far too much writing, far too many photos

A week ago, I had lunch with a friend in Boston, spent a couple of hours beforehand on my own. Picked up a new pair of pointy boots at Walker’s Riding Apparel on Boylston Street — they’re kinda tight, but they’ll stretch. A friend in England — a lovely person who has so far only known me via email — read an earlier entry in this journal in which I mused on my affection for pointy boots and promptly sent me a note saying she hadn’t realized I was a dandy.

A dandy??? Screw that — we’re talking about an essential of life, something fundamental to my current existence.

But I digress.

Once finished at Walker’s, I took a walk down Boylston into what used to be called the Combat Zone: an area adjacent to Boston’s Chinatown, formerly overflowing with sex shops, XXX-theaters, hookers. Seedy. Ugly. A bit dangerous even. Thoroughly urban-rehabbed now, though still home to Jack’s Joke Shop — an institution, around for nearly 80 years. A treasure trove of plastic vomit, rubber dog poop, vampire teeth, sneezing powder.

I stepped into Jack’s, found a slightly dingy, slightly tired, dimly-lit space crammed with trash. An amazing collection of trash, trash of a classic, indispensable kind. Your whoopie cushions, your plastic snot.

Three middle-aged men slouched around, all thin, tired-looking, all a bit stoop-shouldered. Glum, lacking spark, low on zest for life. Three gentlemen who clearly had had their fill of squirting cigarette lighters and fake ice cubes containing fake house flies. The youngest of the trio stepped out from behind the counter, asked if I needed help. “I’m looking,” I replied, “for a rubber chicken.” (A Christmas gift for a friend. No, really.) “Ah,” said he, moving toward the back of the shop. “This way.”

The space turned out to be surprisingly deep, lined with packed shelves, a forest of items hanging from the ceiling. Something along a shadowy length of the counter burst into bizarre noise as we passed — like wild, derisive laughter. With the phenomenal overabundance of junk, I couldn’t pinpoint the source of the sound. The sales guy turned halfway around as we continued on, asking, “How many would you like?” “Er,” I said, startled by the question, “just one.”

We reach a section of shelves near the rear of the store, the designated dead fowl area. Many, many rubber chickens hanging from wall hooks. I take one, check it out: it’s rubber, it’s a chicken. My mission is complete. I notice it has a large capital D painted on its neck, then glance at the others — they’re all similarly marked. “What’s this?” I ask, pointing at the letter. The salesman glances at it frowning, then scans the others. “Must be the brand,” he says. “Oh, right,” I say, “from the chicken ranch.” We chortle briefly at that, he asks, “Will there be anything else?” “No,” I answer, “this’ll do.” He nods, the nanosecond of hilarity over, he drags ass back to the counter. On the way, the screeching noise starts up again. I see something called The Screaming Skull — in the right area of the counter, looking low-fi enough, tacky enough to match the sound.

The salesman stuffs the chicken into a bag, I pay up and leave. Throughout the entire transaction, the other two men remained perched silently on stools, appearing dispirited, almost bitter.

Once out in the brisk November air, I took a moment to check the hour, get my bearings. Seeing that I had time to spare, I moved off at a leisurely pace. Turned left off Boylston onto a cross-street, noticed a large, old brick building across the way, vaguely industrial-looking. Saw the name ‘Dainty Dot’s Hosiery’ on the near wall. A factory? A store? Don’t know, didn’t take the time to check it out. Up ahead, across the street: two lunch shops. To the left: Real Taco. To the right: Daddy’s Roast Beef. The clientele in Real Taco appeared to be office folk. Daddy’s customers looked working class, all male. The thought of a plate of tacos twinkled briefly in my teeny brain, until I remembered I was actually on the way to meet someone for lunch, reminded myself it wouldn’t do to hoover down an entire meal beforehand. For the hell of it, I checked out the prices in the taco joint — way too expensive. There are fine tacos to be had in Cambridge — at Boca Grande, for instance — for much friendlier figures.

Continued along, turned a corner, passing the Boston Rescue Mission, then the Psychic Eye (a place to get, er, psychic readings, far as I could tell).

[more to come]

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