Ryan Walsh remembers Mr. Butch

On September 11th 2002 I took the 66 bus to work in the morning from Allston to Cambridge.  Mr.Butch was on the bus and, like anytime I was in close proximity to him, I'd ask him how he was doing.
"How are you doing today Mr.Butch?"
"Not so good.  It's my birthday."
"Oh man, your birthday's September 11th?  That sorta sucks.  I'm sorry."
"It's ok," Mr.Butch said without any trace of joking around, "I've got another one in a few months."
Another time I was picking my friend up on Glenville Avenue and while sitting in the car outside I spotted Mr.Butch.  He was sitting on a wall drinking a 40 oz from a brown paper bag.  A homeless friend of his came along with a yo-yo.  There was a brief discussion and then the 40 oz was traded for the yo-yo.  Mr.Butch played with the yo-yo for a moment, was displeased with its performance, and traded back for the beer.
From my apartment on Commonwealth Avenue, if you made it to the roof, you could see several  towns' fireworks displays on July 4th.  I remember being up there one 4th and right during the climax of the hatch shell's display I saw Mr.Butch on top of a roof across the street dancing and running back and forth playing his flute.  His silhouette was gigantic and mesmerizing.  Few people can trump fireworks with their mere presence but I'd count Mr.Butch was one of them.
In 2005 my friend Matt and I were putting up posters around Allston for a show our band had coming up.  Mr.Butch came along and gave us some advice.  "Just tape the top of the poster," he explained, "and let the bottom fly free. Let it wave.  So people walk by it, see it flapping, and go 'what the fuck?' Then you got people at your show."
One night I had a dream about Mr.Butch.  We were both in a playground and all the mothers of the children were afraid of us but Butch and I tried to explain there was no need to worry.  The next morning I saw Butch while waiting for the bus and I said, "You were in my dream last night Mr.Butch." 
"I know," he said and walked away.  He turned around at just the right moment to give me a devilish grin that either indicated he was pulling my leg or that he had to leave because he had other dreams to invade.
There were times where he would sincerely dole out the story of his life to me and how he was chased from Kenmore Square into Allston.  I always gave him some change but Butch had a devoted support group of kind folks in town who really watched his back and cared for him.  They were his family, the rest of us were his children.  There were different Butch eras: the shaved dreadlocks shocker of 2003, the year of the tan workman jumpsuit, the different Mr.Butch Show suitcases, the different amps, guitars, and PA systems he utilized over the years.  While kids in the rock clubs did their best to exude a rock and roll attitude at their shows somewhere, not far away, Butch would be out making his music, requiring no stage or audience, and blowing them all out of the water. 
There will undoubtedly be discussions, and some are already taking place, about how appropriate it is to revere so fondly a homeless man who clearly had a drinking problem and would sometimes scare people who didn't know how harmless the man was.  I urge them to choose a more important battle than this small celebration of a man's life.  Everyone has problems, everyone has troubles.  Some are self imposed and some are bad luck.   The sum total is what's most important. Despite his illness or choice of lifestyle I never once heard Butch complain and that's something I cannot say about most of the nine to five "normal" people I talk to every day of my life. 
With an ex-coke addict in the oval office and mean-spirited sirens gracing the covers of magazines anyone who argues that Mr.Butch's life (though very different and not at all pristine) cannot be celebrated for what it is, ought be accused of forgetting the point.  All of our heroes are flawed.  It's part of the deal.   Woody Guthrie was an alcoholic who abandoned multiple wives and children.  That man's on a god damn U.S. Postage stamp for cripes sake.  Surely we can add Butch to the Allston Rock City banners that wave at all the kids, out at night, searching as hard as they can for a small taste of all kinds of fucked up, beautiful feelings before they're forced grow up and become normal.
---Ryan Walsh, of Hallelujah the Hills

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