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section of Flynn’s in which people eat, as opposed to the part in which
they drink and wait, is huge and rambling. There are several rooms,
added one by one as the restaurant has grown over the last two hundred
something years, linked by passages that turn at unpredictable places and
rise and fall wherever the growing Flynn’s burst through the wall of an
adjoining building. The dining rooms are brightly lit, blinding in
contrast with the lounge, as if a sharp moral distinction had been made
between eating and drinking, a New England attitude imposed: drinking,
like sex, is a furtive, dirty occupation, to be done in the dark, but eating
is wholesome, and, as long as you do it neatly, you may do it with the
lights on. After an hour in the lounge, when one moves into the light
one is apt to experience what BW has called
. . . the penitential squint exacted from the daytime drinker,
the squint that we make involuntarily when we’ve been drinking in the afternoon
at that little spot on Newbury Street we favor and come out into the low
winter sun and are made to feel that we have been doing something wrong,
that this painful squint and its accompanying unwilled rearward jerk of
the head are what we deserve, and we hang our head, a head already beginning
A group of ten is being seated at a long table.
The five facing Matthew are obviously related. One of them is the
grandmother of the clan, it seems, and Matthew guesses that she’s being
feted. They look to him like the sort of family that doesn’t get
together unless there’s a reason, an obligation. All of them have
the grandmother’s curly hair, and all, male and female, wear it at nearly
the same length. They all have her bulbous nose, too.
People come to Flynn’s for celebrations, as this
group has done, because they regard it not so much as a place to eat as
a place to be experienced, and the experience is supposed to be shared
with friends. Everyone’s supposed to get together just like old times—it’s
been so long since we’ve gotten together—and have a hell of a good
time. Matthew has never liked going out under such circumstances.
There’s always a false heartiness in the conversations, something too boisterous,
like the false intimacy of salesmen who call him Matt or the phony camaraderie
among people who work together but have nothing else in common.
AT THE TABLE, they are greeted by a waitress who makes a show of bustling
around, to establish right off the bat that she’s responsible for the feeding
of dozens of people, not just this paltry sampling of humanity, and that
she will not tolerate long periods of pondering and hesitation. A
breezy “Hi, folks. Welcome to Flynn’s. All set for drinks here?”
They get themselves on her wrong side right away
by exhibiting some indecision, since they have been doing various amounts
of drinking in the lounge. She puts her hand on her hip and frowns
while they hem and haw.
“Sure,” says Richard finally. “I’ll have a
Jack Daniel’s on the rocks.”
“A glass of chardonnay,” says Effie.
“Anderson’s Denver Beer,” says Jack. He doesn’t
“I’ll have that, too,” says Belinda.
“I’ll have a—”
Matthew stops himself. If he has a martini,
it will be his fourth. That would be a mistake.
“—a Dewar’s and soda,” he says, making not as great
a mistake, perhaps.
“Okay,” says the waitress, “let me tell you about
the menu. We’re out of swordfish, the soup of the day is split pea,
and the special dessert is tapioca pudding. Would you like a few
“Oh, definitely,” Matthew says.
The waitress bustles off, and Belinda almost snickers,
which pleases Matthew.
“Jack,” he asks, “why did you want to come here?
Of all the places we might have gone, why are we in a place where—unless
I’m just having a nightmare—the special dessert is tapioca pudding?”
“Ahh,” he says. “Because I’m looking for a
place to shoot a beer commercial. It has to be someplace that says
‘Boston’ to the rest of the country, and that’s why I chose this.
There’s going to be a whole series of these commercials. They’ll
have famous people who’re supposed to be hanging out in their favorite
pubs, taverns, lounges, restaurants, whatever. That’s why I wanted
to come to Flynn’s. What do you think?”
“‘Well?’ What do you mean, ‘Well’? It’s
great. Fits right in with the whole marketing concept, which is so
devious, so fiendishly brilliant, that I drop to my knees in front of it
every morning and kowtow. Figuratively speaking. Complete this
sentence: The grass is—”
“Always greener on the other side of the fence,”
says Belinda in a rush, as if there were a prize at stake.
