The Naked Canadian Guys
What is it about the 4th of July that brings out odd behavior among middle aged white guys?
We were watching the second to last episode of Mad Men – where Peter attempts to black mail Don Draper (is this only the first time?). Our television is in the den, and in lieu of a real adult couch, we use a futon. We’re splayed out, when all of the sudden, the motion sensor light comes on. Samson goes nuts. Susie jumps. It is a fat naked white guy, running across our back yard, along the cement court, and then up the stairs to our driveway.
I’m outside right away. Samson is too, and he’s in pursuit. I’m out early enough to get a good look. He’s one of those young fat guys, with shiny skin unblemished by odd spots, funny bumps, or too much hair. Still gross, of course. He seems to have something in his hands. Maybe he had to take his clothes off outside. He’s well beyond the steps by now. Samson is barking at the edge of the perimeter of his electric fence. He’s pissed, but he’s not going to take a shock for this guy. That is when I see the flags.
The next naked guy is running down my alley, wearing some kind of shiny hat. He has a large German flag – maybe six feet by four feet – strung to a long pole. There is another guy, also in the buff, right behind him. Except he’s got a Canadian flag. It might be a race. If it is, the Canadian is going to lose. Then I hear a huge pop. It sounds like the fabled M-80. Do they still make M-80s? That was the thing to shoot off in the 80s, back when kids didn’t wear seat belts. All I know is that its really loud.
I walk down there. “What is going on? What are you doing? Why don’t you put on some clothes?”
A guy notices me and comes forward to talk. “Hey, man,” he says, “you almost blew it for my German friend!”
I feel irritated. What should I say? I’m standing in the alley, and there are about twelve guys in the back of the driveway. These guys have their clothes on. I think they are confused. Why is this guy here? Why is he so uncool? They look as if I have busted up their Sigma Chi smoker. Their mouths are slightly open, their brows are a bit rolled up into the center of their foreheads.
There are a few options here. I could be a nice “cool” neighbor. I could say, “Hey, who thinks that Molson Canadian is better than regular Molson?” or…”Do you guys remember Fall Fest ’94?” Then, I would have marked myself as one of their tribe.
There’s also the irritating paternal approach: Guys, maybe it is time to think a bit about your drinking problem….
No, that’s not my plan. I’m just going to vent.
“Gee,” I tell to the group, and to no one in particular. “None of you all look like you are sixteen. But that’ funny, because it sure seems like you don’t realize that this is a neighborhood, with families and kids. Kids that are sleeping. Like my kids, or like the little girl back in the white house on the other side of this alley, the one that just came back from the incubator over in neonatal intensive care, or Sidney.”
If you want to be naked, fine, but don’t be naked in my yard. Is that really too much. Stay naked at home.
“Dude,” says this guy in an Adidas soccer shirt, “it’s cool. Really, it won’t happen again.”
I realize, at this moment, that I’m in a futile conversation. I’m the lone voice living in a democratic republic of drunk guys. No one here is going to take any kind of responsibility for things. I’m probably not even going to get to talk to the owner of the house.
“So, let me see if I understand what you are saying.” I say. “You’re telling me that it’s ‘cool,’ you probably won’t even need to be naked in my yard again. All night.”
I decide to call the cops. They’ll be nice. At least, they’ll be nice this time. “Pardon me sir, I’ve heard that you running naked through the neighborhood. Try to keep that inside with your other guy friends. Good night.” That’s how it will go. Fine. If they put their clothes on after that, then they’ll be fine.
The Next Day
John and Rosie have a business idea. Rosie is going to market a four-minute back massage from John. Four minutes for one dollar. Rosie made seven nice flyers, each with both of their names and a weekly schedule for appointments. I escort them to Anne’s door, but she is not home. Neither is Elizabeth across the street. A woman comes out of Donald’s house. “Dad,” says John, “there is the target market, right? A woman!”
At this moment, I have to make contact, if not for John then at least to qualify what we are doing to her. She’s on the cell phone. Maybe she didn’t hear. Maybe she did. She’s about to get into her Fit. “Let me ask,” I say. “Would you like a professional massage, from a professional?” It is with a straight face. I feel like my countenance makes it pretty clear that I’m not looking to massage her. Just in case, though, I defer to John. She seems to understand. “Yes, I would love one,” she says, “but I have to be somewhere.” She laughs.
John wants to go over to 905. That is the house in the dark with the flags and the Canadian guys that carry them across the alley, albeit more slowly than the German naked guy. It is quiet over there this morning.
“Dad,” maybe there’s a woman in that house!” They have lived her for almost a year, and we still haven’t met. I saw them once, when I was taking at the trash. I guess I have been waiting for a better reason. There might be a joy in watching them respond to John, half drunk in the stupor of their Canadian hangovers. “Hey, dad, look at this German helmet! Cool. Is that from the Medieval era? Really. Do you guys like Playmobil?” But no, it is not to be. Today is not going to be the moment when I bring my kids over to petition for a dollar.
I know what this is about, too. It’s a couple of guys that used to be 24, and now they are 31, and they spent a summer abroad with a Eurail Pass. They aced German when they came back for senior year at Denison, or Wesleyan, or Hobart. I bet that they learned to like Grolsch. It is also the World Cup. They’d probably be embarrassed to drive around town with a NC State football flag on their car. They’d scoff at the idea of putting a big “3” on their bumper. But they have a huge Canadian flag on their Subaru. I suppose that I probably could have laughed this off. Maybe I should have. Again, it is different when it’s your house, with your kids asleep. Then, there’s also the fact that this is all about privilege. I’m trying to imagine how this would be different if they weren’t white men with college degrees. What if two Salvadorans ran through Trinity Park naked in the middle of the night? What if a black woman was found naked in someone’s back yard?
Would that be “cool?”
Right. As my friend James said, “No way.”