Tag Archives: boston

Poem For Amanda Palmer

you don’t know that there are ways of responding to tragedy without being narcissistic and self-serving

you don’t know how a national crisis and the death of at least three innocent people could not be about you

you don’t know that you don’t need to take advantage of every single situation by turning it into another outlet for arrogant self-promotion that excuses itself from criticism by somehow pretending to be quote-unquote performance art

you don’t know how to stop

you don’t know what it’s like to live without the comfort net of privilege that has supported you your entire life

you don’t know why you have to keep explaining your art to people who just don’t get it

you don’t know how to explore the mind and perspective of an alleged killer in a provocative or intriguing way but you still insist on doing so

you don’t know that this isn’t about you

you don’t know that this isn’t about you

you don’t know that this isn’t about you

you don’t know that this isn’t about you

This Is Not Creative Writing

As you may or may not know, today is Patriot’s Day, a holiday that is only celebrated within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the state that I call home. This holiday, observed on the 3rd Monday in April, commemorates the Battle of Lexington & Concord, the inciting conflict of the American Revolutionary War. In the Boston area, it’s recognized as an official state holiday, closing all businesses (and causing lots of complications on public transportation).

This has less to do with the Battle of Lexington & Concord, however, and more to do with the Boston Marathon, which sees every single citizen of the Greater Boston Area pay tribute to the occasion by intensely daydrinking along the race route.

And so “Marathon Monday,” as we locals so affectionately call it (because of the marathon daydrinking, of course; not because of the race), is one of the most highly anticipated days in the Boston calendar. The city descends into utter chaos as everyone commits themselves body and soul to the celebration of booze and America, and also booze.

And so today, free from the scheduled restrictions of my day job, I planned to accomplish a number of things, including write for this website, rather than my usual Marathon Monday routine of drinking 27 PBRs at various locations along Beacon Street throughout Brookline. Unfortunately, my plans for the afternoon were derailed once I came across the news that two bombs had been set off near the finish line on Boylston Street in the Back Bay, claiming the lives of (at this point) 2 people (including a god damn 8 year child) and injuring more than 50 others.

This all less than 4 miles from the house that I own with my partner.

So, you know, I’m rather flummoxed, to say the least. Bevin and I are safe within our home, but we are both rather freaked out right now, in a way that I have never felt before (certainly there have been greater American tragedies within my lifetime, but none so literally physically close to home).

And so I am submitting this entry because the time it takes for me to type these words offers a very momentary respite from the heartbreaking horror of what has happened here in my home city. The plans I had for today’s post shall hopefully make their way into the world next week, but for now, I hope that you and all of your loved ones are safe and well, and I (ever so agnostic despite my heavily Catholic upbringing) pray for the good fortune of those who have been directly affected by this horrible act.

Origin Story

It began, as most Wednesdays do, with a sojourn. The work day complete, I depart from my hole-in-the-ground and set forth along the cow paths of Massachusetts Avenue, passing by the Christian Science Center Reflecting Pool and continuing along past Berklee, up over the Mass Pike to The Otherside and within ten minutes I’m standing outside the door of Newbury Comics, awaiting the days’ haul. I enter the store and approach the front desk and without saying a word I receive a stack of fresh comic books from the cashier, the newest issues, just released that date. I thank her, then walk towards the back corner of the store to check the New Release racks to make sure I’m not missing anything.

That’s when I discover the truth: Animal Man #16, Unwritten #45, and Wolverine & the X-Men #23 are all missing. They were not in the pile that was handed me when I walked in, and they are not among the racks with the other new releases.

Breathlessly I dash back to the front desk. “Jesse,” I say to the manager (because obviously I’m on a first name basis with the comic book guy), “There’s an emergency! I’m missing 3 comics!” Before I finish speaking, he’s at the inventory computer, fingers racing across the keyboard, clock ticking fervidly, each passing second echoed deeply in my head. After 83 seconds that feel like a lifetime, Jesse turns to me and says, “It looks like Animal Man and Unwritten were undershipped from the distributor, but they’ll be here next week. I’m not sure why Wolverine & the X-Men wasn’t in your box, but I have an extra copy here that you can have. I’ll put it in the computer now to make sure we don’t forget again.”

“Awesome! Thanks so much, man. Sorry to be a pain.”

“No problem dude! She’ll ring you up at the register,” he says as he enters the information. I handle my transaction with the other cashier and as I type my secret PIN into the code box I hear the tinny ding!ding! of the metal detector at front of the door. This of course attracts my attention, as it does the entire staff. “Let me just check your bag real quick?” Jesse asks the customer. His manner is pleasant and unaccusing as he steps out from behind the computer at the front desk, but it doesn’t matter; the guy makes a run for it, slamming through the door, stutter-stepping at the sidewalk, and bolting down the street. Jesse follows as quickly as human legs can take him, but by the time he’s hit the street, the thief has already lost himself in the throng of early-evening shoppers.

This all happens in the time it takes me to enter my 6-digit PIN to complete my transaction. Jesse walks back into the store, defeated and enraged, and immediately the phone to call the police. It was in that moment that I knew: this would be the last time I stood idly by as twisted criminal scum had their way with my comic book shop. For I was too engrossed in entering my PIN, too wrapped up in myself to take the necessary action, and because of my selfishness, my recklessness, who knows how many innocent used CDs have been lost?

As a wise man once told me, “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility,” and from that day forth I have committed myself to justice. I have recreated myself as a symbol, because symbols have the strength to battle evil.

I am Regular Wednesday Comic Book-Buying Guy.

