Saturday, February 27, 2016

OLD BILL NEXT TO ME by Peter Nolan Smith


New York's Plaza Hotel had been a world-famous destination for decades, however and its 2008 reinvention as a condo-palace and demi-hotel seriously tarnished the reputation of Grand Lady on 5th Avenue.

While the newly opened Retail Plaza in the basement had been an abject failure and the hotel was run by Israeli realtors with the hospitality of the IDF in Gaza, the Oak Bar continued to attract power brokers, celebrities, and faces from the front covers of the newspapers and magazines.

Still the basement wasn't a total lost.

One afternoon Susan Lucci, the soap opera queen, entered our subterranean jewelry store and my young Russian 'work wife' asked the diminutive TV actress, "Does anyone tell you that you look like Susan Lucci?"

"All the time." Her mouth smirked sweetly at the blonde's ignorant innocence.

"Are you Susan Lucci?" Vanessa gasped like she had been tossed out of the Space Shuttle into zero atmosphere.

"Most of the time." Susan Lucci exuded an internal beauty beneath her botoxed skin.

"C-c-congratulations." My work-wife stammered out her best wishes to Lucci for being Lucci.

"Thank you." Susan wheeled a turn on her spike heels without which she would have been less than five feet tall.

We later realted this encounter with the star of ALL MY CHILDREN to the other salespeople trapped in the doomed Plaza Collection.

They laughed at Vanessa's offering 'congratulations'.

"I didn't know what else to say." The blonde had worshipped Susan Lucci from her couch for years.

Several days later David Beckham and his wife Posh visited the hotel. The paparazzi rioted outside the entrance. Fans screamed out his name. The madhouse lasted for hours.

Celebrity has its perks, but power demanded more challenging accommodations and one February evening the Secret Service locked down the hotel for the arrival of Bill Clinton, the former president of the USA, who had a table reserved in the Oak Room.

Agents in black suits roamed the hotel. They surveilled guests and workers with suspicion. Bill had been a popular president, but men in high places retained their enemies after retirement.

AS I walked through the hotel, the Secret Service ignored me, judging a fifty-five year old diamond salesman to be harmless. They were right. I was no assassin.

I almost visited the Oak Room to gawk at Clinton, but customers kept me busy and at the closing hour I went to washroom at the rear of the Retail Collection. The owner of Leather Spa said that the ex-president had stopped for a shoeshine.

"He tipped Segundo $10."

"He wore handmade loafer from England." Segundo knew his shoes.

"A good tipper." A shine cost $4 at their stand. "Is he still in the Oak Room?"

"Far as I know."

"Maybe I'll stop up there for a drink after work."

I headed into the men's room.

The attendant wasn't on duty.

I hate Mssr. Le PeePee.

I stood at a stall and unzipped my fly.

Two seconds later a taller man stepped close to the adjoining urinal.His shoulder almost touched mine.

Male toilet manners require strangers to neither touch nor talk to another man before the porcelain god, so I dropped my eyes to the floor, only to notice that my neighbor's shoes were highly buffed loafers with tassels.

I lifted my gaze.

The ex-president was peeing next to me without his Secret Service agents.

Some things a man has to do on his own.

The former president smiled at me and I involuntarily peeked into his urinal.

Bill frowned and lowered his broad shoulder to block my view, then shook his member and strode out of the men's room without washing his hands.

Same as 99% of the men at Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden.

Being and Old School 1% I rinsed mine under cold water and exited from the men's room expecting to be accosted by his security detail. The only people in the hallway were Segundo and his boss. They pointed upstairs to indicate the direction of Bill's departure. I nodded and returned to my shop.

Vanessa was ready to go.

"What took you so long?"

"I ran into Bill Clinton in the bathroom."

"Hillary's husband?" Women looked at men differently from men.

"I peed next to him."

"And did you look at him?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know, look at his schwanze?" Vanessa was a nice girl from Moscow, but she wanted to know. "My husband says all types of men check out him in the bathroom. Did you look at his penis?"

She was my work-wife, not my real wife, so I told her what I would have told anyone.

"No." A gentleman never talk about woman's age or the size of a man's penis.

"Oh." She was disappointed. "Were you scared about being gay?"

"With the president of the United States?"

"Ex-president." Women were experts at putting men in their place.

"I don't look at men's penises."

"Liar. All men look at porno. Don't tell me there aren't any penis there?"

"That's different."

"Right." Vanessa huffed and picked up her cell. She spoke in Russian. I heard the name Clinton, then pietska. It meant penis in her language. My co-worker smiled at me. She knew the truth.

I had looked at Bill's crank.

And checking another man's schlong isn't a gay thing.

It's just something you do.

Of course my gay friends think that all men are gay.

Given the right circumstances they are right.

Bathroom, ex-president, New York?

Thankfully Bill's not my type and I'm certainly not his and I know, because he never bothered to look at mine.

Friday, February 26, 2016

RUN MOTHERFUCKERS RUN

Throughout the 60s the Eastern High School hockey tournament was held at the old Boston Arena. Games between bitter rivals packed the stands over the legal capacity of 4600.

In the 1968 ECAC semi-finals BC High was pitted Somerville High. Fans from the public high school filled the rinkside seats, while BC High's following crammed into the steep upper deck. My older brother attended BC High as a junior. I was a sophomore at Xaverian, but his friends accepted my support for this game, since we had smuggled in beer as had many of the Eagles' supporters.

By the end of the 1st period our section was a roiling maelstrom of drunken teenage boys and several seniors amused the under-classmen by dropping M-80 firecrackers on Somerville fans. We laughed at their scurrying away from our bombing tactics and their cheerleading squad climbed the stairs to beseech us to stop the bombardment. Our rebuke of this offer was ungentlemanly and the Somerville football team attempted to quell our boisterous behavior, however we held the upper ground and beat the squad down the stairs with our fists.

BC High scored an upset victory and at the end of the game hordes of cops separated the two groups of supporters, letting Somerville leave first. Their fans were furious at their loss and our behavior. We shouted out parting epithets. Most of them began with the letter F. Once the lower section of the arena was clear, the police allowed BC High fans to file onto the street.

Hundreds of Somerville fans lined the sidewalks. They were big boys and it seemed like all the entire town was waiting in the alley. We had beaten them in the arena and on the ice. They were hundreds of us. Our friends gave the Somerville fans the finger. I shouted out obscenities. My brother nudged my ribs and pointed over his shoulder. The police were shutting the doors to prevent a general melee.

Clang.

Our retreat to safety was cut off.

I rapidly counted our numbers.

We were about forty.

We stood in a gauntlet of teenage thugs.

We were on our own.

The Somerville fans were slow to react to this advantage.

A clear path ran up the middle of the alley to Mass Ave. and one of my brother's friends shouted out, "Run, motherfuckers, run."

We didn't need to be told twice.

I ran the 440 for my high school.

My older brother the 880.

Our best times for a dash were that night, as we outraced our enemies to the safety of Mass. Avenue and Kelly's Bar at the bridge.

Like the wind we ran with fear on our heels. I reached Kelly's first. The 6-8 bouncer with Winter Hill connections saw us ahead of the approaching horde. My grand-uncle was the head detective with the BPD. He drank at this bar sometimes.

Jimmy pulled open the door and said, "Get inside quick."

Twenty of piled into the bar. Jimmy slammed the door shut and threw the bolts.

Curses and kicks rained on the steel barrier. "Yes, Jimmy."

And the fight?"

"That too."

"And the race,."

It was a matter of life or a beating."

The pounding at the door had died down.

Jimmy looked out the spyhole.

I bought him two beers as thanks.

"Go Eagles." Jimmy was class of 62.

I ordered to 'Gansetts." He clinked my glass. I had been drinking there since I was twelve.

"And run, motherfuckers, run."

We all toasted those word and the phrase served as a joke for years to come, however to this day whenever someone says that they are from Somerville I never mention the word 'hockey' or run motherfuckers run.

It was better than way.

Happy 95th Birthday Poo Frank

My father passed away over five years ago.

Today would have been his 95th birthday.

Frank A Smith II was my best friend.

Still is.

He loved my mother and mourned her early passing from this life.

My father loved his kids.

All six of us.

Frank III, Regina, Pam, Patrick, Michael, and me.

He was a native of Maine.

And Watchic Pond

I loved that lake too.

It always felt like home.

After my mother passed in 1996, my father and I traveled the world.

We voyaged by car through France.

He came to stay with me later in Ireland and we found my Nana's house.

We went west to Utah.

North to Quebec.

And Poo Frank voyaged around the world to Thailand to meet my family.

Frank A Smith was a good man and while I don't carry his name, I will follow his path around te world.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bowling For Prosperity

Back in the 1980s no one other than Rockets Red Glare was fat and these days he might pass for husky.

We loved he nightlife.

New York was the capitol of the world.

Every place else on Earth was second-rate, except for Paris and Pattaya.

Both those cities knew sin.

However New York could mix bowling with sex, drugs, and rock n roll at the University Lanes in the Village run by Alan Platt.

