Friday July 7 will be the release party for my book A Creature Wanting Form at the OR Books space in New York. Joining me will be my pals Josh Gondelman, Rax King, Isaac Fitzgerald, and Mattie Lubchansky. You should come buddy.
Here's a piece Rax wrote for Hell World about Lana Del Rey.
Here's one Josh wrote about walking his dog during the early days of Covid.
Here's me and Mattie talking about their new book.
And while I haven't muscled Isaac into writing anything here yet his book Dirtbag, Massachusetts is funny and moving and authentically Massachusetts-y and Dirtbag-y and I would know.
Being that it is a holiday it is hereby resolved that I'm going to take it easy today and reprint an old favorite about going to Cheers and looking at some flags. It is "one of the good ones" I am fairly certain.
I'm also recovering from leaving the house twice in one weekend like some kind of pervert to go to the Boston Calling music festival. I am decidedly a music festival hater. I think they are by and large an awful and inauthentic way to experience live music in that the sound usually sucks and it's always hot and uncomfortable as hell and you usually can't get anywhere close to the stage without camping out for hours and everything no matter what it is costs like $95.
That said I think Boston Calling does a better job than most and I'm not just saying that because I cashed in the last few crumbs of leftover music writer clout I had to get us in. Probably the highlight was being there on Friday with our young niece who was experiencing her first real concert. Unlike an old bag of meat like me she was absolutely thrilled the entire time. Smiling and dancing with abandon. No country for old men. Not having kids it's rare that I get to experience the world through the joy of a child so maybe there is something to this whole parenting thing you all have been withholding from me this entire time.
The real reason I even wanted to go this year in the first place however was because Brutus was playing. There were many other great bands on the bill but none that would get me off my ass like Brutus in large part because they're from Belgium and aren't often touring here but also because I had a suspicion I could stand there and watch them play and they would make me cry and guess what they did. That is the bargain.
My videos and photos (follow me on Instagram if you want I guess) like everyone's videos and photos at festivals always do came out shitty so I'm not going to post any here. I know I shared one of their songs in here before but since we're repeating ourselves today here you go.
Then on the ride home yesterday I asked the Uber driver how he was doing and he said “I hope you are happy with your destination.”
I thought that was a weird thing to say to a guy.
There has been a lot of talk about smoking going on on Twitter lately for some reason. Who can say why people talk about anything. Here's some of what I think on the matter.
Before I went into the festival on Friday I hid my cigarettes and lighter outside the grounds on the grass under one single leaf wrongly thinking it was a foolproof scheme. It did not work. By the time I returned to the stash some scoundrels had absconded with them despite my most half-assed effort.
Wait let me get pissed off for a second here real quick. Look at my Democrats dog.
Pay off your 100k+ debt with your "unwarranted social status."
The "blue check" part here changed since I wrote it but basically:
Back to the sleight of hand though. So these kids they come out of college and go to get a job and – whoops! – start getting paid shit or can't find a job in their field and so all the while their debt balloons. Then when they have the temerity to complain about what a raw deal they got with these unpayable loans skyrocketing every day the responsible and sober and money-knowing adults – the very same ones who said go to college or else – will berate them for having made a dumb investment choice with the loan they got pressured into. And this is the real clever fuck you part: those same wise adults will also try to convince the college graduates that they are actually the powerful ones here due to the cultural vibes of their degrees. Doesn't matter if they're broke and underwater. They paint college-goers as some kind of elite class simply because of the hypothetical money-earning power of the degree rather than the actual material circumstances they find themselves in. Let them pay off their student loans with their blue check on Twitter.
She’s doing the rote reactionary lie about student debt. Meanwhile significant percentages of people didn’t graduate and still have the debt or else went to a trade school or community college and still have the debt. Elsewhere the people who do in fact have the fancy degree that makes it ok for them to suffer have paid the cost of the loan off 2-3 times over by now.
Everywhere across almost all fields millions of people with Real Jobs are being crushed by “small” amounts of student debt.
The project to paint forgiveness as a handout to the elite is a bald faced culture war bullshit lie. The rich do not carry student loans like the non-rich do. And since rich people can pay for college upfront or pay off loans in short order college ends up costing an order of magnitude more for poor people than it does for the rich. When a Democrat tells this lie about the supposed privilege of being in debt – and many of them do including Biden – they are doing what they think is a slick workaround of the right's "coastal elite" shtick.
Ok here's the thing about flags and so forth. Thanks for reading as always. Chip in if you can because I still have a lot of student loans to pay off.
