My wife, baby kid and I have been on the road for nearly a month now and are flying back to Prague this evening. Currently, we’re holed up in my hometown of Belmont, MA, a town which – despite its close proximity to Boston – was once declared ‘Region’s Most Boring Town’ in a Boston Globe headline that I gleefully clipped out of the paper’s metro region section as a spiteful teenager. Belmont is so boring that, until recently, there was a law forbidding the sale of any booze within the teeny town confines, but that’s a blog rant for another day…
One of the poignant aspects of being home is all the Beavis-and-Butthead-type memories from junior high years that had nearly vanished from memory but come flooding back once I walk around the old neighborhood. This being my first trip back as a parent, these incidents somehow seem all the more comically juvenile and parochial in juxtaposition with my current ‘mature’ state.
Case in point: a few days ago, I walked by the bus stop where I used to idle away interminable periods waiting for the bus to come take me to more enlightened, boozing neighboring places like Cambridge and Boston. The site of the old bus stop immediately brought back a blazing hot summer day in 1989 or so when I was waiting around and spotted a big fat debauched-looking metalhead guy crossing the street with a brown paper bag under his arm and a weird dazed-yet-exalted expression on his face. ‘Hey, man,’ he cheerfully regaled me from halfway across the street. “What town is this?”
Always a good sign, I think as I yell back “Belmont!”
“Belmont,” he says, wincing slightly. “Last thing I remember, I was drinking at the Aku-Aku last night and musta blacked out…”
The Aku-Aku was an incredibly depressing-looking tiki bar located in cement mall in a corner of Cambridge near the Belmont border. It had a spinning plastic sign picturing the Easter Island statues that people had thrown innumerable rocks through. The Aku-Aku figures prominently in Caroline Knapp’s tell-all memoir of her years as a Boston-dwelling alcoholic, Drinking, A Love Story.
“… Next thing I know,” continues the metalhead, “I wake up and some fat bitch is on top of me, going… (mimes coitus)… so I said, (with great vigor:) ‘Get the fuck off me, give me some beer, some money and some sandwiches!'” At this point, he happily flashes open his paper bag to show me some beer and sandwiches lurking inside.
I spend a few minutes talking to this jolly reveler while we wait for the bus, eventually getting onto the subject of music and the Boston-area punk/metal band Bullet Lavolta in particular. He mentions being a big fan as well, and adds that they’ve had a big influence on his band. “Oh, what are you guys called?” I ask. “Sinister Minister,” he answers with great delectation.
At the time, this little meeting provided a much-appreciated rebuttal to the notion (apparently supported by Globe reportage) that nothing of interest EVER happened in this neighborhood. For a while, I would wait for the bus and look at the houses across the street, wondering where this sandwich-and-beer-dispensing seductress might live.
(Photo: corners of Belmont and Grove streets. Above-described incident happened in the left-hand corner of this scene).