Saturday, May 31, 2014

Combat Zone Amnesia

In the 60s urban social scientists in Boston created an adult entertainment area between the bus station on Boylston Street and Chinatownan to contain the wickedness of mankind. The experiment green-lighted prostitution, drag queens, piano bars, go-go bars, rent boys, and pornography along Washington Street and the adjacent blocks. The Boston Record-American newspaper labeled haven of sin the 'Combat Zone' and men across New England gravitated to Boston's Decriminalized Zone of Sexuality to cut loose with friends and complete strangers.

The Combat Zone featured top-notch strippers at go-go bars such as the 'Teddy Bare Lounge', the 'Two O'Clock Club', 'Club 66' and the 'Naked I'. LaGrange Street was the hot spot for street hookers running out of 'Good Time Charlie's'. Most of the pimps frequented the Sugar Shack. I saw James Brown performed on that stage and my friend Andy K swears that he went to the Sugar Shack with Bill O'Reilly, future right-wing propagandist for Fox News. I

During the early 70s I was driving taxi to pay for college and every night I stopped in the Combat Zone to drive the strippers and whores home after closing. It was a good fare and sometimes we smoked a joint together on the route to their apartments. I never thought them bad, but the newspapers attacked the Combat Zone as proof that Satan was walking the Earth.

I wish that I could say they were wrong, but the Combat Zone was too much fun for most men and bad things happened on those wind-blown streetst. APimps beat up girls, girls ripped off johns, hustlers robbed gays, drugs killed the weak and in 1976 a Harvard football player was murdered on LaGrange Street. That well-publicized homicide brought on the end of the Combat Zone, although its true killer was the higher rents for downtown properties.

Sin was cheap.

No sex is expensive.

Few people remember the Combat Zone, but I recall the organ/bass/drum trios supporting the white-skinned strippers. I learned about sex from the stroke books in the XXX parlors. I had good luck with the dancers after midnight. I was their ride home and I got them there fast.

It was the best a man could do.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

LUCKY IN LOVE by Peter Nolan Smith

The dawn sun burned misty shadows off the mountains and a stark brightness seared through my eyelids, as I rose from my sleeping bag to drink in the austere surroundings.

Flatness stretched forever.

A hissing wind pelleted my face with ancient brine.

The salt lay five feet deep this far from the lake.

A quick swig of water from my canteen washed the dust from my mouth.

This was the second time that I had woken in the Bonneville Salt Flats. The dried-up lake had been a hard mattress on both occasions. I stretched my arms and legs without loosening their stiffness.

Today was my twenty-second birthday. I walked to the Ford Torino.

To the South cars and trucks sped east and west on a mirage of mirrors.

The station wagon was parked several miles from I-80. In the back AK and Pam were lying inches from each other, but it was obvious to see that they hadn’t touched each other throughout the night. I could have let the two of them sleep another hour, but there was a shower room at the truck stop in Wendover and I intended to be there within the next thirty minutes. Utah was a godly state and I felt like bathing in Nevada.

I opened the driver’s door and AK sat up with a jack knife in hand.

“Oh, it’s you,” the pianist sighed, sinking back into his sleeping bag.

“Who were you expecting? The Manson family.” Remnants of Charlie’s followers roamed the western deserts. It was a bad sign that whatever they did out here never made the news

“Or worse.” AK sat up.

His eyes blinked in the increasing glare. “So this is it?”

“The fastest place on Earth.”

Rocket cars and super-charged motorcycles ran a measured mile farther to the North. Every one was seeking the land speed record. Gary Gabelich’s Blue Flame had hit 630 in 1970.

“I’ve seen this place on TV. I didn’t think it would be so desolate.” “It’s prehistoric.” The Salt Flats were uninhabitable for man or beast.

“Didn’t you sleep here with Marilyn last year?” AK crawled into the front seat and handed me the keys.

“Who’s Marilyn?” Pam remained lying on the folded down seats. Her sleep tousled blonde hair reminded me of young Brigitte Bardot in AND GOD CREATED WOMEN.

“She’s how AK and I know each other.” I didn’t want to tell this story to Pam. Her roommate in college was my ex-girlfriend Jackie’.

“Last summer he was hitchhiking from Berkeley with a friend.” AK had heard two versions of this story.

“The two of them were stuck on Telegraph Avenue for hours.”

“There were about thirty hippies heading east and few cars stopping for us.” Three of the longhairs had been stuck there for over a day.

“You were in a hurry.” He repeated the story the same way that I had told it to him, but I needed to take over for my own good.

“I had to be at school and Nick was headed to Tulsa to pick up his BMW. He had crashed his car, while rubbernecking at the State Fair’s roller coaster. A Ford Maverick pulled over driven by a woman. She was leaving her husband. He had become a transvestite dancer in the Cockettes.”

“Cockettes?” asked Pam. She came from a good family.

“That’s what Marilyn told me. Her six year-old daughter was in the back. She was headed to Boulder, but had room for one person. She wanted someone to share the driving. I asked Nick if he minded me leaving him.”

A better word was deserting.

“What'd he say?” Pam asked, then sipped water from my canteen.

“He told me to go and I went with Marilyn.” Boulder was almost halfway across the country and I was down to my last twenty dollars.

“That’s good friend.” Pam regarded me with tired eyes and asked, “And?”

“And we drove till we crashed here.”

“And then what happened?

AK was dying to tell Pam about my making love to Marilyn on the salt flats, while her daughter slept in the car crowded with all their possessions. Anything I said now would get back to Pam’s roommate. She had been my girlfriend in 1973. I cut the love scene from my tale.

“The next day she drove me to Cheyenne, saying that she might come see me in Boston.”

“And now comes the weird part.” AK had a slightly different angle on this story. “He and I lived next to each other in Boston. We didn’t know each other, but one day a Maverick pulls up in front of his house and this woman gets out of her car with her daughter. My girlfriend and I were surprised, since we had gone to college with Marilyn. Only she’s coming to see him, instead of us.”

“But once she sees you two, she decides to stay at your place.”