I was depressed and I wanted to feel more depressed so I went to Cheers
This piece appears in my book Welcome to Hell World: Dispatches from the American Dystopia.
There were moths in my belly on a Saturday afternoon so I got into my silver 2011 Toyota Corolla with a very normal bumper and a clean back seat and drove down Belmont Street past the lamp store and the amazingly ungentrified storefronts that haven’t changed in decades and past the pub where the old townies were singing along to Cheap Trick the other night and then turned left and drove by Mount Auburn Cemetery where we go for walks sometimes in the winter when all the trees and tombs are covered in snow and where Henry Cabot Lodge and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Charles Hale and Charles Sumner and Francis Cabot Lowell and Bernard Malamud and Frances Sargent Osgood and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and B. F. Skinner and Hannah Adams’ bones all live and then I stopped for gas because the fucking light had come on and I forgot to do it earlier so my momentum was sort of waylaid. How much the guy said and I said twenty bucks please and then he put the gas in the car while I sat there silently and then I drove down to the second worst intersection I know about where Mount Auburn and Memorial Drive and Soldiers Field Road all empty into one another and I can’t believe fifty people don’t die a day and I got onto Storrow Drive which was backed up on account of the Boston Calling music festival was happening at Harvard Stadium.
Michelle had gone over to the concert earlier with a friend but I didn’t want to go this year due to there was nothing there for me. They had Lil Nas X who does that country song people say isn’t a country song and Greta Van Fleet who do those Led Zeppelin songs that people say are Led Zeppelin songs. I don’t know man I’m just not going to ever go to a concert with a ferris wheel again at this point in my life. The other night I went to see my Twitter pal Mike who invented emo play a show and I didn’t know what to talk to him about when we met for the first time beforehand so I talked about sports and getting old because that’s what guys talk about and later on he and the band played some songs that have made me cry for about twenty years.
I met Tom Brady a couple times I told Mike before the show and then I did the thing I always do when I meet a musician I admire which is I told myself the whole time I wasn’t going to ask for a selfie and then gave in and did it at the last minute anyway. It changes the energy when you are a fan of someone as opposed to just another guy standing there with a guy. I’m sorry I just want the kids at Emo Night to think I’m cool I said and that was the truth.
The rest of the way into Boston from where my bones live follows along the Charles River and since it was one of the three to four days of actual spring weather we ever get the paths were crowded with people jogging and biking and I sped along past Boston University and past Fenway and past the Back Bay where the rich people live although I guess it’s probably more accurate to say anywhere in Boston is where the rich people live and I exited down by the Boston Common where the really rich people live and circled around a few times looking for parking and found a space not far from Cheers which is a bar you have probably heard of but which I’ve never been to which you may or may not be surprised to hear.
The other night on the local news they had the owner Tom Kershaw talking about some charity thing or other and naturally they asked him about Cheers and one thing he said was how people would come in over the years and be so excited to see the exterior of the bar that they recognized from the famous TV show and then they would go inside and be like what the fuck is this because it looked nothing like it did on TV. After years of that he finally tried to make a closer replica of the TV bar upstairs in another room. People want things to be like what they think they are like.
There were groups of tourists outside taking photos of the facade of the bar they remember from the TV show that hasn’t been on in thirty years and there was a bouncer asking them not to crowd the entrance. I went downstairs into what is essentially a shitty sports pub like any other and then walked through one of the gift shops and then up some back stairs to another level where there is another gift shop and the bar made to look like the TV bar that still doesn’t really look anything like it.
On yet another level upstairs there is a function hall where a wedding reception was being held and dads in pink shirts and pink faces and women in bad dangling pearls who looked like all my aunts when they would get mad at me walked arm in arm to get into the wedding reception past the paper cutouts of George Wendt and John Ratzenberger. Some day that couple will tell the story about their wedding and they’ll say oh we had it at the place that one TV show Cheers was based on and the other person will say that’s wild.
Have you ever been to Cheers in Boston? It used to be called the Bull & Finch Pub but is now called Cheers like the TV show. There’s a guy’s bones near my house called Charles Bullfinch who was one of the first American-born professional architects but I’m not sure if there’s any relation there.
I used to have classes right down the street from the bar when I was at Emerson and I never went in I think because it always symbolized a sort of resignation to me or maybe it said something about Boston that I was actively trying to pretend wasn’t true for a lot of my life. People want the place they live to be like what they think it is supposed to be like. In any case you do not need to go it’s essentially any chain pub you would go to off the highway exit by the Target in any town you live in in America except instead of being spacious it is cramped. It is basically a money-printing factory for the owner but this is still Beacon Hill where space is at a premium and which is also where all the Boston Brahmins buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery I mentioned earlier used to live when their bones could still move.
