Saturday, August 30, 2008

Weiner Relay

When the Peppermint Squad makes a collective decision, it doesn't need to be unanimous to stick, but once it sticks it is glue and then the rubber meets the road. A few months back the gang had been chilling at thier secret base, the location of which still hasn't been revealed (nor will it be soon). They hatched a plan for a weiner relay through Dorchester, with one detour through Newmarket Square just across the Dot border in Roxbury but, this being Boston, no one really knows what is what since it is all Boston all the time. The second to last stop was at Castle Island, technically South Boston but part of Dorchester historically. Though it is all one city now, territorialism is still important and Dorchester historians track one time line while South Boston Historians have thier own particular Year Zero. In South Boston, the calander starts with BB: Before Boston Annexation. Current years are demarked AB: Absolutely Bostonian.

The first Peppermint Motor Scooter Weiner Relay was run today. The official transcript is being prepared by the Peppermint Squad's club secretary as this dispatch is being written. Eveyone has had thier fill of important actions that have seen the light of day and will live on in legend until no one is left to tell the tale. Word has already trickled to other motor scooter fraternities and sororities and thier envy has been conveyed by the usual street-telegraphic means: tin can phones, stacatto piston shots out of broken mufflers, nose-rubbing gestures across the bar at Yaz's International Dublin House, a red sneaker on top of the light pole at the intersection of Adams Street and Columbia Road, and a fresh fish on the front steps of a certain reporter's house a few blocks from the Savin Hill T station. Something has happened.

Big things happened in Dorchester today. Big things happened bigger than anyone can imagine or the participants expected. Napoleon never thought he would be emporer when he started his career, likewise Tiny Phillips, president of the Peppermint Squad didn't realize that once this inaugural weiner relay went through its first lap, the event would promise to run in perpetuity.

What started as a whim promises to become a tenet.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cherry Pie

Subject: Farrah Mint. Age: 27. Height: 65". Weight: 137 lbs in full gear including full face helmet. Mount: Silver 2004 Kymco People 150.

When Farrah Mint was inducted into the Peppermint Squad in the spring of 2006, the other members bestowed a fitting code name on her. Ms. Mint first encountered the squad while they were patrolling Blue Hill Avenue ranking burrito shops. Intrigued by the pack of motor scooters steering in tight formation, Ms. Mint pulled her People 150 into the rear of the line and followed to el Munchito Express on the corner of Morton Street. Introductions were made and after a period of probation and indoctrination, Ms. Mint was invited to join this jolly fellowship.

Ms. Mint is a militant, lesbian feminist. Her scooter is festooned with stickers that trumpet her interests, proclivities and beliefs. She doesn't live in Dorchester. Her home is in the Allston section of Boston, on the other side of the city. When she attends Peppermint Squad rallies she usually has a companion holding on tightly and it is rarely the same companion twice. Farrah Mint likes the company of students from the Berklee Music School. She stops by Berklee's neighborhood and entices new acquaintances when en route to Peppermint Squad hijinx. She uses the lure of motorscootering adventure as bait and drives like a madwoman so that her passengers have to squeeze the driver with all their might. Haven't we all done this more than once?

In Dorchester, while on official squad business, Farrah Mint is known as Cherrypicker. The name is proudly embroidered on her jacket.

One day at the squadhouse, Peanut Jones was once again reapainting the legshield of his little Metropolitan. Cherrypicker pulled into the bay door, kicked down her stand, shed her helmet and coughed at the fumes from Peanut's spray can. "Peanut," she said, "You paint that bike every day. That paint will kill you like the chemicals killed Duane Hanson. I've got a better idea for you."

Peanut stopped spraying. He was a little woozy from the fumes.

Cherrypicker popped her seat and rummaged in the trunk underneath. She said, "I've been thinking. You know how I've got my bike covered with stickers? I get a scratch and I put a sticker over it. You can do the same thing and still keep your color scheme." She pulled a roll of packing tape out of her trunk and said, "Voila! Your problems are solved."

