It's not about the house.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Blow This Town

Here's what happened:

We had these Irish girls staying with us a few weeks ago (they’re 24 and 27, but Johnny’s known them since before they were born so to us they will always be The Girls) and while they were here we were speculating as to how this particular friend of ours - let's call him Andy - manages to get so drunk so quick. He'll work till eight and show up at our door at nine o'clock just buckled and we didn't know how that was physically possible.

So the girls and I were debating the possibility that Andy starts his drinking on the clock, when the older of them asked: "Does he smoke blow?"

What? No! My god!

The truth is I have no idea whether he does or not but what kind of a question is that? Do people even smoke cocaine? I suppose they do, but she said it so nonchalantly... do her friends smoke cocaine? Does she? She's 27 years old but still lives with her parents and they trusted us with her, is this now something I’m going to have to talk to them about? Oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap oh -- oh...! Wait a second...

"Do you mean, like, pot?"

"Yeah," she says. "Grass."

"Oh christ," I sigh. "I don’t know. Probably." Phew! (Oh come on, even Nancy Reagan would have to admit that that was a relief.)

"Why?," she asks. "What did you think I meant?"

Still not so sure how far to go with this, I stammer "Um, well, here, in this country, 'blow' means coke."

"Ah," she says, not fazed at all. "That’s why that movie’s called that? The one with Johnny Depp in it?"

Uh... yeah. I mean, I assume so. I haven't seen it.


The movie Blow (which I promptly rented because I thought it behooved me as a parent-by-proxy to keep up with all the latest druggy films) opens with a voice-over. Johnny Depp, faking some sort of accent, says (and I'm paraphrasing here): "I grew up in New England. Massachusetts, actually. In a town called -----."

Wait, what? I live in -----!

I didn't grow up here or anything. We just moved in a couple years ago and I haven't yet been able to figure the place out. Andy - who gets shithoused in an hour - he did grow up here, but he can be hard to talk to when he's passed out on the couch. So I sit up and pay attention to the movie, try to see if I can gain a little insight as to why they chose this particular town as the birthplace of this particular character...

A little later on, Johnny Depp is dealing pot in California when a friend suggests he start selling back home. Talking about sales potential, the friend says "Think of all the colleges within a 60-mile radius of Boston!" and then names five that are much farther away than that: "UMass, Amherst," he says, "Smith and Hampshire. Holyoke." Then he repeats, with emphasis, "Holyoke...!" Like: Holy crap could we clean up at that school!

I went to Holyoke!

This is getting spooky. I'm starting to wonder if there's some cosmic message just for me implanted in the subtext of the movie, wondering if I'll be able to decipher it without the help of Irish blow, when Depp's character gets arrested and thrown in jail in Danbury, Connecticut...

I served time in Danbury!

No, I didn't. I've never been to Danbury. The Holyoke thing is true, though, and you have to admit that it is an odd coincidence. But what I really want to talk about is this town - let's call it Townville - that Andy and I and this movie drug dealer call home.


We moved here about three years ago, for no reason other than it's where we found a house we could afford. I know you're supposed to think about location when it comes to real estate but, really, when you've got $250K to spend in a half-million-dollar market, you take what you can get.

So, Townville.

Literally over a bridge from the city we lived in before we bought the house (and where we were quite content), Townville - we thought - would be just a technicality. Just a half-mile and that bridge between us and our same-old, happy lives.

Except that bridge turns out to be a drawbridge. And at first I thought that it was quaint, hearing the boats blow their whistles and watching the cars line up in wait - but now I think it's just a cruel and taunting metaphor...

Maybe I'm exaggerating. I have that tendency sometimes. Some of the quirks, I'm sure, are just general small-town oddness and xenophobic animosity. Folks wander in the yard, for example - or even right into the house - telling us what we "need" to do, offer to do it for a price, then sniff when we say we plan to do the work ourselves. That could happen anywhere, I guess. Dog-walkers hail us from the sidewalk to tell us what's wrong with our lawn, then let their pets unload all over it when we aren’t looking. Not town-specifically obnoxious, I suppose. Neighbors ring the bell wanting us to buy our meat from them out of the back of a refrigerated truck, and -

Wait, that last one’s weird, right? It’s not just me?

See, that's the thing, it's like Twin Peaks around here. Just when things start seeming normal, all of a sudden - meat!

Look, I know it's not 1957 anymore, and I didn't exactly expect welcome wagons packed with popcorn balls and paper signs. But I didn't expect Johnny to get beaten up and left for dead in a snowbank, either, just for being Irish. Irish! In Boston - and the rest of this state, for that matter - Irishmen don't even count as immigrants but here, in Townville, being an Irishman can get you killed. That's not normal, right? I mean, it's not 1957 but it sure as hell isn't 1857 either...

To be fair, we'd been here for six months when that happened, so maybe it was about a little more than his inherent other-ness. But then, Johnny's nephew stayed with us for a while, and after six months he got beat up too, and he's Irish as well. So maybe there's some sort of rule or something? At least Nephew could and did go promptly home, however. We - according to the census, anyway - were there already. And with the market taking a nose dive, it looks like we'll be stuck here for a while.

But it's not like we don't have options. The guy down the street hung himself in his garage, which prompted a friend to share the fact that Townville has the highest suicide rate in the state of Massachusetts. Three hundred fifty-one towns including Boston and the entire wintry Cape - and Townville beats them all.

That's not funny, and I shouldn't be making jokes about it. But the thing is, I bet all those folks did not set out to kill themselves. I bet they were just trying to get out of town when the bridge went up, and they - like Thelma and Louise - just kept on goin'...

There's a guy on The Daily Show who hails from Townville. He came home for Christmas last month and the Boston Globe tagged along with him to a local pizza joint. While they were there somebody offered to punch the photographer for taking pictures, and - as the Globe wrote - "[The actor] summed up the absurdity of the situation neatly: 'I love [Townville]. Looooove [Townville]. If you don’t get into a fight, you’re not doing it right.'"

All I'm saying is, seems like a good choice of place for a sociopath to hail from.


The movie's over. I didn't find anything else in it about me, so at least that's reassuring. But - wait a second. All of a sudden there's this actual photo on the screen of an actual guy, and actual text explaining... what's it say? "Mr. Drug Dealer is still serving time in wherever etc., and he hopes to be paroled in xxx."

Wait a second. This is a true story?

I'm sorry, Mister Sociopath. I didn't mean to say bad things about your town. Johnny probably deserved the beating that he got - the nephew, too. Damn Irish. And I, well, why wouldn't I want to buy my meat from a friendly neighborhood dealer - I mean pusher - I mean connection - I mean oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap...


I still don't understand how Andy gets so drunk so fast the way he does. But I think, perhaps, I'm beginning to understand the reasons why...

1 comment:

Shana-a friend said...

I am trying to catch up on this blog thing. As you can see I am quite behind.
This cracked me up. Now I have to go and rent Blow.
I once saw two movies in a weekend, both with Jennifer Grey in it--Ferris and Dirty Dancing-yep it was a long time ago--I don't get out much now that I have babies. Well the connection here is that in one (Dirty Dancing) Baby is introduced as having been accepted to Mount Holyoke and in Ferris the Jennifer Grey character says to Martin Sheen seductively, "My friends call me Shana." Coincidence? Maybe.