Marilyn and I never made love again.

“We had a bigger place.”

“After that you and I became friends.”

“Unlucky in love.” AK handed the canteen to Pam. “Lucky with friends.”

“Marilyn and I weren’t in love.”

“Was this after Jackie broke up with you?” The blonde wanted to get the facts straight.

“Jackie had left me earlier in the summer.” I shrugged the acceptance of my fate and asked, “You know what today is?”

“Let me guess. It’s your birthday.”

“You helped celebrate my last one in Buffalo.”

I had hitchhiked back and forth from Boston to Buffalo to see the doctor’s daughter. She was that cute.

“Jackie, you, and me drank tequila on the American side of Niagara Falls. Later that day we had played softball against her ex-boyfriend’s team in Delaware Park. You had knocked two balls over the railroad tracks. Her boyfriend had been playing centerfield.”

“That night Jackie had said that she felt sorry for Jerry. It didn’t take me long to find out how sorry.” Not making love for my birthday had been a bad omen.

“Maybe today you’ll have better luck.”

“Yes, maybe I will. You know I shared the same birthday as JFK and Bob Hope. It was also the day that the Turks stormed Constantinople.” History had been my college minor.

“Happy Birthday to you.” Pam sang the entire song. She had a good voice and AK backed her lead with a solid baritone.

“And you know what I’m going to do for my birthday.” “I can’t wait to hear.” Pam shivered in fake anticipation. “I’m going to drive this car as fast as it can go.”

“I’m not sure the owner would appreciate your putting his car to the test.” AK was the more cautious of us.

“Jake would love it.” The ex-Marine had boasted of the Torino’s Cam- Jet injection and 428 FE V8 back in Boston. “This is the Bonneville Speed Flats.”

“What the fastest you’ve driven?” Pam had exhibited a heavy foot on the gas throughout this trip. Her destination was a boyfriend. Ours was the beach. Neither was going anywhere without us, although the ocean was more faithful than a man.

“About 110 in my father’s Olds 88 on a straightaway in my hometown.” The road crews prided themselves in the condition of Route 28 from the parish church to the Blue Hills.

“This car should beat that.” AK drove a Pontiac Firebird. “It’s your birthday. Knock yourself out, but if anything goes wrong, you pay for the damages.”

“Nothing is going to go wrong.” I started the special edition V8 engine. “If you want to play it safe, you don’t have to come along for the ride.”

“He doesn’t, but I do.” Pam jumped into the front seat and strapped on the seat belt. “I want to see how fast I can get it to go too.”

AK’s reservations were overruled two to one and he folded up the rear seats, then clinched the seat tight.

“Roll up the windows.”

Speed was all about better aerodynamics.

I revved the Cobra-Jet engine and stepped on the gas with a young man’s mercilessness. The tires responded to the acceleration on the salt surface without any shimmy from the steering wheel. The speedometer in the second dashboard pot climbed to 60 within seven seconds. The needle hit 80 and my grip tightened on the wheel. At 110 we were traveling almost two miles per minute and I grit my teeth, as the speedometer passed 120. The saltpans shivered in the morning light and I pinned the needle at 125. The car had more goose in its go, but there was no way of telling how fast was its fast and I lifted my foot off the gas.

“That was fast?” AK was a convert to the religion of speed.

“I figure it topped out at 130.” We were rolling to a long stop and I lightly tapped on the brake.

“Now it’s my turn.” Pam was eager for her attempt and the three of us traded places.

125 seemed faster in the back seat and I think that she might have hit a top speed of 135. AK didn’t come close to her best, but drove the Torino with a broad smile on his face.

“I didn’t think it would be that much fun.”

“Some cars are built for speed,” Pam said with admiration for the V8’s power.

“I’ve always wanted a GTO. My friend had one and Moon would bet people $20 that they couldn’t grab the bill off the dashboard before he had shifted into fourth. He never lost.”

“They’re about $4500 new.” AK burst my balloon. “And a second-hand one costs $2000.”

“Maybe I’ll be lucky one day.” I owed $7000 in college loans. I had to start paying them at the end of the summer.

“You’ll be lucky as soon as we stop for breakfast. Bacon and eggs are on me.” AK turned on the radio.

A country station from Wendover was playing Ray Stevens’ THE STREAK. We shuddered at the topical hit’s banjo picking.

The radio received no other signal.

We were on the wrong side of nowhere.

“There’s a town with an air force base at the foot of those mountains. Wendover, Nevada. It will have someplace to eat and wash up.”

“I forgot you’ve been here before.” Pam was digging for facts about my night with Marilyn.

“Twice.” I wasn’t squealing on myself. “The motorhead with the Super Bee drove this route two years ago. I have no idea he was going.”

“Maybe 200 miles per hour.” AK still doubted this tale, since it was the truth.

“Lucky liked 300 better, but the speedometer only went to 125. Same as this car.”

“Shame we couldn’t go 300,” said AK and got a laugh out of Pam.

I was tired of being the butt of their jokes and sulked against the door, knowing none of us would ever drive 300.

Our arrival in Nevada was greeted by a shrieking fly-over of two jet fighters. I imagined them on patrol over Vietnam, but they wouldn’t be here, if we were still at war over there.

AK pulled into the truck stop for gas.

Pam wanted to wash the West out of her hair and grabbed her towel before walking into a building detached from the gas station.

and I filled up the tank and parked the car.

Two steps beyond the entrance was a bank of slot machines. Their lights caught my eye. Neither of us was expecting a miniature casino inside the truck stop and I turned to AK.

“Like I said I’m feeling lucky.”

“You ever gamble before?”

“No and it’s because my great-grandfather skipped out on his debts and no one saw him again. My great-grandmother and her two daughters were forced to seek refuge with her uncle in Augusta, Maine.

No one in my family explained the causes of his misfortune, but my father had once said ‘horses’.”

“They don’t call these machines one-handed bandits for nothing.” AK wore a frown of disapproval.

The money in our pockets had to last us the summer.

“Okay, four quarters and I’m quits.” A dollar wasn’t going to bust me.

