Hay Street, Fayetteville, NC
The bars were razed and the hookers who tagged along were dispersed. That was all the civilians wanted. To spread Hay Street across Fayetteville like margarine on Wonder bread.
Three generations of bloused boot paratroopers spent Christmas on Hay Street. Cheering beer and strippers in Suzy Wong, The Seven Dwarfs or Pop A Top Lounge.
30 years later I walk an unforgotten route and nothing's the same. Cocky paratroopers are replaced with the waddling middle class twirling pasta in ersatz Italian restaurants.
Santa poses for pictures and I follow him to my hotel bar. He joins a red head and she smiles offering him a saved bar stool. He lights a cigarette with a Bic and orders a drink.
I think of Christmas when I was 19. Offering a stripper a heart shaped Whitman Sampler in my Bullit black turtleneck. She smiles down at me from her stage. When I think of her... I smile at Santa and buy him a drink.