The Breast Story Ever Told

The Breast Story Ever Told

In 1975 at the tender and horny age of 14 I spied with my little eyes a glimpse of 2 glorious female breasts. At the time they were heaving provocatively and bathed in the pink smoky light of the Palace-a-Go-Go Lounge on James Street in my hometown of Syracuse, NY. These breasts possessed my ideal demographic – human, female, and naked. Through the eyes of a lovelorn 14 year-old, these priceless ornaments were like 2 Crown Jewels perched regally on the chest of a royal subject. I took one breathless glance at those twin charms and sighed “God Save the Queen.”

 

In order to perpetuate whatever it is we’re doing here on Earth, God had to keep us reproductively interested in each other. He accomplished this with sex. Never underestimate the zeal of the organs for one another. They’re a powerful driver of action. Especially when you’re 14. But this is just a small part of the whole story. 

You may wonder what circumstances gave birth to a callow 14 year-old finding himself in a position to ogle a stripper gyrating onstage at midnight? Well the real story behind this wormhole into a forbidden dimension begins at the intersection of lust and wanderlust. Actually it began at the intersection of Wolf Street and 7th North Street where my sister Gail had an apartment.

 

And that’s where our story truly begins. But before we pick up things at the Danforth Arms Apartments, some background is needed so you may understand my journey from being a student with plenty of homework and chores to do on a quiet Sunday evening at home, to an outlaw truant drinking in a salacious eyeful of Gypsy Rose Lee strutting her fleshy stuff across a smoky stage. I don’t want to tell the story too quickly or you won’t appreciate the journey. Now that I’m 60 I know how to pace myself in elucidating a story so you’ll better appreciate it. No longer am I an excitable 14 year-old prone to premature elucidation.

 

Could I Somehow Prevent the Inevitability of a Monday Morning?

It was another one of those unsettling Sunday school nights where the sad transition from a happy weekend faded gloomily into a dispiriting school week. The worst part was getting up and dragging my sleep-deprived ass to a place I didn’t want to be, to do things I didn’t want to do, with people I didn’t want to be with. Not that I was some kind of alienated misanthrope. On the contrary, there were plenty of places I wanted to be, doing things I wanted to do, with people I wanted to do them with.

 

Junior High School featured a trifecta of items that soured my mood: mandatory attendance, galling homework and lonely lunch ladies that spent too much time talking to me about their “sit bones.” Plus my book report on Apollo 8 was late and I still hadn’t written a word, so once again I’d have to throw myself onto the mercy of my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Gage, and plead my case at her court of interminable extensions.

 

Yes, the celebratory joy of the weekend, where I felt like a happy-go-lucky dog bounding around at a dog park, gave way to the dusky gloom of the school week where I felt like a glum dog sentenced to a kennel. Yes these were the dog days of David and this hopeful weekend was ineluctably transitioning to the cold embrace of the school week. The weekend was melting away faster than an Arctic iceberg and I felt like the Titanic; shrouded in fog and blind to the unseen danger. It was unsettling to feel so powerless in stemming the rising tide of responsibilities I was trying to navigate. Like a bucking bronco, I wanted neither a saddle of obligations placed upon my back nor a crown of chores pressed down upon my brow. And yet, however clever my tortured similes were, the complaint department was closed and I was staring down the barrel of a full week of junior high school. Maybe there were worse fates, but, at that time, this was my worst fate and I took more than complete ownership of it.

 

I always deplored the death of the weekend. Even at 14 I was deploring things; like I was some kind of haughty prince with a sense of high-born entitlement. And still I wondered, why should the luminous fun of the weekend be snuffed out by the dark specter of a school week 2½ times longer than the weekend – 250% longer for God’s sake. That’s not right. Why were demands placed on me? All I did was show up and now all these expectations surround me. “Get with the program,” they said. “Not my program,” I countered. And as my pity party reached a crescendo I tried to find a way to take comfort in my father’s advice on coping with life’s difficulties: “I never asked to be born.” Thanks Dad – the world needs more nihilism.