Peanut said, "When I paint, I feel like an artist."

Cherrypicker scoffed, "Look at this bike. You're no artist, Peanut Jones. Besides, I stole this roll of tape from the FedEx store. Think of how much money you'll save."

Peanut was woozy but not too woozy to save a few bucks. His scooter has slowly been mummified with unispiring, brown packing tape since that day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Peppermint File #2

We continue profiling members of Boston, Mass.'s Peppermint Squad, a footloose bunch of ne'er-do-well motor scooterists who have decided to take to the streets in the cause of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. By American, they don't mean gas-guzzling. They mean eccentric and independant. What is a motor scooterist if not either? If he or she were one of the herd , they would be either on a bicycle or a motorcycle. The members of the Peppermint Squad ride neither. These profiles are taken from the files of the BPD Substation III-C located south of Park Street in Dorchester.

Dorchester is the biggest and most diverse of Boston's neighborhoods. It is fitting the Peppermint Squad, Boston's biggest, most diverse scooter gang, should patrol these streets before all others.

Our subject today is known by a fictitious first name while keeping the last name he was born with. Peanut Jones isn't a small man but he has a hard shell. He isn't large. One year, he and Tiny Phillips got into a thumb wrestle to determine who would be head of the Peppermint Squad after two indecisive run-off votes. Tiny's thumb is twice the size of Peanut's and Peanut ended up being Vice Chancellor of the Privy Chamber. This is a coveted appointment but not as plumb as being club president.

Peanut Jones rides a Honda Metropolitan. His scoot has scratches all along the lip of the left leg shield and all over the left hub over the rear wheel. Mr. Jones is right handed but he has a stigmatism that causes a blind spot in his left eye. He looks in his left rear-view mirror, sees sunny skies and then, schwoops! a new scratch. These things happen and Mr. Jones has grown used to breaking out a can of spray paint to cover his latest mishap. He paints his little Metro tan. Peanut Jones rides a hand-painted, tan scoot. Isn't that cute?

As a member of good standing in the Peppermint Squad, Peanut Jones has no bones to pick and no dirt to dish. As a Vice Chancellor he has been sworn to uphold the squad's honor. Anyone looking for tabloid-worthy news should look elsewhere. Peanut Jones is taciturn. He takes his place in the pack, doesn't show off (how can a tan scooter be showy?) and fulfills the privy role of his office.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Scooter is as Scooter Does

One would think that only scooterists enjoy reading about motor scooters. This is mostly true. A true scooterista bitten by the bug turns his or her head whenever he or she hears the whine of small motor down the street. They crane thier necks and, if on foot, wistfully watch the lucky rider pass by, turning thier head owl-like to watch the scoot pass over the horizon. If a motor scooter is not like a car, which it certainly is not, it in neither like a motorcycle or a bicycle. It is a true hybrid and it provokes envy.

Living in the middle of traffic under ambiguous rules, a scooterist tastes many travelling pleasures unavailable to those who use more commonplace means of transportation. You can come and go as you please. No one knows what to make of you but you are so little you are granted carte blanche. Life is good on a motor scooter.

The motor may be whisper-quiet and the profile slender, but a motor scooter commands grudging respect. It takes guts to be the littlest thing on the road. Boston isn't choked with scooters the way Rome or Naples are, but this most European of American cities has more than its fair share. The inclines are gradual and everything is nearby. Traffic is often jammed, providing the perfect opportunity to split lanes through gridlock, avoiding road rage and frustration.

Boston, the Athens of America, is where wise people live. The wisest of all drive motor scooters.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Motor Scooters Set People Free

Scooters are everywhere in Boston. Not just stylish Vespas, though there are plenty of those, but all makes and models from the well known to the obscure. Gas prices being what they are, small engines balanced over the rear wheel have become more and more popular. Scoots are for sale on sidewalks in the most improbable neighborhoods.

