Our next-door neigh­bor, Mike Harp­er, was kind of a surfer dude in atti­tude… blond, row­dy and always look­ing for a good wave. He didn’t make it to the beach that often, but could skate­board down a hill like no one in the neigh­bor­hood. He also had a cool blue Schwinn Super Deluxe Sting-Ray bike with the chop­per style han­dle­bars, stick shift and a 30” sis­sy bar in the back.
That’s not all he had.

Mike was old­er than us by a cou­ple years, but seemed to rel­ish the role of men­tor and edu­cat­ed us, and fos­tered our cor­rup­tion. He exposed us to the sins and vices of the adult world. In a box hid­den under his bed, below a stack of com­ic books, he kept his con­tra­band, main­ly stolen cig­a­rettes and nud­ist mag­a­zines. We puffed on cig­a­rettes that tast­ed hor­ri­ble and made us cough. But you even­tu­al­ly became accli­mat­ed to the harsh, hot inhales and enjoyed that aro­mat­ic, sooth­ing fla­vor they talked about in the com­mer­cials.

Believe it or not, in the ear­ly Six­ties, you could watch — The Flin­stones, the Flin­stones… for God’s sake, light up a Win­ston or pitch beer dur­ing the com­mer­cial breaks. It was dis­con­cert­ing to see Fred and Bar­ney lean­ing back against a pre­his­toric rock rel­ish­ing their smokes like it was dev­il weed. They did this while Wilma and Bet­ty worked their lit­tle car­toon ass­es off in the yard. Even Wilma lit up at the end of the com­mer­cial while Fred sang the Win­ston song: “Win­ston tastes good like a cig­a­rette should.” That was until Peb­bles was born in 1963 and it was deemed inap­pro­pri­ate. In 1964, the U.S. Sur­geon Gen­er­al declared smok­ing was harm­ful to one’s health. I don’t recall get­ting that mes­sage, but appar­ent­ly Fred and Wilma did. After that the Flin­stones were hawk­ing Welch’s Grape Juice.

We didn’t give a shit; it was boss.

The mag­a­zines we were exposed to were down right obscene by the stan­dards of that time, but mild­ly PG in com­par­i­son to the explic­it triple‑X stuff avail­able in today’s mag­a­zines. Mike some­how obtained a vari­ety of skin mag­a­zines; the classi­est was a month­ly issue of that year’s Play­boy. We smoked the stale cig­a­rettes like filthy fiends as we drooled over the sun-kissed boobs of volup­tuous babes pos­ing proud­ly as they dis­played their wares. … The pho­tog­ra­phy was quite excel­lent as were the thought pro­vok­ing arti­cles ‑ha, ha. I was tak­en aback to find an inter­view of the Bea­t­les in that issue, but was too pre­oc­cu­pied at the time with the excel­lent pho­tog­ra­phy else­where in the mag­a­zine to read it.

The oth­er mag­a­zines, exhib­it­ed pic­tures of very aver­age unat­trac­tive peo­ple in nud­ist colonies. There was usu­al­ly one nice look­ing girl, au nat­ur­al, but some­how she didn’t seem so sexy with her hairy armpits. Maybe it was a French colony. Most of the mag­a­zines chron­i­cled nud­ists frol­ick­ing about near a beach or pos­ing awk­ward­ly by a clump of shrub­bery. They actu­al­ly weren’t total­ly nude all the time. Some wore sneak­ers or sport­ed just a hat or a tied-on apron if they were cook­ing by the grill. That could be dan­ger­ous because these women were extreme­ly hairy; some­thing you nev­er saw in Play­boy. It was gross to see naked men, even worse play­ing bad­minton or hang­ing around with their naked kids. We flipped quick­ly through those pages to find the best look­ing babe. Between the cig­a­rette smoke and the con­tra­band mag­a­zines we were left dizzy by the expe­ri­ence.

Since I’m on the sub­ject of tit­il­la­tion, there was anoth­er kid, who lived behind us. I’ll call him Skip, because I don’t remem­ber his name or real­ly want to. He was obsessed with Sears cat­a­logs in a rather unhealthy way. Not hav­ing access to the tan­ta­liz­ing illic­it mag­a­zines Mike man­aged to get, Skip set­tled for black and white pho­tos of women in lacy lin­gerie, silky panties and bras. Inside his clos­et, lit by a lamp he pulled inside, was a gallery of torn pages from the cat­a­logs taped to the back of his clos­et doors. A vast array of women in gir­dles, panties, nylons and tor­pe­do bras fes­tooned the doors. It was pret­ty creepy. Hav­ing gone through puber­ty, Skip offered to impreg­nate my sis­ters if I could talk them into com­ing over. I declined that and any future vis­its to his house.