 

At 14 I just couldn’t see the big picture in my little world. At 60 I can see a bigger picture and I’ve seen enough windows on the world to illuminate a middle pathway. Not to worry though, for I possess the greatest elixir to the toxicity of life: a boxed set of Hogan’s Heroes DVDs – all 168 episodes. If that’s not good for what ails you, I don’t know what is. Existential relief in the form of Col. Klink and company is only an open/close button away?  

 

I’d tried in the past to push back the unfortunate symptoms of EOSW – Early Onset School Week – and had a perfect record of 39-0 in doing so: 39 attempts and zero successes. EOSW was a preexisting condition I and many other similarly afflicted students dealt with during the school year. Despite my schemes to hold back time, my protestations at the infamy of having to contend with yet another week of junior high school fell on deaf ears. In fact they didn’t fall on any ears at all because no one was listening except me. Like so many tempests, this entire drama was happening completely in my teapot.   

   

Where Others Historically Failed, Could I Somehow Succeed?

Could I be a temporal alchemist? – could I prove the malleability of time by somehow resuscitating, restoring and extending a dying weekend? Through temporal sorcery could I turn a rapidly approaching school week back into an oncoming and welcoming weekend? Try as I might, I was playing with forces I didn’t understand and certainly couldn’t control. As my alchemist dreams of time manipulation proved futile, my dreams of an endless weekend died. Soon I began experiencing the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And they manifested themselves something like this:

  1. Denial – It’s still Sunday and if I can figure out a way to accelerate myself to the speed of light between now and 7:00 am Monday I can make time stand still. So yeah, there’s a chance Monday will not arrive.
  2. Anger – Why do I have to go to school. Kids in pre-historic times didn’t have to go to school. They may have gotten chased and eaten by lions, but they at least didn’t have to go to school.
  3. Bargaining – I promise, if I wake up tomorrow and it’s still Sunday I’ll donate 10ȼ to the March of Dimes. Alright 20ȼ. Ok, final offer, all the Hostess doughnuts in the bread drawer (talk about the ultimate sacrifice).
  4. Depression – I simply cannot face another school week of waking up early. And I’ve procrastinated so long on my homework that my English teacher Mrs. Gage has long since retired. I’m 60 years old and I still haven’t finished my Apollo 8 book report. What is wrong with me? Mrs. Gage said she’d give me one more week and that’s it. If it’s not turned in by the end of the month I’ll get a 0, and it will become part of my permanent record. And unbelievably I still haven’t started it yet. Well, I did bookmark a Wikipedia page.
  5. Acceptance – I guess Geoffrey Chaucer was right when he lamented, Time and Tide wait for no man. Yeah, well what does some proto-novelist from the 14th century know about news magazines and laundry detergent waiting for people?

 

Sunday, Crummy Sunday

It was Sunday, May 4th 1975. Gerald Ford was in the White House, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils had scored a Top 5 hit with Jackie Blue and Steven Jobs had begun copying Johnny Cash by dressing in black – after all, don’t Jobs = Cash. On this date, May the 4th was just May the 4th – none of this “May the 4th be with you” jazz.

 

Alas my playful weekend was receding and my student work week was looming. I was done with fun. No more mixing with friends, playing sports or staying up late to explore the earthly delights found free-floating in the wee, small hours of the morning. My time was no longer my own. Sunday evening was a buckle down time for homework, showering and trying to go to bed before 2:00 am so I might get 5 of the 9 hours of sleep I usually enjoyed unless an alarm clock ruined my morning.

 

They had to know this and still they weren’t doing anything about it. And when I say “they” I’m referring to the people who ran the universe and knew damn well I was a “special needs” sleeper. There’s an old adage that says, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” Well, as a 14 year-old, my Hardiman Corollary would be, “You can never sleep too long or be too rested,” and I was a glutton for slumber in those days. Every weekend night was a one-man slumber party and I partied like Rip Van Winkle. Sometimes, if I went on a really indulgent sleep bender, I knew I’d pay for it in the morning and I’d wake up all hungover and drowsy from catching too many winks. A small price to pay for banking satisfying, lusty sleep.  