Jack bangs his spoon against his beer bottle.
“I knew you were the smartest one in the bunch,” he says to Belinda.
“I could see it in those sea-green eyes. Mmmm. Where was I?
Oh, yes. Anderson’s.” He holds up his bottle. “‘If it’s
Anderson’s it’s pure and sturdy and tasty, and if it’s pure and sturdy
and tasty it must be Anderson’s! Anderson’s Original Denver Beer.’
Or Anderson’s Original Anywhere Beer. Even as we speak, Anderson’s
is in the process of building small regional breweries all across this
great nation. And before the year is out, they’ll be brewing Anderson’s
Original San Antonio Beer, Anderson’s San Francisco Beer, Chicago Beer,
New Orleans Beer, Memphis, Atlanta, and so on. And soon, Boston.”
A chorus of uh-huhs. He’s got them all listening.
“They’re all franchises, turnkey operations.
Now here’s the thing, the genius part. You can’t buy Anderson’s in
the city where it’s brewed. You can only buy it someplace else.
So you can buy Denver Beer in Boston, but when the Boston brewery is in
operation, you’ll have to go to Denver or someplace to buy Boston Beer.
You see? You get it? Because it’s brewed in Denver, people
in the East think of it almost as imported. Exotic. The beer
from distant Colorado. It’s got that Denver cachet, and that means
“And Boston Beer is going to have that Boston cachet?”
“Sure! Sure! See, that’s the attitude,
right there. The grass is greener. You don’t think Boston’s
anything special, because you live here, but they’ll be suckin’ down Boston
Beer in Denver, because it’s got that Boston cachet. Of course, they’ll
also be sucking down a lot of Manhattan Beer and Memphis Beer and so on.
à son cachet.”
“But Jack, why this place?” Matthew asks.
“I thought people were interested in all the changes in Boston. Vitality,
booming economy, high-tech, waterfront development, that kind of thing.
Why not pick a place full of young, gorgeous people whose pockets are stuffed
with disposable income? Aren’t they the target?”
“Oh, yeah. Definitely. They’re the target.
The people you described, young people with money to spend, they’re the
target, but young people with money to spend who live in Boston
are not the target of this ad. They’re the target of the ads
we film in San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Chicago. Right?
See what I’m getting at?” He leans across the table and takes Matthew’s
chin in his hand. “Aren’t you listening to me, Matthew?” he
asks. “How many of those Scotches have you had?”
“This is my first,” says Matthew, emphatically.
“Well, then pay attention, will you? I fly
all the way out here just to explain this to you, and you can’t get your
mind off Luanne’s sweet little ass.”
“I wasn’t thinking about Luanne’s sweet little ass,”
says Matthew. “I swear to God I wasn’t.” But he reddens, since
the image of Luanne’s bottom and the memory of two piglets in a single
sack return together.
“This is the whole concept,” says Jack. “Anderson’s
does no national advertising. It’s all regional, and it’s
all based on the idea that most people think they’d be happier someplace
else. If we shoot here, in Flynn’s, you can be sure the place will
be full of young beautiful types, and when we run the ad in Cleveland or
Missoula, it’s going to look like ‘Oh, yeah, that’s Boston, that’s just
the way I thought it would look, and look at all those hip, gorgeous Boston
people getting rich on high-tech whatever and drinking Anderson’s Boston
Beer.’ You see? It’s genius. I’m not going to be modest.
It’s genius. I mean, look around you. What do you see?
Everybody here but us is from Ohio. Except for these Japanese guys.”
He gesticulates toward a table at which two Japanese men in business suits
are tying lobster bibs around their necks. His gesture catches their
eye. “Ohio?” he says, nodding. “Ohio?” They nod and smile.
“Well, them, too,” says Jack. “So you see? Everybody in Ohio
wants to live in Boston. And that’s what we’re selling. We’re
selling a young, successful life-style, and we’re selling Boston or Denver,
and we’re selling every other city in America that anybody wants to live
“What about beer? Aren’t you selling beer?”
