Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kerouac's Mattapan

Jack Kerouac spent a week in Boston in April of 1967. Naturally, he made his way to Mattapan, taking the Red Line with a bottle of his favorite cheap tokay in his pocket. It was dusk and he was making time with Rosemarie Pontchartrain behind the Sunny Cigar Store. Their business concluded, Miss Pontchartrain headed to the supermarket Market off River Road. Kerouac headed the opposite direction. He was rounding the corner onto Blue Hill Avenue adjusting his zipper (of his jacket) when he bumped into a charismatic fellow.

Bleary eyed and slurry, Kerouac begged the gentleman's pardon. The stranger said it was no problem and headed past Kerouac. Kerouac called after him, saying there was no one in the direction in which this man was heading. The man, who had a jacket slung over his shoulder and was wearing a rumpled suit with his tie outside his suit jacket, replied that he was visiting constiuents.

"Constiuents, you say?" Kerouac slurred. "What kind of man are you?" The gentleman returned to Kerouac's location and introduced himself. He was none other than Kevin Hagan White, Mayor of Boston, "The People's Mayor." The two exchanged a firm, hearty handshake.

Latter-day beatniks along the lines of Maynard Krebs still visit the Sunny Cigar Shop at 1635 Blue Hill Avenue. The establishment is a kind of local pilgrimage for college students who have fallen under the spell of this American master of letters (Kerouac, not White). What was true in 1967 is true today. You never know who'll bump into in Mattapan.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Mattapan Man

Some people say you tell a real Mattapan Man by his smell. He has the scent of honest, hard work about him. It is the kind of musk that makes women weak in the knees. Some people say you can tell a real Mattapan Man by the look in his eye, a flinty gaze that takes the measure of its surroundings and can tell fool's gold from the real thing in a glance. Some people say it is all in the posture. A real Mattapan Man holds himself upright with a spine like a rifle barrel that won't bend no matter how hard the winds of misfortune blow. Other people say it is the Mattapan Man's overall build that gives him away. A Mattapan Man is lean and muscled like he has spent every one of his adult days swinging a hammer, pushing a broom, balancing accounts in an oversized ledger, or just getting whatever job done that needs doing. A real Mattapan Man can wrestle Fate to a draw and then come out on top after another round.

When a Mattapan Man stands up, his knees pop and his vertebrae creak. He cracks his knuckles. He is full of true grit.

Back Bay socialites sigh with envy when they learn one of their girlfriends has netted a Mattapan Man. Is it because a Mattapan Man is a good provider? Loyal? Trusworthy? Gracious? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. These are common characteristics among Mattapan Men, but they aren't the whole story. A Mattapan Man is what women dream of in ways lesser men cannnot imagine. Most men aren't qualified to carry a real Mattapan Man's luggage to a taxi cab.

In 1998, Playgirl magazine published an issue featuring a photo spread entitled "The Men of Mattapan, Mass." The issue sold out quickly and rightly so. It can't be purchased on eBay. The ladies who bought that magazine are hoarding their well-fingered copies in penthouses, tenements and mid-western farmsteads nurturing a dream that someday they will know the company of a real Mattapan Man. The women of Mattapan know they are lucky.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Mattapan, Part II

(continued from yesterday's adventure)

I awaken from a deep sleep, not in a cold sweat as much as with a warmth radiating from my innards. The taste of hot dog grease and a buttered, grilled bun lingers in my mouth. I am not lethargic. I am alive. I am ALIVE.

My companion rouses herself and props herself on an elbow to look me in my crusted eye. "You slept like the devil," she says. "You tossed and turned all night and you talked in your sleep." What did I say? "The same thing over and over. You just kept muttering, 'Mattapan.'"

Mattapan: that part of Boston where reality takes on a different tinge. Mattapan... I am not asleep but I am dreaming, dreaming of hours ticked off in Mattapan. In Mattapan time, time and space converge in a vortex around Mattapan Square, wheels within whorls. Events unfold like stop motion films superimposed over one another. It a Coney Island of the mind. Albert Einstein never stood on the banks of the Neponset River but Linus Pauling did. So did Billy Sunday and Jack Kerouac, of all people. Worlds collide in Mattapan, entropy is rational and all of Heaven and Hell and the lands between are set pieces for unbridled joy. A person can write his or her own opera in Mattapan. Mattapan...

Did I say anything else in my sleep? My companion says no, "All you said was Mattapan over and over all night through. You were making me crazy." That makes sense, Mattapan is the sum of all worlds, it is a state of mind, a state of being, a most perfect place where dreams come true. I was in Mattapan last night.

If Boston were a woman, what part of her anatomy might Mattapan be? I bask in the afterglow of last night and I think I know. Mattapan, if you were a woman I would marry you.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Mattapan

Mattapan...Mattapan... The High-Speed trolley lurches on its rails... The conductor calls out: "Next stop: Mattapan!" It is the end of the line and the beginning of a journey.

Like an actor in a woozy fever dream, I disembark. The sky is dark and the streetlights glow with a color I would call 'hope' if I were in the paint business. I'm in Mattapan, that part of Boston that once was Jewish and now is Haitian. The wind whispers a patois creole spiked with half-remembered Yiddish slang.

I stumble into the Mattapan evening, past the old train station that now is home to Domino's Pizza, across from the mattress store that has been having its grand opening for as long as anyone can remember. I stumble onward to Mattapan Square, where Blue Hill Avenue crosses River Road. Mattapan. Bronze statues loom in the halogen twilight; Native Americans, freed African American slaves, hopeful faces, masks and ingenues look with unblinking eyes into the future and see everything bright. Mattapan.