 

Shuteye loomed large in my sleep-deprived youthful world and I thought about sleep a lot when I was awake. And even though it was redundant, I thought about sleep a lot when I was asleep. I loved sleep that much. I knew one thing for sure, Public Enemy Number 1, preventing me from getting the sleep I craved, was Public School. So was it any wonder I’d pursue a course of action designed to evade, deny and circumvent Public School’s ungodly demands on my precious sleep? Which brings us back to our story.

 

Meanwhile the School Week Inches Closer

Like a prisoner awaiting a call from the governor commuting his sentence, I rattled around the confines of my comfortable middle class home, lamenting the oncoming school week and hoping for a reprieve. Being as willful as I was, I simply could not accept the situation as presented, or what would be referred to today as, “it is what it is.” And while it was what it was,’ it wasn’t what I wanted. It weally wasn’t.

 

I was reluctant to surrender to my predicament. If only I had the discipline to execute my duties (homework, shower, put the dishes away and get to bed early), this dilemma wouldn’t hector me so. Actually I did want to execute my duties but only in the sense I wanted to assassinate them so they wouldn’t be around to make demands on me anymore.

 

Why was I so keen on shirking my responsibilities as a young adult? Truth be told, my motivation was bigger than the short-term satisfaction of sleeping-in or avoiding tasks. What drove this evasion of duties was a fascination with, and an attraction to, what that Sunday evening’s ethers had to offer in terms of experiences, feelings and wonderment. Something enchanting was in the air and I wanted to inhale it desperately. It would be inspirational (not to mention respirational) if I did manage to find and inhale this, this, this…I don’t know what to call this undefinable experience I was seeking. Perhaps it would be like inhaling the essence of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks painting.

I think they call this phenomenon synesthesia – a kind of cross-pollinated experience of the senses where you might see emotions, taste sounds, feel words or, in this case, inhale images. I wanted my boundaries dissolved so I could feel all those warm and fuzzy things just a vibration away. What joy and fascination awaited in deconstructing the universe so I could see how it was all put together. It was a Big Ask to be sure, but then I’ve always been a big pain in the ask. 

 

I just couldn’t stick my head in the sand and do my chores quietly. I was a rebel, but a rebel with a cause – the cause of feeling unbounded. I did not want to miss out on any boundary dissolving experiences because I was slavishly focused on a stupid Apollo 8 book report. I mean c’mon, Apollo 11 was the glamour mission and I got stuck with Apollo 8.

 

Missing out on the possibility of communion with the universe would be totally nowhere, whereas hopping on a bike and pedaling across town to my sister’s apartment on a whim would be totally somewhere. To be clear, I pedaled to her apartment on a bike and not on a whim even though I traveled on a whim. Are we clear? And that somewhere I traveled to was an apartment complex on the corner of Wolf and 7th North Street, where I hoped to fall into the warm and inviting embrace of the Danforth Arms.

 

Chronology of Sunday, May 4th 1975 AD

Being early May, the evening sunset was progressively later and the temperature comfortably warm. A clear-eyed decision was formulated at the highest level of my brain stem: I’d neglect my duties as assigned and take advantage of a self-issued governor’s commutation of my sentence to a Sunday evening of drudgery. And so my journey began. At around 5 pm, I left the boring familiarity of my house in Eastwood and pedaled my 3-speed Schwinn to Gail’s apartment. It was a balmy and breezy 6-mile ride on streets I was well-acquainted with. This change of venue would really change the channel and might even allow for some temporal alchemy – David Hardiman time traveler?

 

Desperate times called for desperate measures. In the lyrics of Tammy Wynette, I was doing all I could to, “make the world go away.” This flight to freedom wasn’t just a denial of reality, or delaying an aversive event. I was metaphorically running my hands against the walls of bounded space looking for a portal to another dimension – the place where it all originated. The source. The dimension where “they” are. “They” being those rat bastards who knew damn well about my “special needs” sleeping requirements, but chose to do nothing about it. Well, in the words of Glen Close in Fatal Attraction, “I won’t be ignored.”