This comes from Richard, and there might be an edge to it, though he’s
smiling in the boyish way he has.
“Hey. Of course I’m selling beer. And
it’s good beer. I’m not kidding. It’s good beer.” He
looks to Belinda, who nods enthusiastically. “Have you tried it?”
he asks Richard.
“Oh, sure,” says Effie. “A few times.
I like it, but it’s not that easy to find, you know.”
“Yeah, well, right now the Denver stuff is all you
can get, all there is. But you wait till next summer. It’ll
be Anderson’s from coast to coast. Let’s all have some. Waitress!
Miss? Hoo-hah, waitress? Bring us some more of that dee-licious
Anderson’s Denver Beer, will you? Bring five of them, okay?
I want my friends to try it.” To them he says, “You’re going to like
this. I wouldn’t push the crap if I thought it was crap.”
They all laugh at this, and he grins. “Well,
maybe I would,” he says. “Who knows? Got to keep gas in the
Porsche, right? Oh, but listen, listen. I have had this
idea. Great idea. I’m talking art now, social commentary, and
an excellent way to write off a month’s vacation. I’m going to tour
America, in the Porsche, and I’m going to visit a McDonald’s wherever
I stop. Or a Burger King. Whatever.”
Matthew thinks of mentioning the graffito about
used uniforms from Burger King. Not now, of course, but when Jack
finishes. They might find it interesting, they might be interested
in the whole idea of someone who goes around town writing these careful
messages about himself and his life. When Jack finishes, he
“And I’m going to interview the help,” Jack is saying.
“Teenage kids, managerial trainees, housewives, golden geezers, whoever’s
working there who will talk to me. Well, anybody who’s an interesting
type, anyway, interesting looking. Interview them all in their McDonald’s
uniforms, and get them to talk about what makes this part of the country,
wherever I happen to be, this town or city, or region, whatever, different.
Why is it special here? And I’ll shoot each McDonald’s as
if it were the only one in the fucking world, you know? ‘Here we
are in Muncie, Indiana.’ Title under the pimply face of some kid:
‘Muncie, Indiana.’ Maybe no voiceover. Maybe I’ll stay out
of this completely. Just the people speaking for themselves.
‘Muncie is, well, gee, it’s just so swell. I can’t think why
anybody’d ever want to live someplace else, like one of them cities.’
Or maybe the kid doesn’t say that, maybe he says, ‘Ah, Muncie sucks.
Nothin’ ever happens here. I wish t’ hell I could get ’nough money
together to get to New York.’ Then cut to New York.
Black kid in his McDonald’s uniform. ‘Man, New York is the place.
It is the only place.’ Mmm, I don’t know. That might
be a little too manipulative. I don’t think I want to make the points
as heavily as that, you know. Maybe just start in L. A., and drive.
Shoot fifty Mickey D’s in order, and leave them in that order. I
don’t know. I’ll have to see what comes up. I’m thinking of
writing up a proposal for a grant for this. I’m not shitting you.
I can see this on cable. Or public television, brought to you by
a ‘grahnt from the Mowbil Oil Cawpawration,’ or maybe even a grahnt from
McDonald’s. Or Anderson’s.”
Matthew isn’t sure what he thinks of this idea.
It does sound like an interesting commentary on something, the homogenization
of American life, the changing aspirations of American youth, the assumptions
underlying the Anderson’s commercials, or something, but he isn’t sure
whether Jack is serious.
“I think it has possibilities,” says Jack.
He seems serious, but Matthew has been fooled before.
“So do I,” says Richard. “I really do.
I think it makes a statement about the homogenization of American culture.
Maybe about the survival of regional differences. Individuality.
I think you’ve got something. I really do.”
Jack nods gravely. For a moment, Matthew wishes
he’d spoken first. He’s sorry that he let Richard get in ahead of
him with praise for Jack’s idea. Then Jack says, “Should be a great
way to nail a lot of teenage girls, too.”
Effie punches him, Jack laughs, Richard frowns,
and Matthew chuckles, glad that he kept his mouth shut.