Cold part of town

October 15, 2006 at 10:51 pm (Uncategorized)

phone-booth-snow.jpgBehold the phone booth. Such a reliable relic swiftly fading into memory. There are few things in the world that wait obediently, day and night, to serve anybody with a need for conversation. Priests don’t do it. Psychiatrist’s don’t, either. For generations, the phone booth has waited in rain and snow, dark and cold to oblige anyone with a coin and someone to call.

Back in bleak times, the phone booth bailed me out of many a mess. The time I was arrested. The many times I was stranded, drunk and alone, in far off cities. The times I wandered in the dark after midnight and just had to talk to that ex-girlfriend I missed so. Before cell phones and long distance calling plans, the phone booth for me was like a confessional.

When my brother died in a crash, I delivered the grim news from a phone booth while hail tapped and tapped upon the glass. I called a remaining brother and broke the news. Then I hung up, plugged in another quarter and called an old girlfriend. Can you come and get me? I’m on a cold corner of a windy street and I am so, so sad.

Where strangers tend to stand aloof and mock, the phone booth has always waited rigid and patient and accommodating: Need to talk to somebody? Drop a dime, my friend, and call someone who loves you. Or someone who hates you. Whatever you need. I am here for you.

Now I have a cell phone strapped to my hip. It’s very convenient, but entirely without the boxy warmth of the phone booth. Plus, the cell phone offers no concealment for us superheroes who occasionally need a place to change into our tights.

The passing of the phone booth is worthy of lament. I offer this song, an absolute beauty from Concrete Blonde, as a sad goodbye. And I invite your shabby, sad telephone memories.

Dear darling,
Haven’t seen you in a while.
Found some change in my pocket,
I thought I’d take a chance and dial.
I’m all right,
Just right now, a little down.
‘Cause it gets chilly over here,
It’s a cold part of town.
Dear darling,
You were right about them all.
When my luck went bad,
They never came around or called.
That’s all right,
‘Cause I don’t miss them anyhow,
But it gets chilly over here, sometimes,
It’s a cold part of town.
(Chorus) Cold part of town,
cold part of town.
I’ll go now.
There’s someone waiting for the phone.
It’s raining out,
It’s getting dark and I’m alone.
Can I call ya?
And can I sometime come around?
Well, it gets chilly over here sometimes,
It’s a cold part of town.
And it gets lonely over here, sometimes.
Cold part of town,
And it gets lonely over here…..
Cold part of town,
Cold part of town (It’s been a while and I still think about you)
Cold part of town (I know right where I am)



  1. Bobbie said,

    The most interesting experience I ever had with a phone booth happened in Amchorage, Alaska on my way to Korea. You put a dime in, dialed your number and the phone would spit your dime back out. While you’re wondering why your dime was spit back out at you, you’d get a message saying that you had exceeded your allotted dialing time. It took me about 10 minutes to figure things out-you put your dime in, dialed the number, the phone spit the dime back out, you put the dime back in and dialed the number before you got the stupid message about exceeding your allotted dialing time. While all of this was going on, you had a giant polar bear to stare at and get a cheap laugh at all the people who were surprised by it when they walked around the corner.

  2. Bobbie said,

    Phone booths are also good for something else, but I won’t go into that right now.

  3. brenda said,

    why not?

  4. Mainetarr said,

    I got nuthin. Speechless. However, in my e-mail this morning I had some very cool pictures of eden_eve’s belly. That girl is looking pregnant finally. I predict it’s going to be a little boy. Shall we start a pool?

  5. Linda said,

    We found that a pop-top from a soft drink can was just the right size to register as some coin or other — quarter maybe? We’d tie fishing line to the pop-top and drop it in, fish it out, repeat as needed. That way we could call anywhere and not leave any evidence. Simple pleasures.

    Too bad to see the phone booths go. In England they used to have those sturdy wooden booths, and when they started phasing pay phones out, British Telecom sold off the booths for harden sheds or whatever. You could have your own Superman fantasy — or, whatever ….

  6. K2 said,

    Cripes, Mark, you lost a brother too? Man, you’ve been dealt some real doozies, bro.

    No phone-booth stories, but I wish people would take their cell-phone calls in private. I absolutely loathe hearing other people’s (usually meaningless) cell-phone conversations in public.