I have business. I stumble north, uphill and downwind. I tilt my head and lift my nose. I inhale. What I seek is in Mattapan. Mattapan. I smell it.

Up, across Blue Hill Avenue, past the American Legion post, past the Citizens' Bank, on an incline that leads to a certain kind of paradise, I travel. Lit up in neon that sparks the dewy night like an epiphany is a sign that good things are meant to endure. A chocolate ice cream cone looms out of rusted iron and twisted tubes filled with electrified argon and other noble gasses. My destination is near: Simco. I really am in Mattapan. I pinch myself.

Greek gods feast on nectar and ambrosia. I have made a late-night pilgrimage to Mattapan for the best hot dog in Boston. dogs. My thoughts are a jumble; my hunger is a whorl. I order just one with mustard and relish. The girl behind the counter hands it to me and I go to sit on the bridge that spans the commuter rail line. When I unwrap this dog it exhales a steam that refracts rainbows under the streetlights. Mattapan. Nowhere on earth is as fit to host Simco.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whiplash on the T

Offically part of the Red Line, you have to change trains to take a Mattapan High-Speed trolley. It may be part of the Red Line, but it is really a world apart. Unlike the industrial chrome and scarlet of other Red Line trains, the Mattapan Line sports a soothing color scheme. Its cars are painted cream on thier top halves and creamsicle orange on the bottom. Just about everything about the Ashmont-Mattapan Line is soothing. This is a train that runs through a peaceful cemetaray, after all.

While waiting on the new overhead loop for the next trolley headed to Mattapan, we conversed with our fellow passengers. This is in Ashmont, one of the freindlier locales in Dorchester and maybe in all of Boston. People were chatting away, passing the time, discussing the upcoming election, swapping recipes and debating the merits of the upcoming
Dorchester Symphony Orchestra program. We stood by an elderly gentleman wearing a neck brace.

We asked the old timer if we could help carry his bags. Uncommon courtesy and good-natured neighborliness are Ashmont trademarks and we were infected by all the good will around us. He declined saying he was as fit as a fiddle. He said, "I don't mind a little discomfort. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

We asked how he got into his current condition, indicating the brace on his neck. He said, "I take the High-Speed every day. Two weeks ago we got a wicked jolt crossing Central Avenue in Milton. A kid on a bicycle pulled in front of the train and the driver slammed on the brakes. Can't blame the driver. I'd blame the kid if I had to, but who can blame a kid?"

He said, "I went to the chiropractor in Mattapan Square. He fitted me with this brace and I only have to wear it another week. It's no bother..." Our conversation was cut short as a trolley ascended the ramp up to the platform.

Everyone was seated, the elderly man in the front while we took the back seat. The trolley ran with its usual efficiency to all its stops: Cedar Grove, Butler, Milton, Central Ave., Valley Road, Capen Street, Mattapan. The old timer disembarked at Capen Street. He waved in our direction when he got up to go. We had business at Simco in Mattapan so we continued to the end of the line. Unlike the heavy rolling stock on the rest of the Red Line, the Mattapan trolleys were built in the 1940s. The are as light as air and they ride that way, drifting to and fro on thier tracks as the breeze off the Neponset River pushes them.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Home of the $4 slice

Many people pass through South Station every day. Many of those people are hungry. It is nice to have a little something to nibble on while en route to a destination. The sway of a train's cars enhance appetite, be that train on a commuter line, Amtrak, the Red Line or the Silver Line. We use the word 'train' loosely for the latter.

Food options are ample at South Station and all of them are top notch, but one counter stands out from the rest. We are talking about Pizzeria Regina, of course. A gourmet slice doesn't cost exactly $4.oo, but what's a penny in the big scheme of things?

You can purchase a plain, cheese slice at Pizzeria Regina for a mere $3.09. You may think that is gourmet. It is certainly the best pizza available in South Station. The napkins at Pizzeria Regina tell the whole story: The crust is made from a secret, 75-year-old recipe that includes special, natural yeast. No humdrum, artificial yeast has ever been used in a Pizzeria Regina pie. It's not just a crust ingredient; it is one of this shop's ingredients for success and the undying loyalty of commuters who stop by in South Station.

The sauce is also natural. It isn't overwhelming yet it's spicy, and the napkin isn't bashful about trumpeting the inclusion of a hint of peccarino romano in it. Discerning taste buds recognize it even if their owners don't read the napkin. Is this Pizzeria Regina's secret? Cheese in the sauce? Not quite.

The secret to this pizza is in the cheese. The napkin tells all again: "Our specialty aged whole milk mozzarella gives Regina's cheese pizza its distinctive flavor." Sounds pretty gourmet to me and at $3.09 a slice, many people would consider that a steal. Many people are surprised they aren't charged more for the privledge of noshing this culinary delight on the way home.

If you want to put your mouth into paroxysms of joy on your train trip, extra-gourmet slices are available, again for the aforementioned $3.99. It seems the proprietors of Pizzeria Regina are so jaded by the specialness of there regular pie, they feel they need to do more. For this reason they "start with the freshest and the finest vegetables and meats-no preservatvies, no additives." That must be tough for olives, artichoke hearts, sausage, meatballs and anchovies, but apparently Pizzeria Regina delivers on its promises. There is always a line in front of the counter.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

7-11 Coffee

I was making pleasant small talk with the woman behind the register at the 7-11 franchise at Brigham Circle. I was buying today's Boston Globe and a pack of mentholated cough drops. She asked me, "Why don't you buy coffee here?"

