Infinite Jest makes three stops at Boston Common’s Park Street Station. Two of these take absolutely no more time than is strictly necessary, while the third is troublingly overstayed. The first occurs early on, in which
Michael Pemulis, nobody’s fool at all, rides one necessary bus to Central Square and then an unnecessary bus to Davis Square and a train back to Central. This is to throw off the slightest possible chance of pursuit. At Central he catches the Red Line to Park St. Station, where he’s parked the tow truck in an underground lot he can more than afford.
Pemulis is returning from a clandestine visit to Antitoi Entertainment—make that “Entertainent”—whence he has obtained the hallucinogenic drug DMZ, or “Madame Psychosis,” as it is known in “Boston chemical circles.”
Pemulis’ zig-zagging and backtracking is easy enough to follow, at least until he departs the Park Street Station for the parking garage. The station occupies a wide, clear spot on one of the Common’s two northwestern corners—the Shaw Memorial occupies the other, but more about that tomorrow—and has no parking structure attached. On the other hand, directly across the street begins Boston’s Financial District, where I’m sure underground lots are plentiful. Maybe this was DFW’s surmise as well; readers familiar with the area are invited to share which one is closest. [Update: Albeit not in the comments, I’ve been reliably informed there is in fact a parking garage underneath the Common. This is probably the one.]
The T-stop makes its second appearance when Kate Gompert’s narrator describes her unhappy trek from a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in Cambridge back to the Ennet House, where she resides in Enfield:
But from Inman Square back to Ennet House is a ghastly hike — hoof up Prospect to Central Sq. and take the Red Line all the way to Park Street station and then the maddening Green Line B Train forever west on Comm. Ave.
The third and most interesting reference finally closes the loop on a promise back in the entry on St. John’s Seminary to explain what happens to poor Barry Loach in between dropping out of Boston College and finding employment at the Enfield Tennis Academy:
Loach was dangerously close to disappearing forever into the fringes and dregs of metro Boston street life and spending his whole adult life homeless and louse-ridden and stemming in the Boston Common and drinking out of brown paper bags…
Loach takes up residence—maybe “transience” is more appropriate—at the Park Street Station with the other panhandlers. His appeal consists of “begging for one touch of a human hand,” and one day that hand belongs to none other than Mario Incandenza, accompanying his then-living father to the Common for the filming of what appears to be Pre-Nuptial Agreement of Heaven and Hell.
Mario has “no one worldly or adult along with him there to explain to him why the request of men with outstretched hands for a simple handshake or High Five shouldn’t automatically be honored and granted” and, through a series of “convoluted” events, Loach becomes Assistant Trainer and then Head Trainer
when the then-Head Trainer suffered the terrible accident that resulted in all locks being taken off E.T.A. saunas’ doors and the saunas’ maximum temperature being hard-wired down to no more than 50°C.
The overt act of compassion here is Mario’s, but we can also detect, like scientists crashing particles, a significant one by James O. Incandenza. Loach is not unusual in being a societal cast-off taken on by J.O.I. In fact, the opposite is true: nearly all of his recruits, whether to the Enfield Tennis Academy or to his “après-garde” film circle, are lost souls, damaged in some way. Next week, we’ll visit the somewhat more permanent residence of two more.