OK, so I moved to Toronto in 1985, and during, I think, my first summer here, my brother Mark and his wife Anne came up to see me. It was moral support, I’d never been away from my Halifax home before.
We did some touristy things. The Toronto Zoo then had a couple of pandas on loan from China, so we went to see them, which was hilarious, since the temperature that day was about 35C, humidex 44. It was Africa-hot, and even the savannah cats, cheetahs and leopards, were lying on their sides in their enclosures, panting like basset hounds in the tertiary stage of terminal heat stroke. How do you know it’s really, really hot? When a goddam cheetah is lying helpless on its side, gasping for air, and muttering, near death, Jesus Fucking Christ, it’s hot.
To view the infinitely appealing ursine wonders, we had to join an hour-long queue of sweaty zoo-goers filing past the panda pen, while some vaguely Asian music – I don’t know, maybe it was the frigging Communist Chinese national anthem, or one of those rousing Maoist spirituals like We Shall Carry Dung Up the Mountain for the Glory of the Commune – blared out of bullhorns, until we got to the panda paddock, and used up our 30 seconds of viewing time, eager for a glimpse of the magical creatures. Surely they would be there, front and centre, grasping bamboo shoots and cavorting for the crowd! Except no, it was hot enough to fry a goddam iguana, and the poor pandas, dirty and sweaty, were curled up into balls about 60 yards away, under the only shade they could find, panting, twitching, and probably close to giving up the ghost.
By the time we got to the designated viewing spot, drenched in sweat and near death ourselves, I have to admit I hoped a little that the black and white bastards were even more par-boiled than I was, and just as dead as they could be.
Oh well! Other attractions awaited! So, continuing in our touristy endeavours, we visited the Ontario Science Centre. It was supposed to be a place to inspire joy as you discovered, through hands-on exhibits, the fundamental laws of the universe. Maybe it was, I couldn’t really say, because all I can remember is that at the time of our visit, they were putting on an exhibit on human sexual reproduction. No, no, heel boy, not anything you’d care to watch after gulping down a few shots of Jack Daniel’s; this was a science centre. I mean, they were putting on a detailed scientific explication of the actual mechanics of reproduction, you know, fertilization, zygotes, embryos, foeteses, the whole gruesome biology, like something out of Alien. Holy shit it was gross.
And then, the cherry on the sickening parfait. There was this one room in which they’d set up a whole exhibit on the male organs involved in the process. Picture it. There you are in a fairly confined space with a bunch of other guys, and girls, kids, little kids, little girls, looking at plastic models and graphics that set out in gruesome detail just how the guy’s part of the process works. It was horrible. An improbably horny Cindy Crawford could have marched in there naked with a sign around her neck saying “Have at it, boys”, and there wouldn’t have been any takers. Unh-uh. No way. It’s gross.
The capstone was this set of tissue sections, pressed between sheets of acrylic (I guess), of the entirety of a guy’s junk. Truly. Not some simulation, not some plastic model you might find in your doctor’s office, you know, like a faux skull they could take apart to show you where your frigging brains were. No, this was the real deal, thinly-sliced cross-sections of the flesh of a real guy’s junk, hacked, one could only suppose, from some hapless cadaver, and sandwiched between plastic sheets like tissue samples on slides you would put under a microscope, all of them mounted on thin metal stands at eye level, and proceeding in order from stem to gudgeon, tip to base. With little labels. Oooh, look, it’s the seminal vesicles!! Wow, this little circular sample is a section of the glans!!
There they were in a line. Twenty odd feet of thin sections of some poor bastard’s Johnson, arrayed in sequence, with his nuts to boot, all nicely sliced and diced, the better to get a real idea of just how grotesque the biology really was. There was probably some spirit hovering over us, looking down from the other side, thinking “I know I donated my body to science, but Jesus…“.
Every guy who entered the room immediately, upon seeing this, cupped his hands over his crotch in an instinctive attempt to prevent his own privates from being sliced off and put on display.
So, we’re in there, almost stunned, actually, and Mark says:
“Well, I think I’ll be toddling along, if it makes no vas deferens to either of you.”
Anne doubled over. I nearly choked from laughing so hard.
The weird thing is that Mark didn’t remember the incident when I recounted it to him, just a couple of years ago. He had no recollection.
Man, if I’d ever come up with a line like that, it’d be framed on the wall.