A brief in Friday’s edition of the Arizona Republic caught my attention and made me wax nostalgic.
OK, “wax’’ is not a word I generally use every day. But if Bill Goodykoontz, the Republic's movie critic, can refer to a movie as being a “lark’’ then I should have some license, too. By the way, I thought a lark was some sort of bird. Also, I vaguely recall that Lark was also a brand of cigarettes way back when.
At any rate, the brief was about how the Gilbert police were looking for a man accused of indecent exposure after a woman saw him running naked through a park Thursday morning.
According to the report, he was last seen riding a bike into a neighborhood. I am assuming he was still naked at that point, but the story doesn’t say.
Anyway, the police were provided a pretty good description. The perp is reported to be between 20 and 30 years old, is about 5-foot-10 and 130 pounds and has a tattoo of a sun on his right thigh.
I’d say the woman got a REALLY good look at the offender. At this point, I half expected her to say that the offender likes long walks on the beach, cuddling, old movies and is possibly Jewish, if you get my drift.
I mean, heck, she got everything but a phone number, you know?
Of course, these days the idea of a man running naked through the park is, in some quarter, considered a serious offense. You can get prison time for it, in fact. And after you get out, you have to register as a sex offender and folks will hound you out of any decent neighborhood.
Ah, but this was not always the case.
Well do I know that, in fact.
Let’s travel back to the summer of 1975. A group of 16-year-old boys are hanging out at one of the kid’s homes. They are bored because it is summer, they are 16 and the XBox won’t be invented for another 25 years.
So, one of the boys stands up, strips off his Peter Frampton T-shirt and announces, “I’m going to streak around the subdivision.’’
This pronouncement prompts a lively discussion among the boys. Wagers are made. Then off comes the Levis and Fruit Of The Looms and he is standing there, wearing only his Converse All-Stars.
As the boys begin to scream and holler, heads peak out through the windows of the houses along the previously quiet street. As the boy begins to run down the sidewalk, 14-year-old Avery Bank is, at that very moment, walking out her front door, oblivious to the figure that is soon to pass with a few feet of her.
She hears the hollers, looks up and sees the boy right in front of her. The boy sees her stunned expression as he passes and laughs so hard he almost stumbles.
Soon, he has made the complete circuit and is greeted with cheers from his buddies.
They laugh, slap five (high-fives would not be invented for another five years or so).
Then one of the boys, Bill Perkins, makes a suggestion:
“You know, if you really want to do it right, you should streak by Rockwell,’’ he says.
Now this suggestion represents a serious raising of the stakes.
Rockwell Park is where all the high school kids hang out in Tupelo on a Saturday night. To streak past Rockwell Park - the plan involves running behind Perkin’s ratty old Ford pick-up truck with its headlights flashing and horn blowing - would be an enormous risk. But it would also insure the streaker a permanent place in Tupelo folklore.
“I’ll do it,’’ I said.
So, a hundred feet or so before the entrance to the Park, I emerged from the pick-up truck and made my dash into immortality, with Perkins blasting the horn and shutting the headlights on and off. The kids at the park began to hoop and holler, girls peaked and blushed and laughed.
And at the end of the circuit, the truck stopped and I climbed back into the cab of the truck.
An hour later, Randall, who had also been in the truck told me that he had to talk Perkins out of abandoning me, naked, and speeding away.
“I would have killed him,’’ I said, laughing. That would have been pretty funny, I had to admit.
Now, I don’t know what would have happened if the cops had caught me that summer night 33 years ago. But I doubt I would have had to register for anything or being facing any jail time. Of course, my folks would have gone ballistic, so I'm grateful I wasn't caught.
Of course, times have changed.
There was a time when simply being naked wasn’t considered a sex crime. Heck, I can remember many times when Southern mama’s wouldn’t even let their muddy children set foot in the house. If you had been playing in mud holes - another pre-video-game pastime - your mama would make you strip naked out on the front lawn while she washed you down with the garden hose. Mamas were more concerned with the state of their carpet than any embarrassment suffered as a result on being naked out on the front lawn. Mamas back then were practical that way.
I would strongly suggest mamas avoid this these days. Otherwise, you can expect a visit from CPS.
Late humor columnist Lewis Grizzard put it pretty well, I thought, when he said that there was two states of being unclothed: Naked and Nekked. Naked is when you don’t have any clothes on. Nekked is when you don’t have any clothes on and you’re up to something.
Now, I don’t know the intentions of this guy in Gilbert. I like to think t was just a bit of innocent exuberance. I hope that’s the case.
Somehow, I suspect the woman who reported the incident feels the same way.
It was just a lark, after all.