The conclusion of our Watertown trilogy is a split-location entry, and coincides with our final look at gender-dysphoric junkie thief Poor Tony Krause. You may have noticed that Infinite Boston has spent a disproportionate amount of time tracking Poor Tony’s unsavory activities, first through the eyes of fellow addict Emil Minty (Harvard Square), then escapades with the Antitois (Sheraton Commander Hotel), and a haphazardly violent mugging of two Ennet residents (Antitoi Entertainment).
His seeming ubiquity is unusual considering that he is one of the few recurring characters—if not quite a major character, nor is he a minor one—whom Wallace does not invite the reader to empathize with. I would argue that these two facts are related.
It is fairly evident that the novel consists of two parallel stories—the tennis academy and the halfway house—bound together by a third—the absurdist international intrigue of the Organization of North American Nations, the wheelchair assassins, and so forth.
It may help to think of Poor Tony as a joint or ligament between two of these, connecting the Québecois separatists and Ennet residents through the streets of Boston. It therefore seems plausible, if not probable, that Wallace created Poor Tony’s unattractive exterior for purposes of plot, and only later sketched out his unattractive interior. And whether DFW intended for Poor Tony to be purposefully unlovable, or could not fully relate to the character—Poor Tony’s thoughts turn to fashionable clothing at the least opportune of moments—I sure don’t recall Infinite Jest winning any awards from transgender advocacy groups.
Which is not to say he is entirely unsympathetic. Although unlikable for better reasons still—note that he is responsible for the deaths of multiple persons in the story, something even the loathsome Randy Lenz cannot claim—we are of course granted access to Poor Tony’s inner thoughts, including his deep agitation at his past estrangement from his late father. And today’s entry focuses on two locations related to the unhappy Krause family. First:
He kept seeing his sonless father again — removing the training wheels, looking at his pager, wearing a green gown and mask, pouring iced tea in a pebbled glass, tearing his sportshirt in filial woe, grabbing his shoulder, sinking to his knees. Stiffening in a bronze casket. Being lowered under the snow at Mount Auburn Cemetery, through dark glasses from a distance.
I don’t have too much to say about the Mount Auburn Cemetery; like many places, I visited briefly, photographing its only its frontal regions, before moving on to the next photo op. Its Wikipedia article, however, is not bad, and includes a list of its many notable permanent residents, among them: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Buckminster Fuller, both Henry Cabot Lodges.
More interesting to me is the Krause family home, which appears twice, near the beginning and the end, so the following ellipsis snips out literally hundreds of pages:
His own late obstetrician father had rended his own clothing in symbolic shiva in the Year of the Whopper in the kitchen of the Krause home, 412 Mount Auburn Street, horrid central Watertown. … Poor Tony’s father used to come home to 412 Mount Auburn Street Watertown at the completion of a long day of cesareans and sit in a chair in the darkening kitchen, scratching at his head where his mask’s green strings had dug into the head.
About that address: careful readers may recall that 412 is also the address of the F.L.Q. house at 412 W. Brainerd Road. A question for Wallace scholars and enthusiasts: what—if anything—is the significance of the number “412”? (Thanks, but no thanks, numerologists.)
Unlike the Brainerd Road address, which could not possibly exist, the Mount Auburn Street address very well may, although I’m not absolutely certain it does. Whereas Brainerd Road is just a few blocks long, Mount Auburn Street runs west from Cambridge through nearly the entirely length of Watertown. The street here is pretty non-descript, split between fairly large homes and apparently small businesses, with an elementary school and church each a few blocks away. Given its four-lane width, this may not be the best place to raise children, but “horrid” is not the word I would choose.
The house pictured above is where Google Maps drops the pin. However, it seemed to be split up into multiple apartments, none of whose addresses were visible from the street, and I declined to be the suspicious fellow climbing up the steps to look at your front door, only to mysteriously disappear. You’re welcome, Watertown.