    Personally, I think cell phones have damaged society, in that people are talking all the time anymore, just not to the people in actual proximity. Just going to the supermarket is painful anymore, with everyone chatting away on their phones in the isles: “I’m in the rice isle. Where are you?” Talk about ovely mundane.

    Yes, they have their place — work, emergencies — but they are regrettably omnipresent. And the people who wear those freaky devices in their ears? Cyborg wannabes? Utterly pathetic, either way.

  7. brenda said,

    anybody besides me ever heard of the Tardis? well, that story wouldn’t work anymore, as well as with Superman….

  8. Bobbie said,

    I’ve heard of the Tardis. I think the new version of the Tardis beats the old one hands down. The new Dr. Who is taking some getting used to, but I think that he’ll do ok.

  9. Bobbie said,

    MT, Eve wanted to make sure that she took belly shots on a non-bloated day so she wouldn’t look bigger than what she really is.

  10. Linda said,

    Yeah, I know the Tardis and Dr Who. I liked the Dr Who with longish curly hair, can’t remember his name. Haven’t seen it lately but it sounds like I ought to look it up. God, I can hear the music in my head now and surely will all day!

  11. brenda said,

    I haven’t seen it in a long time, what is the new version of the tardis? It makes sense to change it since a phone booth would be out of place anywhere, nowadays!

  12. oopsy said,

    Sort of off-topic… but then, this is NEVER off topic.. I saw a bumper sticker on the turnpike yesterday that said:

    “The beast is dead
    Long live the beast!”

    And I immediately thought of you, Mark. The beast/creature is still out there looking for you. (or vice versa)

    Oh, the sticker was on the back of a beat-up Jeep with Mass plates.

  13. Bobbie said,

    The new Tardis is a big blue phonebooth or whatever it’s called in England. The Tardis never looks out of place because it has the ability to blend into whatever surroundings its in at the time. It only appears as a phonebooth to the people who travel in it. For anyone who is interested, Dr. Who is on Sci-Fi Friday nights. The new season has been good so far.

  14. Linda said,

    Phone box, in England

    They were always bright red. I believe blue is for police calls.

  15. AO said,

    Hey, a phone booth plays a part in how I came by AO. Kidding. Sadly, I have no fun phone booth stories to relate or, as Mark does, sad ones.

  16. Bobbie said,

    A belated answer to Brenda-I’d rather keep the story behind the phone booth encounter to myself for now. As AO stated in a previous post, a woman has to have at least one secret in her life and this is mine.

  17. LaFlamme said,

    Hey! I wrote a column about the public cell phone yackers. I wasn’t going to use it because I figure it’s been done to death. But if you say it’s still annoying, I’ll fire that puppy off. Gives me the rest of the night off, too.

  18. Mainetarr said,

    I hate cell phone yakkers. Especially in restaurants. Come on, nobody is that important that they have to take calls non stop in a restaurant. It’s ludacris. And I’m with you K2, the doohickey in the ear is GAY GAY GAY!!!

  19. jarheaddoc said,

    Cel-phones drive me fucking crazy. short trip, i know. Used to be you were weird if you had an answering machine, then it went to a fax and papger, now it’s one of those fucking cel-phones


    I absolutely hate it when I am talking with someone and a fucking cel-phone rings and I’m the one who gets put on hold. “Well, I can’t let so and so waste his minutes.” Fuck him and you. If I was important enough to talk to in the first place, then your fucking voice mail box can take a fucking message.

    And the machines are taking over. The truth-and it is out there-is that the machines are becoming sentient and we will be their slaves before too much longer. But then again, if the new and improved Cylons are what’s going to be whipping me, beat me baby one more time

  20. Linda said,

    I saw Jerry Seinfeld on TV last night performing for a fundraiser. He said, people meet you in a restaurant and they put their cell phone on the table, it’s like they are saying, I’m expecting calls from people I want to talk to more than you.

  21. jarheaddoc said,

    Which just helps reinforce my point, Linda. It’s pretty goddam sad when a fucktard gets lost on Mt. Washington and people make him out to be some sort of underwater brain surgeon because he remembered his cel-phone but forget his fucking jacket. And then he uses the goddam thing to call his lawyer to get out of the fee the search and rescue people slap on him.

