Hello. I’m going to try a new little promotion type thing here. Anyone who subscribes for the yearly price of $69 starting today I’ll send a copy of one of the two Hell World books. (This essay below is in the first one). Offer good until it gets out of hand. Email me and we’ll sort it out on the side without Substack being involved if you want to take advantage.
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 being old because that’s what guys talk about and later on he and the band played this song below and it was very good.
I met Tom Brady a couple times I told him 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 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 places 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:
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.
Speaking of pants messes this oral history of the Weekly Dig bas been running. The Dig was the alt-weekly where I had my first real media job in Boston after grad school when I was spending all that time not going to Cheers and it basically invented me as we know me and the reason I am surprised it has come out now is because I did the interviews for it like three years ago or whatever. Here’s this tease in the introduction to the series which is a proud moment for me all things considered.
On that note, I hope you all enjoy this first installment of Good Luck In Sicily: The Oral History of DigBoston. If you think this one sucks, maybe one of the upcoming episodes will tickle your fancy. They’ll be running every few weeks, and of course compiled online as well. In my personal favorite, (spoiler alert) celebrated social commentator Luke O’Neil poops his pants, so keep an eye out for that issue.
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 but 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.
Here are the flags I looked at. There are 37,000 of them each one of which is 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.
That statue in the background is called the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and it has a plaque on it that reads like this:
TO THE MEN OF BOSTON
WHO DIED FOR THEIR COUNTRY
ON LAND AND SEA IN THE WAR
WHICH KEPT THE UNION WHOLE
AND MAINTAINED THE CONSTITUTION
THE GRATEFUL CITY
HAS BUILT THIS MONUMENT
THAT THEIR EXAMPLE MAY SPEAK
TO COMING GENERATIONS
We’ve had too many occasions to gather by that monument in the past couple of years due to some various issues the country is having such as Nazis being back again and things of that nature. I wrote about one of the protests a couple of years back and took a couple of pictures that I liked. It was basically like this on one side…
…and like this on the other side…
…with a whole bunch of cops in between. One time I wrote a song about another protest here and it was called Punch a Nazi in the face and you can listen to it here if you want.
Sometimes people will look at two groups like this facing off which happens quite a bit these days and say hmm same thing to me both sides but as far as respecting the lessons of the people who died on account of eradicating slavery like the statue says I feel like it’s pretty safe to say which group took those lessons to heart and which one did not.
Back over by the flags large groups of tourists were posing for selfies and taking pictures to post to Insta 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.
What do you caption a selfie in front of a sea of death metaphors?
The flags look 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.
Around the corner from the dead body symbols I saw something even more Bostony than all that other shit which was this:
That fella there is Edward Everett Hale who was an author and a minister and published a story called The Man Without a Country in the Atlantic in 1863 that was about a man who denounces his country and is convicted of treason and sentenced by a judge to be held at sea and to never set foot again in America or to be told any news about it from anyone he encounters. (Not sure that’s a punishment tbh.) He’s passed from ship to ship for the next fifty years and dies loving and missing his country more than ever without having heard about a single thing that had transpired.
It’s an allegory about the sin of rebelling against the country during the Civil War I guess. In any case Hale was the grand nephew of Nathan Hale the famous spy during the Revolutionary War who was executed by the British and looks like a babe in this statue I’m not going to lie.
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 sweater over by a food cart selling fried dough with a sign that says “Who’s Ya Daddy?”
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.
Here look at this.
The Army posted a tweet the other day which I presume they thought was going to generate a bunch of tales of brave service and shit but the responses were not that at all.
You should read through them as many as you can stomach on the thread but 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, re-enlisted, 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 releived 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.