The # Of Me

This morning I googled a friend’s name. Nine of him lived in the USA, although the number dropped to one once I typed in his middle edition. I’m not so scarce. There are over 66,000 Peter Smiths in the USA. They live in every state of the union. They work at most professions. I know none.

Once I entered in my middle name, I became unique on goggle except for another Peter Nolan-Smith in Canada and he uses an hyphen, so I am one out of 66,000.

1/66000 = 1 / 66 000 = 1.51515152 × 10-5

That’s 10 to the 5th power.

Some maps are 1/66000.

Same as me.

The one and only of my kind.

But isn’t everyone.

ps the photo is Keira Knightley from BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM.

She’s one of a kind too.

Just like everyone in the world, past, present, and future.

SHADOWS OF THE COMBAT ZONE by Peter Nolan Smith

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

Everyone was getting their cut.

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

They were a gold mine.

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

A quickie was $20.

An hour ran $50.

Showgirls cost a lot more.

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

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

She was better than good.

Sherri was wicked.

But she was far from easy.

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

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

The strippers danced like ballerinas on ‘Ludes.

It was a true art form.

Bad people walked on Washington Street

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

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

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

“I bet you say that to all the girls.”

“Only you, Sherri. Only you.”

It almost sounded true.

Sam had gold braid on his shoulders.

He was an officer and a gentleman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crazy Jack lay out cold on the sidewalk.

The sailor was walking the other way.

She called out to Sam.

“You want to have a coffee?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll meet you at the coffee shop in ten minutes.” Sam walked away into the shadows.

Where she didn’t ask.

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

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

She had someplace to be.

And that someplace was bed.

With or without Sam.

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

Pong

During the late 1960s and early 1970s I played pinball at the arcades on Boston’s Washington Street. My skills flourished and I competed against older wizards on machines such as Centrigrade 37 and Strikes and Spares. We loved the lights and bells accompanying our struggle to prevent the steel ball from ever dropping into the death hole.

Pinball machines were also very popular in bars up and down Commonwealth Avenue and I was # 1 on Royal Flush at Concannon and Sennett’s Bar. My good friend FM and I played doubles against BU co-eds for beers. They were good, but we were better, but at a quarter a pint we could afford to be losers to pretty sophomores from New York, although none of us were ready for the November 1972 appearance of PONG.

Few of us had ever seen a computer, even though I had been a math major in my first two years of university. FM and I tried our hand at PONG. One hand and good eyes controlled the paddle and the game sped up the longer you kept the ball in play.

The 2-D table tennis game cost a quarter.

FM and I were soon the best in Boston, but we tired of the game and returned to pinball, which was a much more physical exercise.

Neither of us foresaw the future demise of pinballs in bars, but electronic games were the wave of the future and exiled pinball machine to museums or basement rec rooms.

No one plays PONG anymore, especially not FM and I.

We like drinking beer instead.

And we did in the 1970s too.

And so did BU co-eds, because some things never change.

HillBilly Ranch Bar Boston

As you get old you forget. as you get older, you are forgotten – anon

I know that I didn’t come up with that quote, because I haven’t really forget everything yet and the other day I was reminiscing about Lost Boston with a few old-timers at the bar of Jacob Wirth’s.

“Remember when they didn’t let women drink at the bar here?” William hailed from Savin Hill. He was a double eagle same as my older brother. They had worked together on several senate campaigns for Ted Kennedy.

“Yes, I used to bring my feminist friends here for a joke. They hated that the bartender would serve them at the bar. I thought it was a good laugh.” I was a long-hair college student on the other side of the barricades from my older brother and William, who was fourteen years older than me.

“Maybe the bartender didn’t think it was that funny.” William had been a Marine.

“No, he loved telling those hairy girls to take a seat in the dining room.” I couldn’t remember his name, but we agreed that a woman’s place wasn’t at the bar of Jacob Wirth’s.

“You dirty hippie and I mean that in the best of all possible terms.”

My brother showed up later and our collective memories toured the city of our past. We extolled the prune rolls at Warmuths, the grilled hot dogs at WT Grants, the strippers at the Two O’Clock Lounge, and relived my brother’s bachelor party in the Combat Zone. It was a blank in my mind.

“I vaguely recall stumbling out of the Naked I into the Hillbilly Ranch. I think I wanted to hear MAMA TRIED.”

“We lost you for about an hour.”

“Probably ended up with the drag queens at the Other Side.” William laughed with his beer belly juggling like defrosted jello. The beer at Jacob Wirth’s was better than good.

“No, I’d remember that. At least I think I would, but something sticks in my mind about getting up on the stage of the Hillbilly Ranch and singing a song.” I had seen Sleepy La Beef, John Lincoln Wright, the Bayou Boys, and other southern b-bands of the 70s at the Park Square dive.

“That was a tough bar owned by Frankie Segalini. You were lucky that you weren’t rolled in that place. it was filled with Navy peckerwoods and crackers. They didn’t like us Irish.”

“You returned to the Naked I intact.” My older brother had a head for long ago. He was a lawyer.

“And we made it to the church in time.”

The three of us clinked glasses to those times gone by.

We thought that they would never end and they don’t at Jacob Wirths’ or in your heads

Italians To Go

If I could click my heels and be anywhere in the USA, my # 1 destination would be Watchic Lake in Maine.

My grandfather and his friends deepened the pond into a lake by building a dam at Watchic’s western end in the 1920s. He built a log cabin for his family and I’ve been going there since the 1950s.

Yesterday at work in New York I called my dear brother-in-law David, who chided me saying, “It’s been too long since you’ve been up here.”

You’ve got that right.”

I couldn’t recall when I was last in Maine, the state of my youth.

We have Italian sandwiches on the table.”

David was a kind man with a cruel heart.

He knew full well how much I love the long soft-bread sandwiches filled with ham, cheese, olives, pickles, tomatoes, dusted with salt and pepper, then drizzled with olive oil.

My mouth is watering just thinking about one in my hand and I asked, “Could you Fed-Ex me two, but hold the onion and peppers?”

“Not a chance. You want one, you have to come up and get one.”

I muttered a curse and demanded to speak with my sister.

“You can speak to her all you want, but the only way you’re getting an Italian from us is to come up to Watchic and wash one down with one of my Vodka and OJs.”

My heels clicked like Dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ.

I remained on Manhattan, but thankfully wasn’t transported to Kansas, because Kansas like New York doesn’t have any Italians, at least not like the Italians invented in 1899 by an Italian baker.
According to a 1996 article Yankee Magazine Giovanni Amato made the portable and inexpensive lunch for road construction workers and since then the sandwiches are beloved by anyone from the Southern end of Maine and not all of them are the same.

Corsetti’s Variety on Brighton Avenue supposedly received an order from Colorado who wanted two dozen regular Italians – no oil.

I had once asked my Uncle Russ to airmail me Italians to Thailand.

Like David he said no.

Amato’s in Portland is another favorite, but my fav comes from the variety store on Sebago.

Guess I’ll have to get up there soon.

It’s been way too long and nothing would make me feel younger.