distinctly remember the first time I saw my father's penis. I was
nine, the penis would have been about fifty. We were standing at
one of the urinals in Maple Leaf Gardens, peeing. The urinals at
MLG back then were not the sleek individual white porcelain numbers
you see in today's modern stadiums and arenas, but more of a gray
metallic community trough. During intermission all the men and boys
would jostle and elbow for peeing space like suckling piglets clamoring
for the mama's teat.
Standing so close I couldn't help but get a gander at his goose.
It was so big I couldn't believe he wasn't embarrassed about it.
I had an uncle, Ugly Dave, who was constantly chastised about a
goiter the size of a small planet -- no, that's a gross exaggeration,
let's say the size of... Pluto -- growing out of the side of his
neck. Surely my father's freakish appendage could be no less disconcerting.
I thought about saying something as we washed our hands, but I didn't.
My father told me that a Jew always, always washed after going to
the bathroom. Always. I don't know if the implication was merely
that a gentile might forget sometimes, or whether I should
speculate that other denominations would specifically wash with
varying consistency. For instance if a Jew washed 100% of the time,
a Presbyterian might wash 60%, while say, a Seventh-Day Adventist
only 40%. Or conversely perhaps the implication was that other
things in a Jew's life might be less rigid. Such as sometimes
he might wear a turtleneck sweater, or wax his own car or -- more
rarely to be sure -- excel at a contact sport, but always
he would wash. In any case, to this day I instinctively watch guys
after leaving the urinal as a loose guide by which to determine
For us though, the public bathroom had merely been an emergency
pit stop. You see, my father's accounting firm did the books for
the MLG Corporation, and we were on our way to the famed and exclusive
Hot Stove Lounge where, between periods, a connected guy and his
dad might rub elbows with the likes of former NHL greats like Bobby
Baun or Johnny Bower or maybe even a Conacher or two.
My access to the exclusory club made me the envy of all my pals.
The next day I'd gather them around me, mouths agape, as I'd painstakingly
describe the supple leather couches and the oppressively dark wood
permanently infused with the overpowering stench of cigar smoke.
I'd regale them with images of dark-suited mobster-types using profane
language laced with randy anecdotes about broads with great racks.
On the day that I saw my father's penis the Leafs were already down
2-0 to the dreaded Wings, both goals coming on the power play, one
off the stick of the speedy Marcel Dionne, and the other from steady
Tom Webster. As we negotiated our way through the crowd, I keenly
surveyed the room for "stars". This, I had down to an
art form. You could spot them by their carriage. So much so that
I'd often thrust my sweaty autograph book under the nose of a former
player or coach, confidant in the knowledge that even if I didn't
know exactly who they were, they would know who they were and that
they were indeed somebody. The closest I'd ever come to being burned
was the almost indecipherable signature of Vern Buffey, the arguably
legendary referee (if that's not, in and of itself, an oxymoron).
On this night though, my attention was drawn to the two men conversing
a bit too loudly in the corner toward which we were headed. The
loud talker leaned back on his stool, balancing precariously on
the hind legs. This is what I heard. "
the house is worth
a quarter of a mill, and here's Hymie in the kitchen siphoning cheap
Scotch into Royal Crown bottles!" And he laughed uproariously.
As he said the name "Hymie," he cupped his hand over his
nose like a fitted shield indicating, I surmised, that this Hymie
fellow, whoever he was, must have been the owner of a rather prodigious
beak. Neither the name nor the gesture held any other particular
significance for me. Not so for my father, for it set off the most
bizarre sequence of events I'd ever experienced in my short life.
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