Monday, January 5, 2015


Back when I was a kid I went to Madeleine grade school in Portland.

One day a significant event occurred.

A new magazine title appeared on the magazine rack at Anderson’s Drug Store.

Anderson’s was a couple of blocks up 24th from Madeleine.

The magazine was Mad.

Mad being available on the shelves of a store only a couple of blocks away from a 1950’s Catholic school created an interesting cultural conflict.

Mad immediately caught the attention of many of the students from the school just down the street.

The fact that after school, the stools of the soda counter at Anderson’s were frequently occupied by young male Catholics perusing Mad quickly leaked back to the nuns.

That information leakage quickly generated a trademark activity of that era of Catholic gradeschoolism: a witch hunt.

I can’t remember anything about that witch hunt except that I was a witness to one of its sessions.

I have no idea why I was there; I’m pretty sure I had never looked at Mad.

I was too stupid to get it so I didn’t read it.

I probably didn’t have enough money to buy it either.

We were pretty poor.

Anyway, I remember an ebb and flow of that session’s investigation of the threat that Mad posed to the souls of the Catholic youth of Northeast Portland.

But I have no memory of what any of those threats might have been supposed to have been.

But I remember one thing.

Sister Ellen Marie was the leader of the inquisition meeting.

In a lull in the enumeration of threats she said something that I have always remembered.

At the time it had seemed, from the viewpoint of an eleven year old, to have been a non sequitur.

From the vantage of years it seems to have been a sort of prophesy.

“Well, it’s certainly sexy” she said.

And I thought I saw the flicker of a smile pass her otherwise stern face.

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