Sunday, January 21, 2018

SHADOWS OF THE COMBAT ZONE by Peter Nolan Smith

In the late 60s lower Washington Street was anointed Boston's Combat Zone for sex and sin. Working-class drinking dives became go-go bars named the Naked I and Two O'Clock Lounge. Gay clubs like Jacques and The Other End flourished freely in the alleys. Porno theaters openly screened XXX-rated to enthralled men and the cops ceased to persecute the flesh trade, so hookers plied their trade in front of Goodtime Charlie's on La Grange Street.

Everyone was getting their cut.

The Mafia, the bartenders, the pimps, the musicians, and the taxi drivers scored cash off these strippers and hookers.

They were a gold mine.

From 5pm to 2am the hookers strutted their stuff. Hospital workers, lawyers, firemen, and sailors loved them and the girls loved them back for a price.

A quickie was $20.

An hour ran $50.

Showgirls cost a lot more.

The nearest hotel was the Avery, although most johns opted for the short-time rooms above Goodtime Charlie's.

Sherri was the hottest girl in the Combat Zone. The blonde's long legs stretched out of tight hot pants and her cupcakes breasts popped under a tube top. Platform heels transformed the 18 year-old into an Amazon.

She was better than good.

Sherri was wicked.

But she was far from easy.

Sherri was a freelancer in the Combat Zone. Many pimps tried to recruit the freelancer into their stables, but the blonde teenager was too hot for a single man and the police protected her for the sheer pleasure of her smile.

A few of the go-go dancers offered Sherri competition, but they needed beer, booze, and a three-piece band to create her aura of lust. The trios of sax, organ, and drum played low-down soul and the dancers loved grinding flesh to James Brown covers.

The strippers danced like ballerinas on 'Ludes.

It was a true art form.

Bad people walked on Washington Street

The Combat Zone had dark alleys. Crazy Jack was the King of the Shadows. No one was scarier on those back streets.

Crazy Jack was running ten girls. The pimp treated them bad. He asked Sherri to be his queen. She told him 'no' every day of the week and Crazy Jack wasn't happy hearing those nos.

Sailors from the navy Yard haunted the go-go bars. The girls never fell in love with them. Sailors had sweethearts in every port. One lieutenant said he loved Sherri.

"I bet you say that to all the girls."

"Only you, Sherri. Only you."

It almost sounded true.

Sam had gold braid on his shoulders.

He was an officer and a gentleman.

Normally Sherri ended her nights at the Hillbilly Ranch across from the bus station. The 45s on jukebox were mostly country-western. Hustlers drank at the bar and none of midnight cowboys queers bothered her.

A gin and tonic cost $1 and she liked the music on the jukebox.

Sherri came from the South. She never said where, but she listened a lot to Patsy Cline.

The Hillbilly Ranch was her home away and after work she pulled on a red wig to be someone other than herself.

Boston's bars closed at 2am. Combat Zone was empty by 3. Sherri walked out of the Hillbilly Ranch at 3:10. The owner asked if she needed a cab. She shook her head.
"I'll walk."

Her apartment was short walk across the Commons on Beacon Hill.

She took a shortcut down an alley. Someone followed her into the darkness. Sherri walked faster, then heard a wet smack.

Crazy Jack lay out cold on the sidewalk.

The sailor was walking the other way.

She called out to Sam.

"You want to have a coffee?"

"Sure."

"I'll meet you at the coffee shop in ten minutes." Sam walked away into the shadows.

Where she didn't ask.

Nine minutes later Sherri checked at the clock. Sam was almost late.

A girl like her didn't wait more than fifteen.

She had someplace to be.

And that someplace was bed.

With or without Sam.

FOTOS BY JERRY BRENDT, ROSWELL ANGIER, AND JOHN GOODMAN.

How Many Women?

Due to the government shutdown and probably a Trump edict the National Park Service offered no estimate of yesterday's crowd numbers in Washington. The newspapers published attendance in the tens of thousands, however I venture the number was closer to 300,000. Trump congratulated the gathering of achieving the lowest unemployment rates 'ever' thanks to his economic recovery without any mention of unequal pay or sexual harassment, then again, who's surprised at his silence.

Presidential Sunday Day Of Rest

This weekend Donald Trump had planned on visiting his Mar-a-Lago residence, however the inability of the deal maker to cut a budget deal between the Democrats and GOP forced # 45 to remain in Washington, despite the federal government shut down, thereby forestalling his 88th round on the golf course since the inaugeration.

A day of rest if the perfect way to spend Sunday.

Eating Mickie D in your suit and ordering in friends.

Goodbye Jacob Wirth

Last week the owners who been operating Jacob Wirth since 1975 announced that debt has forced him into selling the 150 year-old beer hall in Boston. Kevin Fitzgerald owes over $2,000,000 to the IRS and state as well as employees and food purveyors. Several years ago I met the owner during a slow Sunday and told him how much I loved his establishment. He felt the same way, but love can't pay bills. Despite the sale Jacob Wirth's will probably continue to be a restaurant, since the property is landmarked as a historical site in the old Combat Zone. Of course politicians could change that ruling to build a luxury condo tower. They are future of of zombie cities.

