ABNR: SOUTHIE – NOTES
At quarter after three in the afternoon I ran a red at Franklin and Wilcox, directly into a swarm of locusts at Cahuenga. The intersection utterly consumed by a massive, undulating, cloud about 25 yards across by same, exoskeletons pinging off the Bronco like diabolical popcorn. Hipsters bolt into the crepe place for cover. The phone rings. It’s Tony’s people, saying about some type of difficulty in Cuba so now Boston show is shooting January, not April, and can I make it. Didn’t catch details, phone died.
Google turned up nothing on SoCal locusts but Nathaniel West.12.29 Liberty Hotel, Boston MA
Last train out of “snowmageddon” NYC. Two weeks at the Liberty Hotel. My grandfather did a longer bit than that here following some gross misunderstanding or other back when it was still Suffolk County [Jail], just before it was shut down for violations of the Constitution considerably more egregious than his, and for being a hellhole. Apart from the coffee, conditions in the building have improved since then. Still no pool though.
“I am yoah fahtha.”
Wind pounding at the giant, Gothic window (tie-fighter snaps to mind), snow swirling in great funnels up through the atrium and whipping off into the sky. So it goes with morning itinerary.
There are tanning salons, plural, onBroadway. That is to say there are sunburn-eries in Southie. Grueling three-hour trudge thigh-deep in snow revealed that, while remains true you can’t swing the entrails of a Yankee fan here without hitting a roast beef sandwich place, better than half of the spots I’ve recommended (“fixed,” in the parlance) no longer exist, else are gentrified to oblivion and therefore useless location-wise, if not entirely. Hoofing it back to the T, Diane appears undeterred. Like an Aleut, when the seals are off.
It was as if Zhivagoʼs Roast Beef had never existed.
Scout: Day 2
Woke to the phone. The concierge re the rental car, delivered this morning and ready to go. I crashed a convention breakfast on the second floor, discussed e-marketing over a passable crepe with an unconcealed douchebag from Raynham, then headed to Downtown Crossing DMV to get a driver’s license. Prediction: shanghai’ed by some alleged violation well past the edge of recall and forced into an interminable and mindless bureaucratic groove before being popped back onto the street umpteen hours later with more court dates and even less money. Happens every time.
Except this time.Scout: Day 3
In Two-Hundred Feet, Can’t Get There From Here
Rental car has a GPS that talks absolute shite all day long. Add that my mental map of Boston is to begin with wildly situational, let’s call it, and pre-Big Dig, and my sense of direction is limited to vertical, and you– Diane and Alan, specifically– have a woefully incompetent tour guide. Reduced to a crop of broadstroke navigational aids including Boston Harbor, the sun, the Citgo sign, and for personal reasons the corner of LaGrange and Tremont (http://bit.ly/aTPWcg), we ping- ponged across the Zakim bridge six times before we got to Southie. Murphy’s Law was closed for some reason. But Croke Park, neé Whitey’s, wasn’t.
Later, Mink managed to extract from Sally that her band is called Geoff Leopard. Meaning they don’t have to rock. Yet, they do. We checked.
“Count Your Fuckin’ Knuckles”
The plan originally leaned more on The Friends Of Eddie Coyle locations on the South Shore, around Hingham, where I grew up. Nice, in Spring. A tour of Hingham out of season would involve– I have no goddamn idea. Pointing to condos where vital pieces of civilization once existed; ding-dong ditch, maybe. Nothing simultaneously interesting enough for television and legal. Tony & I were clear (I think) on all this over a scandalously reasonable (probably) number of Negronis at the hotel a few months ago.
I have spent quality time in Southie over the years and I do know the neighborhood– well enough to know that even if I’d been there a thousand times, I’m not from there. Period. To most kids (I’m going to gloss over why I just now automatically typed “kids” there) in South Boston I’m “lace curtain.” Which is some sanctimonious shit less fortunate Irish people from Boston say about more fortunate Irish people from Boston who are still less fortunate than Brahmin, who we’ll leave out of it. The phrase ought to be reserved for truly duplicitous, patronizing types but is invariably fired off ill-judged. Doesn’t matter. In the end it reflects Southie’s opinion of itself more than anything else, obviously. Gist is your average lace- curtain Irishman visiting Southie may as well be skipping around Belfast in a tutu. A man might get away with that, however, if he can drink like a hun. Might get away with it.
