St. Columbkill’s is one of several locations of various AA and NA meetings attended by the residents of Infinite Jest’s Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House. These include the St. Columbkill Sunday Night Group, and an unnamed Tuesday night meeting attended by the terrifying Randy Lenz, the somnambulant Bruce Green, and sometimes by the “hideously attractive” Joelle van Dyne, where she hears a most unlikely story about one speaker’s decade-long blackout.
The real St. Columbkille Parish comprises two buildings sharing a plot of land along Arlington Street in Brighton: a large Roman Catholic church featuring a minaret and turquoise trim around the roof, and an adjacent K-8 school, operating in partnership with nearby Boston College. Running your finger along a map, it becomes clear that Arlington shares the same asphalt trajectory as Sparhawk and Warren streets, the latter home to Brighton (Enfield) Marine and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. But in a quirk of Boston’s “grid,” it turns out the names of many streets frequently, maddeningly change at random intersections, such that one may become lost within a matter of blocks, without a change of vector.
Which of the two buildings is supposed to house these meetings is never specified, nor is the altered spelling ever made clear. The missing “e” returns vestigially in the nickname “St. Collie’s” and the reference to attendees as “St. Columbkillers.” St. Columbkill’s is among a handful of places in the story whose name self-proclaimed SNOOT Wallace could not have mistaken, yet changed for reasons unknown. Lacking any deeper explanation, let’s consider it of a piece with Boston’s capricious street-naming regime.