I was trying to remember if I could remember any poems by Longfellow besides the one about Paul Revere we all know and bits of this one called “My Lost Youth” came to mind. He was writing about Portland Maine but that was still part of Massachusetts at the time so it counts. Part of it goes like this: “A boy’s will is the wind’s will, And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
One time a couple of years ago I went on a helicopter tour of Paul Revere’s ride that started out in Concord or wherever and I would like to be able to say it was pretty cool but I was basically shitting into my pants the entire time. It was one of those tiny piss-dick helicopters with like three seats. It was smaller than a 2011 silver Toyota Corolla and it was flying through the sky. That’s where they invented America the pilot would say to me pointing and I would be like ah that’s wild.
Here’s what happened almost five seconds after I walked into Cheers and I know this is going to sound too good to be true but someone yelled out my name. Luke! the guy said and I don’t know if he was trying to do it like they did for the guy on the TV show but I didn’t realize it was actually happening so I ignored it. Then the guy came over and turned out it was someone I sort of know and he said I wouldn’t expect to see you here and I was like that is a fair assumption. What are you doing here are you writing a review or something he said and I said uh sort of because you can’t say the truth to people you don’t know that well which is something like I was depressed and I wanted to feel more depressed so I went to Cheers and guess what it worked.
So I drank my Harpoon IPA and ate some baked beans to really lean into the whole thing while “You Dropped a Bomb On Me” by the Gap Band was playing on the radio and the people around me all stared emptily at the bar that was retroactively made to look more like a fictional bar that was based on a real bar none of which are now or were ever even real. There is a picture of Lord Byron on the wall over there near where the young father was squirting ketchup onto his french fries while his children waved their arms around like little bugs turned over onto their backs and I don’t know what the fuck Byron has to do with any of this it should be a portrait of Borges.
Jesus Christ hold on I just fucked up the coffee maker somehow it’s leaking all over the fucking counter hold on a minute.
So the guy says to me he goes my sister was visiting so I brought her here and I said that’s wild and then someone messaged me on Twitter to say she had worked at Cheers fifteen years ago and I was like what was that all about and she said most of the customers were European tourists or people from the midwest or Yankees fans who came to see a game at Fenway and this is what they thought Boston was supposed to be like.
“It was my first restaurant job,” she said. “You would bust your ass for a full shift and make $100. Like if your section wasn’t full all day you didn’t make shit.”
What else I said and she said “Everyone complained it didn’t look like the show.”
I drank the fucked up coffee anyway just now even though it was filled with grinds and my stomach doesn’t feel very good.
“It’s on in Europe, they fucking love it,” she said about the show Cheers.
“It was the weirdest restaurant job I’ve ever had. People would ask ‘Instead of lettuce and tomato on my burger can I get a cup of chowder?’ like they had never eaten in a restaurant before.”
Then another guy messaged me to say he had just been in earlier that same day. He had moved from Chicago to New York recently and was visiting Boston for the first time. “It felt like something that needed to be checked off the list,” he said.
“It was kitschy,” which was expected, he said, “but well done for a kitschy place. Our bartender was really friendly, which I always appreciate.”
Then I asked him if he went over to the Boston Common to see the flags and he said he had and so I went over to look at the flags too but not before the bartender asked me if I wanted to take my mug home for an additional eight dollars and I told him no thank you not at this time.
Around the corner there were 37,000 flags planted in the grass each one of which was meant to represent “every brave Massachusetts service member who gave his or her life defending our country since the Revolutionary War” according to the group the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund who put them there.
I guess one of those flags in there is supposed to represent Charles Russell Lowell whose bones are near my house. He was the valedictorian of Harvard in 1854 and a railroad executive and a general in the Union army and he was mortally wounded at something called the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia in 1864 at the age of twenty nine and I normally don’t have a particularly high opinion of troops and especially generals but I guess fighting to stop the institution of slavery is about as good a reason to go to war as I’ve heard of. Cedar Creek and the Civil War made me think about An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge just now remember that shit? How much did that story fuck you up when you read that as a kid like holy shit. Ambrose Bierce was one of the first dudes in the stream of consciousness game so thanks for that buddy.
Over by the flags large groups of tourists were posing for selfies and taking pictures to post to Instagram so people would know that they had been there to see a symbol of something. There was a merry-go- round spinning right next to the flags and the kids on it all seemed happy waving their little arms around like bugs riding a horse.