In the early 80s it was all over the elementary school grapevine that a bunch of clowns (as in Barnum & Bailey– wigs, make-up) in a white van were abducting kids off the streets of South Boston. At the time I asked my friend who had just moved from there to verify. He said no fuckin way. Anybody even attempting to go around Southie in a clown suit for any reason would be in a hospital, and definitively not mobile. Comforting from one angle. Understated, the neighborhood watch has always been a motherfucker.
But with the exception of the clown business, and some of Whitey Bulger’s more freakish terrorizing, native violence in Southie isn’t, as a rule, senseless. Even some of the archetypal, brutal, social practices are down at the root virtually indistinguishable from basic knight errantry. Galahad didn’t suffer people talking smack or saying wrong things about his father’s employment history, either. Nobody in of sound mind advocates cracking a man’s jaw against a curb, I’m just saying– Southie’s got heart. And for all its deserved rep, the collective operating philosophy renders out to: work hard and do not act above your station. It’s Boston 101 and it ought to be printed on our money, rather than what is.12.30.10
Popped in at Touchy’s, early. Pubs in Ireland are less Irish than Touchie’s. Toppling rack of chips behind the bar, racing simulcast. Good. Touchy is in characteristically tentative good spirits. A few pops at L-Street, then one…twothreefourfive at the Quencher, which is how it goes there,though that’s not why it’s one of the best bars on the planet. Careened over to another bar, where we might as well have been, or possibly were, served by means of a funnel. There was a cat looking at me and then I was somewhere else, with different people. As you do.
Among the innumerable reasons that drinking in this neighborhood is enjoyable– the jukeboxes. Haven’t heard note one of any putrid, false- emoting, “Indie,”garbage in days. Thank you, Southie.
New Year’s Eve. The usual. Ben & Jerry’s, Facts of Life marathon, ironing tutu.1.1.11
L-Street Bath House, M Street Beach, 8 a.m.
New Year’s Polar Plunge Southie jukebox.
Three guys in penguin costumes walk into Dorchester Bay. First penguin says, Aaawwhrrhh! My fahkin’ nuts!
(See video).Shoot: Day 1
Opted for flagrant “70’s” wardrobe thinking, vaguely period appropriate, lightly criminal. Just the kind of tripe you come up with when you’ve been living in Southern California too long getting soft if not outright delusional about weather. Thus, one ends up standing in Government Center at ass o’clock in the morning wearing lethally insufficient vintage bullshit with the buttons on the wrong side against the ripping January wind, preferring death. Lacerating cold is painful to everyone, except the Imperturbable Zamboni [Zach, cameraman]. He’s perfectly comfortable in his infrared-heated exoskeleton, best bespoke, I imagine. Very sporty.
Imperative is deliberate & systematic avoidance of anything resembling a Boston foodie- certified establishment. No white tablecloths, nowhere too far afield for Eddie Coyle to sit and sweat how to pay his plumber. In response, Tony anticipates web-wide outrage. From, evidently, a contingent that wants him to be wasted eating yak testicles in a pit yet are disserved if he’s not regurgitating Zagats, or stumping for the Chamber of Commerce. That’s a different kind of travel show altogether. More like the one with that poolboy-crazed harpy who’s always faux-climaxing at another middling spa and yammering through her daiquiri about other people’s money.
Ten to one at least equally befuddling for the Boston NoRes viewership will be Howie Carr. Apart from his journalistic and subsequently personal connection with the Bulger story, I’ve been a fan of Howie Carr’s show for years, and twice over since I moved to Los Angeles. I can and do listen to Howie’s “Chump Line”—streaming, directly into my cortex— for hours at a stretch. Then I fall to my knees and pray East. Anybody doesn’t understand that, god bless, but I can’t help you.
Already one prick next to me at the hotel’s lobby bar felt obliged to give me his totally unconsidered opinion about Anthony Bourdain appearing on the Howie Carr show. (“A little bird told me.” He said this.) He went on to suggest by means of a kind of formless, nasal bleating that a better choice would have been a certain show on the local NPR station, all the time sipping a Cosmopolitan and failing extravagantly to comprehend how “Muffin Talk” with Binky Housemartin might be off-topic for a show saluting working-class Boston and mournful gun dealers. Naturally he had restaurant suggestions but I told him, thanks we’re just doing Dunkin’ Donuts and Faneuil Hall and anyplace with a full-on salad bar under $20, if he knew any. At which point he had some kind of mental seizure. This life is hard, but it’s wicked hard if you’re stupid.