I dropped the coin into the slot and pulled the arm. The cylinders spun to hit a row of cherries. Coins cascaded into the payout slot.

My jackpot paid for a half-tank of premium gas.

“Beginner’s luck.” I stuck the coins in my pocket and walked into the showers, while AK paid for gas. The shower room had no walls and I stripped off my jeans and tee-shirt.

“Hey, hippie boy, where you going?” A rangy man was soaping an enormous erection two shower to the left.

“San Francisco.” I dropped my eyes to the tiled floor. The only word men are supposed to say to each other in a bathroom was ‘huh’.

“I’m heading your way.” Tattoos sprawled across his rawhide skin.

“I got a car and a girlfriend.” The first was the truth and the second was a pure lie. I swiftly soaped my body.

“Too bad, I thought maybe you and I could have a good time in Frisco. It’s a wide open city. Try the Castro. It’s for men. Maybe I’ll see you there.” He took his time rinsing off the suds in hopes of my changing my mind.

“Yeah.” I grabbed my clothes and dressed without toweling dry.

The Summer of Love might have ended, but Sexual Revolution was spreading across America. Exiting from the shower room I warned AK of the bushwhacker.

“He’s looking for a friend.”

AK had been brought up in New York.

“If I can walk through the West Village without getting hit on, then how dangerous can this place be.”

“You’ll find out.”

I entered the diner and sat at the counter. I didn’t need a menu and the waitress wrote down my order for eggs over easy, bacon, and toast.

Thirty seconds later AK joined me in the dining room.

His face was a bright red after hearing the trucker’s sordid suggestions.

“I never heard anyone talk like that.”

“Can’t say that I didn’t warn you.” I had pored through hundreds of porno books in the Combat Zone and my research had covered every genre of perversion. “That trucker was interested in holding hands.”

“No, that’s for sure.”

Pam exited from her shower in a clean dress and wet hair. She had been with us for three days and

AK hadn’t worked up the nerve to put a move on her. Tomorrow we were dropping off the Torino in Lodi.

Time was running short for him.

Breakfast for the three of us came to less than $4. The truck stop offered cheap food to entice travelers to try their luck with the slots and I succumbed the lights and noise of the one-arm bandits.

“I’m going to try my luck again.” I reached into my pocket for change.

“No one wins on those machines.” AK stood away from the slots, as if they were contagious.

“It’s my birthday.” I dropped a quarter into the slot and pulled the arm. Within fifteen minutes I had accumulated another $5 of quarters. They had a nice heavy feel in my pocket.

“Very few people know when to walk away a winner.” AK led the way to the door and we passed the trucker, who was entertaining the buxom cashier. She laughed, as if he had told her a dirty joke.

When I reached the door, the trucker winked at me and I hurried to the station wagon.

“What’s wrong?” Pam asked at the car.

“Nothing, but let’s get out of here.”

Nevada was a replica of the moon. The tortured underbrush was scarred from the waterless weather.

Treeless mountains skirted the horizon. I-80 followed the trail of the Forty-Niners. The first town up the road was Oasis and the four lanes of asphalt shrunk to a two-laner divided by a yellow line.

We rejoined US 6, Jack Kerouac’s route across the country.

Without the road this community would have shriveled to its original double-digit population of the late 1800s. We drove past the gas stations, restaurants, and stores without braking for a light.

Oasis had none.

Outside town I-80 resumed its trek across Nevada. Jack Kerouac had ridden a bus across this wasteland. He had very little to say about it in ON THE ROAD.

Dirt roads vectored off the interstate into the distance. They looked like they had been here in 1947.

Two years ago I had traveling this highway in Lucky’s Super Bee and I asked AK the same question, which I had asked with friend Steve on this stretch of road.

“What do you think is out there?”

“Ranches, mines, and dirt.” AK studied the map. “There’s nothing out there, but more of this.

“That’s what I thought.”

The temperature climbed into the 90s and we shut the windows to turn on the AC. AK’s renewed his efforts to find a radio station, harvesting more static.

He lifted his hand over his shoulder.

Pam handed him Joni Mitchell’s BLUE.

The opening chords of the title song rolled like a mist off the Pacific into Monterey Bay. After hearing it for the tenth time in five days the three of us sang backing vocals for Joni. We almost were in tune.

Approaching Wells I slowed to 40 mph on US 6. Local cops were notorious for setting speed traps for out-of-state travelers. I checked the gas gauge. It read half-empty and I pulled into the first gas station to top off the tank, so that we could reach the California State Line in one go. AK pored over the map, as Pam talked to the pump attendant.

The tall teenager was a younger twin of the young cowboy back in Sterling, Colorado with whom she had spent the better part of an hour in a pick-up. Neither AK nor I had criticized her detour from being the faithful girlfriend of the medical intern. Pam was on summer vacation until Mendocino

Across the street was a long one-story log cabin with a neon sign blinking CASINO.

James Bond had played baccarat at Monte Carlo. Tuxedos and low-cut evening gowns had been required attire for the extras. Two men in jeans exited from Well’s casino. They blinked in the sunlight and shook hands, as if they had spent the night playing blackjack.

“I’ll be back in a second.” I walked away from the car drawn by the magnetism of a movie myth.

“Where you going?” AK knew the answer.

“To take a look.” A year ago I had passed through Las Vegas on the way to LA. Nick had warned me about the dangers of gambling. Now I wanted to see for myself.

“Don’t do anything stupid.” “I won’t.” My traveler’s checks were in my bag and I had $50 in my wallet.

I pushed open the glass door.

The interior decor was a homage to the town’s pioneer past. A cool breeze blasted from the casino’s ACs.

Cold offered a refuge from the desert .

I strolled past a gauntlet of slot machines to where a dozen green-felt tables arced across the red carpet in two semi-circles. Three men sat at the one farthest from the slots. Tall piles of chips rose before them. They were in a good mood. A motherly dealer in a cowboy hat shuffled a deck of cards with the speed of a Japanese cook slicing meat at Benihanas, then flicked the two cards to each man and herself.

