Three Mass Avenue Last Calls in Cambridge, Massachusetts
— The Cellar, The Plough and People’s Republik — three bars where every political problem on earth easily got solved
Oh, how I remember! I was part of the Cambridge scene during the 1970s, and way more throughout the 1990s. During the nineties, I was in my 40s — best time of my life given that I hung out with older folks and with those who were younger. My life then captured the many worlds of experiences from others. Cambridge was an international city.
While living there in the ’90s it was a time when I could get three Last Calls, all within two blocks on Massachusetts Avenue. It was also when and where I could drink my Guinness on rollerblades and nobody would tell me to take ‘em off!
The First Last Call — The Cellar
Delivered shortly before midnight, The Cellar was one block away and culturally considered an adjunct of the Plough. It was conceptualized and opened by Marilyn, a woman who long worked and drank at the Plough. With ironing board tables, it was a perfect place for standing or sitting conversation, especially while playing chess.
The Cellar was a table-setter environment where you gathered early for a few drinks before heading into the wider city for big-time arts performances. But if you were like me back then, you’d often get there after it opened at noon. Although I haven’t been in the bar for well over 10 years, the bar remains open and I presume it performs a similar role. It was the first Cambridge bar to sponsor our softball team: The Cambridge Tread Sox, which played in The Charles River Park League.
The Second Last Call — The Plough & Stars
This Last Call always was announced a tiny bit before 1 am. What made it particularly unique was you not only had to down your drinks, but you also had to get your last words in. As with most Cambridge bars, some of us became intellectually lucky!
News/Features | A brief history of the Plough & Stars (continued)
WHEN THE Plough & Stars first opened, in 1969, Neil Armstrong had just set foot on the moon. The Manson gang had…
The Plough had it all. Anything you could intellectually want in a bar was in that bar. It always had an old-time feel in a new-time world. Indeed, you knew you were bright just for being in there. Everybody knew it! As described in the Phoenix article, many were the washed and unwashed who emptied repeat pints at The Plough. For some it really was like a pint factory. For others, it was like: Did you see who I saw?
On many a what-to-do afternoons, we’d stand at the corner bar by the door, betting a buck against each other over whether the next person to walk into the club would be wearing sneakers or shoes. Renown musician John Lincoln Wright, who never bet, dutifully engendered his Guinness while serving as our arbiter, usually only having to make a decision when someone like Jesus wearing sandals walked in the door.
No matter who you were, life was always fair at The Plough!
The Last Last Call — The People’s Republik
Next, with an hour still to go, you’d dance, roll, crawl or jive your way into The People’s (formerly Drumlins). It seemed like nobody just walked into the place. This was where the final Last Call reluctantly got delivered. It was a real deal Last Call where you were finally on your own once your last pint at the People’s got drained.
The People’s Republik was a very large bar. One way or another, it held everybody. On the best of late nights unified people from all over the world, all souped up, would be drinking as if there really was only one big beautiful world. Whereas one would play chess in The Cellar or The Plough, The People’s Republik was also a great bar for throwing darts. I threw many a good dart! in that pub often to wee hour satisfaction. The best part was it didn’t much matter who won!
Our Tread Sox softball team was also once sponsored by The People’s and, win or lose, we’d be in there after the games.
No More Last Call — Fate Moves in Funny Ways
During those days, I was usually on rollerblades. On really good nights, after the row of Last Calls, there’d be a party afterwards — usually at my house! If not, on some warm summer nights, I’d leave the 2 am Last Call from The People’s bar and rollerblade into Boston. Feeling like The Silver Surfer, I’d weave along tire-worn streets without cars on road pavement that was smooth as ice. I’d skate everywhere, communing with hookers and spellbound wandering musicians till the sun came up. My world, back then, was 24/7!
The ‘90s were indeed the days of my life I miss the most.
Back then I also threw the very best live-music parties on Planet Earth. These parties happened due to a bright and beautiful day in spring when I was standing in the middle of a Harvard University dumpster. While rummaging through semester-ending thrown-away rich-kid treasures, I heard a clattering sound from down the street. I glanced at the hard sound.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Approaching was the entire contingent of Harvard Square’s homeless. In a zombie-like wandering, they filtered from down the street determinedly pushing two shopping carriages full of too many boxes to fit the carriage. With one hand they fixed and balanced their load while their other hand carried an open bottle of wine. They all wore smiles!
As they swiggingly passed, they tipped me off the dumpster they had come from was full of boxed, bottled and corked wine. Luckily, I had a two-wheeler. I shuttled 110 bottles, labeled with Harvard’s Alumni Class of ’67, back to my Putnam Ave. apartment. I then began hosting a Musical Spaghetti Night every Thursday for nearly a decade.
How the 1990s Cambridge, Mass. ‘Spaghetti Night’ Parties Began
—Best Parties on Planet Earth!
Lucky for me, after I turned 50, I moved to Nantasket Beach where I eventually managed to pull together my very first rock n’ roll band. At age 62, I formed an all-original band called Climate Change. Ironically, I wrote a song entitled Last Call at World’s End. I’m still rolling … but no longer on wheels. Instead, I’m a rockin’ and a rollin’!
The second part of the below song includes a memory of a multitude of Cambridge and Boston bars and ends at Buzzy’s Roast Beef:
Of course, hobnobbing with all of those Plough & Stars and People’s Republik intellectuals enabled me to write the below piece only a few days ago:
Are You Conditioned to Hate Vladimir Putin?
— Does the chess player within you know if Putin is far-left, liberal, conservative or far-right? Or are you on a…
Finally, as an irony of ironies, back in the ’80s while living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I co-wrote a play entitled Last Call. As nuclear weapons were heading our way, soon to rain upon us, our collective of friends immediately set out for our local pub where courageously we enjoyed our undoing.
So it goes!