 

No, I wouldn’t. Instead I’d self-medicate by fleeing my house and finding myself in another house miles away with nothing to show for it but the hope that God might reveal himself to me in some kind of understandable and helpful way. I mean there are long shots and then there are impossibilities and I was beginning to think there may be a flaw in my plan.  

 

My flight to freedom was both anesthetizing and investigatory, i.e., I felt calm and I reveled in exploring the nighttime’s owlish hum of energy. I excelled at creating an alternate universe and I filled it with measurable  benchmarks, satisfying flights of fancy and just enough clues to be able to return to this reality, high-functioning and none the worse for the wear.

  

With my Sunday early evening arrival at the Danforth Arms, I kept the nastiness of Monday morning’s reality at bay. In this case I abandoned my home and set up shop at my sister Gail’s unoccupied apartment. She was then working at Pizza Hut, where she did quite well in the days before waitresses had to declare their tips. Her apartment was a nondescript place, but it was someplace. Some place besides my house and the constant reminder that there were unwanted expectations, chores and duties to be discharged.

 

And that’s where you would find me early one Sunday evening, when I should be doing homework, or thinking about my future or worrying about Communists. Nope. I had blithely decided to prolong the weekend by riding my 3 speed Schwinn bike to Gail’s vacant abode where I undertook a bevy of narcotizing activities. I watched the end of a Yankee game while gorging on carefully reheated pizza which I crispied-up just perfectly (Thank you very much Pizza Hut). I hung out in the bean bag chair and watched 60 Minutes (in its entirety). She always had some cool books too. I was happily ensconced in my temporary mancave far from home and blissfully compartmentalized from the cruel realities (I was so dramatic as a teenager) awaiting me at home and at school. I was immersed in the moment and even though it was Sunday, I was partying like it was May 2nd 1975 (Friday). O’Friday, my Friday, wherefore art thou?

 

Ever Intrusive Reality

It grew late. My schemes at approaching the speed of light and making time stand still fell about 185,999 miles per second short of the 186,000 miles per second I needed to accelerate to in order to grind time to a halt. It was a valiant, if quixotic attempt, but no more effective than tilting at windmills. I was in full RAM – Reality Avoidance Mode. I knew I had school the next morning. It was now 11:30 on a Sunday night. I was miles from home and my math homework lay folded flat and undone, pressed between pages 177 and 178 of my Algebra for Dummies book.

 

By now Gail had finished her shift at Pizza Hut and had arrived home in her waitress uniform. And while she was glad to see me, she loved me too much to ask the obvious question: What the hell are you doing here? Instead the caring girl looked at me a little askance, and with a furrowed brow wondered aloud, “Don’t you have school tomorrow?”

 

Yes. Yes, I did have school tomorrow. My God. How did things get to this point? Actually, I’ve just described how they got this way (and in more detail than is probably necessary). You want me to be more concise? – go write your own story. I don’t mean to be hostile I’m just reexperiencing the hopelessness of that Sunday night so many decades ago. Couldn’t something be done about facing one’s fate?

 

Nope, and double nope. Instead Sunday was morphing inexorably into Monday. The frivolity of the weekend was over and the tent of last week had to be struck so the tent of a new week could be pitched. After stalling as long as possible, I accepted the cold reality of my predicament. I needed to straighten up and pedal right. So I bid good-bye to sis, mounted my bike and began the sad journey home to my rightful residence; where nestling in my warm bed would be heaven, but waking up early the next morning would be hell.

