Over the course of several weeks I'd dropped into a Gas Station
at Charles Circle in Boston to see if they had any work available.
The guys downstairs were kind enough to let me use their phone number and sure enough,
one day the Manager called.
"Can ya come down and start work?"
I told him I could if he gave me a little time.
"Good," he said, "Be here at four
It wasn't at all convenient that I start that day but I hopped a Subway and less than
an hour later I was being briefed on what to do.
Beacon Hill Gulf was no ordinary Gas Station.
There were no mechanic's bays. Its purpose was to sell Gasoline and lots of
Located at the
foot of Beacon Hill next to the old Phillips Drug Store, everybody and anybody stopped there at all hours
of the day and night.
For a few days I worked the tandem shift meaning someone else would be in charge.
I pumped gas until one in the morning then mounted the steps to the Longfellow Bridge
for the trek home to Cambridge.
The attendants who worked there were
a Motley Crew, a mix of students, gay woman and down-and-outers like me.
The cool thing was that everybody was into Poetry and Art and there was a real sense
Van Gough prints hung on the walls and potted plants brought a cozy feel to the place.
There was a large comfortable chair utilized by friends or people who just wanted
to get in out of the cold.
Instead of conversations about ripping out engines or replacing gaskets, you might find
yourself discussing Karma or Reincarnation.
It was the kind of place where if you waited long enough, you'd
see it all.
didn't take a rocket scientist to pump gas but it took a myriad of physical and social skills to deal with the public.
The place did a huge volume
and I felt like a juggler trying to keep ten plates spinning at once.
After sporting events or concerts it
would be filled with cars and you had to be adept at pumping gas, taking Money and Credit Cards then getting them out so the
next guy could get in.
The lines sometimes
went around the block......
There were people asking directions, people who wanted you to put air in their
tires and people who would try to pull away without paying.
There were clunkers that stalled in the middle of the lot and starving students pulling
in for a dollar's worth of gas when a dollar meant something and others who paid in pennies, pulling away before you could
There were people in back seats half dressed in compromising positions
and fights that happened on the street as people rolled out of The Father's Three Bar on Charles Street.
It was a Circus.
One day in mid winter, I'm standing at the door when
a guy walks over wearing a sheepskin coat.
"Hey," he said, "wanna buy a coat?"
liked it. "How much?"
Ten bucks was a damned good price so I whipped out
a ten dollar bill and paid him.
He then reached into the pockets, pulling a glove from each one.
here, how 'bout a dollar each?"
"Yeah," I said, and gave him two more dollars.
He takes off the coat, hands me the gloves and walks up Cambridge St. in the bitter cold. At the time I was wearing
an old, drafty jacket and that Sheepskin Coat was a life saver.
I wore it for years.
Closing time was 3 a.m. and I was required to take a dip stick reading and
record the amount of gallons sold.
I would shut the lights, lock the door and sit down to do the math.
Invariably, someone would pull in desperate for gas and plead for "just a couple
What they didn't
know was that once the Math was done we weren't supposed to pump anymore.
It would throw off the readings and alter the amount of Money made during the shift.
For a long time I obliged people, wearily turning the pumps back on, giving them gas and then having to
redo the math.
was frustrating and instead of being able to leave at 3:30 I was leaving at 4 a.m.
I would trek across
the Longfellow Bridge, winter winds lashing my face, sometimes stopping to look to the river below at
jagged ice flows that had crashed together.
"Man, you don't wanna fall down there," I thought,
"you'd be gone in a few seconds."
Like a Character in a Movie I'd stagger through the chill,
a young man filled with dreams that didn't quite pan out but feeling Holy in the pre-dawn Boston Winter, reaching
for Understanding and Deliverence but knowing I had to carry on whatever came my way.
Each night that I crossed
it, I was always cognizant of the symbolism of the Bridge.......
I couldn't help it....it was the Mystic in me........