What is it with Firefighter calendars? I was selected as a finalist for the state wide calendar a few years ago. I was very excited to be in the hunt. I had just completed a divorce from a fellow firefighter; she had become distracted by another firefighter and was at a very low point in life.
My self-esteem had tanked and my alcoholism had come to visit again after a seven year break from the juice. Although trapped in the throes of my disease I was really in the best physical shape of my life ironically. I am 6’1” and at that point in time I was a very dedicated gym rat. My weight was just over 230 lbs. and my body fat was as low as my self image. I was also 50 years old.
The calendar selection was going to be held in Denver on a Friday night. So being newly single and not deeply entrenched in my disease yet. I decided what the hell go to Denver and see what would happen. I had never been before but I was aware the fairer sex found these things appealing and why not enjoy a little attention I knew it couldn’t make me feel worse about myself, so I thought.
Knowing I was probably going to get drunk and hoping I might garner the admiration of a lady I decided to get a room in the hotel where the event was being held. I could go up the day before, stay the night and not risk driving.
The event organizers encouraged the contestants to use a tanning salon in Denver free of charge and get a little color on us. This should have been my first clue I was in over my head. Having more than a tan face from skiing in the dead of winter in Colorado was the luxury of world travelers and apparently firefighter calendar models.
Now I had done some modeling in my youth, ramp work and hand modeling, I have great hands. So I wasn’t really worried about the whole “fashion” show aspect of the event. What I was unprepared for was the sheer magnitude of this happening. Having been happily married for most of my firefighting career I had never considered a calendar appearance before. This contributed to my naivety about the occasion.
I got to the hotel, a huge one in the tech center and went to check in. This was early morning and the actual show wasn’t until I believe around six that evening. As I checked in I noticed that there was already a considerable population of women in the hotel. I asked the clerk if there was some other convention or something going on.
He asked why I was there. I said for the firefighter calendar thing. He said so are they, with kind of a pissy tone. It’s not until tonight I said as I looked over my shoulder at the now obvious line of women, they weren’t milling around; they were on line for good seats. Second clue I was in over my head.
“Really?” I asked. “Yeah dude, they do it every year. You lucky bastards, just because you wear a badge, chicks throw themselves at you.” He was pissed.
“Yeah dude! It’s the badge. You want one? I got one of those sticker badges we give kids. If that will improve your shitty attitude I’d be happy to give you one.” Now I was a little pissed and easily a good 200 lbs heavier than this kid.
He handed me my room key without further comment or eye contact. As I walked to the elevator I began to become more aware of my environment. The women were all dressed for a Friday night on the town at 9:00 am and now I spotted my first couple of competitors.
Oh shit I thought, what the hell am I doing here. These other guys were serious. They were already performing working the crowd hours before the actual party. They bounced through the women like chinquapin balls. Tempting the women.
I had firefighting boots older than the ones a saw. I realized with absolute clarity that there wasn’t a whole lot of airbrushing being done on these calendars. These boys were tanned, ripped, manicured, coiffed and just out of diapers. Suddenly I was old, fat, slow, and as undesirerable as my ex had made me feel.
I wanted to run, just give up and go find a bar. But then I was cornered by a very attractive business woman.
“You one of our guys?” she asked. I’m guessing the phony tan gave me away.
“Yeah Tim Casey.” She stuck out her hand and I took it. I think she could see the terror in my eyes.
“This is your first time isn’t it Tim?”
“And last.” I said.
“Hey don’t worry you’ll be fine. Remember why we do this; it’s for those children you guys save from fires.”
I couldn’t believe she was dropping the kid thing on me. It’s for the kids. I thought if I’m staying I’ll need some help, I needed and old friend to hold my hand, the one that had always been there for me. Johnny. Johnny Walker.
I’ll finish tomorrow.