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.
truly appreciate this story you need to create a visual image of my father.
When I say he looked Jewish, don't picture a swarthy, barrel-chested Israeli
soldier type. Picture a skinny bald accountant (with a huge shlong, mind
you). Picture a not-so-virile Woody Allen. Now picture him spontaneously
kicking the legs right out from under the loudmouth's stool. The man,
the stool, and his drink all went down, and all made distinctively different
sounds as they hit the floor. Did I mention this guy was big? He was big.
As he scraped himself up off the floor I could already see a purplish
welt forming on his temple. He looked at my dad like a tiger might confront
a cottontail. "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ABOUT?!"
My dad didn't
say a word, just defiantly held his ground like a batter on the receiving
end of a little chin music. After a moment something kicked in, because
the big man abruptly sported a big toothy Rosedale shit-eating grin. "What's
the problem, Jew-boy? Cat got your tongue sandwich?" I couldn't believe
my father was being spoken to in this derogatory fashion, and I couldn't
figure out how this guy knew we were Jewish (unless our clean hands gave
Things just got nuttier from there. Remember that, to my knowledge, the
most physical thing my father had ever done was long division. Imagine
my surprise then, when my unassuming, albeit well-endowed, role model
reached up and boxed the big man's ears and in one swift movement -- well,
two really -- brought the big head down while he brought his own knee
up and the twains met with a THWACK that was heard up in the gray seats.
Blood literally projectile vomited from the man's face. I suppose that
technically it was just coming from his nose, but there was so much of
it that it looked like everything from the neck up was bleeding.
My father did this. It was a move that The Green Hornet might have done.
It was simply the most staggering thing I'd ever seen. He could have followed
that up by having monkeys jump out of his ass and I'd have been no more
enthralled. I'd forgotten all about the penis by this point and, in any
case, I'd never really had it in any proper perspective. Since I'd seen
it, all I had been thinking was what a rotten deal my dad had gotten,
what with the lack of height and hair to also have to carry the burden
of this freakish third leg. Had I known that, in reality, it inspired
bragging rights, I might have had the wherewithal to yell some encouragement
during the fisticuffs like, "Hey Dad, hit 'em with the dingleberry!"
I felt very proud of my father at that moment. I wasn't sure that I understood
all that had transpired, but I knew enough to know that this anomalous
act of violence had been completely justified. The guy's friend knew it
too because he looked at my dad like he was Pamparo Firpo, The Wild Man
Of Borneo, and actually said, like they do in the movies, "Look,
I don't have a beef with you, I don't want any trouble." So intimidated
was the guy, in fact, that he apologized to the management on behalf of
his semi-conscious buddy, as he carted his ass off the premises.
Such is the innocence of youth. As fate would have it, on the day that
I first saw my father's penis, I learned far more about his cojones.
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