“Feel like joining us in some blackjack.” Her voice sounded like she might have been the Lone Ranger’s aunt.

“It’s a friendly game.” A man in the suit pulled out a chair. “Us against the casino and we’re murdering her.”

“I’ve never played before.” My mother had only permitted Solitaire, Spades, and Rummy in her house.

“The rules and tactics are simple.” The oldest man at the table looked like my uncle and Uncle Jack had paid for college with his poker winnings from the Korean War. “Figure the down card of the dealer is a ten or face card. If she’s showing a six, then she’s probably holding a sixteen. The house has to take a card on sixteen. If she breaks 21, then you win.”

“Today’s my birthday.”

“Then your beginner’s luck is doubled by birthday luck. You can’t lose.”

I bought $20 of chips and placed a $2 chip on the table. She dealt me two tens. When it came my turn for a card, I held up my hand like Steve McQueen had done in THE CINCINNATI KID. I loved that movie.

“The hippie sticks.”

The dealer stayed with a nine and Jack. My 20 beat her 19. A chip came my way and the trio at the table congratulated my luck. They had also won their hands.

The next set of cards ran in my favor as did the following hand. I had a good head for numbers as would anyone who had majored in math during his first years in college. Soon I was on a roll.

Pam and AK stood behind me.

Within twenty minutes I was up $100.

Pam waggled the keys in her hand. The two of them wanted to be in San Francisco, not a dusty gambling town in the Great Basin.

“Sorry, it’s time to go.” I cashed in my chips and said good-bye to the three men and dealer.

“Not many people stop when they’re ahead.” The old man spoke, as if he never left the table until his last dollar was gone.

“Beginner’s luck can’t last forever.” I stashed the dollars into my wallet.

“You’re not a beginner anymore, birthday boy,” The dealer was angry at my departure. No one likes losing, because winning is better.

Outside I got in the car and said, “Funny, but I was feeling like I would never lose.”

“All gamblers think that way, until they’re busted.” AK sat in the back of the Torino. “The odds are always tipped in the casino’s favor.”

“And good luck has a funny way of turning bad.” Pam had been with her girlfriend the night that I had left their college dorm after drinking a bottle of tequila. The town police had arrested me five minutes after a high-speed chase in a VW. She was well aware of my luck, both good and bad.

“Give me another minute.” I stepped out of the car. “Not to play any more. I want to call my mother and let her know I’m okay. Remember it’s my birthday. I won’t be long.”

Three minutes to Boston cost $1.20. My mother picked up on the first ring. She sang ‘Happy Birthday’ twice and asked if I was having a good time.

“We’re almost in California.” Any mention of my winning streak was a jink.

As a good Catholic she regarded luck as a gift from God not to be wasted on sin, although I recalled a nun telling me that St. Christopher was also the patron saint of luck. He must have been very popular on Bingo nights.

I’ll call you from San Francisco. Love you and tell Dad I’m fine.” “We miss you.”

“And I miss you too.”

My father had criticized this trip as a senseless fling.

After university I had been expected to begin a real job. America was in a recession and I had been rejected by the banks in Boston. None of them had wanted to employ a longhaired economics major with a stutter .

I hung up thinking about them sitting in our suburban home. The South Shore was a long way from Nevada.

I put in some more quarters and rang Jackie’s house in Buffalo. Her mother answered the phone, “Who is it?”

I didn’t want to say my name and hung up the receiver. I returned to the Torino and sat in the passenger seat.

“Everything good?” AK had met my parents. They had thought that he was a good friend, but also a bad influence for my future.

“We can have birthday cake later.” AK’s parents probably felt the same way about me.

“I’m like chocolate.” Pam pulled out of the gas station and the attendant waved from the pump.

The next town on the map was Elko, which was slightly bigger than Wells judging from the larger print of its name.

Pam didn’t refused my request to test Lady Luck at another casino and thirty minutes later I pushed away from the table $220 richer. The weekly salary at a Boston bank was $20 less than and the blackjack dealers didn’t cared, if I had a stammer.

I repeated my wins in Winnemucca and Lovelock.

I counted the thickening wad of cash several times in the back seat and told Pam to put on Joni Mitchell, “She’s good luck.”

“How much you have now?” AK had avoided from the tables and flirted with the slots. He was down $10.

This wasn’t his day to shine. “Counting the money I left Boston with, almost $2500.”

“That much?”

“I’m on a roll.”

“That’s almost enough for a second-hand GTO.

“One more stop and I’m going to buy a new one.” Last year I had less than twenty dollars in my pocket, as I traveled east with Marilyn. Today was my lucky day.

“That’d be a good birthday present.” AK was happy for me.

“And who deserves it more than me.”

Shutting my eyes I heard the surf of the Pacific. The ocean was cold and the sun brushed my skin with gold. I was looking forward to being a beach bum with money.

A road sign was marked RENO 150 MILES.

Night softened to a velvet blue behind us, as we pulled into the Biggest Little City in the World.

“One more stop.”

Pam groaned at the wheel and AK said, “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“It is, it is.” I handed AK my travelers’ checks and $1000. I had seen gambling movies. No one came out on top. “No matter what I say, don’t give me any money.”

“I’ll hold it.” Pam slipped the cash into her pocketbook. “I don’t trust either of you, but Joni Mitchell wishes you good luck. One more thing.

“What’s that?”

“If you’re going to play, then play to win.” Pam was a junior at a girl’s college outside Boston.

Her major was nursing. Her advice should have been more conservative.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” My fingers twitched to hold cards. This was a whole new me.

Reno blazed with neon rainbows above the street. The bright lights outshone the rising moon. I picked the Horseshoe Club as my next victim. I liked its 50s facade. Pam gave the Torino to a casino valet. I tipped him a dollar.

“Whatever you do, don’t let this man sell the car.” She warned the skinny valet.

“I’ll try my best.” He must have failed more than once. “A half-hour. Not a minute more.”

It was my birthday. Reno was at my mercy. I marched into the Horseshoe Casino.

