PLEIN AIR PEEING
by David Boyne
There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
Recently, on a chilled early morning, I stood in the backyard of a San Diego home, and I rediscovered a long-forgotten pleasure of being a guy and being alive: Peeing Outdoors.
Don’t get me wrong: indoor plumbing is one of my favorite inventions. If not for indoor plumbing, we could not live in cities of millions, and enjoy all the cultural, intellectual, and social pleasures to be experienced there, without expiring en masse from our noxious collective effluvia.
But in the sanitized time and place in which I live, Peeing Outdoors is unusual, out of the ordinary. Not to mention, illegal. But Peeing Outdoors is in spirit, if not in fact, different from Urinating in Public. Urinating in Public is standing outside a Blarney Stone bar during Manhattan’s rush hour and peeing on the window gates of the Locksmith shop next door.
On this chilled early morning while I was Peeing Outdoors, I stood in a private yard, partly screened by the leafy tree I was watering, disturbing no one, and when done, leaving nothing behind but an invisible, chemically coded message only the neighborhood’s dogs could read.
Being a modern day city dweller, I spend almost all of the hours of my once-in-eternity Life indoors. Which, in other words, means I live in boxes of one form or another. For what is a house or office, but a collection of connected boxes? What is a car, but a box on wheels? An airplane, but a box with wings? Computers, phones, and television screens are electronic boxes. Most of us move through Time and Space not just Thinking Inside the Box, but Living there.
How very, very few of the minutes of our lives do we simply stand outside, looking around, feeling the sunlight, shade, or night, sensing the temperature, sifting the air, just Being Alive.
The reason I stood alone in the chilled early morning backyard of a suburban San Diego home, peeing on a small tree near a wood rail fence, was because the artist friend I was visiting had forced me to drink cup after cup of herbal tea while we talked for hours inside her studio which did not have indoor plumbing.
I peed for a long, long time.
And as I peed, a montage of memories unreeled across the movie screen of my mind.
I saw myself, 6-years old, wearing only white underpants, laughing while being chased around the yard of our home by a visiting uncle, then suddenly pulling up beside a dogwood tree and showering it. I saw myself, 17-years old, hiking in the scraggly woods of Connecticut, and peeing on the rocks and fire-colored autumn leaves littering the ground. Suddenly I was 36-years-old, and standing in a backyard in Portland, Oregon at 3am beneath a starry, starry sky, peeing—and beside me the golden retriever puppy who entered my life that very day and with whom I would share so much of the next 11 years, was also peeing.
I kept peeing and the movie montage kept playing, and I laughed softly when the scene came of my girlfriend’s 5-year-old son—with whom I had watched the movie Ghostbusters, at least 26 times—running into the bathroom while I was peeing, expertly unzipping and dropping his pants to pee beside me, both of us shouting as we peed, “Don’t cross the streams!” And then, of course, deliberately crossing the streams.
Then I was shivering as the memory of cold New England winter air swept over me, and I could hear a rowdy pack of beer-drinking guys waiting in a heated, idling car pulled to the side of a black ribbon of road, as I peed on a snow bank under a full moon.
I was peeing simultaneously in both worlds, the Present and the Past, in the chilly but sun-drenched San Diego yard, and alongside the moonlit road in Connecticut that exists now only in my memory. Peeing Outdoors in both worlds at once, I almost lost my balance. I was 43 and I was 17; I was standing in a sunlit backyard, and I was looking up into a bright full moon in a black sky. I was peeing on the crinkly brown grass of a parched San Diego yard, and also watching the steam from my arc of urine rising from a dark white snowbank.
And then I remembered how the first girl I had loved and lived with would sometimes come into the bathroom of our apartment as I was peeing and she would excitedly take over, insisting, “Let me aim it!”
As I finally finished peeing, a new movie montage began playing across the movie screen of my mind. This time, the scenes I recalled were from another long-forgotten pleasure of being alive: Making Love Outdoors.
But that’s another essay.