The flags looked beautiful I have to admit but I don’t know why we make war memorials look good they should look terrible. Each of those flags is supposed to represent a noble spirit ascending to Valhalla or whatever but it’s really 37,000 individual deaths in the wet mud. A war memorial should be a guy with his guts hanging out crying for his mother or a guy without a leg getting denied mental health services at the VA.
Edward Everett Hale’s bones aren’t near my house but his brother Charles Hale’s are. He was a legislator in Massachusetts that did all sorts of shit like the time when he went to Cairo and arrested John Surratt who was an alleged conspirator of John Wilkes Booth. By the time they caught Surratt the statute of limitations on his conspiring had run out so he got away with it but his mother didn’t. Mary Surratt ran a boarding house in Washington D.C. that Booth frequented and after Lincoln’s assassination she was snatched up and sentenced to be hanged and this is a fun fact she was the first woman ever executed by the federal government! She maintained her innocence and her conviction was controversial and questionable at the time which is how all instances of capital punishment remain to this day so glad to see that some things remain the same.
Among all the things Edward Everett Hale probably imagined for the future of the country he loved one of them was certainly not having a statue of him decked out in a Patrice Bergeron Bruins sweater over by a food cart selling fried dough with a sign that says “Who’s Ya Daddy?” and yet that is something that you could see this year if you wanted to.
I was trying to figure out what it was I was supposed to feel while looking at all those thousands of flags that someone got killed to turn into and my answer is I don’t know. War is bad doesn’t seem like a very novel thought but it makes me exceedingly uncomfortable whenever we honor our brave fallen heroes because every time you do that it just makes it more possible for the next group to sign up to die for what is in all likelihood not going to be such a reasonable cause as fighting to end slavery.
The Army posted a tweet the other day that was something like “what does service mean to you?” which I presume they thought was going to generate a bunch of tales of bravery and sacrifice and shit but the responses were not that at all.
Here are a few:
- I didn’t serve but my brother did he never went to war but still shot himself in the head so. he was the sweetest most tender person I’ll ever know and the @USArmy ruined him
- My son served and did one tour of OEF, he made it back, reenlisted, and shot himself in the head. He was 21 years old . . .
- My brothers both served in Desert Storm. I lost my youngest brother when he took his life after not being able to cope with his PTSD. I’m losing my older brother to alcoholism and his battle with lymphoma, triggered by chemicals he was exposed to while over there.
- The Army was part of the reason my ex shook our daughter to death. That was 21 years ago. I will never be OK.
- Well my dad served two tours of Vietnam, was shot down several times, given three medals - and then, funny thing: after he got out, the VA refused to help pay for any of his medical care. He died a few weeks ago. And you sent us - a flag in a plastic bag. REAL heart-warming.
- Depression, anxiety and isolation . . . one suicide attempt and enough anger and frustration to last the rest of my short life (and then some). An “other than honorable” discharge and everyone in my chain-of-command was either relieved of duty or transferred after My discharge.
- My grandpa got a serious back injury serving in the navy during the Korean War. He got addicted to pain medication and went crazy thinking aliens were in the yard. He also held a gun to my mom’s head. Then he abandoned his wife and six children
- Some days all my dad can do is scream because of his war ptsd from touring pre/post 9/11. Other days he doesn’t even recognize who I am, let alone my mom. His therapist said his brain will always be in war mode. Thanks for that.
- Do I get to reply for the dead? They can’t type for shit anymore. My husband became an ex because of his PTSD, then he got Agent Orange cancer and died. My cousin died of Iraq chemical cancer, my other cousin is in remission from the same thing atm, and also has PTSD.
- I was forced to resign my commission while serving in Kuwait during the first Gulf War because I am gay. I received an other than honorable discharge despite excellent performance reviews. Not to mention I was exposed to low levels of exploded chemical weapons.
- My friend Jason died in Baghdad. Survived 3 car accidents there & a sniper shot to his vest insert. Died in a building that collapsed from an explosion in 2006. His younger brother was so tore up that he shot himself in the woods in front of his girlfriend & died.
I was trying to figure out why the patriotic people in America love dead troops so much but don’t seem to care about the living ones due to we keep trying to send them to get hurt and die in places like Iran (?) and then when they come back we don’t take care of them adequately we look the other way like they’re an ex from a bad breakup we pass by on the street like oh shit.
I guess it’s a lot like how they love the unborn. A dead troop and an unborn baby aren’t actual people you have to take care of anymore or yet they’re just an idea you can do whatever you want with and what the fuck are they going to say about it anyway their bones aren’t even moving.