    Oh, don’t get me started!

  22. Linda said,

    Jeez, do people do that? That sucks.

  23. Mainetarr said,

    JD-you’d better take a double does of your happy pills tonight and wash them down with some top shelf tequila. Man, who shit in your corn flakes this morning???

  24. Mainetarr said,

    dose, not does. Geesh!!

  25. Linda said,

    Hey MT, the man hates cellphones, and assholes. Any other topic under the sun and he’d probably have been fine. Right, jd?

  26. jarheaddoc said,

    Bite me. Twice. And remember to put your fucking teeth in this time, huh?

  27. jarheaddoc said,

    Something like that, Linda. This lack of privacy in the world today just drives me nuts. Why should I be the weird one because I don’t own a cel-phone? As it is, this computer has put me in touch with people I may never know beyond this blog, and people I will never meet. It’s like talking to ghosts.

  28. Linda said,

    Well, meet ’em, don’t meet ’em, whatever. It’s hardly their fault. Not that you are claiming it is, I realize. I’m just saying.

  29. jarheaddoc said,

    As far as #21 goes, yes, people really do that, Linda. I know, I missed your sarcasm

  30. Linda said,

    For once in my life, I wasn’t being sarcastic. Calling rescue and then their lawyers, that’s just so fucking …. oh, I don’t know what. You are channelling my mood tonight I think

  31. Mainetarr said,

    Yeah, you rat bastard, and this ghost is going to haunt your stinky ass for a long time.

  32. jarheaddoc said,

    I should make my point instead of rambling like an asshat: technology is a tool but people let it rule their lives. Oh, a computer has made life so much eaiser for a lot of people, but how often are you pulling your hair out because the computer just decides not to run? How long would you keep a car that just decided to freeze up on the interstate every time you needed it to pass someone? You just reboot your computer, don’t you?

    I don’t consider myself a Luddite by any means, but all the fancy bells and whistles that people so love don’t replace the human contact of something as simple as a handwritten letter. When was the last time you got one of those? Shit, when was the last time you wrote one of those? My handwriting is shit, which MT can attest to, so I see typing a letter as a courtesy, but now I just shoot an e-mail to someone because it’s instead and satisfies my need for instant gratification.

    I can’t even work on my own goddam lawnmower anymore because it has as many emission controls as my truck does. I’m not that good a mechanic, but sometimes simple is better, and people overlook that for convenience.

  33. Linda said,

    My husband felt that way about our snowblower (which we didn’t want and didn’t buy for ourselves) so he gave it to my brother and he shovels our driveway when it snows.

    Maybe you should give the lawnmower away and barter for a goat, eh?:

  34. jarheaddoc said,

    It’s too easy to let technology take the blame for something, too: my carrier dropped my call, my computer crashed, I ran over your cat because I was talking on my cel-phone.

  35. jarheaddoc said,

    A goat. LOL. You are a stitch, Linda. The lawnmower is actually overkill for what passes for my lawn. I need one of those sets of shears.

  36. LaFlamme said,

    Sweet. I’m going with the cell phone column. Now, who has a website that would be good for a Halloween list of net stuff? I can get all my work done in here.

  37. jarheaddoc said,

    Now a snowblower is one of those technology things I find very useful. It’s the damn warning signs on them that confound me: don’t stick your hand into a whirling mechanism that will turn your fingers to mush. It seems that the demise of common sense is expotentially and directly proportional to technological advances

  38. Linda said,

    I took my dog for a walk yesterday and we walked by a field where the farmer was spreading pig manure. Now THAT was a misery! I mean, it was simple and natural but still, shit is shit. So not all unpleasantness comes from technology. Though I agree a lot of it does.

  39. jarheaddoc said,

    Yup, you’re just proving my point, Mark, and you know what? The chances of my not at least checking this blog at least one or ten times a day is exactly zero. I am addicted to technology and I hate myself. I need rehab. Got a web address for that?

  40. Linda said,

    I’m reading a very entertaining book about the 1950’s by Bill Bryson. He has a terrific section about how people didn’t need to be warned that coffee may be hot and a bunch of other funny stuff like that.

