BOSTON. It has been described as “the most photographed street in America,” and the charm of Boston’s Acorn Street never seems to grow old, even after it celebrated its 200th birthday last year.
“It used to be I could make money selling rolls of film out my front door,” says long-time resident Asa “Bink” Hutchinson, who can trace his ancestry back to the Mayflower and beyond. “Now everyone has those ‘camera-phones’ so I have to live on the meager income my trust fund throws off.”
But while the cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill have survived rain, sleet, snow, and horse-drawn carts for two centuries, they face a new threat that preservationists warn may spell their doom. “Americans are getting fatter all the time, and cargo shorts only widen their girth,” says Polly Albertson, president of the Bay State Historical Antiquities Association. “If two male tourists walk through Acorn Street at the same time, it would take the Jaws of Life to clear the way once they get stuck.”
“Cargo shorts” are cargo pants shortened at the knee, with the legs sometimes extending down to mid-calf range. “Cargo pants” or “cargo trousers” are loosely-cut pants originally designed for rough work environments and outdoor activities, distinguished by numerous large utility pockets for tools, but now worn primarily by slobs who use them to conceal obesity while holding objects that are too bulky to conveniently carry in their hands.
“It’s a growing problem, and if that sounds like a play on words, so be it,” says State House Archivist Lemuel Setters, who has used Acorn Street for many years as a cut-through on his way to work from his apartment on Revere Street. “You wouldn’t drive a tractor-trailer truck on Beacon Hill, but some people think nothing of jamming cameras, wallets and tourist maps in cargo shorts. I don’t want to be crushed to death when the wife reaches in her Kate Spade purse for a Tic Tac and suddenly there’s no room for a long-time resident on the sidewalks.”
Attempts to regulate cargo shorts are stymied at the national level by groups such as the American Tourists Association, who lobby Congress to beat back “local option” sidewalk rules as a violation of the interstate commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution. “One man’s disgusting fashion trend is another man’s creature comfort,” says ATA Executive Director Michael Barker. “You can keep Slim-Jims and other nutritious snacks fresh in the pockets for a fun day of sight-seeing guaranteed to annoy snooty residents.”