I said I work at One Brigham Circle, the office building/retail complex across the street. It's just easier for me to go to J.P. Licks and take the elevator up to my desk. There is less chance of spilling. She said that was okay as long as I didn't go to Dunkin Donuts which is a few storefronts up Tremont Street from the 7-11. I asked why.

"Dunkin Donuts!" she exclaimed and then she made a hawking sound in her throat. "Dunkin Donuts!" she repeated, making the same sound but this time pointing her index finger into her mouth while sticking out her tongue. "You know what I think about Dunkin Donuts?" I had a fair idea but she told me anyway.

She said, "They think they have the best coffee. I make this 7-11 coffee every morning, freshly brewed, I can't tell you how many flavors. I make it and people like it. People come in every day and pour their own cups of coffee and fix it just as they like it. My coffee customers are good people. What does Dunkin Donuts do for you? They overcharge you and give you whatever they want. People overpay for that swill and then they come in here to buy cigarettes or phone cards or jujubees or a taquito. All the time they are sipping coffee out of their precious, Dunkin Donuts, styrofoam cups. 7-11 uses paper cups. They sip their coffee like Dunky Monkeys thinking they're so much better than the people around them drinking the coffee I made. I hate Dunkin Donuts."

I paid for my newspaper and cough drops and crossed the street to J.P. Licks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What makes Dorchester so good?

Knowing my love for the Dot, someone posed this question to me today. I didn't have to scratch my head to come up with a witty reply. I spoke from my gut and from my heart. I looked my inquisitor straight in the eye and I said, "You know, buddy, where I'm from people don't ask foolish questions like this, but if you need an answer, I'll tell you."

We were standing on Mission Hill across the street from Mission Church, between Tiny's Flowers and Mike's Donuts. I pointed to the east and I said, "You see that sun rising over yonder? That's Dorchester, my friend, a place where all good things begin. You can lay your head down to sleep in the Dot and when you do, you know you'll wake up to a better day. The future is bright in Dorchester. From Lower Mills to Andrew Square, from Harbor Point to Mattapan and everywhere in between good, honest folk wake up every morning in Dorchester to get to work making thier part of Boston the best part of all."

My companion snuffled a bit into his sleeve. I continued, "You live in Needham so you don't know what it's like to be down on your luck but up to snuff. You don't know what it's like to have the whole danged world against you but you still gather up enough pluck to show up every live-long, ding-dong day to make your mark and make it stick. Boston runs on Dorchester. Its made up of good people with good intentions."

I continued some more: "The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions but the road to Dorchester is paved with hard work, good will and sweat equity. You drive to work every day and pay $30.00 to park so that you can get home to your precious Needham as quickly and as alone as you can. I take the T to get here. Me and thousands of other Dorchesterites. We're a part of Boston. We like each others' company. We like to rub elbows as much as we like to bend elbows and bend each others' ears. We don't use Boston to get a paycheck. We live here. That's what Dorchester is about, pal. It is about living in a city and making it work."

My companion snuffled into his sleeve again. Whether he had a cold or was misty-eyed from my rhetoric, I don't know. He said he needed a cup of coffee. I agreed. I went into Mike's Donuts. He walked to Brigham Circle to Dunkin Donuts.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lay that pistol down

They call her Pistol Packin' Mama and just plain 'Mama' for short. The only pistol she packs is a water pistol, but she loads it with lemon juice. She doesn't squeeze the juice herself, she uses prepared concentrate for maximum effect.

Mama rides a Chinese scooter. Something called the YY50QB. It's a sweet ride. She sports a holster to carry her sidearm and she keeps a few bottles of RealLemon under the seat. Some wags like to ask, after being introduced, if she is 'red hot.' She replies, laconically as is her nature, "Nah. I'm luke warm until you get me riled up. Cross me wrong and I burn like a welder's torch though, not regular fire. I'll make you go blind." She will too. Lemon juice stings.

Mama's got dead-on aim. She's a sure shot. She comes from an old, shady, Dorchester family that is known for not taking any guff. She has a hair trigger and a short fuse. It is no surprise that she was early on recruited to sign on to the Peppermint Squad's combat battalion. She has a cool head in the heat of battle but if the tide starts to turn to the squad's disadvantage she can rally the troops and mount a charge, shooting bitter invective with her pistol leading the way.

Monday, October 20, 2008


All Points Bulletin!

A moped has been stolen. For all details and photographs of the missing ride please click here:

Any member of the general public sighting a rastafarian colored moped (red-yellow-green) is encouraged to report it to the proper authorities ASAP. If seen unattended, procure a lock and secure said moped to the nearest immovable object. As well as calling in Boston's boys in blue, email brightlikesunshineatgmaildotcom.

This is not some Peppermint Squad frivolity. This is a substantial occurance and an affront to all who sit astride little engines. Do your part. Mount up and go on patrol with eyes open for the perpertrators. Boston should be abuzz tonight in a cloud of two-stroke smoke.

Mojo in the dojo

Besides HQ off Codman Square and the satellite office in Kane Square, the Peppermint Squad maintains a dojo off Neponset Circle. Johnny Cake and Little Buddy were there all day Sunday practicing the finer points of scoot-jitsu. Johnny Cake is the leader of the Squad's combat battalion. He rides a yellow, Honda Big Ruckus with a license plate that reads BTLWGN.