The girls were beautiful.

We knew their names.

Especially Wendy.

We will always have the University Lanes and Paris.

Forever, although we never bowled in the City of Light.

ps my best game was a 187 and I was beaten by John Conti who scored a 199.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

iPhone love

The other night I went to dinner at John's Italian restaurant in the East Village. The establishment has been serving hearty southern dishes since 2008. The menu was a time machine to my youth and I ordered the meatball and spaghetti. My dinner companion had the tomato raviolis. We ordered Chiantis and converse about friends, until she said, "Look over there."

"Where?" It was a Monday night. There were only three tables.

"The young couple sitting against the wall," whispered Susan. We were just friends, but she's thirty years my junior. I'm older than most people these days, so I'm accustomed to age decrepancies .

I turned my head to a young attractive couple.

The man was glued to his iPhone.

He had a beer.

She had nothing to drink.

"He's been on the phone for ten minutes," Susan hunched over to me.

"And he hasn't said anything to her?"

"Not a word."

"And he hasn't ordered her a drink."

"Schmuck."

"He's probably googling how to speak with women on your first date."

"Sad but true."

We returned to our dinner and talk. The waiter came by and I waved him over.

"Ask that girl if she wants something to drink, because the jerk on the iPhone won't."

"I'd love to, but we have a bet to see how how it will be before he gets off the phone. I went for the long shot and said twenty minutes."

"You're looking good," commented Susan.

"Can I offer you a glass of wine on the house?"

"Thanks."

We looked over the dessert menu and at the twenty-first minute the girl got the waiter's attention to order a Sprite.

"Sprite?" I would have order the most expensive wine.

"Yes, she's saying there's no way he getting a second date."

The man reacted to the intrusion and showed the woman his iPhone. He thought something was funny.

"Jerk off," Susan and I said it at the same time, happy with our wine.

It does make a mundane world nicer.

As does John's of 12th Street 302 East 12th Street, NYC 10003 (212) 475-9531

I recommend it highly.

Subvertizements of Apartheid

According to electronicintifada.net activists from London Palestine Action plastered these posters criticizing Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians all over London’s underground train network early Sunday morning calling them “subvertisements,” political messages designed to look like sanctioned advertising.

Next week It's Israeli Apartheid Week in the UK.

Israel has spend billions demonizing the Palestinians as terrorists, a non-race, and animals. The UK has sold the Zionist State billions of arms to oppress Gaza and the West Bank. Several Israeli organization demanded for the posters to be taken down before the Monday rush hour. Transport officials said they got most, but not all, so the message went out to some people.

The UK Zionist Federation on Monday called for authorities to “apprehend the original culprits.” and the Prime Minister called the ads 'inciteful'.

I am sure he meant to say 'insightful' since inciteful is not a word. According to electronicintifada.net former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who in 2009 evaded a UK arrest warrant for war crimes, denied that Israel practices apartheid and said the posters showed that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement “is against the existence of Israel.”

What they are against is the apartheid treatment of Palestinians; pass cards, arbitrary arrests, infantile incarceration, house bombing, and the theft of land without any recourse to justice.

FREE PALESTINE

The Depassioning of Cellphones

The closer we are, the farther we are with cellphones.

They take us away from the 'now' to the never was of the internet.

And you can't expect anything else, when the 'now' is a prison of the overdosed senses.

Lose your iPhones and be free.

Spring is around the corner. Flowers The warm sun. A long sunset Without a selfie. Because some things are meant to be seen only by your eyes.

Rattlesnake Alert

Last year local wildlife officials were called to the Blue Hills south of Boston in response to 911 call alerting to the presence of a timber rattlesnake in a populated area. Officers captured the serpent and released rattler into the Great Bog. My sister called me with this information and I asked, "Do you remember the winter Frunk saw a rattlesnake in the snow?"

"No." Her blunt refusal wasn't surprising, since she had been six in 1962.

I had been ten.

"Frunk and I were walking home. It must have been close to Christmas since it was dark early." New England was renowned for dreary winters. Nights were long and snow fell in November. "When we got to our house, Frunk whispered for me to look at the driveway. I turned my head and he pointed out a wavering shadow in the snow and said it was a rattlesnake."

"A rattlesnake?" she scoffed with a sigh. "You saw a rattlesnake in the winter. In the snow?"

My sister was a lawyer. She was an expert at grilling witnesses, but I was unafraid of telling the truth or a good story.

"Frunk saw it as a snake. I didn't know what it was, but I wasn't taking any chances and we ran into the house. Mom asked what was the problem and Frunk told her about the snake. She shook her head, until she saw the silhouette in the snow. It was about time for Dad to come home and she called the police. It must have been a slow day, because two patrol cars arrived within minutes. Getting out of their cars they drew their guns. Frunk went outside and showed them what he thought was the snake. The oldest cop pointed a flashlight and the snake became a piece of brown paper stuck in the snow. Everyone had a good laugh about it."

"I still don't remember it."

"No?"

"And I don't remember ever hearing about it until now."

"Oh." I nodded my head, recollecting that Frunk had sworn me to never mentioned the incident and the story died out after a week's ribbing. "Maybe I was just imagining it."

"You and your imagination. Have a good week."

"You too."

Later that evening I called my older brother. He didn't answer the phone and I left a message about the timber rattlesnake. He never returned my call, because some things only happened in the past and this was one of them.

The Snake Seduction of Eve

Quabbin Reservoir was created in the 1930s to serve the Boston area with clean water. Farms and towns were evacuated in the flood plain and the watershed has served as a park for visiting families and hikers, however the Massachusetts Division of fisheries and Wildlife has decided to set up a colony of eight venomous rattlesnakes on an uninhabited island to prevent the venomous timber rattlesnakes from extinction.

Fear-ridden residents of the area are calling the state offices to express their paranoia about rattler infestation.

Much ado about nothing, for while two hundred timber rattlesnakes remain in the wilds of western Massachusetts, there has been no reports of a fatal biting since colonial times, except for a suspected strike on the North Quabbin Trails Association president's collie.

Keltz was bitten on the nose, causing excessive bleeding.

No swelling.

Some people are just scared of snakes.

After all the Snake offered the apple to Eve.

The bible tells us so.

As a devout atheist I say bring back the rattlers.

The sooner the better.

We need a new Eve.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

KICK OUT THE JAMS by Peter Nolan Smith

In the fall of 1969 my all-boys parochial school entered a chocolate-selling competition with the other Catholic educational institutions in Boston. The top prize for most sales was a concert by a band from Elektra Records. Rumors abounded that the band on offer was The Doors.

Everyone wished it was true, because in 1967 the LA band had a # 1 hit with LIGHT MY FIRE. Catholic girls loved Jim Morrison, however the Lizard King couldn’t satisfy all of them, so our 1000-plus strong enrollment scoured the virgin suburbs of the South Shore with boxes of outdated chocolate bars, dreaming of teenage girls dancing to THE END and we beat our nearest rival by over $5000.

On the cold morning December 1st our principal ended the morning messages by saying, “I congratulate you for selling the most chocolate bars. The cardinal also sends his thanks for the papal recruiting fund. I suppose you’re wondering who the band is.”

I sat in English class with thirty-five other seniors. Brother Bede leaned against the blackboard. We chanted, “Doors, Doors, Doors.”

The ex-boxer raised a hand to still us. My father had seen him fight as a heavyweight at Boston Arena. No one challenged the broken-nosed brother’s commands.

“I’m pleased to announce that Elektra band chosen the MC5 to be backed up by a local group, the Odyssey.”

The majority of the class muttered out their disappointment. The Doors meant making out with girls.

“MC5?” The school’s quarterback pounded on his desk. “Who the fuck are they?”

Only WBCN-FM played the MC5. Most teenagers only listened to the AM stations and the football player's questionis question stumped everyone in the room, but me.

“The Motor City 5 are out of Detroit. They opened for Led Zeppelin at the Garden two months ago.” Narragansett Beer had hosted its first Tribal Rock Festival to a sell-out crowd of 17,000. “In 1968 they appeared three nights at the Boston Tea Party with the Velvet Underground.”

“I w-w-wish you w-w-were as good w-w-with English as you are w-w-with rock and roll.” Brother Bede had not won that fight in Boston Arena and his stutter was a result of many beatings.

“Yes, b-b-brother.” I shared his perchance for a stammer.

“Who cares about history?” The quarterback glared in my direction, as if I had personally decided which band played at our school. He was from Brockton. It was a tough town. “Are the MC5 any good?”

“I know the Doors are what people want you to hear, but the MC5 are the best live band in America.” I was into rock and roll. My record collection was second to none. I had seen the Turtles, Animals, Shocking Blue, the Remains, and Rocking Ramrods at the Surf Nantasket, the Modern Lovers at Cambridge Commons, the Ultimate Spinach and Beacon Street Union on Boston Commons. My hair ran over the back of my shirt. My mother called me a hippie.

