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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Leather District

In between Chinatown and South Station sits the Leather District, a neighborhood that has put itself on the map in recent years. It was the subject of a recent New York Times article. The nine-odd blocks that make up the Leather District are framed by Atlantic Avenue to the east and the site of the future Rose Kennedy Greenway to the west. South St. runs up the middle of this little neighborhood. It is a neighborhood full of tall buildings and old alleyways, which creates small windows of light and sky on these streets and sidewalks. The Leather District epitomizes everything that I love about Boston. It is old buildings, with new fronts; it is a mingling of specialty retailers and other rarities; it is small and close to everything downtown.

The Leather District is within walking district to scores of urban hot spots, including Quincy Market, the North End, the Theater District, The Financial District, Chinatown, South Station, the South End. Homeless Michael as he prefers to be called is the resident expert on the area. He seems to know everyone, and he can tell regale any eager visitor with his countless tidbits and stories. He told me that Mitt Romney’s Presidential Campaign manager lives in one of the walkups along South St. Michael was very kind, like an amateur host to this part of the city, “If you need to find me, I’m always in the back alley,” he said. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was so accommodating?

John Mitzler runs Calamus, a bookstore that specializes in LGBT selections. Mitzler is a wonderful curator of Leather District lore. He said that he used to run a movie theater down the street from Calamus’ location. After that, Mitzler ran Glad Day, a bookstore in Copley Square. The name, Calamus, comes from Walt Whitman’s “The Calamus Poems,” which was published in the third edition of Leaves of Grass, a photocopy available at Calamus informed me. “It’s his homo-erotic section,” said Mitzler. Calamus has a huge selection, magazines, DVDs, men’s fiction, women’s fiction, mystery, humor, art, and used books – to name a few of the sections. Calamus also hosts author readings. Bruce Benderson was there recently, as was Joe Hayes, who writes about South Boston. Mitzler expects that Jason Roush, an Emerson professor and a few others will give a reading some time later this spring. Calamus certainly doesn’t self-censor; I picked up an interesting book at the counter and was a little surprised to find full page illustrations of what I can only describe as a Viking porno-zine.

Mitzler seemed a little reluctant to take time out of his busy schedule to indulge me, but once he started talking about the history of the neighborhood, he went on and on. The Leather District used to be an “old loft district” Mitzler told me. It was not zoned residential, so the artists who took to living in the area did so illegally. “Artists just loved those big spaces,” said Mitzler “The latest incarnation is rich yuppies.” Mitzler explained that during the late seventies, early eighties, the Mayor, Kevin White wanted to tear the whole place down. A neighborhood association was formed, and those stand up citizens helped make the Leather District a historic district. The area was rezoned, “Mixed use building was a new concept,” said Mitzler.

Michael tipped me off to a great diner, which is just upstairs from the tailor’s shop. Boston Deli Deluxe sells a delicious, home made breakfast sandwich for 99ç. If anyone knows where in Boston I can get a better sandwich for 99ç please let me know. Michael could not stop singing the praises of the people who own Boston Deli Deluxe, “Never charge me for anything. That’s somebody who has a good heart.”

I had the pleasure of visiting Sagarino’s, a basement grocery store just a few doors down from right in the middle of the neighborhood. Sagarinos sells almost everything. Sagarinos sells wrapping paper, art cards, fine cheese, imported snacks, and liquor among other things. There is a reputable wine section, that – according to the person I spoke to on the phone – has selections that change monthly with the wine menu Les Zygomates,, a trendy bistro wine bar that boasts live music. Les Zygomates is just across the street from Sagarinos.

The Leather District is an interesting little neighborhood, and right in the middle of it is Hank Lee’s Magic Factory. The staff at Hank Lee’s were friendly and more than willing to show off a few card tricks. Ben Peatt, one of the resident magicians showed me some real doozies – the card was in his pocket, not up his sleeve. Hank Lee’s has some real national magicians who come and perform at the shop every now and then. The Leather District is worth checking out because it is so close and yet so far from the hub-bub downtown. It is a short walk from South Station. Just follow South St.