Little Buddy rides a Genuine Scooter Company Buddy, kitted out with an illegal muffler to provide extra speed. It is the Peppermint Squad's official combat bike though the Big Ruckus is the official battle wagon that is deployed to lead a charge. The Buddy is equipped not only with an oversized muffler but with a number of fighting tools that make it essential for agressive operations. Among the Buddy's accoutrements are a cache of ball bearings attached to a quick-release switch, a smoke screen powered by a special blend of strawberry scented, Japanese, two-stroke oil, and mountings that fit a halberd making this scooter fit for fearsome jousting.

Johnny Cake originally trained under a Whooping Crane Wu-Li master in Oregon. Since moving to Boston, he has become the combat battalion's Adjutant General, directing training and formulating strategic manuevers. Little Buddy came by his skills watching 1970s scooter movies shot in Hong Kong. He practiced his moves late at night under the lights at Ronan Park when the cops were distracted elsewhere. He is the battalion's Attache General. The two of them keep the Peppermint Squad's fighting forces ship shape. By combining their two styles into a new form of scoot-jitsu they have welded together a rag tag band of scooteristas that have yet to meet their match.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Orange you glad

I was on the Orange Line around 1:00 (PM, naturally) wondering what to do with my afternoon. I'm tired of the dash and flash of modern life, the little gadgets, the virtual everything, the constant connection and interuption and stimuli. I'm just on the Orange Line, happy to be riding those analog rails, knowing full well that my day will end in digitization and high definition.

Then it hits me. The answer is all around me staring me in my twenty-first century face. The chat room is full and my buddy list can do well enough without me for awhile. I should power down and pucker up. I should deliver the original instant message. I should buy a pack of gum and make some face time.

Thanks for the suggestion Dentyne! The lady of the house is happy I took your advice.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Speed Racer

I just learned that a live action movie called "Speed Racer" is going to be released on May 9th. It seems to be based on the 1960s cartoon I enjoyed as a tyke. October may seem to be a little early to build interest in a movie six months away, but I think the PR men know what they are doing. Speed Racer hasn't been seen for a few decades and the public needs a reintroduction.

Where else in Boston is better to make an acquaintance than on the T? I am sure somebody in Tokyo or Hollywood visited Boston once and saw how just about every Bostonian interacts with the T in one way or another. This observation trickled down to the advertising wonks and space was purchased on the television screens that line the Red Line tunnel between South Station and Broadway.

I think it's a smart move. I'm sure the MBTA has reasonable rates even though thousands of people take the Red Line and stare out the window every single day of the year. October isn't too early to start advertising a movie set to open in May. It is probably just the right time in order to saturate the market. Some kids were looking out the train window today and the Speed Racer ad was playing. They shouted, "Yay! Speed Racer" The campaign seems to be having an impact already.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Franchise Opportunities

A hungry person can purchase Royal Roast Beef sandwich in East Boston, but not downtown. Something is wrong with this city. Granted there is no beach downtown and a shaved roast beef sandwich is traditionally considered beach food in Massachusetts. This isn't the case in states that call themselves something other than commonwealths. The proliferation of Arby's and Roy Roger's chains attest to this. They have chain outlets clustered thickly around landlocked, highway cloverleaves in Oklahoma, Montana, Nevada and Kansas. Downtown Boston does have a frog pond. Does that count as shoreline? The tykes seem to believe. If they can, so can I.

Downtown does have a Falafel King. As someone who happens to have the last name 'King' I will tell you it does carry a bit of initial cachet, but that wears off soon enough after a bit of familiarity. Boston's falafel king is indeed the peak of the our fair city's falafel vendor hierarchy. Is a falafel sandwich purchased at Downtown Crossing and consumed on the Common as satisfying as a Royal roast beef sandwich bought in Eastie, carried across Bennington Street, and devoured on the shore of Constitution Beach? That's a tough call. I am mostly vegetarian, but Royal Roast Beef is better than good. If the shop were located on Dot Ave, the kids would call it Dottatstic!

I think Kelly's Roast Beef, a Revere-based enterprise with expansionist ambitions has a market built in at Downtown Crossing. Royal Roast Beef is content ruling its domain in Eastie. Kelly's wants everyone to enjoy its sandwiches. There are plenty of hungry students and tourists ready for some shaved, rare beef in Boston's skyscraper canyons. They don't need a beach. They need a point of purchase. The stars are aligned and the opportunity is ripe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Fighting Proposition

So, I'm standing around in front of the counter at Royal Roast Beef, you know the place; it's got the big sign at 752 Bennington Street in East Boston. You get off the Blue Line at Orient Heights, cross the tracks, turn left and walk about three blocks. It's just across from Constitution Beach. I'm cooling my heels with a few bricklayers, two cops, a priest from the Madonna Shrine up the hill, and a gaggle of teenagers happy that school's out for Columbus Day. We're all having lunch. The ladies and gentlemen behind the counter are taking orders, frying potatoes and slicing beef like they were born to do it. They also prepare occasional seafood plates, clam rolls, hot and cold subs, and the like with equal aplomb.

I turn to one of the bricklayers and ask as nonchalantly as possible, "So, uh, what do you think about Kelly's?" I am, or course, referring to the flagship Kelly's Roast Beef at 410 Revere Beach Blvd. in Revere, not the satellites in Saugus, Natick, Danvers or Medford.

The bricklayer goes out the front door and spits into an empty parking space. When he steps back inside he says, "Don't say that name to me. If I weren't smelling that Royal roast beef right now, I would lose my appetite."

One of the ladies behind the counter corrects me, "Don't you be starting trouble in here, mister. There's nothing wrong with Kelly's but we don't like to mention the competition within these walls. It gets the customer's agitated."