“Have you ever seen them?” The quarterback had won our school a state championship. He was a god in the eyes of my classmates. His favorite band was the Beatles.

“No, but I have their live LP. KICK OUT THE JAMS. I'll bring it to school tomorrow. We can listen to it in the audio lab during study.”

“At least they have a record.” The quarterback wore his hair long like Paul McCartney and his girlfriend was the head cheerleader at our sister school, Our Blessed Virgin High School.

“And it’s better than THE WHITE ALBUM.” My girlfriend was cheerleader at my town school. Kyla loved the Beatles and I never told her about my deep dislike for the pop sell-outs. At least she wasn’t into Paul.

The quarterback rose from his desk. Brother Bede stepped between us.

“Sit down. There’ll be no fighting in my class or anywhere else.” Brother Bede liked my poetry, but he was asst. coach on the football team and the quarterback was his boy.

“Yes, brother.”

We shook hands and then took our seats. We both rubbed our knuckles on the way back to our desks. Brother Bede had us read from A SEPARATE PEACE.

During lunch everyone discussed the MC5.

Three other boys had heard of them; my best friend Chuckie Manzi and my two younger cousins.

“Hippie girls love the MC5. They symbolize revolution. The record opens with the lead singer yelling ‘motherfucker’.” Chuckie had listened to the album in my basement. His mother would kill him, if she heard that word in her house. My mother too, only she worked during the day.

“They have the balls to sing ‘motherfucker?” The quarterback’s opinion elevated the MC5 to that of the Kingsmen, who mythically shouted ‘fuck’ during LOUIE LOUIE.

“They were also the only band to appear in Chicago during the Days of Rage in 1968 and they played for eight hours straight.” I learned about the band from the WBCN DJs, who worshipped their non-commerciality.

“So they’re against the war.” The quarterback had a brother stationed in Da Nang.

“Yes.” I was no liar at this point in my life.

“Then that’s good enough for me.” The only way outs for Brockton boys was the army or prison and the quarterback was lucky enough to have colleges interested in his arm.

None of us were traitors, but at the end of the school year we were meat for the draft and even high school seniors knew that the Pentagon didn’t want to win this war.

The next day I brought in the MC5 LP. Our study period was right before lunch. The quarterback and I entered the audio lab. The librarian lent us headphones. I cued up the first track and turned the volume to 10. John Sinclair introduced the band.

“Brothers and sisters.” The radical from Detroit shouted to the audience at the Grande Ballroom,

“Are you ready to testify? I give you a testimonial. The MC5.”

The feedback guitars and falsetto lead voice caught the quarterback off guard like a safety blitz, but within seconds his head was rocking on his neck and he smiled his approval.

Hearing ‘motherfucker’ on KICK OUT THE JAMS turned his smile into a grin. He pulled off the headphones and said, “They’re great, but we have a problem. The brothers will never let them say ‘motherfucker’ at the concert.”

“How they going to know about that? They only listen to Georgian chants."

“Some of them are young. They have contacts with the anti-war movement. We have snitches at school. They’re going to find out.” The quarterback believed in a good defense and lifted the stylus off the LP. “You never brought this to school.”

“You want to borrow it?” I rarely lent out records. No one ever gave them back in good condition.

“You would do that?” The quarterback slipped the record into the cover sleeve with care.

“We are not the problem,” I answered by quoting John Sinclair. “We are the solution.”

It was 1969. This was our world.

The quarterback instructed his team to squelch any mention of the MC5 and the word motherfucker.

His offensive line were the biggest boys in the school. We reached the Christmas vacation without a breach in our silence. The quarterback gave back the record on the last day before break. It was in good condition.

“Sorry, but everyone in my town wanted to hear it.”

“I understand.” I resisted checking for scratches and wished him a happy new year. “You too.”

As soon as he was out of sight, I pulled out the LP. It was untouched.

We were the high society.

Tickets went on sale the first day back at school. They cost $2.50 each. I walked into school in January and headed to the school store. Over a hundred students were lined up for tickets. The Dean of Discipline was asking them about the band.

“Do they have a hit?” The Dean was fast with his hands.

“No, brother,” answered a nervous sophomore.

“Then why are you going?”

In his US history class he preached that J. Edgar Hoover deserved our respect for fighting godless communism and now suspected something was amiss with the MC5.

“They have a new album coming out BACK IN THE USA.”

“So they’re ‘hip’?” The Dean of Discipline kept up with teenage slang to pretend that he wasn’t so different from us. The act didn’t fool any of us.

“Yes, brother.” Conversations with the Dean was best kept to five words or less. He was a dedicated witch-hunter.

“I look forward to seeing them.” The Dean of Discipline walked away from the queue with his hands in his pockets, but this first round of interrogation was not the last. The Dean was very thorough in his investigation into subversion.

“Keep your mouths shut.” I wagged a warning finger at the sophomore.

“About what?” I bought two tickets for Kyla and me.

“Good answer.”

The MC5 show sold out the first day to the amazement of the school principal.

The quarterback told him that the student body was charged up about the first concert at the school. His hero status convinced the principal that a rock band was no threat to our souls and said that he was looking forward to seeing the group.

“They’re loud.”

“As long as they don’t break the sound barrier, I’ll be fine with loud.”

The quarterback and I felt confident that our deception would skate under the radar, then two nights before the show a disc jockey on WBZ reported on a secret concert by the MC5 at our high school.

The second I heard his report I knew this was trouble and the next morning the principal ended the morning messages by announcing, “It had come to the school’s attention that the group scheduled to appear this Saturday night has been involved in an obscenity controversy. School policy strictly bans any curse words by teachers, students, and visitors.”

“Obviously the principal has never been to football practice.” the quarterback quipped from his desk. His coach was renown for his vitriolic outbursts of four-lettered words.

“Q-q-quiet,” Brother Bede’s commands were stuttered once and only once.

“Any mention of the bad words mentioned by the band before or during the show will result in my immediate termination of the concert. I have contacted the record company and warned them that any incident will incur the full wrath of the arch-diocese of Boston. That is all for today.”

This heavy-handed suppression of free speech instilled rebellion into our hearts, for the brothers thought that we were meant to be seen and not heard, but those days had ended at our school after last year’s strike to abolish the dress code. White shirts and tie were now optional and we regarded anyone wearing them as stooges for the old regime.

“S-s-slow down, class.” Brother Bede sat on the edge of his desk with ON THE ROAD in his hands. We had read CATCHER IN THE RYE, 1984, and BRAVE NEW WORLD under his tutelage. He believed in an open mind. “A-a-at least the concert was not cancelled and from w-w-w-what the principal explained to the other brothers, the b-b-band only said one bad word on its record. He said nothing about their b-b-being revolutionaries.”

Brother Bede’s common sense calmed our young minds and we spread his good news throughout the school. The omission of one word wasn’t the end of the world, even though the truth of the matter was that none of us would be here if our fathers weren’t motherfuckers. Even Jesus had a motherfucker and the word was bantered around the school like a badminton cock at a summer barbecue.

The night of the show Chuckie drove us to school.

I was wearing a fringed suede jacket and bell-bottom jeans. Kyla was a little Tibetan goddess in her lambskin coat and miniskirt.

Snowflakes darted across 128. Chuckie put on WBCN. JJ Jackson was playing PINBALL WIZARD.

At Woodstock Abbie Hoffman declared that the concert was bullshit while John Sinclair was in prison for marijuana. Pete Townsend had driven the Yippie leader off stage with his guitar. Woodstock was about love and peace, not the injustice of the MC5's spokesman languishing in prison for a few joints and tonight was no different.

The four of us drank a six-pack of beer in the parking lot. Kyla and I made out in the back seat. Her lips tasted of bubble gum. My hands wiggled under her sweater to glide on baby-powdered skin. The heat of our young bodies fogged the windows.

Time was lost to passion, but at 8pm Kyla broke our embrace. I wiped away the condensation on the rear window.

The doors to the gym were open.

“Let’s go.”

As we approached the gym, two hippie girls asked if I had an extra tickets. They were college age. Two more co-eds posed the same question at the door. A pair of freshmen offered to be their dates. The girls did not refuse the request. This was a big show.

Inside the deejay was playing popular hits and the gathering crowd danced to Marvin Gaye and Sly.

My classmates were costumed in haute Haight-Ashbury. The pungent aroma of marijuana emanated from the bathroom.

Three long-haired men in colorful robes exited a minute later. None of them attended Xaverian and they smiled at Kyla with reddened eyes. She clutched my hand. Strange men scared the buxom brunette. I held her close. Her beauty was safe with me.

The stage was set up under the basketball net. I recognized the Odyssey from their gigs at the Surf Nantasket. The quartet looked nervous about performing tonight. They were a cover band. This was a big gig for them.

I didn’t see any sign of the MC5.

“Where are they?” the quarterback demanded at the table serving cokes. His girlfriend introduced herself to Kyla. She was as blonde as Peggy Lipton of THE MOD SQUAD.

“I heard on WBCN that they were playing an afternoon show in Detroit.”

