HillBilly Ranch Bar Boston – 1999

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 several years ago I reminisced about Lost Boston with a few old-timers during an afternoon Jacob Wirth’s bar, while killing time waiting for the Chinese bus back to New York.

The girthy fifty-year olds were both members of the court, a judge and a DA, and I introduced myself, asking if they knew my brother, who had worked as a lawyer in Boston for almost thirty years.

“You mean ‘No Show’ Smith. I can’t count the number of times we’ve requested his presence here and he never shows.”

“He’s a hard worker.”

The sharp winter sun filtered through the thick front window. No music played on the stereo and the TV showed the rerun of last night’s Celtics game. At that moment there was nowhere else in the world closer to heaven.

“And this isn’t hard work.” The DA slugged down a Jameson and signaled for three more.

“It can put a sweat on you, but not like digging a ditch.” I had been working as a general contractor on a rich man’s house in Greenwich, Connecticut. My hands were calloused from the toils of construction. The three of us were of Irish descent. Our grandfathers had suffered hard labor to make our lives less of a struggle. “Holding a shovel is more honorable work.”

“To the Big Dig.” The judge raised his glass. The tunnel under downtown Boston had replaced an elevated highway.

“Sorry, if I don’t join you, but they dumped the rubble into the Quincy Quarries.” The project planners had dumped more than 5.4 million cubic yards into the granite pits.

“Now the Quarries was something. Most every teenage boy south of the Charles River had jumped off Rooftop.”

“Here’s to Brewster’s Quarry” The bartender appeared from nowhere and placed four glasses on the scarred wooden plank, joining us to toast the longgone Eden.

“Remember when they didn’t let women drink at the bar here?”

“Yes, bck in the early Sseventies I used to bring my feminist friends here as a joke. They hated that the bartender wouldn’t serve them at the bar. “He loved telling those hairy girls to take a seat in the dining room.” I couldn’t remember his name, but we agreed that back then a woman’s place wasn’t at the bar in Jacob Wirth’s. I was of a different mind now. “I thought it was a good laugh.”

“Maybe the bartender didn’t think it was that funny. You were probably a dirty hippie and I mean that in the best of all possible terms. I was a Marine.”

From South Boston?”

“Yes.” I had taught at South Boston High School during the Bussing Era and decided not to mention that.

“Not many choices for young men from Southie back then.”

“Prison, OD, or the Marines. None of us had the money for college.”

“A wise choice. I protested against the Vietnam War.” At sixteen I wanted to join the Marines to get out of my hometown. My mother, a staunch anti-communist, refused to sign the papers.

“You dirty hippie.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

My brother showed up later and our collective memories toured the city of our past. We extolled the prune rolls at Warmuth’s, 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 recollect stumbling out of the Naked I into the Hillbilly Ranch. I think I wanted to hear a version of Meryl Haggard’s 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.” Later I had seen Sleepy La Beef, John Lincoln Wright, the Bayou Boys, and other southern bands of the 70s at the dive next to the Greyhound bus station.

“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 four of us clinked glasses to those times gone by. It was good to be with my older brother and two members of the court. We spoke of our lies

The 1978 Blizzard, the Chelsea Fire, BC beating Notre Dame, Checker Cabs, friends, family, the Surf Nantasket, Brother’s Bar in Kenmore Square, and the taste of fried clams from Tony’s on Wollaston Beach.

Afterwards I walked my brother to his office on Beacon Hill. The bus station and the Hillbilly Ranch were gone. Neither of us said anything about them. We were happy to have seen each other and spend time together. We were in the now in a city we knew so well. As youth we had thought that the good times would never end and they never do in your heads, especially after spending an afternoon at Jacob Wirth’s>

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