Brainerd Road is the setting for one of Infinite Jest’s more “hideously compelling” scenes; I borrow the phrase from this very passage, where it refers to “Don Ho: From Hawaii With All My Love”, an apparently fictional album which serves as its unlikely score. It is along Brainerd’s “sine wave of lung-busting hills” where Ennet’s endearingly empty-headed Bruce Green espies his loathsome housemate Randy Lenz committing a depraved if by-now-familiar act of violence in search of psychic release: killing a dog in the yard of a house belonging to a Québecois separatist cell at 412 W. Brainerd (whence Don Ho’s insufferable music emanates). This kicks off a chain of events leading to Don Gately’s fateful showdown with the hated Le Front de la Libération de la Québec, and eventually with himself.
The road itself is real enough, and can be found more or less in the area where it is said to be. But really, it’s more less:
All of which makes plainly obvious that Wallace intended something less than strict fidelity to the real neighborhood geography, a conclusion I should have arrived at sooner. Instead I spent about fifteen minutes walking aimlessly, almost Bruce Green-like, along Brainerd in the “downscale north edge of Brookline MA,” wondering which of these houses Wallace might have intended as the F.L.Q. home base in Metro Boston, snapping photographs in hopes I would later find one that matched the one in the book’s description, which of course I did not.
In the less immediate vicinity, I did in fact find steep hills and “unending rows of crammed-together triple-decker houses with those tiny sad architectural differences that seem to highlight the essential sameness” as Wallace describes in the book—I just did not find them here. Brainerd Road turns out to be a composite, one which borrows from the street I visited only its name.