“This afternoon?” Driving in a GTO at top speed from Detroit was a six-hour trip with police lights in the rearview mirror.

“Yes.” The DJ Charles Laquidara had told his listeners that the band had been playing an afternoon show in Detroit.

“How will they get here ?” The show was scheduled for 9:30.

“They’re taking a flight to Logan.”

I leaned over to the quarterback. He smelled of Brut. It was Joe Namath’s cologne.

“They’ll be here. Just don’t tell anyone else. We don't want a riot here.”

The Odyssey opened their set with a cover of HEY JOE. I checked at my Timex watch. It was 8:30. The younger students danced to the hits.

None of the hippies in the audience paid attention to the group. Some of them looked older than 20.

The Dean of Discipline was keeping a close eye on them. Brother Bede had cotton stuffed in his ears. Chuckie and I went outside to finish our beers.

The night sky was clear of clouds and the stars showed their power from distant positions in space.

A car engine was grinding up the road to the school. A white van slid on black ice into the parking lot. The vehicle accelerated between the rear-ends of our cars and braked before the gym. Five men jumped from the van. It was the MC5. I recognized the lead singer from his Afro. He waved for me to come closer.

“You go to school here?” His name was Wayne Kramer.

“Yes, sir.” I had never spoken to a famous person.

“I’m not a sir, brother. This is Xaverian, right?” The guitarist checked out Kyla and eyed me with admiration.

The smell of bubble gum on her lips was a beautiful thing.

“Yes.” I couldn’t bring myself to call him brother. I already had three.

“Damn, we didn’t get lost. Good driving.” He slapped the driver on the shoulder. He was Fred Sonic Smith, the guitarist. “Let’s get set up. Brother, you want to carry an amp into the gym. The faster we set up, the faster we play for you.”

“Yes, sir.” The sir thing was a hard habit to lose in less than a minute. “Cool.” He handed Chuckie and me each a large Marshall amp.

The Odyssey had finished their set. Chuckie and I hauled the amps to the stage like altar boys carrying Sunday communion to the faithful.

The MC5 shook hands walking through the crowd. The hippie girls abandoned the freshmen for the stars of the night. The MC5 were a live band. They performed more than twenty shows a month. The roadies assembled the equipment array within a half hour.

The band climbed onto the stage, only to have the principal and Dean of Discipline to confront them. The topic of discussion was no secret to the student body and the murmur of dissent rippled through the audience.

The Dean of Discipline shone his sated disapproval, but Wayne Kramer raised his hand and strode over to the microphone.

“Brothers and sisters, we’re the MC5. You know who we are. You know what we stand for.”

He turned to the two black-robed brothers.

“Your principal has requested that we not use a word during the show. If we don’t agree to this condition, we won’t be allowed to play and we flew a thousand miles to be with you tonight.”

Boos rocked the gym.

“It’s just one word. You know the word. We only say it one time. We didn’t come here to walk out the door.” The lead singer waved for the band to take their places. “We are the MC5 and you are you. One two three.”

They rocked the building with the MOTOR CITY IS BURNING. Rob Tyner drove the girls crazy with his strut during DOING ALL RIGHT. Mike Davis led the band with a thumping bass and the drummer drove a basic beat into our bones. The basketball floor bounced with our dancing and Kyla sang along to BABY PLEASE DON’T GO. The quarterback and I hugged each other with joy after HIGH SCHOOL. We were seventeen and free.

The MC5 left us ragged after two hours of solid rock and they ended with a homage to Chuck Berry and the title track of their new LP, BACK IN THE USA.

“Thank you, Xaverian.” Wayne Kramer shouted into the mike. “Peace, brothers and sisters.”

The MC5 jumped off the low stage and we chanted out more. We stomped the floor to the chant of ‘more’. The band emerged from the underneath the bleachers and Wayne Kramer grabbed the mike.

“We have saved the best for last and we have also kept our promise to the good brothers, but you didn’t make any promise,” I pointed the microphone into the audience. “Brothers and sisters, it’s now time to KICK OUT THE JAMS____”

Our voices shouted the word as one. “Motherfucker.” There was no quieting us. The world was on fire and the MC5 drew us into the flames that evening.

It was January 24, 1970

On January 25 today became yesterday and tomorrow was a long way away from yesterday.

Vanished

Opps.

Disappeared like I had been detained by the CIA.

But I'm back.

Where was ?

I don't know.

Which is a good thing.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Abe And Marilyn and Blackula

Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclaimation in 1863, freeing slaves throughout the South, however thei liberation awaited the arrival on the Union Army at which point they sang, "Free at last, hallelujah."

The unchained darkies' paradise lasted a few years, as the South instituted Jim Crow laws aimed at their subjugation to sharecropper lands. The police and mobs below the Mason-Dixon Line punished any loose-tongued niggers with the noose. Lynchings occurred with frightening regularity and Africans fled the South throughout the 20th Century in hopes of better days, only to have Northern factory owners conspire to break the spirit of blacks by underpaying their worth and the 1919 Tulsa Massacre taught spades that no place safe existed for a black man, woman, or child in White America.

I taught high school in South Boston during the Bussing battles of the 1970s.

A Massachusetts state judge ordered the Boston School Committee to rectify the racial imbalances within the city without including the lily-white suburbs. Poor Irish teenagers were transported to the poorer neighborhoods of Roxbury and vice versa.

Divide and conquer amongst the old slaves, for the Irish had also been transported to the Americas in chains slave as well as the Africans of the West Coast.

And nowadays the battle lines are drawn by color.

Black and their first place minority status are threatened by the rising number of Latinos and Chinese flocking to the fifty states to once more prove that a nigger has to know his place and that is why Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson.

His crime.

He mouthed off to a white cop.

Treyvon was murdered, because he was a black boy in a hoodie.

Akai Gurley had it coming, because he was black.

Tamir Rice was shot dead by cops.

At least one a day in these United States.

And white people say these killings are not racist.

No, they are almost right. Cops kill people, because they are poor and dead men can't tell their side of the story.

Whites prefer the nice lies by the people they have entrusted to protect them from the blacks.

Murder is just another price to pay for sleeping safe and sound at night.

ZZZZZZZZZ.

In your sleep.

Blackula will come to get you, whitey.

Me too, but I'm eating tons of garlic just in case.

He looks more like Abe Lincoln than Marilyn Monroe and there is nothing I want more than Marilynula sucking my blood in bed, because I'm a sucked for a stone-cold dead blonde.

COLD AS IT GETS by Peter Nolan Smith

Mount Washington was far from the tallest mountain on the face of the Earth, however in 1934 the summit observatory recorded the strongest measured wind on the planet at 231 mph or 372 km/hr. Winter temperatures on Agiocdochook, or “Home of the Great Spirit” regularly dropped as low as -50F. Death from hypothermia can occur within an hour at that sub-zero temperature, but a human can freeze in less time. I know, because in February of 1971 John, Mark, and Tommy and I left Boston well before the dawn to spend several days skiing the White Mountains.

Mark fiddled with the radio dial and found Bill Withers AIN'T NO SUNSHINE.

"Not yet," Mark responded before lighting up a joint. "But soon."

We reached Cannon in Franconia Notch around 8. The sun shone behind the mountain. We bought tickets and quickly consumed a stack of pancakes for fuel. The aerial tram carried skiers to the 4000-foot summit. Several complained about the cold. The four of us were comfortable with 10F and the fluffy snow presented well-groomed conditions. We hit the steep speed trails of Rocket, Zoomer, and Polly’s Folly, broke for a chili lunch, and then finished with long runs on Taft Slalom, Ravine, Cannon, and Cannonball.

We returned to the parking lot early, because driving through the mountains at night was dangerous.

"Good day." Tommy nodded his head, as we loaded the Beatle with the skis stashed between the seats and our clunky Frankenstein boots in the front trunk.

John blew in his hands.

"Damn, I think it's gotten colder.

"It's just the night. Supposed to be sunny tomorrow," Tommy assured his hockey teammate.

"We'll be snug in the Bug soon enough." VWs had air-cooled engine.

I started the car and we drove up the notch to catch 302 through Crawford Notch. WBZ played Janis Joplin's ME AND BOBBIE MCGEE. We sang every word. Snow plows fought to keep the road open. Some days it was a losing effort. The VW skidded around a corner a little out of control.

"Hate to drive off the road at night." John sat in the front. None of us were wearing our ski gear. The Bug had good heat, but he liked horror movies and said, "I see it this way. We we slide down the slope to the Saco River and land upside down. We can't get out and the car is buried by an avalanche. We end up eating each other to survive."

Stop already." I wasn't driving fast. "We'll get us to Conway alive."

We found a cheap motel in North Conway and ate hearty meal at a local restaurant.

Stepping into the night I was surprised by a severe temperature drop. I had delivered newspapers five winters as a young boy. I knew cold and said, "-5 and that's with no wind."

"But sunny tomorrow." Tommy was an eternal optimist, but checked his watch. "Time to go."

