Just Another Day Off..

It’s St Patrick’s Day, somewhere, but not here in Palm Springs. People often ask if I miss Boston, especially around this holiday. I tell them about my time living on the parade route in South Boston, on Dorchester St, for a few years. The undead masses reveling in the streets, people asking to use our bathroom, people just using the parking area or stairs as a bathroom anyway. What a mess it was. 

Getting to work was even worse, no way to get an Uber, if it were even a thing when I lived there- I don’t think it was, as I used to take a lot of taxis. There wasn’t any reasonable way to walk to Downtown that I was aware of, and it wasn’t like you could walk anywhere anyway. The T was always closed based on the direction, I would battle my way to Broadway Station only to have someone tell me it was closed Northbound, and then fight my way to Andrew Square only to have someone tell me that I needed to go back to Broadway. For the record, it was Broadway after all. I remember getting off at Park Street, running past the crowds to finally breathe free air after being stuck in beer-soaked, sweaty purgatory on the Red Line. The free air didn’t last long. The bars had lines down the sidewalk, I remember even the usually empty Bertucci’s location near work had a line. 

By the time I got to work, a musty little oyster cellar that wasn’t built for such business, I would wiggle my stocky frame past the people lined up on the stairs waiting to get in. There was a staff Jameson bottle my buddy had hidden down in dry storage, so that was my first stop of course. It wouldn’t be the last time during the shift that my lips would commune with it..

I remember one year the entire bar was full for the whole shift, shoulder to shoulder, of people chugging Bloody Mary’s. They drank us out of gallons of Bloody mix, and the ingredients to make more, and ate all of the shrimp that we used as garnishes. When I told the mob that sad news, they asked what they were supposed to have after six bloodies, and I answered, I believe, “Pancakes and a fucking nap?”. 

If I worked the day shift, I would usually go to the more famous oyster place down the street, as for some reason it wasn’t too hard to get a beer there despite the crowd. Oyster shuckers watch out for each other I guess. One year we went to one of the more “shit-show” bars in the neighborhood for some reason. My friend and I were in a hurry to get our first post-shift cocktail and we ordered a “something and coke”, which was unusual for us. Our crew were, to a man, Boilermaker types. I seized some highballs over some frat boys confronting us that the drinks were for the two girls they were talking to. I wasn’t having it, and was covered in oyster guts no doubt, so eventually I won. 

We both blacked out that night, my buddy and I, despite not having had anything else after that. I woke up on the couch later in the evening with no memory of getting home, he had a similar experience at his house. I’m guessing we got a dose that was meant for those girls. Hopefully the guys didn’t have a second one ready. 

There were always the brawls. Faneuil Brawl. You can probably still find videos on the internet of the street fights downtown on St Patrick’s Day, that is if kids still fistfight, I honestly have no idea. They probably just fight on Twitter or something. Everyone talked about the fights. The thing they never talked about with St Patrick’s Day in Boston was the urine, and the bodily substances in general. The ever-present horse piss in Faneuil Hall was replaced with human piss, and spilled beer, and vomit. There was nowhere to go. It’s hard to even blame anyone. The only move was to be coherent enough to get into line for a bathroom 20 minutes before you actually have to go. That sort of awareness doesn’t last long.

There are many things I like about living in the desert. There are a lot of things I miss about Boston. I can’t say there’s much I miss about St Patrick’s Day, except maybe the sense of camaraderie that we veterans of a thousand bar holidays would feel seeing each other free when the shift was over. What about the money, you ask? It was usually gone by the end of the week. The gray hairs last forever though. Happy St Patrick’s Day.

The Blue Ghosts of Eddy Street

When I was a child, my two younger brothers and I stayed with my Grandma and Aunt Donna quite often, in their old brick house in North Quincy, MA. The house was the childhood home of my mother, aunts, and uncle. It sat surrounded by a chainlink fence on a tree-lined street, with a little garage and back yard that wasn’t quite big enough for three boys to entertain themselves. We would explore the neighborhood, the ice cream shop way down the road, the convenience store, et cetera. If we were bored there was always Matlock, The Golden Girls, or Falcon Crest on tv it seemed. Mostly I just remember my brother Adam and I running around the neighborhood. Chris was still pretty young, but he tagged along sometimes, especially for the ice cream. It was more of a city neighborhood than the “Hide and Go Seek” suburbs we called home, and the traffic and noise were exciting for us.

I remember the house well. The knickknacks, the potpourri, the endless Christmas decorations that Donna conscripted us to march down from the attic every year. The sea-foam green padded toilet seats, the sea-foam green or mauve everything in the bathrooms. The creepy basement stairs and the rotary telephone. The clowns and porcelain dolls everywhere.

Yes, the clowns and porcelain dolls were everywhere. If you have ever watched a paranormal show or horror movie and there is a room of dolls, and thought something like “Who would ever have a room like that?”, the answer is my relatives. There were a few places to sleep in the house, and generally Adam and I stayed together in one and Chris was alone. There was the “Doll Room”, yellow-walled with cabinets of dolls staring blankly out from behind glass and framed portraits of sad clowns on the wall. We usually made Chris sleep there. Adam and I chose the larger room, which still had dolls (sometimes of clowns), and perhaps pictures of clowns and/or of floral arrangements, but not nearly the nightmare fuel of the other room. I’m pretty sure there was a least a Blessed Virgin or two around for protection.

