Drunk Driving Success

PASSING GRADE by Peter Nolan Smith

My older brother worked too much. Frunk had a big house on Milton Hill and I was in Boston to visit my father. Frunk was at his office, as were most lawyers in Boston on a weekday.

“Meet me a Durgin Park.” I loved their chowder.

“Can’t.” He sounded stressed.

“What about Jacob Wirth.” Their Bratwurst special cost $9.95.


“Then I’ll come see you.”

“I’m busy.”

His son attended an Ivy League school. The tuition for pre-med was astronomical.

“Then I guess I’ll have to settle for a visit from your son.”

“Franka’s coming to New York?”

“Yes, he’s a big fan of Taylor Swift and I got him tickets to see her on Saturday Night Live.”

The blonde singer was a country-western pop sensation.

“This coming Saturday?”


“His mother and I were planning on driving down to Philadelphia and he said he was studying.”

“Maybe he is.”

“NO, he blew us off to see a singer with you. I can’t believe this. I’m working seven days a week, so he can going to New York. What is he thinking?”

“It is a Saturday and I think Franka’s in love.”

“He’s 18. How would he know love?”

“Taylor Swift sings love songs.”

My older brother blew a gasket and ranted at his son and me. I held the phone away from my ear, until his voice resumed a reasonable tone.


“I’m not blaming you, but Franka isn’t getting into medical school with a B in biology.”

“Maybe in the Philippines.” MY GP had received his medical license from Dagupan City Univeristy and he hadn’t killed anyone as far as I knew.

“I’m not paying for Franka to have a good time.”

“It’s just one night.”

“You’re right. Franka’s a big boy. He makes his own decisions, but I have to pay for them.”

I understood my brother’s temper tantrum. I supported two families. I ate left-over. More than twice a week.

“So what about Jacob Wirth’s?”

“Naw, I’m just going to wallow in misery.”

“It does love company. Last offer. Franka’s going to SNL. You’re coming to Jacob Wirth’s. I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

“I’ll see you in 15.”

We spoke about our youth, eating bratwurst and drinking beer. Several lawyers were at the bar. We had a second beer. I had a third. My brother and I hugged outside on Boylston Street.

“I’ll make sure he gets to bed at a decent hour.”

“What’s the use?”

Later that evening I called Franka and told him about the visit to his father.

“Uncle Bubba, don’t worry. I’m doing fine.”

“What about your grades?”

“They are what they are. I’m trying my hardest.”

“That’s all I can ask from you.”

“See you this weekend. I hope you can introduce me to Taylor.”

“I’ll do my best.” I had graduated ‘sin laude’ from Boston College in the last century, but I could get into SNL to see Taylor Swift and that was the only passing grade I needed to make Franka a happy boy.

And bratwurst at Jacob Wirth’s worked wonders with his father.

As it does with any man.


Summer ended in 1966 on a Cape beach with me dancing with a girl on the last day of our vacations. WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN played on a radio. Her father beeped the horn. She kissed me and ran to the car. The back of station wagon was packed high. I never saw her wave goodbye, but her kiss lived forever.

Soulful as the song.

Foto of me, my brother and mother. Harwichport 1966.

To hear Percy Sledge’s WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN, go to the following URL.

REST STOP by P. Nolan Smith

On Saturday I traveled north from New York on a Chinese bus.

Greyhound really.

They charge $25.

7am departure.

I fell asleep on the Williamsburg Bridge and woke in the Storrs Hills on Connecticut

The driver was pulling into Burger King.

“Ten minutes.”

I walked inside. Mickie D’s rival was offering a breakfast burrito. I opted to eat the two bananas in my bag.

The other passengers were stuffing down fast food. The feeding fest was an ugly spectacle and I climbed over the barrier to a closed road. A land mover was parked on the asphalt. No one had sat in it recently. The only work in this town was at Burger King. Too many rich people. Too few jobs, but I had one for the first time since March.

New England had been scrapped to the stone bone by the Ice Age. Bogs and ponds and lakes are tattoos of that primordial time. Wetland in the autumn. The sound of cars and trucks on the interstate. The air was cool. Summer was one week back and nine months forward. I felt drops of rain.

The leaves were dull under the overcast. I breathed the air. The damp rot of vegetation was a black hole. In my youth I smelled this scent every October. It was Eau de New England.

I turned around to face north. The clouds parted for several heartbeats and I hurried across the cracked pavement to snap a photo.

This moment was only one.

There have been millions of seconds sliced into billions and trillions.

But only one of these.

The bus was ready to go

The North waited for me.

With patience.

Friends and family too.

I ran back to the bus.

It was good to be back in ageless autumn.

If only for a weekend.

Another Awful Afghan Autumn

Another autumn has passed for coalition soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. The Taliban rise from the opium fields and the fighting season this its stride. Hardliners in the Pentagon are pressing President Obama to stay in place. He has said yes. I am seriously disappointed by his decision, because most couldn’t located Afghanistan on a map or find New York.

So what to do?

Pull out?

Not easy.

16,000 British troops withdrew from Kabul in the winter of 1842.

Only one soldier made it to safety.

Bomb the shit out of them.

The Russians tried that.

The USA too.

I hate to say this, but the best policy would be to reinforce the troops there with a plan to get the fuck out in the summer and pay the right people bribes for a safe exit.

Nothing else will work.