Pam and AK detoured to an empty lounge, where he sat at an idle piano to play Joni Mitchell and

Pam smiled at him for the first time on the trip. I rubbed my hands together and approached the blackjack tables like Genghis Khan on a raid.

After fifteen minutes I was up to $900. The balding dealer in the red vest congratulated my play. I placed a $100 worth of chips on the table. My two cards were an ace and a ten. The dealer paid out $150.

A leggy redheaded waitress in a skimpy mini-dress asked, “Do you want a drink, sir.”

“Jack and Coke.”

“I’ll be right back.” She touched my shoulder and gave me a wink.

I tipped her $5 and I told her it was my birthday.

“Maybe if you’re lucky, we can celebrate it together once I get off work.” Her smile gleamed in the eternal night of the casino.

“That would be great.”

“My name’s Kim.”

I downed the first drink and pulled off a series on wins.

After each hand I counted the bills in my head. Kim kept the drinks coming one after the other.

She kissed me once on the ears.

I lost a few hands and tried to recoup these setbacks by wagering larger stakes. That strategy failed to curb the luck of the house. AK tried to pull me away from the table.

“I’ve only been here twenty minutes.”

“More like two hours.

“I know what I’m doing.”

Those were the last words that I remembered that evening.

The next morning acid sunlight blazed in my eye sockets and my head pounded like a drum crashing down a cliff. I sat up in my sleeping bag to discover that I was lying on the ground next to a rushing river.

Pine trees pierced the clear sky. The Sierras rose jagged above me. I was not in a penthouse suite with Kim.

My hands searched my pockets. There was not one dollar in any of them and my wallet was gone.

The Torino was parked twenty feet away from the river. Pam and AK were sitting at a picnic table.

Their faces told me a sad story. I didn’t need to hear the details just yet and stumbled to the edge of the rushing torrent to stick my head in the icy water.

The cascade rushing over the tumble of worn boulders had to be the Truckee River west of Reno.

I pushed back my wet long hair and checked my pockets again with the same result.

Walking to the picnic bench my body ached with each step.

For an instant I thought that someone had rolled me, but I had no bruises.

I wondered how many Jack and Coke’s I might have downed last night. The razors slashing my brain to shreds shouted more than ten and I shambled to my boots lying in the dirt. I picked them up and stuck my hand to the toes.

There wasn’t a penny in the boots.

AK and Pam were eating sandwiches.

She didn’t look very happy and I asked, “Did I lose all my money?”

“Yes.” AK confirmed the worst.

“What about the money I gave Pam?”


“But I told you not to give it to me.”

“I never heard anyone beg like that. Not even a junkie in the emergency room.” Pam bit into her sandwich.

“So I’m broke?”


“Shit.” I was 2700 miles from Boston. “At least I didn’t sell the car.”

“Yes, but you tried.”


Last night I had it all.

This morning I had nothing.

“Your birthday cake is in the car.” Pam nodded over her shoulder.


“It’s chocolate.”

"My favorite.” I turned slowly in a circle.

“What is it?”

“I’ve been here before.” I recognized the location.

“You lost all your money before.” Pam didn’t have a high opinion of me this morning.

“No, two years ago my friend and I were hitchhiking to San Francisco. A Riviera stopped for us. Two convicts just out of prison were inside. They were drunk and wanted me to drive. Steve didn’t think it was a good idea.”

“And was it?” Pam really wasn’t interested in this story or me, but figured it was better than listening to my moaning about blowing my vacation cash.

“It was until we reached Oakland.” The drive over the Sierras was been a dream for someone in love with fast cars. “They wanted to take over and my friend and we got out of the car. They left the gas station, then stopped and reversed like they had changed their mind, and smashed into the pump, which exploded on contact. They were too drunk to get out of the car, so Steve and I pulled them out. The station attendant put out the fire with an extinguisher.”

“Lucky you were there.” Pam finished her sandwich.

“Saving them meant nothing to me.” I wished that she had saved a bite for me. “Where’s that cake?”

“In the backseat.”

After devouring half the cake I packed my sleeping bag in the car and pulled on my boots.

My two travel companions mercifully refrained from rehashing my debacle, as we drove over the Sierras into California, but I called myself every name in the book.

Jack Kerouac had completed his cross-country trip by bus down the western slopes to the land of palm trees according to ON THE ROAD.

Like him I was in California and we reached Sacramento at noon.

AK and I dropped Pam at the bus station. She was catching the next departure to San Francisco.

Her boyfriend was waiting at the other end. We escorted her to the ticket counter. Both of us were sad to see her go and AK said, “You could always meet us in San Diego.”

“Thanks for the offer.” Pam had the telephone number of AK’s friend. “But I don’t think Harry would want to hang out with a couple of beach bums.”

“Beach bums?” AK was hurt by this opinion of him.

“I don’t mean anything bad by that, but you are spending your summer hanging out at a beach.” Pam had us dead to rights and she picked up her bags. “It was fun.”

“Most of it.” I could have done without last night.

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell Jackie anything about Reno.” Pam kissed my cheek.

This gesture was as comforting as her promise to keep my disaster a secret from my ex-girlfriend not that it would have made much of a difference, since Jackie was in love with someone else.

“It was real.” She kissed AK on the lips and ran to her gate. “That was a surprise good-bye.”

Pam didn’t turn around to wave good-bye.

“I only wish it was the beginning.” His grin lessened to a smile.

“It is in some ways.” The three of us were down to two and we went outside to the Torino. AK sat behind the wheel for the last time and I wondered how long it would take me to hitchhike back to Boston.

He turned the key in the ignition and reached under the front seat.

“Here.” AK handed me a paper bag.

“What’s this?” I opened it to find my wallet with my traveler’s checks and $1000. My next words came from Captain America in EASY RIDER.

“So I didn’t blow it?”

“You tried your damnedest. I didn’t give it to you this morning, because I thought you would go back to the casino.” He shifted the column tick into Drive.

“Thanks.” I was almost in tears. “I hope you learned your lesson.”

“Two to be exact. First, I’m no gambler and second drinking and gambling don’t mix.”