 

Born This Way

It was a little before midnight when I hit the streets of Syracuse, but I wasn’t tired one bit. In fact I was energized by the fleeting moments of nocturnal ecstasy I was experiencing in this late night ride. It was very romantic, and poetic – like the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere except it was the Midnight Ride of David Hardiman. Eastward on Grant Blvd I pedaled along the asphalt cataloguing and reveling in my experiences on this 3rd rock from the sun. I yearned for this liberating and revelatory feeling catalyzed by a kind of communing and merging with nature. It was very unifying and it merited all my attention – all of everyone’s’ attention. This was transformative. This was the boundary dissolving moment I craved and had carefully positioned myself for, although my method may have seemed haphazard.

 

A Flight of Fancy

Right here at the juncture of magic and reality, I finally punctured the walls of bounded space and found a portal to another dimension. In some indescribable sense, God had revealed himself to me in an understandable and helpful way. Maybe it was God or maybe it was all that Pizza Hut pizza talking. I may have been at the juncture of magic and reality, but actually this “aha” moment happened at the juncture of Grant Blvd and Butternut Circle. As I experienced this spiritually fortifying moment, I grew expansive and by Durston Ave I swear I had grown to over 20 feet in height. Of course there was no one around to vouch for it. Isn’t it always that way? Something supernatural happens to you and you’re the only one to see it. Thankfully, by the time I crossed well-populated Teall Ave things had normalized and I had returned to my customary size. It’s funny what the night airs can do to a susceptible person looking for a boundary dissolving experience.  

 

By now I was in my neighborhood of Eastwood and had transitioned to its major thoroughfare: James Street. As I continued towards the marquee of the anachronistic Palace Movie Theater, the eerie pink lights and the percussive beat of the music emanating from the Palace-a-Go-Go lounge beckoned me like a Republican to misinformation. I had always been aware of the Palace-a-Go-Go’s form and function, but I never really investigated it because it always had the windows shielded so you couldn’t see anything worthwhile from the street. There was a big curtain preventing non-paying voyeurs from viewing the topless merchandise shimmying on the stage. The curtain was parted a few feet, but those few feet were blocked by a sign preventing anyone under 7 feet tall from seeing in. I think it was arranged this way so people outside would get a sense of its naughty allure inside.

 

All these fleeting thoughts and calculations crossed my mind as I rode ever closer to the primeval thumping pulsating from this burlesque house. I’m about 6’4” tall and even at the age of 14 I was close to that height. If you add another foot, courtesy of the pedals I was standing on, that brought me up to about….well, you do the math. I rode my bike cautiously up to the window, and standing on the pedals while leaning on the glass, I could see above the sign and I spied with my little eyes a carnal ballet of epic proportion. And there she was, or, more accurately, there they were. Not one, but 2 naked female breasts swaying provocatively from side to side, while I stole lascivious glances at them. Jesus Christ! This was my second “aha” moment in 15 minutes. At this rate I’d be self-actualized by the time I crossed Woodbine Ave.

 

This was found treasure. In a state of disbelief, and not wanting to catch a bouncers eye, I took off but circled back to steal one more forbidden glance. In the most roundabout way possible, this explains how and why my 14 year-old self was gawking at boobs when the clock struck 12 midnight on Monday May 5th 1975. This memorable moment was an unexpected and fitting capstone to an evening of general hedonism.

 

With my heart and bicycle racing, I sped home and reflected on my  experience. In one sense I felt sad for Gypsy Rose Lee; up there all alone with her trembling breasts completely exposed. Evidently she was so poor she couldn’t afford nipple tassels to cover and warm the poor little teats, swollen hard in the chilly air. Well, her loss was my gain. In another sense I came to realize that sexuality was a great driver of actions. Funny how such a simple incentivized spasm, designed to procreate the species, can hold such sway in people’s lives. Funny, might not be the right word there.  

 

In any event, you’d be surprised at what mischievous phantasms come out to play in the wee, small hours of the morning. May 4th 1975 was a good night for banishing the drudgery of predictability and propitiating nocturnal entities longing for a kindred spirit to run unbounded with in the dog park of life.   

