[Poetry Tyrant Doug Holder wrote this piece for Spare Change. It is re-published here, but will not be in the print edition of our paper.--Editor.]
Boston street icon “Mr. Butch” dies at age 56
by Doug Holder
It is poetic justice that Mr. Butch died on the streets of Boston in a motor scooter accident. He was a true creature of those streets for so many years.
When I first moved back to Boston in the late 70’s I was living in a rooming house on Newbury Street (yes there were rooming houses there!) and working at a grocery store at the corner of Newbury and Mass Ave. I worked the 3 to 11 shift, and I had a wonderful but unsavory cast of characters who frequented the store. There was a buck-toothed African-American prostitute who proudly told me: “I only give head to my man.” There was a middle-aged security guard Maynard, who reminded me of a uniformed Noel Coward; his hat tilted at a rakish angle, an ever-present sardonic smile, and a cigarette dangling elegantly and effeminately between his fingers. He would tell me of his sexual encounters during his shift. It seems he was always approached by a handsome young man who insisted on doing “favors” for him. “I mean what’s a girl, I mean…a guy to do!” The famed rock group “The Cars” recorded a few buildings down and they all had sophisticated tastes, requesting a variety of Drake’s Cakes.
But one of the most memorable characters was a tall, lanky, Blackman with dreadlocks and an infectious laugh, who always tried to cop a cup of free coffee and a snack. Sometimes he would have a bright red guitar strapped to his back. He often smelled of booze, or the sweet smell of marijuana would waft my way when he approached the counter. One very cold winter night I let him stay in the store, forgetting to let him out when I locked up. He spent the night there, and I am sure he had a nice meal, and an undisturbed, peaceful sleep, much to the manager’s chagrin. Suffice to say I wasn’t long for that gig.