[Note April 2015: I apologize for the egregious grammar mistakes present throughout this post; I think I was in a bad mood. I also apologize for the outdateness….let’s just say, things done changed in 8 years. The only thing that’s been changed is Number 39].
To anyone who cares…….I just made it to 67 on this list and called it quits……and my computer froze like it never froze before. I was literally on my last sentence, and wanted to make a word italics….and my attempt to make a word italics in my last sentence killed the computer. I ended up taking out the battery. When I came back, all my progress was gone. This wasn’t supposed to happen because WordPress saves it like every minute and a half, and its not saved on a hardrive, its served on that thing called the Internet….so I don’t know why its gone. But its gone. Why am I telling you this? Because I am now sick with rage, and will probably never finish this. If I tried to re-write what I just wrote, I’d just get angry, since I spent about an hour and half writing it. Just to let you know: I wrote about Redbones; a bunch of bars and restaurants; a funny story about McDonalds. But because computers in general just ruined my night, I will probably not finish this out of spite. Sorry. Maybe someday. -Greg
“Kid, I’m from Somerville.”
-kid from Somerville
Note: Hey everyone who started this article earlier: I’m not tired anymore, so I’m here to add more. Not gonna make it to 100 right now, that’s for sure, but I’m gonna try to squeeze like ten things in here. I want to give a big shout of thanks to the folks over at the Somerville Blog, located at Townline: they mentioned this article in a post on Friday (see here), and its brought a lot of readers. Thanks guys. They also encouraged people to leave comments on their blog to help me out: honestly, its not that I was out of ideas, I was just exhausted. Someone left an additional 46 reasons why Somerville is great in there. Hey, its a little food for thought.
A couple more notes: a couple people mentioned that I shouldn’t use the term ‘Spanish’ when referring to Hispanic or Latino people. Good point…..the thing is, I went to school with a lot of Hispanic kids, and I was always white, and they were always Spanish, and that’s the way it was. In my attempt to not offend anyone, I’ve changed the wording. Also, several people mentioned Somerville being the birthplace of Fluff. Umm, last I checked, Fluff was invented in Lynn. But hey, no matter, I’ll look into it.
Anyway, if you’ve already started this, just drop down to 45 and start reading.
In case you didn’t know, I’m from Somerville, Mass. (02143, 02144, 02145), a city of about 77,000 right outside of Boston. I haven’t been writing much lately, so I’ve decided to put my projects shitty ideas for articles on hold for the moment and write about something with which I am infinitely familiar: my hometown.
The thing is: Somerville kind of gets a bad rap these days. Its known for crime and drugs by many; for others, its known as a place where nerdy young professionals who don’t want to live in Cambridge. Honestly, having grown up there, both of these stereotypical views of the city are filled with truths (as are most stereotypes….hey, stereotypes aren’t born out of the air).
But I’m not here to talk about drugs, crime, or yuppies: I’m here to talk about 100 reasons my the city I grew up in, Somerville, kicks freaking ass. Here goes nothing.
- There’s a decent softball league, complete with nine teams, that plays throughout the summer. Say what you want: not all softball leagues are competent. And I’m not saying that the league I’m playing in is the best: half the time the umps are on their cellphones, and a good section of left field (right by the fouline) is under construction. But its pretty cool that we play under the lights every night: not every town has that option.
- There’s also a decent outdoor basketball league, located at the same place: Trum Field. Even if you’re not playing, its cool to watch a good quality b-ball game under the nights in the summer: trust me, I remember from high school. And there’s enough competiveness that its kept interesting (I haven’t watched one of these games since high school, but still).
- Speaking of Trum Field: did you know that Paul Revere rode right by here on his famous ride (I don’t think he ever actually left Medford’s city limits, which is right across the street from Trum, but he still rode within spitting distance.