Up in the WRKO offices, Howie was naturally enthused meeting Tony, but appeared dubious when I told him I was a fan, meanwhile looking like Anthony Bourdain’s personal Quaalude dealer.
Sadistic, the food show.
Once, I unprofitably emptied a BB gun at a rabbit, then, screaming as if I was on fire, chased it across a busy highway, intending– I suppose– to beat the thing to death with butt of the empty BB gun, and then eat it. Derring-do in the skint years, or, to borrow some James Ellroy, joyous shit in the boonies. Follows, as S is fond of remarking, that my relationship to food is attimes like a war grandmother, obsessing over the rations. Plus, I don’t want to be rude, so during the scout I felt compelled to finish everything on my plate, or wax paper, and if I couldn’t, then it comes home to the mini-fridge, already exploding with tripe and misshapen lobster rolls.
I hit capacity days ago. A solid drinking base, which is crucial, but I’ve noticed myself slipping occasionally into little non-reality events I chalk up as metabolic “k-holes”, among other physiological…bailiwicks. Resolved to take an extreme measure: use the hotel gym, first thing, starting tomorrow. Foolishly mentioned this to Sally and Diane. When their peals of laughter subsided enough, I bet them ten dollars each that I’d be on the treadmill watching the little tv, what have you, by the time they got there.
I’ll be taking their twenty dollars directly to Scott at Murphy’s Law. Pretty sure I spaced my tab last night.Day 4
ATM at CVS was broken so I had to walk waythehell down Charles to get cash for Sally & Diane. And Scott.
Ran into the crew coming out of CVS, sacs as usual overflowing with chips, and Astro-glide. Todd ran back in for dental dams, since it looks like it might rain.
South Boston Candlepin. God as my witness, I assumed I could still bowl a 180. Minimum.
“You want me to rub that on your lens for you?”
Beat Me Up, ButtercupSomewhere in Southie, after hours.
Didn’t catch what sparked it, just the abrupt, telltale suck of air from a room that’s suddenly
gone to DEFCON 1 at 3 a.m.
The female contingent of the bar magically divided into roughly equal opposing units, soon moved out onto the street, and commenced a mutual verbal assault men would never be able to engage, fictionalize, nor, unfortunately, recount with even remote accuracy. Inside of a minute, screeching tires as an Acura way over capacity with enraged local girls bounds onto the curb. One leaps out before the car stops, wielding a Sox mini-bat.
Southie girls are not like other girls. They prefer oldies, for one.January something
Anything that can be drunk, will.
Guinness. Guinness, Jamesons. Guinness, Jamesons. Jamesons, Jamesons, Powers. Powers. Bud Light, Bud Light, Dr. McGillicuddy’s. Dr. McGillicuddy’s, Dr. McGillicuddy’s. Bud Light. Powers. Cuervo. Cuervo? Cuervo Silver. Dr. McGillicuddy’s, Irish car bomb, Jaeger, Jaeger…Goldshlager? Glass of wa—car bomb. Guinness, Kamakaze, Bud Light.
And onto Bar #2. Then #3.
“It Goes Where You Point It”
The whole thing has been threatening to go weird on us from the top, and if it had already I didn’t notice until we got to the Quencher. A chunk of ice hit me in the side of the head, hard, followed by a clicking sound, followed by another iceball, slamming into Tony’s chest. In the shadows, twelve o’clock, a very small being with only eyes peeking out from a snowsuit, aiming a plastic tactical weapon at us. Pee wee black-op. A homemade shield hung on his arm. Iceball, iceball, iceball. Semi-automatic fire– his modification, no doubt. Being phantasmagorically wasted and so processing events in no particular order, I consulted my watch (empty wrist) and thought, he’s out late for a schoolni— iceball to the groin.
Outside a spa on Broadway this afternoon the iceball kid was eating a sandwich on the stoop, in his civvies. It was him— all the Dr. McGillicuddy’s in Southie I won’t forget those eyes. Guy passes on the sidewalk, nods hello, but the kid just chews his sandwich, thousand yard stare. The guy shakes his head. “Hiya doin, Jimmy— you sick fuck.”