The winger wanted to watch his show.

Back at the motel we broke out the bong and turned on the TV.

THE MOD SQUAD.

Peggy Lipton.

We crashed during HEE-HAW.
"The next morning John, Tommy, Mark and I woke early and they ate oatmeal with maple syrup.

I had toast and coffee."

"What's with the diet?" asked Tommy with a spool of gruel in his hand.

I hate oatmeal. Always have since reading OLIVER TWIST."

"Can't I 'ave some mo'e?" John held out his empty bowl.

"Yea, it threw me off gruel."

"All the more for me." John refilled his bowl.

"I understand, but it's never good to ski on an empty stomach. You want to smoke some weed? Nothing like it for eating something you don't want to eat."

I shook my head.

"I'm good."

Hitting the parking lot I felt the cold bit at my face and hurried to the Bug.

Tommy and Mark scrapped the ice off the windows.

"It's even colder today." John shivered like a malaria victim.

He was right.

The 1300cc engine started on the first twist of the key. I beeped the horn. Matt and Tommy jumped in the car. Johnny regarded the other skiers struggling with their Detroit V8s and said, "Suckers."

We were the first people to hit the trails. The untouched snow on the glades was ours. Our skis deflowered Tightrope and Saco. Avenger and Kachina were steep without any challenge. We were New England skiers used to ice. Attitash only sold 2000 tickets a day, but for the most part we were the only ones on the slopes and at day's end John complained, "It's freezing."

"It's well below freezing. The thermometer at the lodge read -20."

"At the summit it was -30." John was suffering in his Filene's Basement ski gear.

"I felt okay." I had traded an ounce of grass for Hart Outer Clothing.

"Me too." Tommy fussed with his new Roffe parka and gloves. He played hockey for a prep school in Maine. A booster paid him under the table for goals.

"Fuck you both."

We drank Whiskey toddys with dinner at the restaurant across from the motel

Everyone in the restaurant was talking about the cold.

They were locals.

One older man argued for 1968 winning the record for cold.

"It hit -32."

"I remember that winter." The waitress pulled shut her sweater. "My husband and I stayed in bed most of the winter. We had twins in the fall."

Upon leaving the restaurant we hurried to our room.

"You know we don't have to ski tomorrow." John's skin was as white as if he was a Titanic passenger rescued the the icy Atlantic.

"It'll be fine." Tommy played prep school hockey in Northern Maine.

Aroostock County was another kind of cold.

The next morning we woke to a brittle white light rising over the valley. I went to the window and felt the glass. It was colder than ice.

Several skiers were standing before their cars.

The engines were frozen solid.

I turned on the TV.

The Three Stooges were yucking it up. I kicked the beds. Mark and Tommy swung their feet to the floor. John was stuck under the covers.

"It's my off day." His hand reached up to the window. A brief touch and he dropped his hand. "Oh, yeah, I'm sleeping in."

"Is it that cold out there?" Tommy was tough, but even hockey toughness had its limit.

"It's Siberia out there." I thought of the gulag prisoners and Alexander Solzhenitsyn's ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOSVICH. The USSR would have loved the White Mountains.

"John, stay here. There's always tomorrow."

We left John in the motel room and stuffed our bellies with a hearty breakfast of pancakes and sausage.

Exiting from the motel restaurant we got in the VW, then ascended Pinkham Notch to Wildcat, which lay opposite Mt. Washington. The snow along the road rose above the guard railing and I opened up the heating vents to full. Mark acted as co-pilot and scrapped the frozen condensation from windshield. "Leaving Earth."

To the Planet Pluto."

"I think Pluto is colder."

"But not today."

We arrived at the base of the mountain and bought tickets for the day just as the cloud-wreathed sun peaked over the steep horizon. An overnight snow had dusted the slopes and the pine trees were covered with white.

Getting out of the car we zippered up our parkas.

“Damn, this is cold,” said Tommy.

“You think this is cold. Wait till you get to the top.”

The three of us squeezed into the gondola.

At the base lift the red-faced gondola operator pointed to the thermometer on the wall reading -30.

At the top it's -40."

"I've never been that cold."
The gondolas shivered in the wind.

Mark and I stared at the empty slopes.

“Guess we’re the first.” He tightened his scarf and tucked his arms over his chest.

“Or the only ones.”

I blew on my gloved hands and lifted my scarf over my face as a mask. The cold seeping into the oblong transporter to chill my bones to the marrow. My Gerri parka was two years old. It was the best I could afford.

“I wonder if this was as cold as when Robert Scott crossed Antarctica.”

“Not even close.” Mark braced for the approaching summit by lighting a cigarette. He exhaled the smoke, which dropped to his lap like a submarine submerging below the sea. “The South Pole gets down to -100 below zero.”

“But here's a dry cold.” My words misted in the air.

>

Oxygen was scarce on the top of Wildcat and I sucked wind.

“Dry or wet. This is cold.” Mark clapped his gloved hands together. We were approaching the summit. He tugged down his cap.

"You ready?"

"Never readier."

We were New Englanders and New England only had two seasons.

Summer and winter.

We knew which one was longer."

We exited from the gondolas and snapped our boots into the bindings.

The thermometer read -40.

The frigid wind ripped through our parkas and jeans like sandpaper scrapping the flesh. Mark shouted over the biting gale, “The shortest way down is the fastest. Follow me.”

Having skied Wildcat before Mark charged down Upper Wildcat to the black diamond Lynx Lair connecting to the other Lynx trails. None of us dared a fall and we reached the base lodge in less than fifteen minutes.

We ripped off our skis and clumped into the cafeteria.

Each of us ordered two hot chocolates. The scalding brew soothed our inner core.

“Damn, that was cold.” John's skin was a boreal white, as if his blood had sucked dry by a vampire.

“Anyone ready for another run?” Tommy practiced ice hockey outside every day. Cold was second nature to the right winger's daily routine.

Mark, and I regarded the blaze in the fireplace with an affection reserved for our girlfriends.

All three of us shook our heads.

“Chickenshits. We didn’t come up here to toast marshmallows.”

Tommy shamed us and we drained our hot chocolates, then exited into the boreal bitterness for another assault on the slopes.

A grim overcast settled over Wildcat and the morning was worsened by the damp mist whistling through the pines. Each of our runs was more punishing than the previous. None of this was fun.

At lunch even Tommy admitted that he lost his enthusiasm for the day’s outing.

"This sucks."

"Big time."

We ate our chili in silence.

Finally Mark said, "Let's we give it on one try.”

“What for?” Tommy shook his head. “I feel like I’m being tortured by Old Man Winter.”

“What for?” Mark held his hands to the fire. “Because after this weekend I go back to work at the shipyard and John will be doing double-shifts at the gas station. Tommy will be playing hockey seven days a week and you’ll be going to college in the day and driving taxi at night to pay for it.”

“Thanks for painting such a pretty picture.” I stepped closer next to the fireplace. Mark was right and I said, “I’m game if everyone else is.”

“We do Irish coffees at the motel on me.” Tommy nodded his commitment to our endeavor. He got a little money under the table for each goal scored, which he split with the opposing goalie.

“Last one down pays for the first beer.” Mark ran out of the lodge and grabbed his skis from the rack.

“You guys, this will be the last run for the day.” The operator was posting the ‘CLOSED’ Sign. “The wind’s picked up on top. Management figures the temperature with the wind is down to -50.”

“I’ve never been in that kind of cold.” I had been brought up in Maine.

“Most people haven’t, because they can’t live in it.” The operator sealed us in the gondola. “Hope you don’t end up as popsicles.”

"We'll be fine."

Mark and I sat as close as Eskimos waiting out the season of good sledding.

“You know that we might never be this cold again.”

“My favorite book as a kid was SOUTH by Ernest Shackleton.

The British explorer had been struck on the ice for a year. Temperatures in Antarctica had been lower than this, but this must be how it felt like being lost on the Ross Sea.”

“Let’s not talk about the cold.” Mark detoured from our misery to discuss last April's trip to Florida. The sun had burned our skin red and we had swum in the sea off Fort Lauderdale with girls in bikinis.

“No bikinis here.”

“Never.”

Snow bunnies were for Colorado ski resorts not North Conway.

Linda looked good without a top at Nauset beach. She was 26 and I was beginning to understand 26 wasn’t so old, since I would be 20 in May.

The top of Wildcat wouldn’t see 26F until April.

Mark and I jumped out of the gondola and skied to the right. I pulled down my googles to prevent my eyelids from freezing shut. Tommy stopped beside us.

"A race to the bottom." Mark was ready to go.

As a hockey player he loved any kind of competition.

"We might as well make this run a long one."

Mark plotted out the trails and we nodded in shivered agreement before lining up to the start.

"Let's do it." Tommy leaned forward to push off like Spider Sabich at a World Cup race.

"On the count of three." Mark counted off the numbers and we burst forward with shouted 'GO'.

