By Phineas J. Stone
Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are pretty taboo when it comes to being open for business.
Certainly, the movie theaters and some Asian markets will open their doors as if nothing is different, but for the most part, few places are lonelier than a business district in Boston at 11 a.m. on Christmas Day.
The quiet is something rather interesting – especially when Christmas or New Year’s falls on weekday. To walk down or peek out at a normally bustling street where there is now only silence and stillness can be apocalyptic.
Take Columbus Avenue Christmas morning. Early on when there are typically cars, pedestrians and plenty of noise, there was nothing. Cars were parked orderly on either side of the street and – as the old adage goes – not a creature was stirring.
It was quite true.
But more and more, some places are trending towards staying open on the big holidays – even if only at reduced hours. In decades past, that wasn’t the case. Pretty much every establishment was closed, save for a few outposts of continuity.
I’m particularly drawn to those places, at least the ones that still exist today.
One of my favorites is just over the bridge from the South End in Southie.
The place never closes, and maybe hasn’t locked its doors in a generation. It’s pretty interesting to note that through every major world event – whether 9/11, the election of President Barack Obama, and the multiple weddings of the Kardashian sisters; through all of that, on any particular hour, one could potentially have invested in a jelly stick with hot coffee.
Doughboy had a giant, handwritten sign posted in the window last week noting – unlike every other place – they would be open on both big holidays.
The lights never go off there and haven’t for a long time. The floor tiles and orange and tan motif are the same that they’ve been for as long as I can remember. I asked a couple of employees what it’s like on Christmas Day and New Year’s.
Christmas is dead, they told me, and their boss usually has them do special projects; things that can’t usually get done in the daily rush. There are spurts of customers, mostly other people who have to work like MBTA employees and maintenance men.
A few cops here and there.
No one goes out on Christmas unless they’re already out.
New Year’s is altogether different.
The shop could be bustling with people coming in to finish their night of New Year’s Eve reveling – shoving down a vanilla frosted as the last of their champagne buzz wears off.
There are few things as naturally occurring – or ‘organic’ as they say in today’s popular lingo – as the culture that emerges around an old-time outpost in Boston that never closes its doors.
- • •
I hate to iron.
I think most people, particularly men, are with me on that.
So it is I cannot figure out what happened to the once-popular “permanent press” fabrics.
Mr. Boston got quite an overhaul for Christmas on his wardrobe. It was very necessary, but as grateful as I was, there was a lot of disappointment.
In times past, the ironing board was nearly put out of business by a revolution called “permanent press.” That meant if you took a shirt out of the clothes dryer at the end of the cycle and hung it up, the wrinkles automatically worked themselves out and no ironing was necessary.
That was a requirement of nearly any clothing I bought in the 1980s and early 1990s.
I don’t know if I’m looking in the wrong places now, or if my Christmas benefactors are looking in the same wrong places, but I rarely see any permanent press garments in stores. More and more, the same can be said for clothing that can be put in the dryer. Most clothing I see now calls for ‘line drying’ pants and shirts and sweaters. I almost wonder why I have a clothes dryer. I also wonder if I really have to follow the instructions on these tags.
The problem for me is that when something needs to be ironed, there’s a greater than 70 percent chance I won’t wear it on most days – if ever. This year, I have a brand new wardrobe and most of the shirts are staring me in the face, fresh out of the clothes dryer and wrinkled. They may never come off the hanger.
If anyone has any power to bring back the permanent press, I say do it.