In which my brother almost gets our dad arrested.

It was the early 1970’s and the family had tagged along with my father on his European speaking tour. We were three siblings, 14, 12 and 10 going through the throes of adolescence, which is never a pretty sight. I think I may have contributed to my mom’s constant eye twitch, because at that age everything elicited a seriously melodramatic reaction from me. [And as I was to later learn the hard way, Moms make the best target. Karma, you bitch!]

My father was well-respected in his field, and if the Rolls Royce waiting at the train station was expecting an American version of the Royal Family, well, the chauffeur and host were about to be sadly disappointed. We tumbled out of the train, looking mighty worse for the wear. I wore my angst on my face as a scowl, my brother had a gap in his smile from a lost permanent front tooth (how it came to be lodged in the head of a shorter classmate is another story). My sister was still pouting the absence of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes in all of these obviously sub-par restaurants that should have been stripped of their Michelin stars for this abomination.

We had been staying in various Ritz-Carleton’s, not our usual Howard Johnson’s with a roll-out cot. We were soon deposited in a beautiful historic hotel in some old German city. My parents had a gorgeous suite and the children were relegated to the smaller room next door. We were ecstatic! Our own room? My sister began jumping on the bed while my brother went on a search and rescue mission, opening every drawer, every cabinet. On cue, I stared moodily out the windows, wondering who else had sat in that exact place over time and if their ghost was still hovering nearby.

Suddenly, a “WHAT????” was heard from my brother. Baby Sis and I went to join him, but he slammed the bathroom door in our face. “What did you find?” we squealed, but he was silent. Finally he opened the door and we could see that his face was frozen in shock. He slowly pointed to the opened cabinet drawers under the sink. There sat a pile of magazines. We gathered around them and our faces froze in similar shock: these were Naked Lady magazines!! Oh, my, goodness … or not. We laughed and giggled our way through the pages until we heard our parents knocking at the door.

“It’s dinner time, kids,” mom advised us.

“NO!” we responded in unison.

You could just see her and dad exchanging looks. Dad rattled the door knob, “Open this door now,” he demanded. He was tired and hungry and in no mood for sassy kids. So, my brother slowly unlocked and opened the door.

“What is going on in here?”

“Nothing.”

But mom had already looked over our shoulders and saw the pile of magazines. She started to walk over, obviously puzzled as to their origins. We screeched and ran to cover them up, but it was too late! “Where did you get these?!” and my brother explained that they had been in plain sight … if you crawled into the cabinet and scrunched behind the plumbing.

The General Manager was simultaneously notified, horrified and mortified. He came to apologize and to confiscate the pornography, but my brother refused to give it up. The rest of us were welcomed to take the soaps and shampoos for our souvenirs: but the magazines were his alone. My parents said they would deliver the magazines later, but let’s go eat dinner now.

~~~~~~

We were packing to leave, and Dad happened to glance through my brother’s suitcase. He thundered at him, “Are you crazy? Were you really going to try to sneak these magazines back home?” My dad was furious, confiscating the porn for good. He and mom were beside themselves: “Do you kids realize what would have happened to your father if he were caught TRANSPORTING PORNOGRAPHY INTO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA??” My dad was clearly traumatized at the vision of the newspaper photos showing him being led away in handcuffs for a crime he clearly hadn’t committed. And how close it had been to reality, had he not happened to sneak a peek into his son’s luggage. I think that was the last European vacation that we took as a family. In fact, I am positive.

The Paper Dress

I was one groovy chick, back in middle school. I was the first to wear bell-bottom jeans. I saw them in a fashion magazine and made my poor mother go on a hunt for a pair, a quest not unlike that of Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail. She finally snagged a pair and I proudly wore them to school. The reception was the same as if I had arrived bare-bottomed: no one understood bell-bottoms and the consensus was that I looked stupid. My vindication was slow to arrive, but it did. Within a few months, ALL the cool kids were sporting bell-bottoms. So there!

This was the time of macrame belts, tie-died tee shirts, go-go boots. Everyone had the soundtrack to Woodstock  and it was the rising reign of Aquarius, of the hippies. I embraced this look with all my heart. In fact, I was so experimental that several friends later confessed that they had thought I was from some weird foreign country, if not from a completely different planet. I did like my beads and my fringe.

My birthday was coming up and my mom and brother had a surprise in store for me. They had been secretly collecting Campbell’s soup can labels so that they could send away for something that they knew I would totally dig. It was a screen-print paper “pop art souper dress from Campbell’s” and looked like one big Andy Warhol painting of soup cans. Did you catch that? It was made of paper. It was the most far-out dress that I had ever seen. I loved it.

The first thing I did, of course, was to take a pair of scissors to it and chop it off into a micro mini dress. Was I wearing white go-go boots? If not, I certainly should have been. And then I sashayed off to the bus stop, where I made quite the impression with the boys. “paper???” “your dress is made from paper??” “like, I could tear it off you?” (ergh: had not thought about that frightening scenario).

Although I was too cool for school, I still got on the bus when it arrived. I sat down on the ancient buckled leather seats and heard a sound that made my heart stop. R-R-R-R-I-P!!! NO!! I had just ripped the dress the minute I sat down. The bus went crazy. As we pulled up to the school, the boys were hanging out the window screaming “we got a girl in a paper dress and it ripped!!!!!” Had it not been so humiliating, I would have reveled in the  reception I received as I stepped off the bus. I was famous! Everyone wanted to see this paper dress, especially the now air-conditioned back side where my underpants could be strategically viewed. Someone from the Administration ran up and wrapped me in a blanket and hustled me off to the Infirmary. The secretaries tried everything to save my dress: staples, scotch tape, packing tape. They did what they could to preserve my dignity and then sent me off to class. I doubt that I learned a single new fact that day, other than the obvious: paper rips. I was constantly applying more scotch tape to fresh rips all day long. That dress never saw a second wearing, and was probably tossed in the trash when I got home.

I just googled that dress and discovered that at one point it was selling as “rare Vintage pop art” (vintage??? ow, that hurts) and someone actually paid nearly $7,000 for it. Wow. I could have been a bazillionaire if I had only left the dress safely in its plastic bag. But, where’s the fun in that?