Some members of the Peppermint Squad have been long-time scooteristas. Others are new to the machines, and they wing thier way down the streets with the zeal of converts. Motor scooters set people free. There is something about the wind in one's face and the fact that you are basically sitting on a chair in traffic that tingles the sense's.

The Boston Stranglers are a long established motor scooter outfit whose membership is mostly made up of vesperadoes. The Peppermint Squad doesn't distinguish between models. Their doors are open to all who love two wheels, even small motorcycles (but not pocket bikes!).

We point out that small motrcycles are those that are street legal. The miniature replicas of real motorcycles known as pocket bikes lack usual safety features, including mirrors and the members of the Peppermint Squad feels they do not belong on public roadways with their low profiles. Despite that, they bear those riders no ill will if they are respectful of everyone else's right to public thoroughfares and use thier machines with caution. Most of the Squad's meetings end with the cheer, "Cars are coffins!" Anyone who doesn't take up more space than they need on the pavement is saluted.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tiny's Uniform

With a name as silly as the "Peppermint Squad" it goes without saying that the elected leader should be an oversized man named Tiny. This is the case.

Tiny Phillips is six feet four inches tall, weighing in at 315 pounds. He rides a Honda Metropolitan. This scooter's owner's manual states that the maximum weight the suspension can support is 250 pounds. Tiny rides with impunity in defiance of the manufacturer's specifications and he has ridden this little Metro for three years requiring no more maintanence than an annual oil change. The brakes have been tightened but that is routine for the cables on this trusty machine and have nothing to do with the heft of the primary driver. The tires have been checked and psi added, but again, this is nothing an elfin scooterist wouldn't have to do. Tiny's Metro jumps at green lights like a thoroughbred, going from 0-15mph in 4.3 seconds. He has escaped many a startling scrape because of trustworthy, Japanese engineering.

As leader of the Peppermint Squad, Tiny wears his badge of office proudly. Massachusetts has a helmet law so everyone, motorized or not, on two wheels is required to wear a helmet to protect thier cranium from miscalculated turns and short stops. Everyone in the Peppermint Squad wears a helmet even when they cross into Rhode Island, Connecticut, or New Hampshire where the headgear isn't required. They are citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, after all, and they put personal safety before personal independence. Thier helmets are a mark of state pride.

The Peppermint Squad's leader, as specified in the club's constitution, is required to obey all of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' civil statutes regarding required safety equipment. Head protection and eye protection are de riguer for all members of the squad when they are on patrol. The leader wears something else that sets him off from the rest of his pack. He doesn't always ride in the lead but he sports a badge of authority that separates the head from the body.

Before embarking on a group ride, as required by institutional bylaws, the elected leader of the Peppermint Squad dons a red bandanna around his neck, knotted in the back and with the edge of the long crease perched on the tip of his nose. The club's founders felt this gave the leader a vigilante look that was true their original intentions and lent an air of lawlessness and rebellion. The leader may look like a bandit but he is one of the good guys.

The Peppermint Squad isn't lawless. They employ hand signals when turning and they are the least troublesome of Boston's two-wheeled gangs, but they don't always obey the letter of traffic regulations. They enjoy lane splitting and running late night red lights that are red for no apparent reason besides an automatic timer. They zip through traffic like a warm blade through cottage cheese. Their engines run hot but their tempers are even.

Tiny Phillips, current leader of the Peppermint Squad embodies all the clubs traditions and intentions when he straddles the frame of his Honda Metropolitan and calls a fresh ride to order. His big butt on the seat of his little steed marks him in the pack as much as his badge of office. He has been leader of the Peppermint Squad for two years. He is a natural politician who rose quickly through the ranks. He doesn't wear a bandanna over his face to disguise himself. He stands out in traffic enough. He wears it to distinguish himself. The other members of the Peppermint Squad recognize he has earned the right to cover his features and they rally around him.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Peppermint Squad

With a name like "The Peppermint Squad" you wouldn't imagine this group of intrepid motor scooterists to rule the streets of Dorchester the way they do or be given the respect they feel they have rightly earned. Despite thier sweet name and unintimidating mounts, the Peppermint Squad buzzes through neighborhoods from Mattapan to Andrew as unquestioned kings and queens of the potholes.