  41. AO said,

    I just want to know one thing. Is it Friday yet?

  42. jarheaddoc said,

    People with bread machines laugh at me because I still make my bread by hand, but you know what? I have never had someone refuse a loaf of that bread or a pan of those rolls, and it is easily as ugly as homemade soup.

  43. Linda said,

    homemade bread?

  44. Linda said,

    AO, our clock is broken at the office (less than a year old — piece of crap). It stopped at 3:58 and we decided to leave it up, since we usually finish around 4 ish.

  45. jarheaddoc said,

    Homemade caramels, too.

  46. Linda said,

    you are killing us here.

  47. jarheaddoc said,

    I have a very serious creative side, Linda. In a manly sort of way, you know.

    Although I do have this apron that my mother in law gave me for Christmas. It says ‘Ray’s kitchen, keep the hell out’

  48. Linda said,

    Nice gift. Sensitive but manly you know

  49. K2 said,

    I’ve spent two days just getting my computer to work right again, jd, so I’m with you. Regardless, Adelphia’s e-mail has been down since noon. So my ‘puter works, but e-mail’s DOA.

    You can add call-waiting to my bitch list: Are you talking to me or them? Which is it? Give me a busy signal or give me death.

    And I can’t tell you how many times I hear cell phones on the friggin’ golf course nowadays. Isn’t golfing all about getting away from everything to chase a ball around?

    Have any of you been in a campus library? Holy fuck, man, you can’t believe the cell-phone cacophony. I used my cousins user ID at SUNY Binghamton’s library this summer to get on their computers to research and write some articles while I was on ‘vacation,’ and every kid in there was blabbing away on cell phones. Granted, I shouldn’t have even been in there, but I was literally beside myself with the noise — in a library of all places.

    And to further jd’s sentiment, we do rely on technology so much now, that when it fails, we become utterly impotent. Or so I’ve read.

    Thus, I am becoming a technological minimalist. I’ll use only as much technology as I need. Less is more, and that’s a fact.

    But, I must admit, caller ID is the tits.

    Oh, LaFLamme, do me a favor — bash those cell-phone yackers good.

  50. jarheaddoc said,

    I still have it. I was going to bury it with her when she died but now I’m glad I didn’t. My kids think it’s a hoot and it’s a nice memory of her.

  51. LaFlamme said,

    Ah, one editor has already commented that maybe I’m TOO harsh on the cell phone yackers. I think I’m going to leave it the way it is. I mean, there’s a chance one of them could try to kill me. But I always know where one of their hands are, anyway.

  52. AO said,

    I love caller ID. You’re right, K2, it is the tits. Not that I’d know anything about tits.

  53. Linda said,

    Ha! I was typing and my computer shut down. QED. We’ve got the fangs in tonight — ain’t it grand that we are doing it by computer. If we were sitting in a bar drinking beer together it would make more sense.

    I got a trac phone after I hit a deer at 3 a.m. on Rte 2. Hardly ever use it — only when I seriously need to, right, AO?

  54. jarheaddoc said,

    However, it so much easier to surf porno on the “net than it is to stand next to a lot of other stinky mofo’s in the back room of the movie rental place. Stinky bastards, always leaving…stuff…on stuff. So technology does have its uses

  55. jarheaddoc said,

    Now why the hell was I killing you, Linda? About the homemade stuff I make.

  56. Linda said,

    Just an expression. It sounded yummy. Homemade bread and caramels, very distracting.

  57. jarheaddoc said,

    Not to mention fattening. And very bad for your blood sugar levels, too. In a good sort of way.

  58. jarheaddoc said,

    Hey, fun blog tonight. I will see you all later.

  59. AO said,

    WAIT!! Don’t go yet, JD!! I want some of that homemade bread. Do you also make yeast rolls? If so, I want some of those too! ūüôā

    Linda, those Trac Fones do come in handy. Especially when you need directions!

  60. Linda said,

    Thank goodness some of my friends can find their way around the city

  61. AO said,

    Not me. I had to give the phone to Roch. Remember? Ha.

  62. K2 said,

    Trac Ball? Yeah, I play.

  63. Linda said,

    For somebody with a very bad sense of direction, a trac fone is more useful than a trac ball. but to each his own, K2

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