In this installment of weird historical events, I’ll touch on The Great Molasses Disaster, one of my favorite wacky accidents, that devastated the North End of Boston. On January 15th, 1919, a storage container holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst, flooding the streets at 35mph and killing 21 people.
Now, let’s unpack this a little. First of all, let’s picture what 2.3 million gallons of anything coming at you like a soccer mom in a carpool lane. Not great. Now picture molasses: it’s gross, it’s sticky, it’s heavy, and the more you try and fight it, the quicker it’ll take you under, like some sweet-smelling version of quicksand. Now imagine you’re on your way home from one of the many amazing restaurants in the North End when you hear something that sounds like a freight train roaring down the street, enveloping you in some sticky bullshit that slowly drowns you.
Why did this happen? Simple physics is to blame. New England weather is wild, we can go from 60 degrees and sunny, to -5 and snowy, in the same day. That’s what happened ln January 15th. The molasses was previously warmed to make it easier to transport, but when the newly-delivered molasses met the previously-delivered cold molasses, the difference in heat caused the molasses to expand and puncture the container. Thankfully, storage regulations changed, and now there aren’t any more industrial accidents*.
After all the damage was done, and the flood of molasses was cleaned up, over $9.18 million dollars (adjusted for inflation) in damage was done. Locals say that on a hot day, you can still smell the molasses. I’ve been to the North End in the summer, and I don’t buy it, unless molasses smells like the combination of great Italian food, garbage, and stale beer.
I hate snow. It’s the worst part of winter. If you’ve never had to shovel snow, you’re lucky, it’s awful. Imagine this: it’s 7am, you’ve got to go to work in an hour, it’s 15 degrees out, the wind is blowing cold air straight into your brain, and there’s 200 pounds of frosty bullshit blocking your car in. You really can’t just ignore it, or it’ll freeze into an immoveable block of ice that won’t go away until May.
As I type this, it’s snowing out, which means that I’ll have to venture out into the snowy roads. There are few things worse than driving your crappy front-wheel drive sedan in the snow; you have to be careful turning, speeding up, slowing down, stopping, going uphill, going downhill, it’s just a nightmare. The only thing worst is how people from New England drive in the snow. You’d think they’d get used to it, but no, they still drive like nothing’s there, and end up running off the road, or crashing into each other. Every time I see some yokel in a giant SUV going 65 in a 30 with 5 inches of snow on the road, I wonder what’s going through their head, do they want to skid off the road into a snowbank, because that’s how you skid off thebroad into a snowbank.
Other than that, snow isn’t all bad; it’s pretty to look at, as long as I’m not planning on going anywhere and I’ve shovelled the important parts of my house. I love walking down the street during a snowstorm, looking at the snow-laden trees. I can only handle snow until New Years, anything after that just bugs the hell out of me and is an inconvenience.
Home can be complicated, it can be where you live, it can be where you sleep, it can be where you feel most comfortable. I’m incredibly blessed to not only have a home, but to have a home away from home, away from home. Finnegan’s is where I went for my 21st birthday, and ever since I’ve felt at home there. Finnegan’s is such a big part of my life, so many noteworthy things have happened here; my friend Tim realized his girlfriend was the worst when she drove an hour and a half down to the bar because Tim didn’t respond to a text fast enough, it’s where I realized that I really like bluegrass music, it’s where I feel the most comfortable outside the creative prison I call my house, it’s where I discovered the second-best burger in town.
Finnegan’s is not your average dive bar, it’s 50% Dick’s Last Resort, 25% 1960’s watering hole, and 25% hipster hangout. If you can’t tell, I love this place, it’s where I feel relaxed, and that’s really important to me because there are so few places I can let my guard down and bullshit with the best of them. I have this annoying habit of trying to get out of my own head by listening to other people’s conversations, and the conversations I’ve overheard are worthy of their own podcast.
I have this really bad habit of losing faith in my writing ability when my posts don’t get viewed, and Fin’s, as my friends and I call it, is where I go to decompress and hide from the world. Fin’s is my Narnia: I can hide from the world here, I really need to do that sometimes.
Some people are afraid to come to Finnegan’s. Those same people probably wear life jackets in the pool. Fin’s may be a little rough around the edges, but that’s what I like about it, I’ll never have to worry about it being crowded, or the prices going up, or if they’ll run out of my favorite beer. Fin’s is consistent, it’s the Curren$y of bars: you know exactly what you’re going to get, and sometimes it’s better.
The people that come to Finnegan’s are a special breed, I’ve been offered cocaine, I’ve seen off-duty cops gossip like school girls, I’ve seen parents bitch about their kids, I’ve seen a 17-year old with a fake ID literally thrown out of the bar. I feel more confident talking to people at Fin’s than I do anywhere else, and that concerns me, I should be able to talk to people everywhere, but nobody’s perfect. I don’t know if I should be concerned that my creative juices flow best at a bar, or that the bartender has my drink waiting for me when she sees me, but I do know that this place is important to me, and is partly responsible for the man I am today.