One of the other bricklayers eyes me suspiciously and asks, "You're not a Kelly's man, are you?" I assure him I am not. Though I like to take the Blue Line, I prefer to get off at Orient Heights rather than ride to the end of line for my roast beef. "That's good," he says.

One of the teenagers pipes up. She says, "Kelly's that's a f***ing gyp! They charge $5.75 for a small and $6.75 for a large. Know where that extra dollar goes? Right to their fancy website!" Her companions darkly mutter in agreement. One of them cracks his knuckles as he glares at me.

The counter lady says to me, "See what you've done? Everyone is welcome here. Kelly's is okay. They've got the best roast beef sandwich at Revere Beach. We don't have any beef with them here. We've got the best sandwich at Constitution Beach." As she says this an airplane screams overhead having just taken off from Logan nearby.

The priest interjects, "Revere isn't Boston. Let's just be thankful Royal is here, where we live." He winks at me. "It is the better sandwich," he gently admonishes.

For the record, a small sandwich at Royal (Junior) costs $3.25. A regular is $3.99. A large (Super, served on an onion roll) is $4.99. The sandwiches come in three sizes for any appetite and Royal Roast Beef does not have a web site.

The two cops got their orders first. They sat in the corner booth and each devoured a Super with relish.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Crown Prince of Eastie

The Prince Regeant of Boston's neighborhoods has always been East Boston. This most northerly part of the city is more familiarly known as 'Eastie.' It's a laid back kind of place, the kind of place that knows its reputation and its power and this neighborhood is comfortable with both.

An East Boston icon is Royal Roast Beef, a sandwich shop located on Bennington Street across from Constitution Beach. The illuminated sign outside Royal Roast Beef says it all. It depicts a charicature of what may as well be considered "Mr. East Boston." Is this crown prince/clown prince kissing his sandwich or sucking a thin slice or rare beef out from between the bun? Maybe a little bit of both. You'll try to do both too when you get one of these sandwiches between your mitts.

Mr. East Boston shows his appreciation for well roasted beef with a signature gesture. He makes the 'okay' sign with his right hand behind his back and he presses his forefinger and thumb together so tightly that they emit sparks! That's good beef, buddy! Delivery available.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Eye of the Beholder

Chatting with an acquaintance outside the Starbucks at the bottom of Newbury Street, the conversation was brought up short in midsentence as my acquaintance craned his head to watch a fashionable young lady sway her way down the sidewalk in the direction of downtown. Once he regained his composure, he said, "Did you see the hair on that girl's arms?" I had to admit I hadn't noticed.

He continued, "She has arms like a mafiosa. They're covered with wiry black hair. She has arms like a bonobo." Then he mused, "I wonder if she has the libido of a bonobo?"

I wasn't much interested in her libido but I was interested in her hairy arms. I left my coffee on the table and a few bucks for my companion's cab fare back to Newton. I said, "I'll see you next week. I've got a little field study to do." I then caught up with the woman, keeping about ten paces behind in thick foot traffic. It is Indian Summer and seasonably warm this Columbus Day weekend. People were out as thick as gadflies on Newbury Street.

I followed the subject of my investigation as far as the Public Garden. She did indeed sprout thick, black hair on her shapely forearms. People stopped in thier tracks when they noticed. She was blond on her head, whether natural or not I didn't get close enough to determine. I did see that she was young enough not to have undergone any surgical, cosmetic augmentation of her shaplier attributes. She attracted quite a bit of attention, mostly from men. Whether this had to do with her features, which would normally be considered remarkably pretty, or whether it had to do with her hairy arms is an unanswered question.

Wherever this young lady strolled she was blithely unaware of the stares and doubletakes she drew in her wake. She kept her head upturned, enjoying the sunshine, the play of shine and shadow through overhanging leaves, and the slices of solar gold that cut between Newbury Street's eaves. She smiled most of the time, content to be walking the walk of the lovely. She was lovely. She did have a bonobo's forearms though. She didn't stop traffic but she slowed it. I still don't know the reason.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Pepper Pot

Looking for some good Jamaican jerk food? We recommend Irie Restaurant in Kane Square near the crest of Meeting House Hill in Dorchester. If you can't make it there because it isn't connected to the T and bus connections don't run terribly frequently, may we offer an alternative that is just as hygienic and savory?

The Pepper Pot is a short walk down Dudley Street to the east of Dudley Station. You needn't bring your compass. The freindly folk that frequent Dudley Station will be more than happy to direct you. For authentic Jamaican flavor, the Pepper Pot can't be beat. Knowlegable, attentive wait staff will guide you through the menu. Once you make your selection from a variety of stewed meats in savory sauces paired with Carribean greens, the kitchen staff will lavish loving kindness to your dish. Sip an Irish Moss drink and enjoy the easy-going ambiance and mouth- watering aromas the Pepper Pot has to offer while your meal is being prepared to your satisfaction.

Demanding diners know they don't have to sail away to a Sandals resort for real Jamaican food. This fare is easy to find in Boston if you know where to go. Here is a tip: Take the Silver Line to the end of the line. Walk two blocks to the Pepper Pot. Your palate and your stomach will thank you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Better Than Good

When something is better than good, it deserves a different word. Some people say "fantastic," and that may work if you come from Fanchester. Where I live though, if something is better than good, we call it dottastic. We usually append two exclamation points for emphasis like so: Dottastic!!