Not sure what horrors Chris went through in the “Doll Room”, but many nights I would lay awake at night in the other room and stare upwards as faces manifested out of the ceiling plaster. I don’t mean that I saw faces in the plaster, I mean multiple faces manifested out of the plaster, took ectoplasmic form like something from a Theosophist seance, and proceeded to float down towards my brother and I while we lay there helpless. I vaguely remember him awake through it, and that we both saw them, but we never said anything to each other.

Years later, at a wedding, Adam and I were having a sneaky underaged beer or gin and tonic, and we started talking about the old house. I’m not sure what brought the subject up, but he mentioned something about not being able to sleep there. I told him I had the same issue, and that it creeped me out because I saw faces descending from the ceiling and watching us. He nearly spit out his drink and said “blue faces?!”, and then I nearly spit out my drink. The faces had been blue, like a light sky blue against the white plaster in the dark room.

In retrospect, maybe we should have taken the “Doll Room”..

A Fast Farewell to Faneuil

I decided to try a prolonged fast, after about a month of doing some intermittent fasting, both for health benefits and spiritual ones. The first day was fine, aside from bike tires going flat mysteriously in the sweltering, muggy August air (Palm Springs muggy is the worst). The second day was on a good track, woke up feeling weird, but then fine. It wasn’t until late afternoon that anything actually precipitated.

It started simply enough, finding out that a long-time Boston “restaurant slash tourist trap” was closing, the latest place to blame the current crisis. For me it was a little sad, since I worked next door to the place for most of a decade, and counted many friends amongst the staff. The people who worked there stayed and generally like each other, so that’s something. Sure, locals would rag on it, especially the old-timers, but I myself used to put down a beer or three and a good share of Irish whiskey there on occasion. Usually their staff came to us though. We “tourist trap” folk stuck together, we got no respect from the bougie bartenders.

I started reminiscing, and all of the years I spent working in Faneuil Hall came back to me, all at once. The favorite underground hangout, literally, where we spent most of our time and money most days, eating dollar tacos and chimichangitas, that’s gone now. I miss the lock-ins that we would have before people got big mouths, hanging out with the bad kids doing bad things. I was bummed it closed too suddenly for me to say goodbye, I would have flown out for one more day of pint-glass margaritas with everyone if I had been able. Then it was the things that I could still do but wouldn’t mean the same, the chicken salad subs that we ate almost every day before a shift, usually in the sun because otherwise the bar wouldn’t be open. The grimy little locals bar that somehow hung on, around the corner, where we would sneak to for a shot on our breaks. The walks down Union Street, listening to all the guitar players playing all the overplayed songs, or turning the corner to hear better songs. Playing Buckhunter, or trivia, or darts. Talking to drunk tourists, occasionally kidnapping them to the next bar, always regretting it. Not wanting to go home just yet. The late-night halal place with the merguez subs, best eaten in the little park on top of the Big Dig, looking at the skyline at three AM with a couple of friends and a sneaky bottle of wine. Of course one can’t forget the karaoke, and the “chicken on a stick, one dollar!”, and the Scorpion Bowls. Sometimes we’d explore a bit, go on an adventure down State Street or to the North End, even to Kenmore and the Back Bay, but we generally stuck to our favorite places. Why go anywhere else? We had the best bartenders, and we were the best bartenders.

What’s the point of this nostalgia trip? Well at a certain point in my reminiscing, the fasting kicked in, and some kind of chakra burst open or something, and I had a spiritual realization. It shook me to my core, as all of these images flooded me. Images of most of a decade, of people, of memories, friends, strangers, living, passed on, moved on, still there, all the random faces of people I would see everyday but never knew. All of these years that I thought were wasted time, that I beat myself up over for so long, were meaningful. There was beauty in it, and I have spent so much time dwelling on the wasted money, the wasted time, the ways I hurt myself and others, that I never saw the meaning. The meaning was in the people, still to this day some of the best people I have met are the people I spent that part of my life around. The meaning is in the once foggy, now clear, memories. Even in the often embarrassing stories, certainly in the unbelievable ones.

I just wanted one more chicken salad sub, one more shift, one more shift beer, one more adventure party off into the night. That’s life, that’s why we keep coming back to this plane called existence. We rarely know what the last anything is, and it’s usually so mundane at the time that we don’t even know we’re going to miss it. I mean miss the whole time, the gestalt of it. One place goes, another, and many more will soon, I’d wager. The Faneuil Hall I knew has been gone for years, so that’s not new (I even had to double check the spelling), but I think I can finally process it all from a distance. Hey, it’s when I started blogging, if anyone remembers

http://thewildturkeysandwich.blogspot.com

So, to all the people I used to work with, party with, commiserate with, piss-off, make laugh, I hope you’re all doing well. I am sure I will see a handful of you again, as I have over the years, and that’s always a pleasure.

Farewell, that time of my life. Farewell, Zuma, Cheers, Durgin Park, and the rest..

Be careful doing prolonged fasts on a new moon, you never know when or how the Universe will crack your head open!

[Photo credit Jeff Keegan/Paul Donovan]