Our style down green dot Upper Catapult was a pure downhill to offer the best aerodynamics as well as shield our bodies from the chill. Tommy grabbed the early lead by the start of the black diamond Upper Wildcat.I fought to catch up, but my fingers, toes, and ears actually hurt and my tears formed ice spiders inside my goggles.

Mark overtook the two of us right before schussing onto Middle Wildcat. The steepening of the icy slope challenged our skills and I almost fell on a turn.

My fist punched into the packed powder to right myself.

My two friends were almost out of sight, as I reached Middle Wildcat, but I ducked through the trees to make up the distance and emerged from the forest to barrel down Copycat to the bottom.

The three of them beat me by a few seconds. They flicked off their skis and dashed into the lodge. I followed them inside.

I didn't know who had won, but I had lost.

“Irish Coffees on you.” Mark stood at the bar.

“I thought it was first to the car.” Drinks were cheaper in North Conway.

I ran outside to grab my skis and shambled down to the parking lot, trailed by my friends running like drunken Frankensteins in their heavy boots.

I touched the back bumper and turned to the panting trio.

"I win."

"Fucking cheater."

“Just kidding. Drinks are on me. Now pray that the car starts.”

Every driver in the parking lot was struggling to start their car.

I sat in the VW and twisted the key in the ignition.

"We'll pick up John at the motel, but he'll have to buy his own Irish Coffee."

The engine coughed to life and we packed our skis into the car, then exchanged our ski boots for Frye boots. The heat took its time coming to life, but by the time we passed the Lost Pond Trail on route 16, we shucked our hats and gloves.

"Goddamn VW." I loved this car and pointed my car south.

"Goddamn VW is right." My friends loved this car.

"Nice and warm."

"Sort of warm," Mark shivered beside me, because warm was a long way away from North Conway, but with the right amount of heat we would call it Florida.

And not one of us questioned its location.

Especially not after -50 on top of Wildcat.

After all we were New Englanders.

mg border="0" height="240" width="320" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-axruhAa5Cag/UOcb0UYwzOI/AAAAAAAASWU/KsbG9WKHbxc/s320/MtWashington.jpg" />

Mount Washington was far from the tallest mountain on the face of the Earth, however in 1934 the summit observatory recorded the strongest measured wind on the planet at 231 mph or 372 km/hr. Winter temperatures on Agiocdochook, or “Home of the Great Spirit” regularly dropped as low as -50F. Death from hypothermia can occur within an hour at that sub-zero temperature, but a human can freeze in less time. I know, because in February of 1971 John, Mark, and Tommy and I left Boston well before the dawn to spend several days skiing the White Mountains.

Mark fiddled with the radio dial and found Bill Withers AIN'T NO SUNSHINE.

"Not yet," Mark responded before lighting up a joint. "But soon."

We reached Cannon in Franconia Notch around 8. The sun shone behind the mountain. We bought tickets and quickly consumed a stack of pancakes for fuel. The aerial tram carried skiers to the 4000-foot summit. Several complained about the cold. The four of us were comfortable with 10F and the fluffy snow presented well-groomed conditions. We hit the steep speed trails of Rocket, Zoomer, and Polly’s Folly, broke for a chili lunch, and then finished with long runs on Taft Slalom, Ravine, Cannon, and Cannonball.

We returned to the parking lot early, because driving through the mountains at night was dangerous.

"Good day." Tommy nodded his head, as we loaded the Beatle with the skis stashed between the seats and our clunky Frankenstein boots in the front trunk.

John blew in his hands.

"Damn, I think it's gotten colder.

"It's just the night. Supposed to be sunny tomorrow," Tommy assured his hockey teammate.

"We'll be snug in the Bug soon enough." VWs had air-cooled engine.

I started the car and we drove up the notch to catch 302 through Crawford Notch. WBZ played Janis Joplin's ME AND BOBBIE MCGEE. We sang every word. Snow plows fought to keep the road open. Some days it was a losing effort. The VW skidded around a corner a little out of control.

"Hate to drive off the road at night." John sat in the front. None of us were wearing our ski gear. The Bug had good heat, but he liked horror movies and said, "I see it this way. We we slide down the slope to the Saco River and land upside down. We can't get out and the car is buried by an avalanche. We end up eating each other to survive."

Stop already." I wasn't driving fast. "We'll get us to Conway alive."

We found a cheap motel in North Conway and ate hearty meal at a local restaurant.

Stepping into the night I was surprised by a severe temperature drop. I had delivered newspapers five winters as a young boy. I knew cold and said, "-5 and that's with no wind."

"But sunny tomorrow." Tommy was an eternal optimist, but checked his watch. "Time to go."

The winger wanted to watch his show.

Back at the motel we broke out the bong and turned on the TV.

THE MOD SQUAD.

Peggy Lipton.

We crashed during HEE-HAW.
"The next morning John, Tommy, Mark and I woke early and they ate oatmeal with maple syrup.

I had toast and coffee."

"What's with the diet?" asked Tommy with a spool of gruel in his hand.

I hate oatmeal. Always have since reading OLIVER TWIST."

"Can't I 'ave some mo'e?" John held out his empty bowl.

"Yea, it threw me off gruel."

"All the more for me." John refilled his bowl.

"I understand, but it's never good to ski on an empty stomach. You want to smoke some weed? Nothing like it for eating something you don't want to eat."

I shook my head.

"I'm good."

Hitting the parking lot I felt the cold bit at my face and hurried to the Bug.

Tommy and Mark scrapped the ice off the windows.

"It's even colder today." John shivered like a malaria victim.

He was right.

The 1300cc engine started on the first twist of the key. I beeped the horn. Matt and Tommy jumped in the car. Johnny regarded the other skiers struggling with their Detroit V8s and said, "Suckers."

We were the first people to hit the trails. The untouched snow on the glades was ours. Our skis deflowered Tightrope and Saco. Avenger and Kachina were steep without any challenge. We were New England skiers used to ice. Attitash only sold 2000 tickets a day, but for the most part we were the only ones on the slopes and at day's end John complained, "It's freezing."

"It's well below freezing. The thermometer at the lodge read -20."

"At the summit it was -30." John was suffering in his Filene's Basement ski gear.

"I felt okay." I had traded an ounce of grass for Hart Outer Clothing.

"Me too." Tommy fussed with his new Roffe parka and gloves. He played hockey for a prep school in Maine. A booster paid him under the table for goals.

"Fuck you both."

We drank Whiskey toddys with dinner at the restaurant across from the motel

Everyone in the restaurant was talking about the cold.

They were locals.

One older man argued for 1968 winning the record for cold.

"It hit -32."

"I remember that winter." The waitress pulled shut her sweater. "My husband and I stayed in bed most of the winter. We had twins in the fall."

Upon leaving the restaurant we hurried to our room.

"You know we don't have to ski tomorrow." John's skin was as white as if he was a Titanic passenger rescued the the icy Atlantic.

"It'll be fine." Tommy played prep school hockey in Northern Maine.

Aroostock County was another kind of cold.

The next morning we woke to a brittle white light rising over the valley. I went to the window and felt the glass. It was colder than ice.

Several skiers were standing before their cars.

The engines were frozen solid.

I turned on the TV.

The Three Stooges were yucking it up. I kicked the beds. Mark and Tommy swung their feet to the floor. John was stuck under the covers.

"It's my off day." His hand reached up to the window. A brief touch and he dropped his hand. "Oh, yeah, I'm sleeping in."

"Is it that cold out there?" Tommy was tough, but even hockey toughness had its limit.

"It's Siberia out there." I thought of the gulag prisoners and Alexander Solzhenitsyn's ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOSVICH. The USSR would have loved the White Mountains.

"John, stay here. There's always tomorrow."

We left John in the motel room and stuffed our bellies with a hearty breakfast of pancakes and sausage.

Exiting from the motel restaurant we got in the VW, then ascended Pinkham Notch to Wildcat, which lay opposite Mt. Washington. The snow along the road rose above the guard railing and I opened up the heating vents to full. Mark acted as co-pilot and scrapped the frozen condensation from windshield. "Leaving Earth."

To the Planet Pluto."

"I think Pluto is colder."

"But not today."

We arrived at the base of the mountain and bought tickets for the day just as the cloud-wreathed sun peaked over the steep horizon. An overnight snow had dusted the slopes and the pine trees were covered with white.

Getting out of the car we zippered up our parkas.

“Damn, this is cold,” said Tommy.

“You think this is cold. Wait till you get to the top.”

The three of us squeezed into the gondola.

At the base lift the red-faced gondola operator pointed to the thermometer on the wall reading -30.

At the top it's -40."

"I've never been that cold."
The gondolas shivered in the wind.

Mark and I stared at the empty slopes.

“Guess we’re the first.” He tightened his scarf and tucked his arms over his chest.

“Or the only ones.”

I blew on my gloved hands and lifted my scarf over my face as a mask. The cold seeping into the oblong transporter to chill my bones to the marrow. My Gerri parka was two years old. It was the best I could afford.

“I wonder if this was as cold as when Robert Scott crossed Antarctica.”