I was one day older than yesterday and that day had been an education in luck, although I was smart enough to not ask the meaning of the lesson, because $2000 was $2000 more than I started with this morning.

I sat back in the seat and we pulled out of the bus station.

It was May 30, 1974 and I was one day older than yesterday.

Lodi wasn’t very far from Sacramento and that town was the end of the first part of our trip.

AK and I were heading south after returning the station wagon to its owner.

I smiled to myself, because I was still lucky in something and was smart enough to not ask what after one night in Reno, because luck came in spurts.

Both good and bad.

Jamal Shabazz at House of Art

House of Art Gallery established in 2007 is a contemporary fine art gallery that markets, promotes and sells the work of visual artists. The gallery represents artists in the primary market specializing in emerging, mid-career, and established artists. Our collection primarily consists of original works of art featuring a multitude of genres with a focus on unique, distinctive and rare artwork that has appreciative value. HOA Gallery's goal is to educate and provide a professional, comfortable and welcoming environment, whether you are a seasoned collector, art appreciator or merely have an interest in learning about art, alike.

House of Art Gallery
408 Marcus Garvey Blvd.
Brooklyn, New York 11216

(Bet. Macon & Halsey)

Phone: (347) 663-8195

A great collection of Jamal Shabazz photos.

To view more please go to this URL

Jamal Shabazz, House of Art Gallery, brooklyn,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


SNATCH-MAG.COM asked French Music Mogul Bernard Zekri how he got into music. Comment êtes-vous arrivé à intégrer ce milieu ? J’avais un copain qui s’appelait Peter Smith, un écrivain irlandais avec une tête de nazi. Genre une tête carrée, les cheveux plaqués en arrière et les yeux bleus. Il avait un manteau en cuir noir ; il me faisait beaucoup marrer. Quand j’étais avec lui, je rentrais partout. Il a été une des premières clés pour que j’accède à ce monde. Tu prends ça dans la gueule quand tu es français, parce qu’à la même époque, Paris, c’était vraiment tristoune. Il n’y avait pas vraiment d’endroits pour écouter de la musique. Et en province, n’en parlons pas. Dans l’East Village, il y avait une jeunesse qui avait envie de brûler sa vie jusqu’au petit matin. Le temps était comme suspendu. La vie était plus facile, on n’était pas en train de penser à ce qui allait se passer dans cinq ans. Les gens n’avaient pas envie d’être stars, ils avaient juste envie d’être de grands artistes.

I love the last line.

These people didn't want to be stars. They wanted to be great artists.

Thanks for that line, Bernard.

I'm not so so sure about the 'tete de nazi', but a young poetress was over last night and said, "You were one scary motherfucker back then."

"And now?" Irene's last boyfriend thought I was not to be trusted.

"Oh you're a little princess."

A Nazi or a princess?

And nothing in between.

ROADS OF THE FLYOVER by Peter Nolan Smith [Kindle Edition]

In the Spring of 2009 a British filmmaker asked me to drive him around the Midwest. Brock Dundee was shooting a movie about a famous sculpter's statues and the artist's reaction to seeing them long after their completion. Barry didn't have long to live. Brock and I were friends from the 90s. "I don't drive and you'd be the perfect guide to America." I agreed to the road trip. It was spring in the Fly-over; the Mississippi in flood, St. Louis in ruins, Indian mounds, cheap hotels, long-lost friends, dirt roads, no highways, and always the destination of seeing another Hare statue. We drove 3000 miles in seven days to see five bronze hares. Before this trip I ceased to see things. I only looked at them. Brock taught me to see again as did his movie. His gift was a powerful thing. TO PURCHASE ROADS OF THE FLYOVER, PLEASE GO TO THE FOLLOWING URL

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

In the Moment: Recent Paintings by Ro Lohin May 29,2014


Eyes on You, 2010, oil on canvas, 42 x 54 inches ​

Ro Lohin's solo show at the New York Studio School opens on Thursday, May 29th from 6:30 to 8:30.

If you are unable to attend the opening, Ro Lohin will happily meet you at an arranged time during the show.

In the Moment May 29 - June 29, 2014 Opening Reception May 29th 6:30-8:30 pm

New York Studio School 8 West 8th Street New York, NY 10011 Open Daily 10-6

What Me Worry Honda

Thailand's military coup has been accepted by Japan's carmaking sector, whose factories stretch across the rice fields to manufacture cars for home consumption and export to other Far East countries. plant managers were concerned about the effects of how a 10pm-7am curfew would affect the assembly lines, however Honda chairman Fumihiko Ike told reporters, "Thailand is where companies can invest with security. I personally don’t think there are huge risks to the economy." Japan's investments in Thailand amounted to $6.9 billion in 2013. Industrialists are backing the military. They know how to keep the police in line as well as the people, because the generals know what's best for Thailand. Same as a Japanese car makers. It's business as usual with the richer gettting richest. And what me worry about the poor.

FROM BIAK TO MEDAN by Peter Nolan Smith on Kindle

FROM BIAK TO MEDAN covers my travels from Indonesia's Irian Jaya to Sumatra in 1991.

It was time was before cellphones and ATM.

My modes of transport were tramp liners, jets, prop planes, horses, motorbikes, trains and buses.

I was a 'mistah', but soon learned enough Bahasa Indonesian to know that 'angin' was dog and that 'babi bear' or big pig meant man to cannibals.

These are the first of a series of stories from the Ring of Fire, when I was still younger than yesterday.

Selamat Datang.


Cowboy Rules 101

Sent by the ever-tolerant Big Al in Pattaya. He's my hero. A father/X-fighter.

1. Pull your pants up. You look like an idiot.

2. Turn your cap right, your head ain't crooked.

3. Let's get this straight: it's called a 'gravel road.' I drive a pickup truck because I want to. No matter how slow you drive, you're gonna get dust on your Lexus. Drive it or get out of the way.

4. They are cattle. That's why they smell like cattle. They smell like money to us. Get over it. Don't like it? Take I-10; I-40 go east and west, I-17; I-15 goes north and south. Pick one and go.

