Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

On the Joy and Heartbreak of Nick Flynn

I just finished reading Nick Flynn’s memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. It’s poetic and genre-bending and satisfying and incredibly revealing–almost to the point of not wanting to know more. You’re reading about the alcoholic descent and endless grappling of Flynn as he tries to make sense of his mother’s suicide and his father’s absence; the wrecked relationships and alcohol abuse along the way are cringe-worthy, like the ubiquitous car crash you can’t take your eyes off. It’s one of those books that you hold in your hands, pages dwindling, as you find yourself battling the sadness that comes with a good book coming to an end.

At its core Suck City is the story of Flynn’s absent father, a man who was absent for the first part of Flynn’s life. Flynn Sr. went from success as an automobile salesman to a bank robber and self-styled a beatnik. The two men, despite living in Boston most of their lives, seem to circle each other (intentional or not) without meeting. Flynn’s job as a counselor at The Pine Street Inn, the area’s largest homeless shelter, brings him face-to-face with his father, who seeks a place to stay. This summary, however, does not do justice to the beauty of this memoir.

Most memoirs seem to dwell in maudlin melodrama or shocking details. While there are some revealing facts (Flynn’s attempts at coke or heroin, for example), this is a story of a non-existent, yet longed-for, father-son relationship.

In one of the most experimental and surreal passages, Flynn gives us a psychedelic play/dream sequence in which King Lear meets Santa Claus and the facts of Flynn’s family. Other things of beauty are Flynn’s descriptions of a mountain of donated clothes, a litany of phrases drunks utter, and a momentary reprieve in his childhood when he watched the World Cup with his brother and his suicidal mother. That knack for brutal honesty comes in handy as Flynn quietly draws into his life.

I wish I could put Nick Flynn‘s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City in the hands of all those people reading the Twilight books. Why can’t books worth reading find their way onto the best-seller lists instead of crap about vampires and werewolves?


Filed under: boston, homelessness, literature, writing, , , , , , , , ,

Save Boston’s Public Libraries

How many of us have relished the peace and community afforded by our libraries? I know that I’m not alone in my love for libraries: the quantifiable value of literature on shelves; the shared desire for knowledge acquisition; the simple pleasure of reading in a space in which you are seated at the same table as your fellow bookworm.

Sure, it’s great to access the Internet. But it’s even better to give yourself time to open the pages of a book and allow the ethereal process of reading to engulf your senses.

In Boston, the city has threatened to close 8-10 branch libraries. This is not a small number–10 out of 26 libraries is nearly half of the city’s public libraries. Mayor Menino and members of the City Council have decided that shuttering small libraries will help make up for the city’s $3.6 million budget shortfall.

It’s a shameful tactic to attack public libraries. What does the mayor have to do with the potential closings? According to the grassroots organization People of Boston:

The mayor appoints all of the trustees. The trustees are not vetted and are not confirmed by anyone. The trustees vote on the budget that goes to the city. Thus, it could be said that the mayor controls the budget that is sent to him. The mayor has also made his opinion clear, calling for the closure of branches (as well as community centers — schools are also at risk due to a budget gap). This is a choice that he has made despite the fact that he has the power (through city reserves) to fill the budget gap and he has a choice to push for cuts to state services instead.

My hunch is that the branches to be closed will not be chosen with the local community’s interest in mind, but because they are the least economically viable. Let’s hope that if it comes down to it (which I hope it doesn’t) that the closed branches will not be in the poorest neighborhoods of Boston: Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan. Join me and write an email to your city councilor to protest this wrong-headed move.

Filed under: boston, libraries, literature, , , , , ,

It ain’t over til the fat lady sings

If you haven’t already heard, on Saturday there will be protests across the country to repeal Proposition 8, California’s discriminatory law that bans gay men and lesbians from marriage. Our recent election showed that Americans do care, and do take action, and will show up in multitudes in support of a common cause.

Boston’s protest takes place at City Hall beginning at 1:30 pm. Don’t sit idly by, show up and fight for the civil right of marriage for all. [img from Flickr user backseatpilot]


Filed under: government, politics, , , ,

Making room for the Woot Woot Guy

How do you know you’re truly a Bostonian? The ability to relate the story of the Curse of the Bambino (and the way it was reversed two years ago) is one way. Navigating illogical, one-way streets or citing the best restaurants and bars in Dorchester or Jamaica Plain are also tell-tale signs of Bostonhood.

But the true mark of a Bostonian? You know about the Woot Woot Guy.

When I first moved here nearly 20 years ago, I remember walking down the sidewalk on Comm Ave with friends. We were among the many loud, immature B.U. kids screaming about how we scammed the T driver by throwing pennies in the machine instead of correct change (remember those clunky dinosaurs?), or headed over to the old Boston Garden to cheer for our alma mater in The Beanpot. But suddenly, out of nowhere, a booming voice calls out in that rhythmic holler so familiar to any true Bostonian.

Woot, woot, woot….

We nearly fell off the sidewalk to avoid an African American man on a large tricycle, his little American flag waving in the breeze. You know who I’m talking about.

I’m of the camp that says he’s yelling “woot, woot, woot…” Later, I thought he was yelling “whoop, whoop, whoop…” Recently, I learned he’s hollering “move, move, move…”

If you were ever curious, his name is Louie. And he’s got a Facebook group for all his loyal fans.


Filed under: boston, pop culture, , , ,

Who will pay for the T’s “Little Dig” Silver Line tunnel?

On the heels of the Big Dig’s official launch of the Kennedy Greenway (reminiscent of Bush’s faux-announcement of the end of the war in Afghanistan?), the MBTA is pushing forward plans to build a new tunnel to connect the two Silver Line bus routes that currently serve Roxbury and South Boston. The Globe reports that the MBTA does not mention how it will pay for the expense, other than requesting more loans from the federal government. Rider advocate groups against the new connector claim that those who utilize public transportation the most–low-income riders–will bear the most burden of the cost.

I have mixed feelings about the results of the Big Dig: at times, I zip from Dorchester to Cambridge through the tunnels; at other times, including 9:00 pm on a weeknight, I’m stuck creeping along South 95 from downtown to JFK/UMass. It’s like playing Russian Roulette. Not to mention the facts we all know of shoddy contractor work and dangerous construction.

Will a $1 billion dollar tunnel connecting both Silver Lines be a good thing or another disaster for Boston?


Filed under: government, Massachusetts, transportation, , , , , ,



» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
March 2018
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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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