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Monday, February 6, 2012


It stood at the corner of Sunset Ave. and Broad St. It was almost a carbon copy of the store I had bought my baseball cards in, but this place was darker, far more sinister, and had a gut wrenching affect on me.

As you walked down Sunset to the bottom of the steep hill you passed through total middle class neighborhoods. The street was tree lined with no sight of any type of businesses until you reached the bottom. An old, tired Hair Salon was the first ramshakle store replete with dolled up old Italian women shuffling in and out. Next to the Salon was a one story brick wall, the side of the store round the corner I was heading to. Iconic to the time and place, the 60's, the brick wall was covered in a painted sign, painted right on the bricks by the local Coca-Cola distributor I imagine. It was a giant Coca Cola glass with a soda jerk type guy peeking out from behind it. The colors were weathered from countless rain storms over the years but it was still pretty clear. The killer of the whole thing and something I'll never forget was the guys face. After years and years of kids passing by chewing their gum, the soda jerk had acquired a huge stalagmite of dried, rock hard gum on the end of his nose. You can see where they had tried to blast it off, but to little avail. It was harder than concrete and was a testament to kid-dom of the 60's. It's long gone nowadays, torn down unceremoniously and dumped in some construction land fill, but it is as clear as crystal in my mind, indelibly etched as it were. I'd have given anything to have gotten a picture of it.

Around the corner, on Broad St. was the business that resided behind the Coca Cola wall, the Sunset Sweet Shoppe, otherwise simply known as "Irv's". Irv was obviously the owner's name and he was made in the same mold as all Sweet Shoppe owners, that is, built like a fire hydrant with a yellowed white shirt, rolled up at the sleeves, jet black hair combed staright back, and thick black framed glasses. A short cigar stump, a "stogie", completed the picture. Irv reigned supreme over his domain and ruled it with an iron fist. For myself, it was quite a walk from my house and there were any number of Shoppes a lot closer. Irv's was different though, the mere mention of "going to Irv's" made my stomach start to churn and my young teenaged limbs go rubbery.

I really never had a latency period, if you want to know the truth, it seems I always had crushes on girls, from my earliest memories on. I remember playing "pirate and captured maiden" with a babysitter...I couldn't have been much more than 6 or 7. She thought it was cute that when I caught her I kissed her a bunch of times, it was traumatic as hell for me. In grade school I had a couple of different crushes on playmates as well as a healthy respect for a certain teacher. So...I spent my childhood in a constant sweat with an over driven libido that I really didn't understand...I still don't understand it too hot, frankly. It's no wonder that by the time I reached my early teens I found a source to vent myself that I totally embraced.

Walking through the door of Irv's your nose caught the whiff of a man's world, grease mixed with stale cigar and cigarette smoke. Along the right side of the store was the usual store long counter with display cases, cash register area and a 6 stool lunch counter. "Tab" was a brand new soda and a couple of my friends would sit at the counter and drink one while munching on a cheese sandwich or a greasy burger. Old stew bums came in and out of the place pretty regular as it was one of the last places that sold cigarettes individually. They were in a cup by the register, Camels and Lucky Strike non filters for a nickel a piece with a strike it anywhere match. To the left there was a dividing wall where there was stock and other junk stored easily caught an eyeful when you entered, and along the wall of the front of the store was the magazine rack. Not your usual one but a really BIG one, pretty much the width of the store. Besides the usual newspapers and "Field and Stream" and "Motor Trend" their was the areas largest selection of adult magazines. We're not talking just Playboy here but the whole gambit of the 2nd tier publications. There was really no pretense of great articles in these magazines, just plain and simple cuties of the era displaying their wares for the crazed male population to ogle. Whereas Playboy had girls you knew you didn't have a shot in hell of ever meeting, the other mags had what seemed like real women gracing their pages. The kind of girls you saw walking down the street or in the super market. Girls that were quite possibly obtainable, within reach as it were. There was one small problem, I was too young to buy the damn things, so a whole underground network of deceit and thievery was developed by myself and my confederates to actually nab one of these pulse pounding periodicals.

The names of the magazines themselves are seared onto my brain:
Modern Man
Man to Man
All Man

The covers themselves were what grabbed me, in retrospect, it wasn't what they showed but what they didn't show that was mind blowing. Compared to today's in-your-face porno, this is quaint stuff, almost an art form, remember that in those days you had to keep parts covered on the cover and there was no pubic hair shown period. To be sure, it was more provocative this way, more alluring and made the acquisition more desperate.

A whole system of stooges and mag grabbers was developed. The stooges would do whatever it took to keep Irv occupied while the "grabber" would snag one of the mags and sandwich into the NY Times newspaper he had just purchased. It had to go perfectly as old Irv was a master at catching kids trying to pull the "Bait and Snatch" game. 

We pulled it off a few times and wallowed in sexual bliss as the black and white and yes, a few color pics, smiled back at us in gratitude for what we had risked just to be with them. Some of these woman I will never forget, my oldest girlfriends, they never had to wash their hair and they would never step out on you with your best friend. They were always waiting, at the ready.

Girls, you gotta love 'em. What incredible power they can wield, and how helpless all us poor slobs are who come under their influence. It doesn't matter what the hell they're doing, I always find something that knocks me out and makes me fall half in love with 'em. And I mean all of 'em for there is something about every single goddamn one of 'em that I find appealing. Even if they're the biggest pain the ass you know or you catch 'em first thing in the morning or catch 'em scratching their butt or something, they still have a way of making it look cute as hell. Who wants to look at a guy scratching his ass? Nobody. Little things they do kill me. I have a doctor who is my age, maybe a bit younger. I never really thought of her as anything but a doctor. I was in the examining room and she came in, hooked her foot back and closed the door with it. Big deal, right? I thought it was the cutest damn thing I had ever seen up to that point. I'm crazy, I really am. The point is that I have spent a life time admiring them and loving them and I will never ever understand what the hell they're all about. Guess I'm not supposed to know.

1 comment:

  1. Great story about one of the great mysteries of life. :-)