“Not even close.” Mark braced for the approaching summit by lighting a cigarette. He exhaled the smoke, which dropped to his lap like a submarine submerging below the sea. “The South Pole gets down to -100 below zero.”

“But here's a dry cold.” My words misted in the air.

>

Oxygen was scarce on the top of Wildcat and I sucked wind.

“Dry or wet. This is cold.” Mark clapped his gloved hands together. We were approaching the summit. He tugged down his cap.

"You ready?"

"Never readier."

We were New Englanders and New England only had two seasons.

Summer and winter.

We knew which one was longer."

We exited from the gondolas and snapped our boots into the bindings.

The thermometer read -40.

The frigid wind ripped through our parkas and jeans like sandpaper scrapping the flesh. Mark shouted over the biting gale, “The shortest way down is the fastest. Follow me.”

Having skied Wildcat before Mark charged down Upper Wildcat to the black diamond Lynx Lair connecting to the other Lynx trails. None of us dared a fall and we reached the base lodge in less than fifteen minutes.

We ripped off our skis and clumped into the cafeteria.

Each of us ordered two hot chocolates. The scalding brew soothed our inner core.

“Damn, that was cold.” John's skin was a boreal white, as if his blood had sucked dry by a vampire.

“Anyone ready for another run?” Tommy practiced ice hockey outside every day. Cold was second nature to the right winger's daily routine.

Mark, and I regarded the blaze in the fireplace with an affection reserved for our girlfriends.

All three of us shook our heads.

“Chickenshits. We didn’t come up here to toast marshmallows.”

Tommy shamed us and we drained our hot chocolates, then exited into the boreal bitterness for another assault on the slopes.

A grim overcast settled over Wildcat and the morning was worsened by the damp mist whistling through the pines. Each of our runs was more punishing than the previous. None of this was fun.

At lunch even Tommy admitted that he lost his enthusiasm for the day’s outing.

"This sucks."

"Big time."

We ate our chili in silence.

Finally Mark said, "Let's we give it on one try.”

“What for?” Tommy shook his head. “I feel like I’m being tortured by Old Man Winter.”

“What for?” Mark held his hands to the fire. “Because after this weekend I go back to work at the shipyard and John will be doing double-shifts at the gas station. Tommy will be playing hockey seven days a week and you’ll be going to college in the day and driving taxi at night to pay for it.”

“Thanks for painting such a pretty picture.” I stepped closer next to the fireplace. Mark was right and I said, “I’m game if everyone else is.”

“We do Irish coffees at the motel on me.” Tommy nodded his commitment to our endeavor. He got a little money under the table for each goal scored, which he split with the opposing goalie.

“Last one down pays for the first beer.” Mark ran out of the lodge and grabbed his skis from the rack.

“You guys, this will be the last run for the day.” The operator was posting the ‘CLOSED’ Sign. “The wind’s picked up on top. Management figures the temperature with the wind is down to -50.”

“I’ve never been in that kind of cold.” I had been brought up in Maine.

“Most people haven’t, because they can’t live in it.” The operator sealed us in the gondola. “Hope you don’t end up as popsicles.”

"We'll be fine."

Mark and I sat as close as Eskimos waiting out the season of good sledding.

“You know that we might never be this cold again.”

“My favorite book as a kid was SOUTH by Ernest Shackleton.

The British explorer had been struck on the ice for a year. Temperatures in Antarctica had been lower than this, but this must be how it felt like being lost on the Ross Sea.”

“Let’s not talk about the cold.” Mark detoured from our misery to discuss last April's trip to Florida. The sun had burned our skin red and we had swum in the sea off Fort Lauderdale with girls in bikinis.

“No bikinis here.”

“Never.”

Snow bunnies were for Colorado ski resorts not North Conway.

Linda looked good without a top at Nauset beach. She was 26 and I was beginning to understand 26 wasn’t so old, since I would be 20 in May.

The top of Wildcat wouldn’t see 26F until April.

Mark and I jumped out of the gondola and skied to the right. I pulled down my googles to prevent my eyelids from freezing shut. Tommy stopped beside us.

"A race to the bottom." Mark was ready to go.

As a hockey player he loved any kind of competition.

"We might as well make this run a long one."

Mark plotted out the trails and we nodded in shivered agreement before lining up to the start.

"Let's do it." Tommy leaned forward to push off like Spider Sabich at a World Cup race.

"On the count of three." Mark counted off the numbers and we burst forward with shouted 'GO'.

Our style down green dot Upper Catapult was a pure downhill to offer the best aerodynamics as well as shield our bodies from the chill. Tommy grabbed the early lead by the start of the black diamond Upper Wildcat.I fought to catch up, but my fingers, toes, and ears actually hurt and my tears formed ice spiders inside my goggles.

Mark overtook the two of us right before schussing onto Middle Wildcat. The steepening of the icy slope challenged our skills and I almost fell on a turn.

My fist punched into the packed powder to right myself.

My two friends were almost out of sight, as I reached Middle Wildcat, but I ducked through the trees to make up the distance and emerged from the forest to barrel down Copycat to the bottom.

The three of them beat me by a few seconds. They flicked off their skis and dashed into the lodge. I followed them inside.

I didn't know who had won, but I had lost.

“Irish Coffees on you.” Mark stood at the bar.

“I thought it was first to the car.” Drinks were cheaper in North Conway.

I ran outside to grab my skis and shambled down to the parking lot, trailed by my friends running like drunken Frankensteins in their heavy boots.

I touched the back bumper and turned to the panting trio.

"I win."

"Fucking cheater."

“Just kidding. Drinks are on me. Now pray that the car starts.”

Every driver in the parking lot was struggling to start their car.

I sat in the VW and twisted the key in the ignition.

"We'll pick up John at the motel, but he'll have to buy his own Irish Coffee."

The engine coughed to life and we packed our skis into the car, then exchanged our ski boots for Frye boots. The heat took its time coming to life, but by the time we passed the Lost Pond Trail on route 16, we shucked our hats and gloves.

"Goddamn VW." I loved this car and pointed my car south.

"Goddamn VW is right." My friends loved this car.

"Nice and warm."

"Sort of warm," Mark shivered beside me, because warm was a long way away from North Conway, but with the right amount of heat we would call it Florida.

And not one of us questioned its location.

Especially not after -50 on top of Wildcat.

After all we were New Englanders.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Blue Valentine

St. Valentine's Day Massacre / BET ON CRAZY by Peter Nolan Smith

Every Valentine's Day diamond dealers and jewelers on 47th Street anticipated a winter spending spree by lovers for their loved ones, but each year of the 21st Century the sales numbers dropped drastically, as the economic downturn cut into everyone's surplus, but the rich.

Valentine afternoon in February 2011 shoppers crammed the chocolatiers along 5th Avenue and the high-end stores hawking peach fuzz soft cashmere scarfs and libido-arousing lingerie. Rose hawkers manned every corner and no man was going home empty-handed, if he knew what was good for him.

Hlove and I stood in our diamond shop at noon.

Not a single customer had entered the exchange throughout the day.

"This is not looking good." I was wallowing in pessimism. My kids in Thailand needed money for the weekend and I was late on my rent.

"Valentine's Day isn't what it used to be." HLove was a little better off. He had given five guitar lessons in the last four days.

"Not that it ever was good." I couldn't recall a good Valentine Day in this century.

My telephone rang and I checked the number. It was an unknown caller and I answered the phone with caution.

the caller was a friendly voice.

"My name is Alex. I was recommended by a friend. Are you open?"

"Very open." There wasn't a single customer in the exchange. "What can I do for you?"

"I need a gift."

"Then come on over and I'll help you find something."

I hung up with dismay, because Richie Boy and Fat Karl had stripped the store bare for the annual Palm Beach Antique Show.

Lenny the Bum rapped on the window and mouthed the question if we had been robbed.

"Not at all," I answered in mime, but we had nothing to sell and I complained to Manny my boss.

"Stop your crying." Manny had seen four score plus Valentine Days and he had spent most of today arguing with his girlfriend in Florida. Everyone on the Block was heading south, because nothing said 'loser' louder than pale winter skin for non-Hassidic diamond dealers. "Selling when you have goods is easy. Selling when you have nothing is the sign of a great salesman. When your G comes in, act if you're standing in Cartier, because you are in the center of the diamond world and you know where to get everything."

"Right." There was no sense in fighting Manny, since he was usually right, even if he was wrong.

At noon Alex showed up with a smile on his face.

"What's your budget?"

"Around $3000."

"How long you been going out this woman?" $3000 was more than most men spent on their wives.

"Six months." Alex sounded like they were still having sex.

"Really? What does she do?"

"She's from the Ukraine and studied at University of London and works at the Bank of America."

"Oh." According to my calculations Alex was about one zero away from happifying this woman and I pulled out diamond hoops for $15000. They were the only ones left in the store.