 

When I eventually arrived back home, it was after 12:30 am. I took the easy way out and showered and went to bed. Homework was left untouched. Apollo 8 was left still orbiting the moon. I did manage to drag my ass to school that manic Monday and soothed myself with the knowledge that some day I’d get it together (nowadays this feat of “getting it together” is referred to as “adulting”). At this stage you might be wondering, “Where were your parents during all this?” Exactly. 

 

1975 was a time before the term bodacious tatas had entered the lexicon so, like Larry David, all I could stammer about them was that they were, “pretty, pretty, pretty good boobs.” Back then you didn’t have to question whether the young lady on stage was transgendered or had implants or was ethically harvested in ways that promoted a sustainable supply of strippers worldwide. It was a simpler time when men were men and adolescents were horny. And for being privileged to experience the quaint charms of that evening, this particular adolescent would like to thank his kindred spirits, Gypsy Rose Lee and a polychromatic imagination that allowed me to paint joyously on the canvass of life.

 

And that’s what makes this my breast story ever told.

 

 

Epilogue: Operation Underage Ogling

It came to pass quickly that I shared this story of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere with my lifelong neighborhood chum, Gary DeBaise. I skipped over all that spirits-in-the-night bullsh*t  and got right to the part about ogling a topless stripper shakin’ it at the Palace-a-Go-Go. He agreed that this was one of the greatest things to happen since the Big Bang. Not one to let sleeping dogs lie (or, in this case, writhing strippers dance) we devised a plan of action to witness such brazen curvitude up close and personal. We would dress appropriately and attempt to penetrate this Palace of Pulchritude in hopes of watching its passing show with rapt avidity. I was a tall and skinny 14 years old. Gary was a swarthy and well-constructed 16 years old and our ill-starred 3rd wheel was 16 year-old Steve Angarano (Angus to us) who could muster a decent 5 o’clock shadow.

  

We strategized Operation Underage in the Situation Room located in the basement of DeBaise’s house. We discussed the entire mission in minute detail. Topics included: our clothing, our demeanor and the dialogue we’d employ should we make it past the bouncer and miraculously get seated. If they knew we were willing to spend good money for overpriced beers, then they might be amenable to letting us fill their tip jar while they filled our eyes with forbidden fruit. Everybody gets what they want and no one gets hurt. So what if we were a total of 8 years underage (18 then being the age of majority in New York state).

We wore heavy coats into the show to fill out our frames and we planned on acting like we belonged there – like we had decided between flying to Vegas for the weekend or hitting this strip club. Well we decided on the strip club and we wanted to exude an aura of “been there, done that.” And we came oh so close if not for the inexplicable utterance of Angus.

 

It went down like this. Mustering the cunning, courage and chutzpah to storm the Palace, the three of us entered the establishment with feigned disinterest. Casually, but not too casually, we strode by the bouncer and over near the stage where we situated ourselves in an open booth. At 14 I couldn’t understand why there’d be any empty seats for such a fleshy spectacle. The music was pumping, Gypsy Rose Lee was strutting and our little boy hearts, covered in a façade of false bravado and high-collared coats, were jumping.

 

So far so good. The waitress approached me first. I hoped I wouldn’t hit F above high C when she asked my order. We had promised to keep any communications with the employees short and sweet. So when she asked me, “What’ll ya have?” I had a ready answer (like I’d ordered at a bar a thousand times before), “Budweiser.” She took note and moved onto Gary. “How about you?” Gary got a little conversational, but pulled it off, “That sounds good. I’ll have a Bud too.” I thought he used 7 too many words when a simple “Bud” would’ve done the trick. The waitress didn’t flinch as she turned her attention to Angus whose order she asked with a simple, “You?”

Angus paused a beat too long. Gary and I looked at each other worriedly and then Angus responded with (I kid you not), “I’ll have a red pop.”

Major needle scratch. The waitress’s brow furrowed and she asked him for his ID. The jig was up. He blew it and now the dream was over (or at least delayed). We were asked to leave and as we shuffled out ignominiously I could only imagine what might’ve been had Angus, instead of saying “Red pop,” had said, “Just a Budweiser.” I might have a whole other story to tell.

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