La Eleganza

La Eleganza said hip without having to spell it in big letters.
I had bell bottom trousers with buttons on the split flair, but no one in Boston ever wore these bold threads.
Not even in the Sugar Shack, the home of black pimps of the Combat Zone. The house band was George Clinton's Funkadelics. “We took off our suits and everything and went totally ‘funkadelic,’ which meant we were naked onstage. The Sugar Shack, we used to transform our look. The owners called it ‘Pimps, hos and hippies.’”

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Jacob Wirth - Boston's Bratwurst Himmel


A group of 40-year old Boston College alumni discussed where they should meet for dinner.

Finally they agree upon meeting at Jacob Wirth on Boylston Street restaurant where some of the patrons at the bar have low cut blouses and nice breasts.

10 years later, at 50 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally they agree that they should meet at the Jacob Wirth because the food was very good and the wine selection was good also.

10 years later at 60 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally they agree that they should meet at the Jacob Wirth, because they can eat there in peace and quiet and the restaurant is smoke free.

10 years later, at 70 years of age, the group meets again and once more they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally they agree that they should meet at Jacob Wirth because the restaurant is wheel chair accessible and they even have an elevator.

10 years later, at 80 years of age, the group meets again and once more they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally they agree that they should meet at the Jacob Wirth's because that would be a great idea because they have never been there before.

Last month I ate at Jacob Wirth's.

They offered a great selection of draft beers and their bratwurst nibbler was the perfect meal before the train or bus from Boston to New York. I also recalled going there with feminists in the early 70s who would get pissed by the bartenders refusing their orders at the bar.

No women allowed.

Those were the days.

But I do believe in equality for women.

100%.

It's only right.

Friday, January 19, 2018

MISSILE AWAY by Peter Nolan Smith


During his youth my older brother was a pyromaniac. Frunk nearly burned down each of our houses and those of our neighbors on several occasions. Each time my mother punished us both with a wooden spoon and my father sternly admonished our incendiary behavior, yet my older brother was undeterred by cracks across the knuckles and hards words.

The early 1960s was the height of America's Space Race with the Soviet Union and Frunk abandoned his fiery endeavors to conduct missile experiments with discarded hair spray cans collected from garbage cans in our neighborhood. Our blast site was a secluded sandpit, where Chuckie, my next-door neighbor, Frunk, and I taped the cans together and positioned the ersatz V-2 of Aquanet hair in a bonfire. Our launch area was a sandpit not far from our suburban development on the South Shore of Boston.

Chuckie, my next-door neighbor, Frunk, and I tapeed the cans together and the fuse was a bundle of sparklers. Sometimes the can exploded in fiery separate burst, but occasionally the strapped cans arced across the sky at low altitudes spitting toxic flames.

None of us suffered injuries from these experiments, however the town police warned our parents that we were constituted a danger to the community and my older brother obeyed their orders to abandon our emulation of NASA's failed rocket launches.

At my parochial high school I resisted the draw of the rocket club.

Instead I ran cross country.

The five-mile course passed an abandoned mansion. Our competitors were never forewarned that their runners had to leap a stone wall to cross the estate, giving us an edge and my school won two consecutive state championships in 1967 and 1968, however our dominance was challenged by a mysterious government agency's purchase of the mansion. The men occupying the estate wore white shirts and black ties.

Chuckie Manzi said they were CIA experimenting on apes and we listened for the shrieks of chimps, as we panted across the fields for the start of the 1969 season. They were none.

Upon our arrival back at the gym, our coach informed us that the grounds were off-limits.

"What about the wall?"

"No more wall," said Brother Jude.

Later that month we lost our first race in years.

"We want the wall."

We protested to Brother Jude. He sided with us as did the principal, who asked for special access for these bi-weekly races.

The men in the white shirts refused this request.

Every practice session we passed the mansion calling them 'assholes', then trained harder to regain our edge.

Few of our fellow students cared about the track team.

Our school's football team was state champs. They had cheerleaders from the nearest Catholic girls school

Our only fans were the rocket club, who said that this matter was not over.

No one paid them much mind.

They were nerds and the cross-country team worried that nerdiness might be contagious.

We won our next race, although I barely beat out our rival's 5th runner. Afterward the rocket club glared at the distant mansion and the cross-country team exchanged a conspiratorial glance with them. Whatever they had planned was more than all right by us.

The next day the school's rocket club announced a test of their missiles and the brothers assembled the students in the field behind the high school. The principal instructed the collective classes to stand a good distance from the launch area, because these rockets were not small.

One of them was at least ten-feet long.

After running a series of tests, the rocket club signaled that they were ready and soon missiles soareed into the sky.

Even the football team thought the rocket club was cool and the brothers beamed with satisfaction, thinking maybe one of these boys might end up at NASA.

Off in the distance a few of the men in the white shirts stood outside the mansion.

The rocket club aimed this final missile, the ten-footer, at the estate.

The men shouted and the president of the rocket club lit the fuse. The men ran for cover.

The missile covered the half-mile between the field and mansion in less than a second.

The explosion was muffled by out applause. Afterwards the men in the white shirts complained to the brothers.

The town police ignored the complaint, since some of their kids were on the track team and we regained permission to run through the field a week later and won the state championship for the third time in a row.

No one ever said anything bad about nerds in our school.

They were heroes, because they were dangerous.

At least to anyone not on our side and that's the way it should be when you're young.

ps my older brother was really pissed that he hadn't been there.