As my regular readers know, I possess an incredibly delicate, depression-prone sensibility. I find large “family friendly” crowds especially nerve-wracking, particularly if those families come from “all walks of life.” I can handle “non-family friendly” gatherings just fine. Heavy metal rock concerts, ecstasy-fueled raves, St. Patrick Day’s pub-crawls, and violent protests don’t bother me a whit; however, a day trip to somewhere like Six Flags hurls me headlong into Sylvia-Plath-like pits of deep despair.
We’re talking Mariana Trench, Dante’s Malebolgia, i.e., super subterranean levels of depression.
Imagine my horror, then, when one Saturday twenty years ago around noon, my 8th grade son Harrison asked if I would take him and his 6th grade brother Ned to the Coastal Carolina Fair.
“It’s the very last day,” he added.
We were driving on Ashley Avenue in the small beach community where we live. I looked over at my wife Judy whose expression was one that you might encounter if you had just informed someone that she was being sequestered for jury duty for a Gambino brother trial in Newark.
These words came out of my mouth: “You boys ever hear of Playboy magazine?”
They answered in the affirmative.
“Well, what if instead of taking you to the fair, I bought you a copy of Playboy magazine instead?
“You’re kidding, “ Harrison said, the glee in his voice approaching bicycle-under-the X-mas-tree levels.
“I’m absolutely serious,” I said. “By the time we return home, get ready, battle the bumper-to-bumper traffic, find a godforsaken place to park, trudge the five miles to the entrance, we’ll all be exhausted.”
“You’re sure you’re not kidding?”
What he left unsaid, but it registered loud and clear: “You’re the greatest dad in the world!”
So we pulled into Bert’s Market, and I found the magazine rack and secured the current issue of Playboy, which featured the German figure skater Katrina Witt. The transaction was made, the product sheathed in a brown paper bag.
Once we returned home, the boys scampered into the room and slammed the door.
The next day, while they were out skateboarding, I slinked into the room with the intention of checking out the issue myself, but they had hidden it, as if it were contraband.
Finally, I had to ask them outright if they minded if I took a look at it. I promised to give it back.
 Let me hasten to add that despite the tale that is to follow, our two sons have managed to graduate from college (one has a masters in linguistics, the other makes 30K more than his old man who has 31 years of teaching the same gig). In other words, they no longer live with us.
 People often ask why both boys majored in German. It just occurred to me that this event might have played a role.