Squad members often travel solo, commuting to and from work and going about sundry errands on their scooters. Around about 8:00 PM they gather at a local watering hole to convene a posse and go on patrol. They can be seen most evenings travelling in a pack down any of Dorchester's streets, ever vigilant, marking their territory, on the lookout for miscreants who violate the Squad's code of honor, civic duty and good behavior.

Motorists decry thier tactics of corking an intersection so that elderly shoppers and churchgoers can cross a busy street. The same goes for their escort of wheelchairs through crosswalks. The Peppermint Squad believes that everyone who travels the pavement on more than two wheels should defer to those who travel on two or less, motorized or not. Traffic laws apply but rules are made to be bent. It is just good manners. An article of the club's constitution requires each member to say, "Please," "Thank you," and address anyone older than the speaker as "Sir" or "Ma'am."

Members of the Peppermint Squad take a lot of ribbing from thier coworkers and acquaintances outside of Dorchester. People who live in the Dot step out of thier way, tip thier hats, salute, or put thier hands over their hearts when the Peppermint Squad passes in full, motor scooter-ific regalia.

We will take the next few weeks profiling the members of this elite, homegrown institution and describing thier deeds of derring-do and community service.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Always the Weather

As a native New Englander I am used to complaining about the weather, but enough is enough. Why does it rain every day? This is more Florida than Massachusetts except that the rain isn't refreshing. No surprise there. It punishes as it pours out cold wet from the thunderheads.

Global warming or bad luck? We'll see as the next decade progresses, but jeez louise! This isn't what I think of when I cabin-dream about summer in February. All is well in Dorchester, though, which seems to receive less precipitation than Mission Hill a mere three miles away. We are talking the warmer months. In winter, the Dot can be snowbound while Mission Hill only gets a dusting. This past June, July and August thus far, Dorchester has been bone dry while Mission Hill's gutters overflow. A city really can be its own cosmos.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Oral hygiene on the T

It took almost exactly a year but I have finally seen it. The ubiquitous nail clipping was unnerving enough. The nose hair-pulling, the scab trimming, the cuticle exfoliation...etc. The public meals...Who wants to eat on the T and stink up the car with lo mein for everyone's delight? On Thursday, I witnessed what I have been joking about for a year and it was just as bad as I imagined...

A man got on the Red Line at Charles/MGH. He wasn't an attractive man by any stretch of the imagination so I imagine he had nothing to lose, one of life's also-rans. He sat down next to two pretty, young girls and across from my companion and I. Once he settled himself, he pulled out a container of floss and unfurled a nice length to wrap around his index fingers. Yes, he proceeded to floss his teeth.

He extracted a sizable chunk of something and looked across the aisle. He must have noticed my horrified facial expression. I don't know what my companion's reaction was at that moment, but judging from the conversation afterward, it must have been similiar. The perpetrator stopped. The girls moved away as far as thier seats would allow.

The girls talked loudly amongst themselves, loud enough to be incompletely understood over the clack of the train's wheels over the tracks. One said, "He should take a bow." My companion said to me, "The worst part was when he sucked it back in his mouth with his tongue." I replied, "I suppose that would be better than flicking it off the string into the aisle. Maybe he thought he was being polite."

The man disembarked at South Station after hiding behind a newspaper most of the rest of the trip. He was the topic of disbelieving, revolted conversation at least until JFK/UMASS. That is where my companion and I got off. The girls were headed to Ashmont and the skeeve effect still hadn't worn off by the time we parted company.


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