The word is a fad that is catching on with all the youngsters around Dorchester. I wouldn't say the word has reached the critical mass to be all the rage, but it's making its rounds and gathering force. I was in the McDonald's at Codman Square where a young couple were enjoying a late lunch. The boy said, "My sister took me to Eggleston Square yesterday and that Filet o' Fish was good, but this one is dottastic!!" His date took a bite of hers and flashed an enthusiatic thumbs-up in agreement while still chewing.

At the Tedeschi Market on Neponset Avenue the other morning, I was picking up a Dorchester Reporter and the Herald. The cashier was all of seventeen. After I had given her my $1.25, she gave me a winning smile. "Thank you, sir. You have yourself a dottastic day!!" I assured her I would.

While waiting on the inbound platform at Shawmut Station, I watched a gaggle of pre-teen girls squeal with delight at one of their member's shoes. "Those are so dottastic!!" They kept saying it over and over. The shoes' owner was very pleased by the attention and compliments. She said she had gotten the shoes at AJ Wright.

Proof that the word is entering the mainstream, at least in this part of Boston: There is a handwritten sandwichboard on the sidewalk outside Peabody Tire. It says: "We have the BEST Tires at the Most Dottastic Prices!!"

Will the word catch on outside Boston's biggest neighborhood? It may be a tough sell. Roxtastic sounds pretty nice, too.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Resistence is Futile

We are sure that in as geek-heavy a city as Boston this observation has been made before but this is an acromymn that bears repeating. The Borg are a race of sentient machines that devour organic life in thier path for thier own, group-think purposes in the Star Trek mythos (the Next Generation). The letters arrange quite nicely if a Bostonian travels from Wonderland to State Street to Downtown Crossing to Park Street Station for a trip out to Riverside.

Blue-Orange-Red-Green. B-O-R-G.

Of course life lived pressed close to the flesh on the MBTA is more free and lively than that conjectured in sci-fi telenovelas. Isn't it Charlie? If there can be a Silver Line, can there be more than one Borg?

Cheap Gas in Beantown!

Is this a chemistry story or a ghost story?

A young lady living on Sudan Street reports the following occurance: Cabbage was on sale at the Harbor Point Shaw's Supermarket. Not only was it on sale for regular customers, but there was an extra 20 cent discount for patrons who used a Shaw's Rewards Card at time of check-out. This young lady had a Rewards Card in her wallet so she put two heads in her basket.

Making her way down the ethnic foods aisle, our heroine noticed that kidney beans were on sale. I was only a regular kind of sale with no added discount for card holders. Three cans of dark kidney beans were available for a dollar. She considered this a good deal and selected two cans of kidney beans. While depositing the last can in her basket, she noticed a dark brown spot on the label. It could have been blood but it could just as easily have been a droplet of dried bean juice leftover after packaging. She decided it was the latter and purchased this stained can.

Settling into her walk-in, Sudan Street kitchen, the young lady chopped a head of cabbage and added a can of beans, simmering the two together according to an old, family recipe. She noticed she didn't have any carraway seeds in the pantry and her grandmother always recommended carraway with cabblage "to keep the winds down." Rather than trudge back to Shaw's Supermarket, the young lady prepared her dinner sans carraway. It was quite good when all was done and consumed.

The lady reports she sleeps on her stomach, as many people do. This is a position that discourages flinging one's arms and legs to disturb the covers. It doesn't allow enough leverage or range of motion to rearrange the bed clothes overly much.

Last night, the lady assumed her usual position and slept the sleep of the dead. We have no eyewitness evidence or documentary photographs, but upon awakening she says the quilt and flannel sheet that covered her at the former day's end had been flung across the room by the next day's break. By her account she awoke in the exact position in which she had fallen asleep. When she raised her head she found her naked body on an uncovered bed and a pile of sheets hurled against the opposite wall either from an explosion or from a supernatural action.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Stopping Traffic

We don't usually allow politics to encroach on the Dot Matrix's dispatches and your humble narrator remains neutral in presidential politics. Sometimes life's little incidents need to be recorded. Such was the case today.

While walking up Crescent Street to the Banshee for a post-work nip, we passed a rather striking woman en route to the JFK/UMASS T station. She was in her mid-forties and the a pair of UMASS students turned their heads like owls after the woman had passed them. They stumbled and bumped into each other, they were so distracted. Such young and virile men aren't usually so drawn to a vivacious, professionally dressed brunette twenty-odd years thier senior. We were intrigued and quick marched up close behind them to eavesdrop.

One of the young men said, "Did you see that hottie?" and his companion sniggered that he had. The first young man continued, "I think I'm in love."

His companion asked, "What's to love?"

The first man said, "She's got Sarah Palin eyes."

His companion said, "Yeah, but she's got Joe Biden's smile. I wouldn't trust her in the sack."

Sunday, October 05, 2008


We were sitting on a bench across from Cheer's Cafe in Quincy Market. Our companion was a professional pickpocket. Citing journalistic privelege, we will not reveal his identifying characteristics here. He is well known by the constabulary though they have thus far been unable to pin any wrongdoing to his person or reputation. As a source of solid information originating between the Aquarium and Government Center, we would prefer he stay out from behind bars. Regular Bostonians need not worry. His quarry is out-of-towners who don't know how to protect thier wallets.

Unable to reveal our companion's true identity, we will call him Sly Eye for the duration of this report.

Sly Eye turned to your reporter. Both were smoking White Owl brand, grape flavored cigars provided by the scofflaw. Sly Eye asked, apropos of nothing but the surroundings, "Have you ever wondered how much Fanieul Hall weighs?" We had to admit we haven't.

