The Find of the Century

“Even if you don’t believe it, there is pornography in every home”. A quotation from my best friend, 1997.

Sixteen years ago we were smacked with “The Storm of the Century”. A huge, unexpected Colorado Low swept into town on a Saturday morning in April and dropped a ton of snow all over the place.

A few weeks later, our city was about to experience “The Flood of the Century”. This “Flood of the Century” was caused in no small part by the “Storm of the Century”. We like to do things big in this town.

The river was rising and eventually took out the entire downtown of a neighbouring city upstream from us . This flood wasn’t messing around. Our whole city came under a weird seige-like mentality and sensible people began doing things like hoarding food and water. Even though I lived in one of the higher parts of town, there was an effort afoot to make sure things of value were moved out of basements. This was especially difficult for me as I actually lived in my Mom’s basement. I had a pretty sweet set-up down there and I’d be damned if I had to move all that stuff and then have nothing happen.

My best friend  lived a few streets over and he called me up one day with a bit of the panic in his voice. “Um, Trev, are you busy right now? No? Um, do you think you could pick up Jeff and come over and help me move some stuff out of my parent’s basement? Could you bring your Mom’s van?” It turned out that his Mom was really getting upset with the coming flood and was on his case to clear the basement out. My best friend’s Dad was at work and my friend didn’t want to do all this himself. Jeff and I were happy to help; we weren’t doing much that afternoon anyway. My friend’s basement wasn’t fully finished, although the former owners used the space for a local square-dancing club. It had a really nice wooden dance-floor covering most of it, and oddly enough once wall was totally covered with a wallpaper mural of mountains, Swiss Chalet style.

Jeff and I showed up in my Mom’s van and we started to carry stuff upstairs into the living room and dining room. Like most unfinished basements, there was a lot of crap that, truth be told, probably could have been simply tossed out, or if the flood waters were to destroy it wouldn’t be anyone’s loss. But it wasn’t our place to make those kinds of decisions. Our job was to simply help our friend move this stuff to relative safety.

On one of Jeff’s trips up the stairs, the cardboard box he was carrying flipped open at the top and what he saw inside brought him to a complete stop. It was a magazine cover with alot of flesh tones on the front. At first Jeff thought it was an old Chatelaine or something but it wasn’t.

It was a Playboy.

It wasn’t just any Playboy, it was a Playboy from 1974, the year we were all born.

Jeff headed back downstairs and called us over. “What the hell?!” was all our friend could manage. A quick flip through this box showed various issues of Playboy and Penthouse, Swank and by God even a couple of Hustlers.  Without knowing what we had done, Jeff had inadvertantly discovered our friend’s Dad’s secret stash. This is significant because while the rest of our circle of friends all knew where our parents kept their “adult” things, our friend always maintained that there was no such collection in his house, and it wasn’t from lack of looking. Our friend always took a little bit of the moral high ground regarding his Dad compared to all our Dads as he thought his Dad was somehow a bit better by not having a secret stash. Our friend’s childhood perception of his Dad did a complete 180 degree turn that afternoon and it seemed the wind was knocked out of his sails a little bit.

The next question was what the hell were we going to do with this stash now that we had unearthed it?

Sometimes in life you act before you think, and this was one of those moments for me. Without another word, I gathered up the whole box and high-tailed up out of the basement, through the kitchen and out into the street. Before anyone could say anything, the box was safely stowed in the back of my Mom’s van. I think the thought of our friend’s Mom seeing the collection or maybe knowing that my friend’s Dad, who I really admired, got found out was too much to bear. It was too late for our friend, but for the most part we could still salvage this man’s dignity and reputation with his immediate family and wider community. Later on, my friend commented that he had never in his life seen me move so fast as I did that afternoon from his house to the van. We moved the rest of the flood prone items up out of the basement into the living room and set off for our friend’s studio downtown in the Exchange district, secret porn stash along for the ride.

We felt kind of like Sallah and Indy in the Well of Souls, or maybe the doomed expedition that uncovered King Tut’s tomb. We carted the box up the three flights of stairs to the studio and all sat around it, wondering what to do with it. It was soon decided that it should stay at our friend’s studio in a giant steamer trunk until we could come up with a plan. The trunk had a padlock and our friend kept the key. This seemed right, after all.

Here before us in our grasp was a full decade of a previous generation’s masturbatory inspiration and we just didn’t know how to proceed. Our friend was still reeling from this discovery. As it turned out, when we inventoried the stash, we discovered there were no issues earlier than 1970, and none after 1979. It truly was exclusively a treasure trove of  “’70s Porn”. Our friend was still doing the math: “He was collecting up until I was 5. I was 5 years old and he was buying this stuff. And then he stopped. All of a sudden. What happened? Why did he stop?” These questions were haunting my friend.

"Don't look directly at it, Indy!"

“Don’t look directly at it, Indy!”

That night, when our friend’s Dad heard that things were moved up out of the basement, he got all quiet and introspective. He asked our friend, “Um, did you find any boxes? Any cardboard boxes down there?” Our friend had to lie, of course. I can’t imagine what his Dad must have been going through. Surely he knew the box had been down there all those years, and now its whereabouts was uncertain. Did his wife find it and simply dispose of it? (possible), did it just get thrown out without even being opened? (even more possible and probably preferable). He never would have guessed the truth: that his son’s friends valiantly tried to protect his reputation and honour with his family by moving the box and its contents out to an undisclosed location.

This was the plan we came up with: We’d keep the box in the trunk in our friend’s studio until such time that the flood crisis would be over and then only when we knew his parents would surely be out, we’d return the box to the basement and bury it as deep as we could. Then, one day in the far future, when our friend’s Dad was down there puttering around looking for the right screwdriver or some damn thing he’d come across his secret stash and all would be right with the world.

It sounded like a good plan, but it was never executed. We never did find an opportunity to get over there. Our friend’s parents never seem to go out. At least not together. The stash stayed in the studio trunk for years. There were times when the studio was filled with people for parties and what-not, and the padlocked chest would be in the corner of the room. The three of us would exchange knowing glances, like the doomed party hosts in Hitchcock’s Rope. Our friend eventually gave up that studio space and moved out on his own. The trunk went with him. He has moved about three times since then and I think the trunk is still under his care and control.

Ten years later, the CBC was looking back at the “Flood of the Century” and listeners were encouraged to phone in with their memories from that time. We have a friend who worked for the CBC and he really really wanted one of us to phone in with that story, but none of us had the nerve. Our friend’s Dad listens to the CBC, you know, and our cover would have been blown. Still, I sometimes will think back to that fateful day when the Storm of the Century ushered in the Flood of the Century which in turn provided us the opportunity to make the Find of the Century.

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