Back On The Street

Alex had been trying to get her shit together at the time. No really, she had. She’d been living at  halfway house over in the South End for two whole months — you know, the one on Mass Ave, down by Harrison and the BU Hospital — and she’d been sober nearly as long. Her third day there she stole a drag off one of the other girls in the house. That girl ended up getting kicked out the very next day when one of the prorectors found a butt in the trash; Alex was lucky that she didn’t get ratted out herself. After that, Alex went clean. Even got herself a job, which was especially impressive considering that the halfway house only lets you out for one hour a day to use the computers in the Career Center. It’s a seventeen minute commute each way on the Silver Line into Downtown Crossing where the Career Center’s located. That only leaves twenty-six minutes to search and send out applications. Not a lot of time, if you ask me.

Not that anyone’s particularly looking to hire an ex-junkie who spent the last fourteen months at the women’s penitentiary out in Framingham for embezzling cash from the autoshop in Waltham where she was supposed to be balancing the books. To be fair, she took the money so she could take better care of her kid. Little Devin was just about the only thing that she had left to live for. Unfortunately the poor kid was either born early, retarded, or both — she didn’t quite know whose it was — and Alex needed the extra cash to handle all his medications and the co-pays. Sure, she spent a few parts of her wage on a fix every couple weeks, but it was a small enough amount compared to the enormous bills that she faced every month. What’s the point of living if you can’t afford a few luxuries for yourself? But the state took her kid once they caught slipping cash from the till. At least he’s getting all the care he needs now. That’s what she assumes, anyway; she hadn’t seen him in a year now.

About a week ago, she finally secured a new gig for herself, answering phones for dispatch at a taxi company out in Allston. Two days later, they kicked her out of the halfway house, on account of they needed a cot for someone else. As far as they were concerned, she had a job now, so she must be on the road to a normal life. After that, there’s nothing else they could do for her, so they give her the boot, change the sheets, and open up the door for the next well-behaved delinquent who needs it. That way everyone gets a chance to work their shit out before their ass lands right back on the streets. The turnover rate at these joints never slows down, but hey, you gotta run a business.

The Crash

They were fighting when it happened. Nothing, of course, just a little couples’ spat. They were driving home from a wedding in Danvers for one of His old bandmates. Some girl was saying shit about someone in the bridal party, some typical caddy bullshit but just the kind of thing that She could not abide by. So later that night, She made sure to spill a red cocktail on the caddy girl’s dress when they were both out on the dance floor, said it was an accident. Those were the kind of moments that had made Him fall in love with Her so swiftly, those unabashed displays of take-no-bullshit attitude, the moments She reminded you that She wasn’t just some passive pretty plaything.

When it happened, He just stayed back and watched, soaking in the moment and willing himself to sober up for the long ride home; She, of course, kept drinking, because hey, open bar. By the time the reception ended, He felt more than fine to drive, although as He’d later learn, physical sobriety and legal sobriety were two very different things. But She, in Her heightened state, was fairly upset with Him for not having Her back.

Like I said, it was one of those stupid fights. Every couple has them.

They were traveling down Route 1 and by the time they reached Chelsea, the fight had to come to an impasse, with both side asserting stubborn silence. The accident happened shortly thereafter, at the Junction of 16. It was late enough that there weren’t many other cars on the road, save one that they saw coming towards them in the opposite direction that had left its brights on. He flashed the highbeams twice (the universal sign to let the other guy know his brights on), but nothing changed.

The traffic light held green as they approached the intersection, so He kept driving, when the white hearse appeared, heading east on 16, and ran straight through the stop light and careened into the driver’s side of His car, sending it spinning out with enough force to leap the barrier. The trunk of His car collided with the oncoming car in the opposite line, knocked it directly into a telephone pole.

When His car stopped spinning, it was situated back on Route 1, mostly facing North. He peered out the driver’s side window, but it seemed the hearse had already escaped.

He then looked to his right. She was killed on impact.

Atlantic Avenue

Shattered shards of sunlight
off the greyish noontime clouds;
I am not tied down to the day.

Moisture still penetrates the air,
the sky is right, and I lace up my shoes,
music in my hand; a one-strap
backpack with cloth patches of bands
I haven’t listened to for years
but I’m stepping out,
so feet, don’t fail me now.

The inches of green that flutter and wave
goodbye: I’m led somewhere alive.
It buzzes and honks,
creates and destroys,
pollutes me with noise
but it’s alive.

My headphones drown
out the passing sounds,
suggesting the soundtrack
to the final scene of
another pretentious art house
film we should have never written.

Still, content, I march
towards the harbor
towards the sunset
of cliches, of every beautiful metaphor
that she’s already fallen for, but still
I’m stepping out:

Feet, don’t fail me now.

She offers me a penny for my thoughts.
“This is it,” I say, as I smile, laugh,
and make a wish.

St. Elsewhere

at half past, work is over; time
to watch the changing guards
as they dance their canine cares
away, or hide the smoky veil of truth
from pairs of pale men, pockets
lined, to brown bags hiding
closing time’s desires. There’s a fight
on either side–one with claws, and

one with knives. Across the street
They hide beneath the shade and
gamble lives, but no one on the
other side will stop to bat an eye.

While some may wear a leash of chains,
the other side is held as fast by bars
and by the rain and by the promise of
a supper that He prays is not His last:

Patron Saint of Somewhere Else, please
bring Us greener pastures and better days,
otherwise entitled to those good enough
to pay. So We laugh it off like child’s play,
endearing simple-minded pleasures–stay out
of the way, of the teeth They bare and call a game

beneath the watchful Eye of telephone lines.
There is a Man who stares across the street
in silence, and in envy, of another man’s best friend:

They will not let You play, and They will not let You in.