(click to enlarge panorama)
Today is our last day in Cambridge before the Infinite Boston series crosses back over the Charles to explore the landscapes and landmarks of Boston proper. The last place we’ll pay visit is one that no longer actually exists: the Bow and Arrow Pub in Harvard Square.
As a pop culture reference, it’s best known as the bar in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon spots the ponytailed grad student who thought memorizing Marxian texts was a good way to meet girls, raps on the window, and shows him up with Minnie Driver’s digits—or “them apples,” to repeat the film’s bad-if-memorable joke.
As established in a previous installment, Harvard Square is a frequent haunt of the pathetic Poor Tony Krause, malevolent Bobby C, and our semi-literate temporary narrator, Emil “yrstruly” Minty. (Blink and you’ll miss the connection, but Minty is much later revealed to be another of Don Gately’s wretched charges at the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House.)
In the breathless narrative voice of yrstruly, Bow and Arrow is condensed to “Bow&Arrow,” and its first appearance is likewise just a blip:
And back we go to the Harvard Squar however on arrival Poor Tony wanted he should hang for lunch time with his red leather fags in the Bow&Arrow … and yrstruly and C said fuck this shit and we screwed out…
Several hundred words and several crimes later, C and yrstruly return to the Square to meet up with Poor Tony, all of them badly needing to score heroin to avoid becoming “dopesick,” and the reader is treated to a nearly incomprehensible kind of very special Christmas story, which I’ll try to convey by cutting out some of the less relevant horror-comedy:
we Redline to the Harvard Squar and all the foran studns are in the bars and we locate Poor Tony smoking hash with fags back of Au Bon Pain and say lets roll a foran studn stuck here for XMas in the bars and cop before 2200 and so we all go on the ice from the frozen melted snow to the Bow&Arrow in the Squar … and we wait and no studns are leaving alone to roll but a older type individual who any body could see is no studn but is legless on shots alone at the bar fucking shatered slumped over is getting ready to depart for green pastures … holding onto walls in a hiclass and promising coat for the possibility of $ and pernts his old nose this way and that and everything like that thru the Bow&Arrow window C wipes the steam off, and has a conversession with a Santaclaus ringing a big bell for the kettle and were’ like Jesus its’ a never ending strugle to wait and cop but after awhile finally after stifing the Santaclaus … yrstruly and C crew on the individual and roll him and C messes up his older map to a large degree and we leave him in no condition to eat cheese in a snow drift of materil under the dumster…
Speaking of never-ending struggles, did you catch all that? Minty, C and Poor Tony are looking to rob a foreign student hanging out at the Bow and Arrow, but finding none they settle on an old man, blind drunk and about to leave the bar, whom they rob and leave for dead* (for brevity’s sake I removed a mention that “with Cs’ involvement its’ always wet work”). Then off they go, into the night and out of the narrative, to be picked up again in a later installment.
There is no way to know whether this senseless act of violence led to the Bow’s closure, except to read through the archives of the Harvard Crimson, where one finds that it closed shop in May 2000 to make way for construction. It never returned, as its owners predicted at the time, blaming ever-higher rents.
Based on repeated viewing of the pub’s five second appearance in Good Will Hunting, and judging from comments posted on the 2009 Infinite Jest reading group A Supposedly Fun Blog, the Bow and Arrow was just to the left of the main entrance at One Bow Street, where the Dunkin’ Donuts is today. For its customers, maybe for the better—I can’t quite picture yrstruly stopping in for a frozen Mocha Coolatta.
*Readers in the comments have pointed out something I never realized: that the victim of the crew’s “Xmas Eve” attack is none other than Burt F. Smith, himself an Ennet resident in the novel’s present day, and the subject of our installment covering the Cambridge City Shelter. Infinite Boston regrets not picking that up either time reading the book.