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My Father's Penis
By Rich Caplan

I 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 their faith.

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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