playboy magazines. I mean, they are sitting right out in the open, so I might as well see what the big deal is. The women in these magazines look like no one I have ever seen in real life, so it’s kind of fake to me and now, when I think about it, maybe that’s the point? The Penthouse is more graphic, but not my style either, maybe I just don’t like porn? High Times is all about marijuana with a few photos of women here and there and I’m absolutely not sure why he had that magazine. Dad was a rabid anti-smoker after he stopped smoking cigars, he’d curse people out for smoking anywhere at anytime. He’d grumble and mumble when anyone we knew smoked “Goddamn cigarettes, waste of money, stinks.”
One day, at school, I tell my guy friends that my dad has a stack of porn out on the back porch. They ask me to bring them some and a few days later, I do, and they run off to the boys bathroom together, giggling. We never discuss the magazines I gave them again, and I don’t even care that I just gave them some of my dad’s porn stash.
So, when I think about Hugh Hefner, I think about my dad and what a strange world I lived in going with him to buy porn and I think about my Mom and what a strange life she lived with a stack or porn out on the back porch. I think if they were still alive today I might ask them about this and then I think again, I do not care to hear the answers.