- Speaking of history: If you walk down Willow Ave. where its one way, towards Elm St. (and eventually Mass. Ave and Cambridge), you’ll pass a bike shop on the corner (WheelWorks). And as you come around this corner onto Elm St., you’ll see a gravestone, which is awkwardly facing the street (where cars are parked). So as you walk by on the sidewalk and glance at it, it is a blank slab or granite. But if you stop, and walk around so that you are actually standing in the street or on the curb, you will see its front. And there it proclaims: “A sharp firefight took place at this spot, April 19, 1775. Five British soldiers lay here.” (The wording may not be perfect: I’ll have to walk down there and check.) This is literally a five minute walk from where I grew up. It sort of makes me shudder to think that from my parent’s backyard, in 1775, these gunshots would have been heard very clearly. The thing is that I walked past this grave stone numerous times during my childhood, and never actually looked at it. It wasn’t until I was in 7th grade, and walking home from school one day, that I actually stopped and looked at it. Being a history buff I loved this, but still….you’ve gotta admit its kinda cool (there’s a very similar one on Mass Ave. in Arlington, MA).
- Speaking of WheelWorks: Its one of the best bike repair places in the Boston area (but very expensive!)
- Speaking of bikes: One of the best custom bike places in the country is located in Somerville (Independent Fabrication). Seriously…..I never knew about it till my friend who is really into bikes told me about it.
- Going back to sports: The travelling baseball team, sponsored by Tony Alibrandi’s barbershop, is always among the top one or two teams in the league. They’re pretty damn good.
- Just to be a dweeb: Doug Flutie plays in a senior baseball league, and has played at Trum twice: last year, about 3 days after retiring from the NFL, he was playing second base. This year, he was pitching.
- And to keep talking about professional athletes: former Major League Baseball player Paul Sorrento (played from 1989 to 1999) is from Somerville.
- More famous people: You know that song, “The Moster Mash”? You that guy who wrote it….Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett. You know where he’s from. Yah, that’s right….Somerville.
- Speaking of music: One of my favorite classical composers, Alan Hovhaness, is from Somerville. Interesting stuff about Hovhaness; he’s actually half Armenian, just like myself (my last name’s Hovanesian). His full name is Alan Vaness Chakmakjian. He was born in Somerville, moved with his family to Arlington, and finally settled in Watertown, which as anyone from Boston area knows, is where virtually all Armenian people live. Honestly….I’m pretty pumped Hovhaness is from Somerville.
- Speaking of people I never knew lived in Somerville: Barack Obama. When he was attending Harvard Law School, he lived in the ‘Ville for a little bit. Warrants mentioning….the guy is running for President.
- And speaking of politicians: Former Somerville Mayor Michael Capuano is now a Congressman in Washington. Suddenly Somerville has a little pull, huh?
- Oh, by the way: One of the first American flags, ever, was flown in Somerville, from Prospect Hill, January 1, 1776. Yah, that’s right baby….all of the sudden you wish you were from Somerville.
- And because it might be true: if one of the first American flags was flown here, it only seems reasonable that Betsy Ross used to chill in Somerville. And well, I’m just assuming that she was mad cool.
- Speaking of mad cool: Retired professional boxer Johnny ‘The Quiet Man’ Ruiz isn’t from Somerville (he’s from Chelsea), but he trained in Somerville. In all honesty, Ruiz was kind of an embarrassment: his shining moment was when he fought Evander Holyfield, got his ass kicked, and bitched about getting hit in the balls (like he did at every fight). But I still got to meet him in the eight grade when he visited the John F. Kennedy Elementary School. So there. And speaking of Johnny…
- Johnny had the absolute craziest, out of his mind trainer ever: Norman Stone, known affectionately as ‘Stoney.’ Good old Stoney is from Somerville, and being a native myself, its easy to tell, seeing as every other word out of his mouth is ‘f**k.’ Seriously….when Johnny was on the rise, the Boston Globe did a story on Stoney and his life, and in his quotes, just about every other word was blanked out. Absolutely classic. Stoney was kind of like a cross between Mickey from the Rocky movies and a lunatic who just spent twelve years in the slammer for armed robbery. At first he was sort of subdued, but when Johnny started losing, Stoney started losing it. During fights they’d go to the corner and the viewer would hear a barrage of F-bombs and Stoney blaming the refs. Towards the end of his career, Ruiz lost a fight, promting Stoney to run out into the ring and grab the belt. Which lead to a brawl, and Stoney getting knocked out. As the announcers watched, one commented, “Well, atleast one thing will come out of Johnny Ruiz retiring: we won’t have to listen to Norman Stone anymore.” Ahh, Stoney…..straigth outa Somerville. Here’s a nice little article about him.
- Speaking of boxing: The Somerville Boxing Club, located on Highland Ave., has a pretty good rep.