For my friend’s birthday, we decided to do something different for a change and go to Boston for a night out. It went poorly. The journey in was a nighmare, but I thought it was just a momentary road block. Turns out, it was just the first thing to go wrong.
The Game Plan
We had a decent game plan: my friend Caleb and I would drive into the city early, get a parking spot that was affordable (not easy to do in Boston on a Friday night), and wait for my other friend Sherman to take the train to North Station. Easy peasy right? Wrong.
To The City
After arriving at Caleb’s house, we begin our trek into the city. Since Caleb used to drive into the city every day for work, he drives in, since I’m a very bad city driver, and would like to survive the night. It turns out this would be one of the better choices I made that night. Driving into the city on a Friday is one thing, but it was also Halloweekend, and there was a Celtics game that night, so we couldn’tve had worse timing. Cars littered the Mass Pike like some post-apocalyptic wasteland, none of them moving for minutes at a time. Wonderful. 20 minutes later, we were finally in Boston. Our next challenge was dealing with Boston drivers, who are a whole different species than regular drivers. Our welcome into the city was performed by a Silver Honda who had blocked both lanes.
Now, I’m pretty tolerant of stupid people, but this guy was too much, not only did he block both lanes, preventing anyone else from passing, but it turned out he was waiting to pick someone up. After almost getting hit by 3 additional morons, we arrive to the parking garage had in mind. I knew the night had taken a turn when I saw the two worst words you can see on a parking garage: “Lot Full” Great, now we have to find another one that’s not too far away, and isn’t going to scalp my wallet. After driving a additional 10 minutes around the Seaport, we got lucky: a lot for only 7 dollars an hour, an oasis in a sea of 50 dollar parking. I get my ticket, and put it straight in my wallet as I always do. Thank God I did.
Now for the fun part: finding one person in a sea of thousands leaving the TD Garden after a Celtics win.
After walking a mile and a half in the blistering Boston wind, Caleb and I arrive at the Garden. We looked for Sherman for around 10 minutes before calling him, apparently he was waiting on the other side of the street, which explains why we couldn’t find him. We eventually pick him out of a crowd of drunk basketball fans who were singing a barely-recognizable version of Don’t Stop Believing. After finally meeting up, we decide to nix our plan and go straight for the nearest bar that didn’t look crazy packed.
Now, I’m not a big “crowds” guy, so I usually avoid crowded bars and places where I have to yell to talk, but I’m trying to get out and be more outgoing and such, so I thought it would be good for me to go to a more populated place. Within 45 seconds of arriving, I reconsidered my decision. The bar that had looked so empty and quiet on the outside was actually packed to the rafters with Finance bros in their Brooks Brothers suits and Patagonia vests. The only upside of this location was how quickly I was served a beer, the bartender was on top of her game, and I appreciated how quickly I had a beer in my hand. After learning that thevbar had a second floor, we mosey on over, taking an elevator up. I’d never drank beer in an elevator before, it was pretty cool. After reaching the second floor, we see that while it is less packed than downstairs, this part of the bar is still overpopulated with Patagonias. Surprisingly, we find a table and sit down. As I sip my overpriced beer, I start to be immersed in the conversations around me, none of them very interesting, most about basketball, the rest about how much working in Finance rocks, and how laid they’re going to get. Way to break stereotypes there guys. We finish our drinks and decide not to stay at this expensive post-graduation frat house. As we leave, Caleb suggests we stop at Pizzeria Regina, an amazing pizza place that’s open until the wee hours of the night. It’s half a mile away.
Rejuvenation at Regina’s
As we walk to Regina’s, I notice that we are very far away from our parking lot, and that we have quite a trek ahead of us on our way back. That didn’t matter, I was fixated on having a couple slices of amazing pizza and a beer or two, everything else was unimportant at the time. Just as we’re starting to have second thoughts, we see it: the giant neon sign for Regina.
We made it. After a brief wait, the server seats us and takes our order. Now, my pizza taste is a little odd, I’ve been in this pesto sauce mood lately, so I’ve been experimenting with different toppings. Tonight, I ordered a bacon pizza with pesto sauce. 5 minutes later, the server comes back with a chicken and pesto pizza, which isn’t a problem for me, but our server felt so bad that she offered to put extra bacon on it for no extra charge. How nice of her. After another couple minutes, she drops off this monster of a pizza with more toppings than cheese, and we all dig in like it’s our last meal on Earth. After we finish our beers and pizza, we begin the long walk back to the parking lot.