He said, "Look around at these plump tourists. They're fatter than all the pidgeons put together but, unlike the pidgeons, they have something I want. Pidgeons have fleas and mites. Tourists have coin and bills." Sly Eye smacked his lips enjoying the cigar's grape flavor and blew a smoke ring. He said, "All the money in these tourists' pockets weighs more than Fanieul Hall and the Center Market building put together."

Sly Eye makes his living fleecing the inattentive. As he was blowing another smoke ring a beat cop passed our bench. The pickpocket said, "Hello, Chauncy. It's a busy day for a gloomy November."

Chauncy said, "It's a bright day for you if I know you. Just keep it low-key, if you please."

Chauncy looked at your humble reporter, ""You're not following him into the trade are you?"

We protested, perhaps a bit much. "No, no," we exclaimed, "We are just here for the news that is fit to print."

"Get along then," Chauncy said. "You don't want to alarm the tourist traffic."

"Indeed not," replied Sly Eye, and with that he and I parted company to enjoy our cigars on opposite sides of the Sam Adams statue.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Little Chicken

Poultry husbandry is illegal in Boston, as is any other kind of livestock-raising beyond dogs, cats, guinea pigs, lab mice, goldfish, homing pigeons or budgies. Urban animals are encouraged but rural animals are dissuaded from entering Boston's city limits unless they are dead, cut to order, and ready for the frying pan or the oven.

Tonawanda Street in Lower Roxbury, just north of Newmarket and west of Upham's Corner, has been awakened recently by the sounds of a rooster before sunrise. Many cocks crow in the dark in this part of the city, but few bestir the neighbors before alarm clocks are set to go off. Though animal enforcement have been called in, no one has been able to pinpoint the source of the every-AM disturbance. Cock-a-doodle-doo rings out over the rooftops as the sky to the east tinges pink. An insomniac can't even buy a newspaper or a chocolate bar at that hour of the morning. The neighborhood isn't pleased by having its beauty rest disturbed.

Talk around the Ideal Sub Shop, on Dudley Street, most mornings indicates that a brood of "pocket chickens" has been smuggled into upper Dorchester and lower Roxbury from Cuba. It has long been a scheme of the Castro regime to breed miniature farm animals since at least the 1990s and the sound of the mysterious rooster cries on Tonawanda Avenue have been attributed to a communist plot. The goal behind this wrinkle in the Cuban Scientific-Agrarian Plan was to bring the bounty of rural self-sufficience into the apartments of urban barrios. Slogans included: "A Dairy in Every Closet!" and "A Pocketful of Grape-Sized Eggs!" Boston may be a better city in which to explore the ramifications than Havana.

The Massachusetts ASPCA has been briefed to be on the lookout for miniature poultry, most probably chicken but perhaps turkey, duck or goose. Birds are expected to be able to nest in the span of a human hand, but there haven't been any conclusive sitings or measurements. Who knows what mutations have been spawned in sub-topical, jungle, genetic, abandoned sugar plantation laboratories? Who knows what principals of science and nature have been bungled? There may be a new breed of chicken in Boston, a bird fit for a pocket. If true, it will still be illeageal to bread or keep as a pet, if not illegal to eat. Every good citizen around Tonawanda Street is encouraged to turn in information on the source of the mysterious avian crowing. Boston's mayor has offered a $3.oo reward for valuable tips that lead to the discovery and incarceration of alien pocket-chickens.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Gruesome Mission

Bella Donna packs a double whammy of desirable attributes. She is beautiful and young. To put icing on the cake and round out her attractiveness into a trifecta, she rides a motor scooter. She tools around Boston on a Piaggo Typhoon 150. That's a ride as sweet as an American girl with an Italian name. That kind of girl is easy to find in Boston but that kind of ride is pretty rare. A woman like Bella Donna is a rare find indeed.

Bella Donna, never to be mistaken for her arch nemesis, Bruto Uomo, grew up in idyllic Kane Sqaure in the shadow of St. Peter's Church. She was reminiscing with Trixie Herlihy last night about a wristwatch she lost when she was a child. She and Ms. Herlihy have been pulling duty at the Peppermint Squad's Meeting House Hill satellite depot, near where Bella Donna grew up. It is a fairly quiet outpost with ample downtime during which squad members can bond and share their memories and goals.

The ladies were sitting on the front steps sharing a nip of cinnamon schnapps and watching the world go by. Bella Donna told Trixie the story of how she lost her wristwatch after burying her pet guinea pig in Ronan Park. Trixie said, "That's so sad."

Trixie asked where the guinea pig, whose name was Piggy, was buried. Bella Donna gave a rough description of the whereabouts. She is young but people didn't regularly rely on GPS in those days so she isn't sure of the exact longitude or latitude. Moved to the brink of tears, either for the lost watch or the dead pet is uncertain, Trixie assembled a posse this morning. Luckily it had rained much of the night and stopped just after sunrise. The ground was wet and loose but the skies were sunny and dry.

Trixie led the posse which consisted of a gaggle of Peppermint Squad hangers-on wanting to score brownie points with a full-fledged member as well as Tweedledum who had nothing else to do and who happens to own a metal detector. Tweedledum pulled his motorscooter up to the others already assembled on Mount Ida Road. After dismounting, he flashed Trixie The Peppermint Signal with his left hand and said, "Where did you find these rubes?"

Trixie apologized, explaining that this was the best group she could assemble on short notice for a Thursday morning. The posse went to work. Tweedledum activiated his metal detector and, with Trixie's direction and a entourage of stumble-footed onlookers, made his way to the spot Bella Donna described.