- Speaking of reps: Sound Bites, the breakfast place located on Broadway in Ball Square, is supposed to one of the best places to get breakfast. The only problem: I’ve never been there, and don’t really have any interest in going there. From what I’ve heard, the food is alright, but the line is always about 40 minutes long, and you’re literally kicked out of your seats as you’re eating. But, hey, going by reps…..I’ve heard Sound Bites is good.
- While you’re in Ball Square: sure, if you want to wait forty minutes for a breakfast you can’t even enjoy, go to Sound Bites. But if you want to eat one of the best lunches ever, head right next door to Victor’s, some seriously good, old school food. If you want my personal fave, shell out the bucks for the Stuffed Green Pepper. Although…..
- You can’t go wrong with the Chicken Noodle Soup, made fresh every day. But then again….
- The Chicken A La Rosa is always da bomb. Hey, whatever…..just go to Victor’s.
- And if you were hanging out in Ball Square about 2 months ago: You could have gone to El Gaupo’s for a fun night of kareoke with a bunch of Tufts kids. But wait a second, El Gaupo’s isn’t there anymore. Why? Ohh that’s right, Sound Bites bought it out so they could expand. The more I think about it, the more I realize I hate Sound Bites, and regret putting them in here.
- If you want a really, really great breakfast experience. Breakfast in bed while waited on by servants. But more realistically……The Neighborhood Restaurant down by Union Square. Only open in Spring/Summer (I think), its literally located in a driveway, underneath a bunch of grapevines. Its pretty damn equisite…..take my word.
- If you want a greasy spoon breakfast in a historic diner: head over to Kelly’s Diner, located on Broadway right up the street from Sound Bites. Not great…..but a pretty cool diner.
- If you want a greasy spoon breakfast in historic diner that used to be one of the roughest joints in town: head down to the Rosebud in Davis Square. Back before Davis Square wasn’t considered one of the coolest places to hang in Boston, it was pretty damn rough. And the Rosebud was the center of it all. Drugs, bar fights, prostitutes…..you name it, you got it. And only a three minute walk from my house. Hey, good times!! My mom used to make me walk a different way so I wouldn’t pass it. Then it became a mediocre restaurant called the Cuckoo’s Nest. And then, finally, the original owners re-bought it, and it became a decent place again. It wasn’t until it was re-opened that I found all the history behind it: supposedly, whenever the Yankees were in town, Mickey Mantle made it point to come to the Rosebud (at night: he wasn’t there for breakfast). Its reputed that he never missed a trip to the Bud when he was in town. Don’t know if this was good for him or bad (probably bad), but its still cool. As for the breakfast…..its greasy spoon.
- Speaking of bars: Its important to note: Somerville has bars; Medford doesn’t. Being next to each other: Somerville always has that upper hand over Medford, and if someone from Medford ever talks smack, you can always bring that into the equation. And thats not even counting Arlington…
- Which is ‘dry’. That’s right, ‘dry’. Besides Jimmy’s Steakhouse, which is probably run by the Mafia or something, you can’t get any booze in Arlington. So from that standpoint: Somerville totally kicks ass.
- Speaking of booze: No joke. The best beer selection in all of Boston can be found in Somerville, at Downtown Liquors and Spirits, located in Davis Square. I didn’t really realize the Gold Mine that it is until my friend who went to B.C. clued me in: you buy beer from literally all over the world in there. Sure, if you’re buying regular old beer its a little expensive, but that’s not why you should be there: you should be there to buy exotic beer. And a little tip: they have stuff in the basement that they don’t even put on the shelves. So if you don’t see what you’re looking for, let someone know…you may just be in luck.
- While we’re drinking: there were rumors for awhile that a lot of random alcohols were made in Somerville, because the bottles said, ‘Somerville, MA.’ Hate to put the rumor to rest…..but these drinks weren’t processed in Somerville, they were bottled here. But hey, whatever, thats still cool.
- And that doesn’t mean that the Somerville Special, a vodka made in Somerville, doesn’t exist. It does. And quite frankly…..its gross.
