A part of me has just been ripped
The pages from my mind are stripped
Oh no, I can't deny it
Oh yea, I guess I gotta buy it

My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is the centerfold
Angel is the centerfold

"Centerfold" by the J. Geils Band

Outside the door to our carport storage shed, I hear birds chirping merrily on this fresh spring day. My wife and daughter dig in the flower bed beside our driveway among blossoms and honeybees. We have a moment of excitement when, after pulling several storage containers from the back wall, I find a large snake skin intact. It had used the edge of the cinderblocks for purchase, and most of the 4 1/2 foot long skin had separated in one piece. We stretch it out on the ground and take a picture of my daughter lying beside it.

Back in the storage closet, I am pulling out boxes that haven't been touched since we moved in a few years ago. These were the boxes stored in the garage at our last house, and probably had been untouched there as well. Opening each as I go, I find photographs, amateur astronomy gear, piles of old journals, and the occasional childhood toy. The box at the bottom of the stack contains magazines. I pull out several years worth of Rue Morgue, and then some older Mother Earth News. And then, at the very bottom of the box, a large pile of adult magazines.


To a boy in the 1980s, acquiring an adult magazine was the ultimate treasure find. Before the World Wide Web, or even the widespread availability of cable television, the pages of Playboy or Penthouse provided us a rare glimpse into the world of grown-ups that we knew existed but was constantly hidden. The words we found in these were new, and alluded to still-vague-to-us activities. The jokes we laughed at, despite often not understanding the punchlines. And the pictures, the pictures......

For the few years we lived in town during elementary school, my brother and I terrorized the neighborhood along with the rest of the pack of boys. There was always a clubhouse somewhere. There usually was an adult magazine hidden there. We called them "dirty mags" or "nudie mags" or generically "Playboys," like people refer to all sodas as Coke here in the South. We would filch these from the stashes our fathers kept in their closets or under their beds. Occasionally we found them in the bigger kids' hangouts. Rarely, the more brazen among us shoplifted one from a store.


In college I was assigned a university mailbox. My girlfriend at the time signed me up for a subscription to Playboy. Except for the end of term grade slip, it was the only interesting thing I found there. By this time I could access USENET by dialing in to my university mainframe, but I still preferred my pinup fix to arrive in the mail each month. It even had a short story by my favorite author, Kilgore Trout.

In the following years, the girlfriend became my wife. The world changed, and with it, the adult entertainment industry. Magazine companies consolidated or folded, and many of the models used the Web to kickstart their own self controlled efforts. Somewhere in there porn became accepted in mainstream culture, or at least much more so. People no longer hid their magazines at home because they no longer kept them at all. Now smart phones with constant Internet access provided all the adult entertainment a person could want. The hipsters started making their own non-commercial porn, and the "amatuer" movement struck another blow to the once giant magazine market. Places like Reddit grew entire communities of self-made pics and video.

My life changed as well. A divorce, a career change or two, and a decade or so later, I found myself married to a different woman. Strong, sex positive, and full of adventure, she turned out to be the type of person I had always daydreamed the women in those magazines were like.


As I'm placing these magazines from the storage shed into a garbage bag, I flip through a couple. Some of these are only seven or eight years old, but even now it is obvious tastes have changed. I'm struck by how photoshopped the images appear. Hairstyles, personal grooming, and body shape all vary from the porn du jour. The last time I had these out, my daughter had not been born, and I had been pulling the centerfolds out to use as wrapping paper for a friend's birthday gift. Now the entire pile is dumped unceremoniously into the trash.

I feel a twinge of guilt. My 10-year-old self would be appalled at the treasure trove I just discarded.

But that is okay. I have new treasures now. And one of them wants to show me the bucket of worms she has collected while helping her mom.

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