Finding the Car
By this point, it’s 12:30, and I’m starting to get tired, but we have a 3 mile hike before I can sit down and relax, so I figured the only way through it is to do it. We made it about a mile before I realize that the address on the parking ticket is for the wrong garage, and we’d been walking in the wrong direction for 20 minutes. Shit. Usually, every parking ticket I’ve ever gotten has the address and name of the garage, making it easy to find where you parked. Not this one. After having a mini panic attack at the thought of losing my car in Boston at 1 in the morning, my mind starts working. I check the GPS tracking app on my phone to see where we had stopped, and after double-checking with Google that it was indeed the place, we resume our journey. Around 30 minutes later, we arrive at where my GPS says my car is. There’s just one problem: it’s not the right lot. Now I really start freaking out, Caleb’s got work at 730, I’ve got to come in early myself, it’s going to be at least an hour and a half before I get home, and I can’t find my car. Things are looking bleak. After pacing around the area thinking of a plan, I see it, the most beautiful sight I’d seen all night: my car. After letting out a scream of joy, we rush over to the car, pay the 18 dollars for our parking, and get the Hell out of Boston. It’s 1:30.
The Journey Home
Now, I’d say Caleb drove like a bat out of Hell, but that wouldn’t accurately describe how fast this man left the city. I’d liken it to how a husband drives his wife to the hospital when she’s in labor. What’s usually a 45 minute drive took us 32, which I was thankful for. As we near Sherman’s car, Caleb starts looking tired, and his driving skills start to suffer. Seeing ad he had to get up in 4 hours, I decide to take over and let him rest a bit. As I sped home, I thought about how we’d laugh at how terrible this night was later. When I finally arrived back at my house, it was 3:15am. I set my alarm clock for 8:30, cringing when I saw how much time I had before I had to wake up.
I could’ve stayed home, watched Mad Men, and been asleep by 11:30. This is why I don’t like to leave my house.
I don’t know about you, but living in a small orchard town in Massachusetts, fall is a pretty big deal. It starts in September, with the Instagram pictures of girls going apple picking and drinking pumpkin lattes and pumpkin beer while eating pumpkin muffins.This goes on until the 3rd week of September.
Next, you start seeing Tweets about how people “Can’t wait for spooky season!” This is when you know you’re in too deep. By this point, stores start putting out Thanksgiving decorations and begin to spray cinnamon inside to spark the whole “Fall” experience off. Now, if you haven’t read my posts before, you should know that I’m not really a festive person, and all the corny fall things make me angry. Or so I thought.
The transition started off with a wimper; one of my friends has been wanting to go apple picking for weeks, and since I already went for my annual trip with my mother, my quota for apple picking excursions was filled, but I figured it’d be nice to get out of the house, so I told her I’d go. We’re driving past, and it’s a madhouse, (on a holiday, no surprise), so we decide to meet some more of our friends at a nearby winery. This brings me to Basic Fall Activity #2: Wine Tastings.
Now, I like wine, but I’m not a connoisseur, I don’t understand where people get flavors like “burnt toffee and citrus” I just taste white wine. With that in mind, I went into this wine tasting with low expectations. Boy, was I wrong. We get there, and for 10 dollars, not only do I get 5 glasses of wine to try, I also get a fancy wine glass. Things are starting to click with me. I get why people like this now.
5 glasses of wine later, I’m starting to enjoy myself. I start to look around the winery, and I notice it’s got an amazing view of the changing leaves. I spent way too much time looking at the leaves, I have a new appreciation for foliage, and for malbecs.
After buying a bottle, we leave the winery, while debating on what to do next. I have a sudden craving for apple cider donuts, and by this point all the families at the orchard should be gone, so we swing back over to the orchard for some hot and ready donuts. Upon arrival, I find that the donut prices have gone down, and that I can get 6 donuts for a lot less than the 3 I had originally planned on devouring. There’s nothing like a hot, sugary donut 5 seconds off the donut machine. After consuming 3 donuts in half the time it probably took to make them, I decided that I needed to walk around and burn off some of these calories, because that’s something I care about sometimes.
My fall stroll was a lot nicer than I expected; the air was cool, but not cold, and there was a slight breeze that kept the bugs off me. I should’ve taken pictures, maybe I’ll upload some next time I’m in the mood for a stroll, because the orchard provided a spectacular view of the changing leaves. I totally understand why boring New York people drive hours at a time to come see them, they really are cool.
It started to get dark out, so naturally I ended my stroll. Conveniently, the apple orchard is within walking distance of my house, so I mosey on home and make myself some dinner. About an hour after I finish eating, another one of my friends texts me “Do you wanna drink beer and chop down trees for a fire?” Usually, the answer to that question would be “Hell no, I’m not messing with a chainsaw after a day of drinking.” Not today. Said friend, knowing my penchant for hating Fall activities, followed up with “The Packers game is on”, knowing that I love to see Aaron Rogers lose.
When I get to my buddy’s house, and the first thing I see is a veritable graveyard of Bud Lite cans and Skol Wintergreen laying on the deck. Shocker. In the distance, a voice rang out: “Caleb, you lil’ tit-fucker, grab my ax, I’ll show you howta split wood like you’ve still got some fuckin’ balls!” Well, that’s not what I imagined I’d walk into, but I dig it. I sit back and watch my two redneck friends argue about woodcutting techniques while I sit back and sip a beer. This whole “fall” thing isn’t actually that bad after all.