- Speaking of bad taste: Good Time Emporium, affectionately known as ‘Good Times’, is located in Somerville. If you want to spend your Saturday night playing video games, hanging out with tramps, and worrying about getting stabbed, this is your place! I shouldn’t be so mean…..but its true. An absolutely legendary Good Times ad aired on cable for about 5 years. It showed a bunch of people talking up Good Times: one was a guy with a mustache and wimpy voice, who goes “The Buffalo Wings heeyah aww da besssst.” This was followed by a clip of four of skankiest ladies ever, sitting on stools. All at once they yell, “Satahday Night!!” (Like, no “Hey, its great on Saturday nigh!” Just “Saturday Night!” I guess our imaginations were supposed to put the rest together.) By the way, one of the ladies hair was about 6 feet in lenghts, and reached to the goddamned floor. But the best part was the final guy: Some fat guy with a beard, obviously a little drunk, stammers into the camera, “This is the best place……probably in the United States…..to watch N…F…L Football.” Just such an absurd, ridicoulous statement that it leaves you speechless. The sad part is that I couldn’t find this ad on Youtube, ect…..I really tried. I definitely don’t do it justice….not even close. But the point…Good Times is an infamous part of Somerville….and good to have around. Here’s their website.
- Speaking of Good Times: in the same parking lot, which is located in Assembly Square, is an indoor paint ball place. Hey…..anytime there’s an indoor paint ball place in your city……thats good.
- While you’re in Assembly Square: head down behind the parking lots, past the soccer fields where the Spanish guys hang out, to the Amelia Earhart Dam. Located on the Mystic River, its some of the best Striped Bass fishing in and around Boston. Just don’t do any night fishing….it can be a rough area down there (all those rowdies getting out of Good Times).
- Speaking of Assembly Square: it got its name because cars used to be assembled there. And before that, cows were slaughtered down there. My seventh grade history teacher told us that guys used to slice open the juggulars of the cows and drink the blood, which has twice the calcium as milk. My seventh grade history teacher…..was interesting. If you’re driving north out of Boston on I-93, and you see signs for Somerville, turn your head to the right (without taking your eyes off the road) and you’ll see a Home Depot. That, my friends…..is Assembly Square.
- Speaking of Squares: There are a lot of so-called Squares in Somerville (most of which aren’t Square), but one of the lesser known squares is Gilman Square. Probably because it doesn’t have much going for it: located right behind the High School, it’s literally an intersection that consists of a cheap gas station and The Paddock. The Paddock is a restaurant that is quite literally a city institution. Unfortunately, I’ve never been there, which definitely takes away from my Somerville cred.
- Another Somerville institution I’ve never been to: The Mt. Vernon Restaurant, located on Lower Broadway in East Somerville. Home of the Twin Lobster Special!
- And right up the road until it was shut down a few years ago: a brothel. Supposedly the Head Madam had video footage of politicians getting it on after a nice dinner at the Mt. Vernon; as of yet, I haven’t heard about any names named.
- Speaking of Lower Broadway: Taco Loco es loco delicioso!
- If you want some slush with your taco: Louie’s Slush is a short walk up Broadway, located on the corner of Broadway and McGrath O’Brien Highway, right across the street from Foss Park. It reputedly has the best slush in the city.
- If you’d rather have ice cream: there’s a J.P. Licks in Davis Square. A chain that started Jamaica Plain, its good ice cream and frozen yogurt, at ridicolous prices.
- If you’d rather have ice cream ten years ago: located on the opposite end of Davis Square from where J.P. Licks now stands once stood the original Steve’s Ice Cream. For those of you who don’t remember or know, Steve’s used to be a great ice cream chain around Boston, famous for the numerous toppings you could get (I used to get lemon sorbet with Oreo cookie crumbs…..don’t ask. I was weird). There used to be a picture on the wall of a line of people waiting for ice cream in the late 1970s……in 20 degree weather. I guess Steve’s was a phenomena back then. For those of you bummed that Steve’s is no more…..have no fear, Steve has resurrected himself with Herrell’s, one which can be found in Allston and the other in Newton. Steve’s last name….Herrell. That clever guy. A note: Herrell’s has great breakfast sandwiches.
- Speaking of originals which are now no more: the original Bertucci’s once stood next to Steve’s. This hurts me much more than Steves’s…..Bertucci’s held a place near my heart. It was nothing like the chain restaurants (although they are good). It was a classic Italian restaurant with great pizza….the best part was the downstairs area. While there were tables upstairs, there were more downstairs, complete with a Bocci area. Yes, that’s correct……you played Bocci while you waited for your meal. In all honesty……I would have never learned how to play had it not been for Bertucci’s. Now….its a freaking Subway. You heard right. That Bocci area is now probably some storage area for boxes. It makes me angry to think about. I can’t help but hate Subway now, even if Jared is a decent guy……they ripped my freaking heart out. Bastards.