"Way too much." Alex owned a budding high-tech company. They had no investors, so I showed him a pair of Italian diamond earrings with two carats in diamonds set in 18K white gold flower design. I had sold several other pairs over the last month and I had guaranteed each male customer a happy ending upon giving the gift to their loved ones, but I also suspected that might not be the case for Alex, so I asked my diamond associate for her assessment of the diamond earrings.

"There's very nice." Danni was Eastern European, young, and adored jewelry. Her engagement ring came from Jacob and Company. Her mother-in-law ran Moscow's largest jewelry store. She examined the earrings and asked Alex, "How long you been with your girlfriend?"

"Six months. She's petite. Like a ballerina."

"The earrings cost $3000."

"They are beautiful. Italian too." Danni was telling the truth. We always do, mostly because the truth is easier to remember than a lie.

"I'll take them." Alex paid the $3000 without haggling for a lower price. We gave him a nice box. It was a classic ring-box-go sale.

"If you don't get a happy ending, I'll give the money back." It was our standard offer.

After Alex left, I called Richie Boy at the Palm Beach Antiques Show. He wasn't happy with the sale. There was only $500 profit. "He's a friend of a friend."

"Oh, great." He had to share the profit with me.

50/50 minus the expenses.

"Better than nothing." I hung up the phone and put the money in the safe minus my commission, then closed the diamond shop.

The evening train to Brooklyn was crowded with men carrying Valentine Day gifts. They wore smiling faces. My effort had made Alex happy. I spent $10 of my commish on a Mexican dinner and fell into bed reading Pier Brendon's THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE. Within three pages I was out cold and didn't wake until 8am.

It was Sunday morning. I called my wife in Thailand. She was happy to hear from me and my daughters and sons wished me much love. The store wasn't opening until ten, so my wake-up process lasted longer than normal. I read a little more of the book. England had really put it to India. I left my apartment in Fort Greene at 9am.

The subway was empty and I arrived at work a little past 10. My co-worker, Hlove, waited by the safe. The musician's face wore a veneer of exhaustion. The sixty year-old had stopped drinking on his doctor's orders.

"I couldn't get to sleep."

"Don't worry, I'll set up the front window."

Thankfully Manny wasn't coming in early.

"Thanks."

Rain splattered on the sidewalk. It was promising to be a slow Friday.

I was wrong.

Alex showed up several minutes later. The chagrin on his face revealed the answer to my question, "How'd it go?"

"Not good." He stood at the counter sagging with the weight of disaster.

"Let me guess." The $240 in my pocket didn't feel like mine anymore.

"Last night we were going to the ballet. She came out of her bedroom in a dress which looked like it was woven out of the wind. On her ears were two-inch long strands of diamonds. They were antiques and looked like her family stole them from the czar. I handed her the box."

"The box." I had luckily given him an expensive box. "It cost over $20."

"She looked for a name."

"Oh." The box was elegantly but anonymous.

"She opened it and her face dropped like I had called her mother a bad name. She examined the earrings and said, "You have to be kidding." She didn't stop either."

Most women like her don't when they're on a good roll realizing the man was defenseless.

"She said they looked like they cost $600." Alex was reliving the pain from his failed gift.

"Enough already. I blew it. It's my fault." I went into the safe and counted out his money. He handed over the earrings and I returned his cash.

The bills were still crisp.

I shrugged and said, "I don't know what to say."

Actually that wasn't the truth.

Several curses floated on the tip of my tongue.

"I don't know whether to leave her or not."

"There's only one thing you can do at a time like this." Alex's day of romance had been ruined by this unfeeling chuva, which meant 'whore' in Yiddish, so I said the only thing possible, "Do what you think is best."

My advice was non-committal and exactly what he wanted to hear, because any advice from me would be seen in a negative light. I had ruined his Valentine's Day.

"Thanks for taking care of this." Alex held up the money. "This girl might come by to check out this place. She's that type of girl."

"No problem." I waved good-bye. "I'll be polite."

After Alex walked away, Hlove said, "That sucks."

"Big time. Can you do me a favor?"

"Anything." We were partners.

I asked HLove to T the G or follow Alex for several blocks.

A half hour later he came back and said the lovelorn executive had beelined into Van Cleef.

"Sucker."

"Yeah." I phoned Richie Boy with the bad news. He took it with a lack of grace.

"That fucking bitch. A guy gives her a gift for $3000 and she shits on it. I can't believe it."

"First time it happened to me."

"Stay long enough in this business and you'll see everything."

Manny said the same thing.

His son and he were from the same school.

Everyone was out for themselves and no good deed goes unpunished.

Around 2:30pm a small blonde in designer clothing entered the store. A wide-brimmed hat hid her face. She was no ballerina in my book, but Alex must have seen a different performance of SWAN LAKE than me. Alex's fiancé examined the jewelry and I pulled out the earrings.

"You mind if I ask you a question?"

"No." The thirtyish woman was dowdy, but she wasn't telling the truth. She wanted out of here.

"If someone gave you this for Valentine's Day. How would you feel? Good? Bad? It cost me $2300. Maybe it's a little girlish for you. Women in their 40s like something bigger."

"I'm not 40."

"Are you in your 50s?" I was being mean. Someone had to be for Alex.

She huffed out of the store. Hlove gave me the thumb's up. He was happy that I revenged her slight. I would have been happier with Alex's money in my pocket, but sometimes you have to settle for what you can get and some days revenge is all there is, when beauty is in the hands of the holder.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Joyous Valentine for UK Teenagers.


I can't believe Hollywood came out with another FRIDAY THE 13TH.

I'm sure the teenage heroine doesn't call the police at the first sign of trouble or use a condom like this 13 year-old boy. Thankfully someone is heeding the tenets of the Holy Roman Church.

The baby's name is Maise.

At least they didn't name her Damiene.

Valentine Day's 10 Commandments of Love in Thailand

Back in 2007 anyone thinking that Valentine's Day in Thailand was a purely commercial holiday for selling roses without a bouquet and red lingerie for your mia noi, the Culture Ministry's declaration of 10 Commandments of Love must have come as a surprise, especially since you can't find a complete list of the 10 dos or don'ts. Which won't stop the coppers from enforcing these CIA-inspired Taliban rules.

So far my list is three.

#1 - Love with patience, so as not to become a young parent.

#2 - Love only one person.

#4 - Avoid the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

I'll guess the other 7.

# 3. Love the other person as you love yourself, but no masturbation.

#5. Respect the wishes of the other person, unless the request is too weird.

#6. Get home at a good hour. Sleep is better than sex. Remember no touching yourself. 

#7. School should come before sex, especially if it's with teachers.

#8. Do not take rides from strange men or even men you know who aren't strange.

 #9. Girls, don't shine your shoes, because you know what boys are after.

#10. Boys, don't means don't, even when it doesn't mean don't.

Sounds good, until hearing that the Bangkok Police were ordered out of the barracks to foil any under-age couple from committing the sin of kissing, which the boys in brown consider tam nong klong tam - mai kao taa or inappropriate behavior.

That year of No the police patrolled after school 'danger zones' such as public parks, shopping malls and restaurants and evening risk like nightclubs, bars and love motels.

"If we find teenagers below 18 engaged in inappropriate behavior like kissing, we will give them warnings and report to their parents so they can pick them up." A police moral authority stated before adding "Alcohol is definitely a catalyst for this kind of behavior, so we will keep an eye on underage drinking."

Seemingly the police feel that sexual interactions are heightening due to the excess western influences instead of the more prosaic boy meets girl.

So following Valentine's Day leads to kissing and then sex and the collapse of the traditional Thai values of sober modesty.

Better by your example you should lead the young into the future, especially since St. Valentine's Day celebrates a bastardization of a Roman holiday, when the pagans beseeched Lupercus to banish the wolves from the city on February 15. On the Eve of the festival the names of young girls would be picked by the boys in hope they would become lovers for the year.

Sounds familiar?

Strangely can't imagine the Catholic Church ever getting involved in the art of love except to tell people what not to do, as with the Bangkok police. But then the rites of the festival of Lupercas were hard for the Church to accept.

This abridged excerpt comes from http://www.secweb.org/index.aspx?action=viewAsset&id=260

Teenagers and young adult males would meet at a cave below the Palentine to sacrifice goats or dogs. The skins of the animals cut into wet strips called Februa (from which we derive the name February for the month) and males would take these strips into the heart of the city and use them to randomly beat people (particularly women).

On the second day of the festival, each man would draw the name of one of the women who had been hit with the Februa, and she would be coupled with him until the next festival. (This was a voluntary coupling; the woman was under no legal or social obligation to stay with the man.) It was basically just an excuse to sleep with someone for a year without commitment or obligation. ________________________________________________

The collapse of morality or young people having a good time?

The Church knows best and banished St. Valentine to pseudo-saintdom with St. Christophe and St. Patrick feeling they could no longer condone a role in the propagation of a pagan love festival.

Personally I saw no under-aged kids kissing in Pattaya that year.

But if I had I wouldn't have snitched them out.

Boy meet girl

Romeo and Juliette

Is that so bad?