When the new issues of Playboy and Penthouse arrived, we would page through them and comment on that month’s Playmates and the Pets. And then rest of the guys would slough their copies into their desk drawers, I would slip mine into my briefcase and take them home to look and  read at leisure.

‘We don’t want our old ladies to get all worked up about them!’ Big Larry (Howard) would say with a knowing smile on his face. Up until Jeff (Anderson) joined us a year or so later, I was the only single guy in the department.  At the time I didn’t give it much of a thought, except that I was single and didn’t have to worry about hiding them from my wife and kids. I must have felt a bit strange though, considering that growing up in India, my image of America came from Hollywood movies. A country that was free and liberal. That for us meant mostly the social freedom such as falling in love and getting married instead of arranged unions, kissing in public, making out and having sex before marriage. And even though bikinis hadn’t made big inroads yet, we found the American women in the fashion magazines and in the movies wearing revealing single piece swimsuits titillating.

I had only known American political history of the unilateral declaration of the independence, the Boston Tea Party and the Constitution proclaiming life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I had no idea of the puritan heritage that was weaved into the every thread of the American fabric. I had not yet had a serious relationship with an American woman. One could say that Playboy changed it all for me, but actually most of my ideas and the character have been molded by  Germany and Europe, probably facilitated by Playboy. The conclusion I had come to at the time and after Gina’s outburst, that the problem with having to hide magazines and calendars had to do with only one thing: the nudity. And that majority of the people who have strong negative opinion of Playboy, had never actually read the magazine.

Something I would have understood in my early days in the West, because in India or in my home, we wouldn’t  even remove all of our clothes even to take a shower. We soaped and sprinkled ourselves by lifting layers of  clothing.  It was when living in Munich that I began to see the absurdity of it all. The Johannclanzestrasse complex where I lived, we had coed sauna. And no one sat around in it with towels wrapped around. It made sense. The whole purpose of taking sauna is to let your pores open up and sweat out the toxins. The only way to reap full benefit of subjecting yourself to the extreme heat is to let your clothes and inhibitions drop. And the Europeans certainly don’t have any qualms about that. One of my coolest images of the sauna is that of the three generations of women together walking into the steam filled room – seven or eight year old grand daughter, her young mother, perhaps in her early thirties and the grandma in her sixties. A perfect study in evolution.

And living in Munich in itself was liberating in that sense. Our offices were downtown, not far from Englischer Garten, right in the heart of the city. When the spring came and soon as the temps climbed upwards of around 25 degrees Celsius (about 77 Fahrenheit), it wouldn’t be too unusual to see young office workers on their lunch breaks to cross their arms and lift their tops over their heads and their hands reaching backwards to undo their bra straps, becoming a part of the landscape dotted with the female anatomy surrendered to the warm sunrays. Even the nudist beach on Isar river that ran through the city, wasn’t far from the center. You would walk through some shrubbery and suddenly be standing in the middle of hundreds of people clustered au naturell, drinking beer, barbecuing, lounging just like here in Chicago at the North Street Beach. So when I returned to America, I experienced a big cultural shock, more so than the one I must have felt several years earlier when I had just gotten off the boat.

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