- Speaking of long lost memories: While we’re going down this road known as depressing memories, I have to cover one of my high school haunts: Dolly’s. It’s often said, rightfully so, that there is no where to eat late in Boston. Sure, there’s a diner in the South End that gets a lot of buzz, and there’s random Chinese plays, but there’s really not much. Boston’s old standby, Buzzy’s Roast Beef, was ripped down in 2000 to make room for a hotel. To describe it in one word: pathetic. But during my high school years, I became delusioned. Why?? Because literally a two minute walk from my house, stood Dolly’s. Dolly’s was a late night diner that opened every night at 11:30 and closed at 5:30am. They served breakfast. In high school, it was a regular haunt of me and my friends: we go down and watch all the drunks sing and act wild after a night at the bars, all while eating scrambled eggs and hash browns. Well, my senior year in high school, it left. Why? The rent was too steep. I never really understood this: the business must have been off the hook. But whatever the case, Dolly’s was gone forever. In my opinion, Davis Square lost a large part of its soul when Dolly’s left: the sad part is that anyone who’s only been here from 2001 or so would never know it.
- While we’re talking about memories: the Lowell Street bridge, located between Highland Ave. and Medford St., has been under construction for about 8 years and is finally finished. But before it went under construction, it was the wildest bridge around. If you we’re driving, and hit the bridge at say, 25 mph, you would get a little airborne. Being around 14 at the time, we’d get our moms to hit the bridge fast so that we’d get airborne. Any city that has a bridge that shoots your car into the air, even if it does decide to rebuild it, is cool.
- (Note: the following reason Somerville rocks is now under new ownership; the following paragraph should disregarded). MMMMMM…..Donuts: Do you love good quality donuts? Do you hate waiting in lines at Dunkins? Do you feel like your missing out on the Donut scene somehow? Well, chances are, you are. Atleast, if you haven’t heard of Russ’s Donuts, you are. Russ’s is a wholesale donut place: they sell them to bakeries, ect….But if you stop by during the day, the side door is open. Stepping in, you’ll smell the strong smell of bakery and see a lot of conveyor belts shipping stuff around. And right in front of you is a table laid out with some donuts…just like a bake sale. One of the guys will come by (note: every guy I’ve ever seen working at Russ’s is jacked), ask what you want, and grab it for you. And then you’ll pay: an entire quarter. That’s right…in less inflation has kicked it up in the last two years or so, you’ll pay one quarter for one of the best damn donuts you’ll ever find. Now, I’m not gonna tell you where to find Russ’s: in my attempt to keep it low key and talk about it on the internet, that’s my plan. But I’m not really worried about a ton of people showing up: its only open during the day, and its in a random spot, so it should probably be the same old Russ’s for awhile.
- More breakfast: I know I’ve talked about some breakfast places already, but I have to mention which may be my favorite in the city: Supreme Kitchen. It’s a little place on Highland Ave., right across from Somerville Hospital. There are a couple of tables and benches inside: its more of a sub shop than a breakfast joint. But the breakfast sandwhiches are terrific. Also, just about every possible Mafia movie poster hangs on the wall: the largest breakfast special is known as The Paulie Walnuts.
- Speaking of Somerville Hospital: Okay, Somerville Hospital isn’t a reason Somerville is great. But, it sure is funny to talk about. Don’t get me wrong: its good to have a hospital nearby if something happens in a pinch. But you don’t want any operations done up there: from what I’ve heard, its butcher central. The best story about the hospital regards my dad: back in the late seventies, he broke his ankle somehow. My parents lived on Central Street at the time: the hospital was about a two minute walk from their apartment. So, he hobbled up there (note: he probably drove), walked into the emergency room, and exlpained his situation. When he saw a doc, he was told he had only twisted. When asked if he should walk on it, they were like, “Ohh yah, go for it.” So for two weeks, my dad walked around on a broken ankle. Finally, he somewhere else and the doc was like, “Umm, you’ve been walking on a broken ankle for two weeks.” So again…..not exactly great, but funny.
VACANT SPACE: LOOKING FOR WORDS.
Until Next Time,