The metal detector started to beep like a gieger counter on a forbidden planet and Tweedledum knew that he had hit paydirt. He announced, "If this isn't a watch, it's Fort Knox!" One of the posse answered, "I just hope its not a dead guinea pig!"

This remark put a damper on everyone's excitement. As the leader of this posse, Trixie selected a deputy, one of the wannabes whose hands shook the least and handed him a trowel to discover what was buried. The deputy stepped up to the task with aplomb and went to work in the muddy soil. Soon enough he hit paydirt: a rusted wristwatch circa 1994 with the hands stopped at precisely 3:14:55, whether AM or PM wasn't apparent. It was a Hello Kitty wristwatch and when the deputy held it in the air, the buckle end of the moulded wristband fell of into the grass.

Trixie said, "Bella Donna is going to be so happy to get her watch back."

Tweedledum said, "You did your good deed for today, Trixie."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Best Beard in Roxbury

Jackanape Jones, who rides the most tricked-out Lambretta on the Boston side of the Charles River, was paying a visit to the Peppermint Squad's satellite depot on Meeting House Hill on Tuesday evening. Mr. Jones is not one of the squad's active members. He is reservist who can be called to duty in the case of city-wide emergency as declared by either Boston's mayor or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' governor. He has a special "Peppermint Reserve" badge cast in tin and shaped like the grasshopper atop Fanieul Hall and enshrined in the mosaic at Park Street's T station. Inscribed on the back is this legend:

"During a state of emergency declared pursuant to Massachusetts Civil Defense Act, Acts 1950, Ch. 639, as amended, or by other government authority, this identification will serve as a pass though police, fire and armed services checkpoints. The bearer of this identification is an essential member of an elite team of first responders and is required to report to the disaster team coordinater or the personnel pool as directed by the President ex officio of the Peppermint Squad, Dorchester, Mass."
It was a quiet night at the depot. Bella Donna and Trixie Herlihy were manning the phones and the phones weren't ringing. Jackanape Jones borrowed a squirt bottle of vinegar and water and polished the many mirrors mounted on his Lambretta's legshield. He would pause before he wiped down each one to admire his reflection. Trixie noticed that his pant leg rode up over his sock whenever he got in and extreme crouch. She observed, "Jackanape, you have very hairy legs."
Mr. Jones ran his hand through his hair and looked at Bella Donna as if she had made the observation. He said, "Yes, I'm very hairy on top of my head and below the waist. I don't have a hairy chest or hairy arms, thank goodness, but I've got a good shot of testerone running through me." He winked at Bella Donna.
Trixie said, "Isn't it a bother? You know swimmers shave thier legs to increase thier speed. Have you thought about shaving our legs to get better mileage on your Lammy?"
Jackanape Jones looked over at Trixie. He said, "No. The leg shield covers my legs too much to allow for much wind drag. It's a pretty aerodynamic rig. I have been thinking about shaving my head however."
The phones weren't ringing and there wasn't much excitement that night. Both women looked at Mr. Jones and asked in unison, "Why?" They weren't breathless, there just wasn't much else going on.
Jackanape Jones said, "I've been thinking I can grow a good beard. As you can see, I don't hurt for hair on the top of my head. I'd like to see what I can do with my chin. I want to shave my head and grow a beard. Not a hipster goatee, but a real, Walt Whitman, old, Jewish prophet, St. Anthony of the Desert kind of beard. Such a big beard may cut down on my scooter speed, but I think it will be very impressive blowing in the wind. I have to wear a helmet according to state law, so this haircut doesn't really do me much good on the road. It looks good when I'm in a pub, but I spend a lot of time on my scooter with my helmet on. I want people to see how much hair I can grow while I'm on prowling the streets."
Trixie asked, "Why?"
Mr. Jones answered, "As you know, I live in Roxbury. I am represented on the City Coucnil by Chuck Turner. You know the guy: Bold, Bald, Bright? He's got the best beard on the City Council. Its a real Roxbury beard. You know the only men who have Turner's beard beat? They're the monks at Mission Hill Church. Those monks have beards that put Chuck Turner to shame. If a man of God can sport a beard like that, I think Jackanape Jones can grow a beard of equal proportion out of his love of motor scooters."
Bella Donna said, "Jackanape, you're starting to sound a little sacriligious."
Mr. Jones said, "It's only an idea. I saw a picture of Chuck Turner the other day and he inspired me. He inspires a lot of people. I see the monks walking down Tremont Street almost every morning when I go to Mike's Donuts for my cup of coffee. The monks inspire me. I'd like to be an inspiration to somebody and I think a beard is a good way to assert my particular qualities."
Trixie said, "You've got enough enough chrome on this scooter to accentuate any qualities you have. You take this Lammy to a rally and everyone gawks at your twelve mirrors, your bumpers, your crash bars, your front rack, you back rack and your foot pegs. What more do you have to prove, Mr. Jackanape Jones."
Mr. Jones finished wiping down the last mirror, the factory installed one over the clutch on the left handlebar. He said, "I want to show that its not what you can buy, but what you are that makes you a character."
Bella Donna sighed and the phone rang. She got up to answer it and took notes during her conversation. When she hung up she barked out, "Jackanape you have to clear the premises. Trixie and I have a call to respond to. Trixie, we've got 325-a on East Cottage Street that needs our attention."
Mr. Jones suited up and headed back to his Lower Roxbury apartment. Bella Donna and Trixie Herllihy suited up, mounted thier scoots and headed to East Cottage to join a bucket brigade to douse a charcoal grill fire out of control.


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