5. So you have a $60,000 car. We're impressed. We have $250,000 Combines that are driven only 3 weeks a year.

6. Every person in the Wild West waves. It's called being friendly. Try to understand the concept.

7. If that cell phone rings while a bunch of geese/pheasants/ducks/doves are comin' in during a hunt, we WILL shoot it outta your hand. You better hope you don't have it up to your ear at the time.

8. Yeah. We eat trout, salmon, deer and elk. You really want sushi and caviar? It's available at the corner bait shop.

9. The 'Opener' refers to the first day of deer season. It's a religious holiday held the closest Saturday to the first of November.

10. We open doors for women. That's applied to all women, regardless of age.

11. No, there's no 'vegetarian special' on the menu. Order steak, or you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the 2 pounds of ham and turkey.

12. When we fill out a table, there are three main dishes: meats, vegetables, and breads. We use three spices: salt, pepper, and ketchup! Oh, yeah ... We don't care what you folks in Cincinnati call that stuff you eat ... IT AIN'T REAL CHILI!!

13. You bring 'Coke' into my house, it better be brown, wet and served over ice. You bring 'Mary Jane' into my house, she better be cute, know how to shoot, drive a truck, and have long hair.

14. College and High School Football is as important here as the Giants, the Yankees, the Mets, the Lakers, and the Knicks, and a dang site more fun to watch.

15. Yeah, we have golf courses. But don't hit the water hazards - it spooks the fish.

16. Turn down that blasted car stereo! That thumpity-thump ain't music, anyway. We don't want to hear it anymore than we want to see your boxers! Refer back to #1! Play some Haggard & Jones!

Yee Haw!!!!!

Retort to Cowboy Rules 101

Life takes all types, but I respect the customs of faraway cultures. We share some of the same traditions. I wear my trousers high. Pants are your bikini briefs. My cap is curved and the logos honor my hometown teams.

Nothing else.

No truck or lube or fishing references.

I drive fully-insured rented cars in the West. No worries. Even better if someone else drives you.

I eat dust until I pass a pick-up's dusty rooster tail. Cows smelled like shit.

I like friendly too.

I wave to let other drivers know that I'm not asleep.

My cellphone is not a pet.

Motherfuckers will shoot at anything moving to spill blood. I stay out of the woods during deer season, but I like shooting trees. They don't move. I don't shoot anything else.

I leave the butchering to the butcher, but wild salmon is better than farmed salmon. A lot better.

I'm polite to all women, but only give up my seat to mothers with children, expectant mothers, and old ladies. At my age any further extension of etiquette tests my knees' stamina.

Bacon is bacon and nothing else will ever taste like bacon. Pork is not the other white meat. It's pig. Ketchup isn't a seasoning and it's not a vegetable either other than in the flyover where there are no vegetables.

There is no sport evening more important than a Yankees-Red Sox game, except for a Celtics-Lakers event.

I like my rock loud. If you want quiet, go to a Mitch Miller Band revival festival.

I might not be a cowboy, but I do like wearing boots and the hat.

Monday, May 26, 2014



It was a good day to visit Coney Island. Memorial Day was America's introduction to summer. It had been a long winter in New York.

Ellen was with her friends. The Argentines wanted to see the sea, But there was no way to refuse the rides.

None of them went in the water. It was too cold, but the sun was hot. They walked back to what was once The Great White Way.

The Giant Elephant was gone, So were the bathhouses, But the Wonderwheel stood its ground.

Ellen and the Argentines rode the Wonder Wheel. Their car soared into the sky. There were no clouds.

Only the beach, the people, and the cold green Atlantic. From the top of the spin Ellen saw people in the water. She could feel the cold and thought, "How cold could it be?"

The hoi polloi leaping off the pier knew how cold. Ellen took photos from the top. Photography was her art.

None of her models were in the Freak Show. Ellen was an artist And artists see the truth where no one else sees it. Even from the top of the Wonder Wheel.

The Wonder Wheel stopped and Ellen got off. Her friends looks at her, "What next?" She was not from New York, But the first time she came to New York, She came to see Coney Island.

The 80s had not been nice to Coney Island. The Cyclone was ready for arson.

NBA star Stephon Marbury came from the Surfside Gardens. He knew ball on those court. Those boys had a tough game back then.

Then was a long time ago And now was today. Ellen turned to her friends.

"We can go to Nathans." Her friend Peter had suggested a hot dog there. The Argentines said, "Yes." Nothing was more American than a hot dog And nothing was more America than Coney Island.


In Memorium For The Unspoken War

A message from Michael Moore

With due respect to those who are asking me to comment on last night's tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA -- I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago: We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill and anyone who momentarily snaps. We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) "interests."

The gun, not the eagle, is our true national symbol.

While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do -- and yet we don't seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: "Why us? What is it about US?" Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that?

Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses -- and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won't pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won't consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, "Guns don't kill people -- people kill people," they've got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: "Guns don't kill people -- Americans kill people." Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon. SINCE 1999 MORE THAN 300,000 AMERICANS HAVE BEEN KILLED BY GUNS. 7000 SOLDIERS HAVE DIED DURING THE IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN WARS. THE REAL WAR IS AT HOME.

Less Milk

The Financial Times came out of the banking holiday with a putdown on Thomas Piketty’s book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” and its tenet that income inequality has increased to disparities unseen since before the Great Depression. According to Al-Jazeera the FT’s Chris Giles says Piketty has “got his sums wrong.” Giles writes that the book’s U.S. data contains mistakes and “unexplained entries in spreadsheets,” and accuses the French economist of cherry picking. He also says FT has “cleaned up” Piketty’s work and found that “European numbers do not show any tendency towards rising wealth inequality after 1970.” The numbers don't add up the way Free Marketeers want the public to see them. We are supposedly heading out of the Greater Recession, but little has been done to address salary stagnations, job displacement in favor of profit, and more importantly the effect of speculation on common-day commodities. This morning I went into the deli on Fulton Street. A quart of milk had jumped twenty cents to $1.99 and a half-gallon also increased twenty cents. Equality? Poorer people buy smaller quantities and the shared twenty cent increase is actually a penalty on the poor to subsidize the rich. It's simple math that the purchasers of a quart were subjected to a 200% increase in comparison to that sought from the buyers of a half-gallon. Simple math and no matter how many mathematicians ponder the problem, the truth of the matter is that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting more numerous. No one reads the FT in Fort Greene. We know our math.


