For as much alcohol as we supposedly consume in this city, we sure make it hard on ourselves to do so. No Happy Hours. Bars close at 2. Scant open liquor stores on Sundays. I guess it goes back to the ancient Protestant value which still permeates through our waters- if you’re going to have fun, you better be fuckin’ miserable and work really hard for a long time beforehand.
Nowhere is our self-punishment more apparent than in our obsession over waiting in lines. Peruse through the city on a Saturday night
and you will see more lines than there are on Lincoln’s face circa 1864 (or on Bush’s glass table circa 1979, zing!). The lines take a variety of different shapes and sizes, some orderly and single-file like we’re 8 years old marching through the hallway on the way to music class. Other times we accumulate like an amorphous blob in the general area in front of the door, each person hoping they can osmosis themselves to the front without anyone else noticing.
Below is a list of the top five worst lines in Boston. The list was compiled after much deliberation and conversation with many of my fellow line-stragglers. So these results are not subjective, but are instead compiled through months of research and study. I should stipulate that these lines purely deal in trying to get into bars/restaurants (if all lines were in play then the bathrooms at Fenway in the middle of the seventh inning would take spots 1-5). So, without further adieu…
5. Cleary’s (Inside, going downstairs)
The inside line is one of the most mind-boggling things to come upon for the first time. You think you’ve made it, that you have crossed the threshold from outsider-looking-in to insider-laughing-at-outsiders. But, like Timberlake in The Social Network– What’s better than a million dollars? Cleary’s basement.
Cleary’s popped my inside line cherry, and it truly is a bizarre sight. The line wraps itself around where people eat, so you got a bunch of girl’s in mini-skirts and dudes in wife beaters ready to get their grind on, warming up by vaguely bouncing to the beat bumping through the floorboards and wallflowering the dining room while others are enjoying their chicken parm and merlot.
Although not the worst inside line in the city (more on that later), Cleary’s is definitely the most famous, and for that, it deservedly receives the number five spot on our list.
Is there a better representation of irony than a bunch of hipsters waiting in line? You would think that hipsters hate lines because it inherently implies that they are going someplace, where, you know, other, possibly even regular people like to go. But I contend that waiting in line is actually the most hipster thing you can do. Why? Because nobody likes to wait in line. Hipsters are just doing it before it becomes popular.
And therein, my friends, lies the success of Middlesex. The line outside that place is always, absolutely, ridiculous. The Middlesex line might be the most surprising in the greater Boston area, simply because of supply and demand. You can see why lines build up in Fanueil or Boylston- not a lot of bars relative to the size of the drunken 20-something population in the surrounding region. But Central Square is chalk full of bars, many of which seem to carry even better hipster credential than Middlesex. The Central Square Superpower continues to defy the odds, which is why it made our list at number four.
3. Bell-In-Hand (Inside, going up)
Bell-In-Hand holds the honor of being the worst inside line in Boston. Truth be told, I actually don’t mind waiting in line to go upstairs at Bell-In-Hand. Probably because I am a big fan of live music, even if it’s the 198799873rd time I’ve heard a band play Santeria.
But among my scientific survey respondents, Bell-In-Hand arguably received the most vociferously negative response, and I can see why. Unlike Cleary’s where you wait in line in a relatively spread out area, and even critique the cut of filet mignon the person in front of you is about to enjoy, at Bell-In-Hand they pack everyone who wants to go up into the back corner of the bar. It’s not a line as much as it is a stable, where they let members of the herd, usually in groups of 2-3 eventually travel up to their destiny.
What makes Bell-In-Hand a particularity evil line is that you usually only spend about 10 minutes upstairs before you want back down. Seriously, the upper-level of Bell-In-Hand sucks.
Have you ever wondered how riots form? How does a gathering of people suddenly turn violent and chaotic? What is the prerequisite riot recipe?
You can find your answer by looking at the line outside of Brahmin. As your cab slowly drives you down Stanhope street, you see a great gathering of slightly-pissed young folk, all swaying anxiously, angrily in the the night. If one dude brought a pitchfork and another a burning piece of lumber there at 9:15, by midnight we’d have angry Native Americans-dressed WASPs tossing tea into the harbor again.
What Brahmin’s line lacks in experience (it only opened last July), it more than makes up for in pure, explosive power. It’s that second- or third-player who inextricably dominates in the playoffs, even if you never really understand why (one time I saw Greg Stiemsma there. That’s obviously not who I’m talking about). The Russel Westbrook of lines. If you get there by 8:45, you could be waiting for about 45 minutes. 9:45? You’re fucked. The recent consistency of this line has been astounding to say the least. By most measurements, Brahmin is the worst line in Boston. That is until you remember that LeBron is still on the court running circles around everyone else.
1. Howl at the Moon
You knew this was coming.
In this post, the NBA analogy is actually not the best analogy you can use. I like to think of contemporary lines in Boston as being analogous to baseball’s steroid era. 20 years from now we will fully realize that all these bars artificially pumped up their lines to make themselves look better and get richer. Looking back we will all wonder why we ever believed those lines in the first place, how could we buy in to something so unnatural?
If this is the 1998 home run chase then Sammy Sosa is Brahmin, and Mark McGuire is Howl At The Moon. I base this purely off the fact
that I can easily picture creepy modern day white Sosa lurking in Brahmin’s basement shadows, and I’d also pay to see McGuire dump his red furry goatee into a Howl bucket o’ booze.
Howl’s line is utterly incomprehensible. People will show up at 5, 7, 9, and know they will wait hours. They will show up at 11, and know they might not even get in. The line itself has become the place to be. It has entered into unprecedented territory for a line. You no longer go to Howl to wait in line, you go to Howl to “hang out while we try to get in.”
A few months back while waiting in line at Howl, I was standing immediately in front of two idiots. Idiot No. 1 wanted to go home. No, he was going home. At least that’s what he told Idiot No. 2 once every five minutes… “This is dumb dude, I’m going home,”…”Dude, we shouldn’t even be here, let’s get outta here,”….”Fuck this shit, I’m out later man,”.
Eventually the conversation progressed from self-dismissal to self-hatred. “Dude, why are we even here man? Like, what are we doing?”…”There’s nowhere else we can go right now?”…”I can not believe I am still here! This is pathetic.”
Eventually idiot number 1 started blaming his buddy Maz, who was apparently already inside (Idiot No. 2 was a man of few words). “Seriously, fuck Maz man. Kid sucks. He flat out ditched us earlier tonight,”…”I can’t wait to yell at Maz. Kid’s fucking in there right now hitting on mad chicks.”…”Dude I’m just gonna go back toMaz’s apartment and pee on his bed or something. Peace dude.”
He never left. Dumb and Silent Bob got into the bar about 15 minutes after I did. 2 hours and 20 minutes after first setting foot in Howl’s line.
This intangible quality is what makes Howl top our list. It has come to define the bar itself. You either put up with the line, or you don’t go.
You cannot separate Boston from its bar lines. Bar lines here are so omnipotent that you take them into consideration even when you don’t realize it. Because if certain bars don’t cross your mind, there’s a very good chance it’s because of their line. Let’s face it, if lines weren’t a factor, we’d always just go to Howl.
Honorable Mentions: Atlantic Beer Garden, Whiskey Priest, West End Johnnie’s, Joshua Tree (Allston, RIP), An Tua Nua’s (Thursday), Sound Bytes (breakfast), Mary Ann’s (football season), Centerfolds (Ryan Duff)