Bay Village Boy

She knew I loved houses, and she knew I loved the city. And she loved showing me the city, raising me as she was in the suburbs, she loved showing me Boston, her city. She was a city girl, born and raised, she knew all the neighborhoods, she knew the windiest corner, she knew where the beautiful houses were.

I was maybe twelve, maybe thirteen, who knows now, and sometimes my mother would take me into Boston and show me the different neighborhoods. I loved Beacon Hill, that was my favorite, with the rows of townhouses, the gas lamps, the brick sidewalks, wreathes at Christmas. Up the narrow streets, small gardens, turn the corner and a glimpse of the Common.

“This is where I want to live when I grow up,” I would tell her.

She liked that, she liked that I enjoyed these city places, she liked that I wanted to know these things she knew, swallowed them up really, took them in. “This is where the Brahmins live,” she explained to me, Beacon Hill is where the old Yankees live, like her, except with a lot more money. Massachusetts Republicans. Moderate Republicans. Like her.

One day she told me she wanted to show me another neighborhood, nearby, but on the flat, no hill. “It’s a little secret,” she told me, tucked away, only people that know the city know about it. It’s just like Beacon Hill, she said, same houses, only without the hill and not so expensive.

She was right. It was also beautiful, gas lamps, brick sidewalks. The houses must have been built at the same time. But it was hidden, only a few streets, you might stumble upon it, but you could drive right by on the big roads and not know it was there.

“This is the place for you,” my mother told me, “Bay Village. Just like Beacon Hill but not so expensive. A secret little neighborhood.”

My mother was a Bostonian. She knew all the neighborhoods, she knew the windiest corner, and she most certainly knew, though she didn’t tell me, her thirteen year old son, that Bay Village was more than a little neighborhood tucked away and out of sight. That it had a history in this city, that it was an open secret. A secret history that anyone who knew the city well at a certain time would have known but perhaps not told you about. And that someone today might have no idea about.

Because, you see, as I learned many years later, Bay Village was, for many decades, the neighborhood with the bars that had no sign at the door. Secret places, or perhaps open secrets. Places you slipped in through the front door and headed toward the back, perhaps that is how it worked, I’ve no idea, quietly slip in through the front door and find your way to the basement, or the back room.

Where the queers gathered.

I mean, everyone knew this, and sometimes the places got raided, there was a certain kind of decorum being maintained, an open secret that needed to remain secret in some way. Bay Village, I suppose it suited the need perfectly, it was charming but tucked away, someone had to steer you there, let you in on the secret.

You can still find it today, it’s all still there, charming as ever. You might say it’s gentrified, it’s certainly well kept, but there is still a trace of the illicit in the air, this corner might be a place for streetwalkers, if there are any any longer, you will still find Jacques, a tired club with drag queens. And you will still find gay boys walking into their well kept homes, but no one would call it the gay neighborhood. Not anymore.

But my mother knew the city very well. She was born and raised there. She knew all the secret little neighborhoods. Bay Village, she told me one day, letting me in on a little secret perhaps, one day when I was twelve or maybe thirteen, that’s the neighborhood for you, she said.

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Eduardo Guize said...

such a tender story, love it

BosGuy said...

I too have a romance with Boston and loved reading your entry. Cheers from one Bostonian to another....

Paul said...

Welcome BosGuy!

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