Holiday Neighbors

A friend complained about her neighbor's busying up her Memorial Day Holiday.

"Ok...I'm trying not to be too pissed off, but my neighbor who has been home all weekend has decided to harass me more by mowing his lawn starting at 8:30 am on a holiday ! What is even worse is that he has his shirt off and yuk !! very bad tattoos, beer gut and man boobs. The worse tattoo is one that almost covers his back of a vintage Chevrolet symbol with the word NOVA in the middle of it...really?!!!"

Personally I liked the Chevy Nova.

It was a hot rod.

But I live in Fort Greene and for the most part I like my neighbors.

We have no lawns.

They have parties.

They play their music loud.

If you shout at them, then don't shoot back.

Unlike the hinterland.

They take their shouting to the heart.

I found this Chevy tattoo online.

With the following tag.

“He loves Chevy enough to get a tattoo, but not enough to spend any money on it.”

Memorial Day 2014

Memorial Day traditionally kicks off the summer holidays in America. Parades are held to honor the nation's soldiers and sailors, who have fallen in battle, after which families gather for BBQs before creating massive traffic jams on the highways of the USA. Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30, which preceded my birthday by one day, so as a child I looked forward to the holiday with doubled anticipation.

As a Boy Scout in the early 60s we marched into the town cemetery with veterans from the country's many wars, firefighters, police, and politicians. A prayer was said at the Civil War monument and a military color guard shoot blanks into the air.

Somehow I thought that some of the accompanying veterans had fought in the Civil War, but the last survivor of the War between the States had been Albert Henry Woolson, who died in August 2, 1956, so maybe these ancient soldiers were the last veterans standing from the Spanish American War.

Memorial Day was first held in Charleston South Carolina, when colored townspeople laid flowers on the graves of dead Union soldiers. Decoration Day was popular with the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic, as the remains of the dead were moved from where they fell to their home states.

Today I raise my glass to the hundreds of thousands of dead.

They are not forgotten.

A Memorial Day Thought:
"Obviously what causes war is the desire for power, position, prestige, money; also the disease called nationalism, the worship of a flag; and the disease of organized religion, the worship of a dogma. All these are the causes of war; if you as an individual belong to any of the organized religions, if you are greedy for power, if you are envious, you are bound to produce a society which will result in destruction. So again it depends upon you and not on the leaders - not on so-called statesmen and all the rest of them. It depends upon you and me but we do not seem to realize that. If once we really felt the responsibility of our own actions, how quickly we could bring to an end all these wars, this appalling misery!"

25 Ways You Know You're From Boston When You....

# 1.) your son 'Fenway'.

2.) move to another city, but support the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots, even after Tom Brady married a Victoria Secrets' model.

3.) ...recognize that fried clams are only fried clams, if they have bellies and I mean big bellies like they serve at Tony's on Wollaston Beach, Woodman's in Essex, and Jake's in Wolverham.

Unless you're getting fried clams strips from Hojos on Rte. 3 before the 128 split-off.

4.) ...are asked what is your favorite New England beer and you answer without a pause, "Naragansetts."

Made with Honor.

The rest are wannabes.

5.) ...cry hearing Teddy Kennedy quote his brother RFK during the eulogy.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?"

6.) ...leap out of your chair and dance with Carlton Fisk, while watching a rerun of 1975 Game Six against the Cincinnati Reds.

7.) ...wish the State of Massachusetts had given $500,000 to 40,000 Bostonians to stay at home rather than build the Big Dig.

8.) for ROADRUNNER by the Modern Lovers as the State Song.

Anyone suggesting DREAM ON should move back to New Hampshire.

9.) ...wished you went to Beaver Country Day School, since they scored more snow days than any other school in Boston.

10.) ...recognize that Boston is a racist city. I taught at South Boston High School during the riots. It was a time of shame setting poor against poor.

And the way the sportwriters treated Bill Russell and Jim Rice.

11.) ...never put a foot on Harvard Yard or parked your car there.

12.) ...would rather have a burger at Brighams than Mickey Ds.

13.) ... have heard the 1812 OVERTURE at the Hatch Shell.

14.) have drank 50% of the beers at Jacob Wirth's, although not at one sitting.

15.) ...recognized that James Brown saved Boston from burning on the night of Martin Luther King's assassination.

16.) ...consider Boston City Hall the most aesthetically beautiful building in the city.

Bullfinch's State House is elegant, but nothing usual.

17.) ...actually are scared walking across Copps Hill Cemetery in broad daylight.

Read HP Lovercraft's PICKMAN'S MODEL.

18.) ...appreciate the lost wickedness of the Combat Zone.

See the photos of Roswell Angier, Jerry Berndt and John Goodman.

19.) ...understand your accent is something special.

One night in Bangkok circa 1990 I overheard someone with a Southie accent. We shook hands and drank to Bobby Orr.

"We must be the only two guy from Boston in Thailand."

"Nope, those two guys over there are from Dorchester."

We joined forces and spoke in the only tongue known to our kind.

Wicked Bostonian.

20.) ...headed to the Quincy Quarries for a swim.

Sorry, they are a thing of the past, but they were the best.

21.) ...know that family is almost everything, because after the Red Sox family is everything.

22.) ...appreciate the true beauty of the Mattapan - Ashmont trolley line.

It's free and the view of the Neponset River marshes are sublime no matter what the season.

23.) ...are proud that Marky Mark is one of us.

Even if he shouldn't have been wed by an ex-Jets player in the movie TED.


24.) ...accept the reality of the Giselle Bundchen Curse on the Patriots.

25.) ...realize that you love Boston no matter what.