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This One's About Porn In The 80s



 

Dex is Canadian to the core. His mental rolodex of hockey stats is wildly impressive to people from... other countries. He's also smart, like, super smart. And he loves to solve problems, any kind of problem. Give him a Rubix Cube, a road closure not on Google Maps, or a need for a rigged-up homemade Zamboni, he's on it. Or, say, illegal contraband in his sincerely polite homeland. A long time ago, he was also twelve. Like a good Canadian twelve-year-old, he spent his time playing hockey, dipping various foods in maple syrup, and playing with his adorable English Bull Terrier, Mitzy. In those years, before the internet, there were some consumer goods that were almost impossible to acquire in Canada, like designer jeans, Capri Sun, and… porn.

He was the only boy in a house full of sisters. This particular year, on the girls' annual Christmastime shopping trip, he decided to tag along. He had (quite literally) dreamed of making his way to New York City to purchase some adult entertainment and knew this was his opportunity and would be worth suffering through an eight and a half hour long car ride. His best friend Dingo and his family were part of the group so the two moms rented a passenger van and made their way down South to Manhattan.

The sisters gabbed throughout the entire car ride. They were excited about the clothes and shoes and makeup that they would buy with their waitressing money. Dex and Dingo sat silently in the back seat, plugged into their yellow Sony Walkmans blasting the Tragically Hip. They'd already made their plan. They had never been to The City as teenagers but they knew that they were finally old enough to go do their own thing. They also knew that Time Square was a seedy neighborhood and seedy neighborhoods were probably good places to buy porn. They were not wrong.

When the passenger van drove over the bridge into Manhattan with the towering buildings and thousands of colorful lights, every person gazing out the window had a different vision. This shopping trip was something the girls looked forward to all year long, it was even better than Christmas Day. This trip gave them the opportunity to transform into hipper, more sophisticated, and better-dressed versions of themselves. New York provided this little group with the same possibility she provides everyone who enters her limits; the chance of total metamorphosis. For Dex and Dingo, they drove into the city as Boys, but they would leave her as Men.

The boys parted ways with the rest of the group who wanted to hit up Gimbels and Barneys while the boys booked it to 42nd Street, laser-focused on their mission. Now, this was 1985 and Time Square was not the Disney-MTV-M&M store PG-rated neighborhood that it is today. It used to be downright dangerous. Dex and Dingo held their money tight in their pockets as they navigated the streets overrun with dealers, pimps, and twenty-five-cent peepshows which, even with the exchange rate, was a very good deal. They managed to spend an afternoon in Time Square without getting robbed, solicited, or Herpes and left with their prized possession: a VHS tape with God knows what on it. Then, proud of themselves, they each got an enormous slice of pizza and eventually headed to the meeting place.

The girls had shopped themselves silly which was a bit of a problem. If they got searched by Border Patrol, they would have to provide receipts and pay taxes on their new purchases. So they pulled off all the tags, threw away the receipts, and folded everything up in suitcases as if they’d owned nine pairs of Guess! jeans for years. When Dex saw the lengths everyone was taking to hide their goods, he got nervous.

As the family piled into the giant van, Dex made a game-time decision. He pulled the VHS out of his leather bomber jacket and stuffed it into his mom’s suitcase, his heart beating so loud he was sure everyone could hear it.

The ride back was much quieter than the ride there, everyone was exhausted and most of the girls fell asleep. Not Dex. His stomach was in knots. He tried to finagle his way back to the trunk where all the suitcases were packed together, but he couldn’t get over his sleeping sisters or their friends. He kicked Dingo.

“Dude, what if they find it?”

“They’re not going to find it. I’ve don’t this trip with my mom three times and they just make sure that you don’t have trash bags full of cocaine and wave you through. Chill out.”

But Dex didn’t chill out. He knew there was a very real chance that they could get in very real trouble. He didn't trust Dingo. Even though he was barely a teenager in a country that outlawed porn, he knew that cocaine didn't come in trash bags. Also, he was right.

The passenger van pulled up to Border Patrol as the clouds closed in overhead. The day seemed to get immediately colder and darker. The agent motioned for Dex's mother to roll down her window and asked her where they’d been and what they’d been doing. With a straight face, she told the officer that they’d gone to New York to see Cats and visit friends. They stared at each other for a solid ten seconds. The officer cleared his throat,

“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask to look in the car.”

“Sure,” his mom said with a sweet smile that got her further in life than it should have. Dex’s stomach dropped. He thought he might be sick. He and Dingo ’s eyes locked as the officer opened up the trunk and rummaged through the belongings. He opened Dex’s mom’s suitcase. Dex held back the vomit his stomach was threatening.

“And whose is this?”

Dex’s mom brought out the smile and added a batting of the eyelashes.

“Oh, officer, that’s mine.”

Time stood still. The officer gave her a long look. She smiled again for what seemed like a month and a half. Finally, the officer zipped up her suitcase, gave her what could only be described as a wink, and tapped the hood of the van twice.

“That’s fine, ladies, drive safe.”

The relief that tsunami’ed over Dex is something he remembers decades later.


When they finally returned to Toronto, he insisted on carrying all of the bags to his mother and sister’s rooms. When he was out of earshot, he opened his mother’s suitcase, grabbed the tape, threw it into his room, scratched his sweet pup Mitzy, and went downstairs to watch hockey. He sat on the couch simmering in what one could argue is one of the best teenage feelings ever, and that’s the feeling of Getting Away With It. He was on his absolute best behavior that evening, clearing the table, doing the dishes, and telling his sisters that they looked great in their new jeans.

The night dragged on. It felt like his family would never stop gabbing and go to bed. Eventually, the excitement of the day wore off and the house fell quiet. Finally, it was the moment he’d been waiting for. He crept up the stairs to his room, some sort of Canadian-branded lotion in hand. As silently as he possibly could, he opened the door.


There, on his bed, was Mitzy, sitting in a nest of tape, ripped to its guts. The plastic case lay empty on the floor. Miles of shiny tape looped and circled all around her. Mitzy looked up at Dex with her cock-eyed smile, thrilled with her own afternoon.


Dex just stood there, paralyzed, staring at his English Bull Terrier. Mitzy let out a happy yelp, having had more fun with that hard-won VHS than Dex ever would.


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