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RIP Mr. Butch (Allston, Boston, MA)

How the recent death of a popular homeless man shook Boston.

Mr. Butch and I both lived on Commonwealth Avenue at the same time. I lived in a third floor apartment with views of the squeaky green line train and dollar-draft bar The Avenue, while Mr. Butch, just as much of a staple of the area as that subway line and that bar, spent most of his nights in the Bank of America ATM vestibule.

Every time I saw him, always with a PBR in hand, he'd make me smile. But it wasn't until after his death that I realized the impact he'd had on the citizens of Boston.

Dubbed the "King of Kenmore" in the 70s and 80s, Mr. Butch was a local celebrity in Kenmore Square and the surrounding areas. He was often seen rocking out on his guitar, and he quickly gained a large fan base. He was even given gigs at local music venues .

In the mid-1990s, when Kenmore Square began cleaning its act up and police started giving Mr. Butch a harder time, he packed up his guitar and headed to Commonwealth and Harvard Avenues, where he became a fixture. He was given the unofficial title "Mayor of Allston Rock City," an embodiment of the values shared by many who called Allston home. He shared his philosophies with the punk rock kids and others around him and gained their respect and friendship. His portrait was painted in a well known mural located on the side of an Allston building. His antics brightened the days of all who lived, worked, or played in Allston.

He was given his own Wikipedia entry, tribute website called The Mr. Butch Show,
myspace page, and was the star of many videos, including a documentary titled "Searching for Mister Butch (2002), which was featured in the 2003 Boston University Underground Film Festival, and in another documentary titled Sleeping With Mr. Butch (2006).

Because I moved from my Comm. Ave. apartment a couple months ago, it's been awhile since I've seen Mr. Butch. A friend of mine saw him a couple of weeks ago cruising around on a Vespa Scooter. When my friend inquired about the new toy, Mr. Butch told him that he'd had a Vespa when he was young, and had been saving up for one ever since a scooter store opened up in Allston. He'd give them a buck or two a day, whatever change he had gotten from passersby that he hadn't spent on beer at Marty's Liquors.

Well, it turns out that a 56 year old homeless man who is always drunk & high and a motorized scooter is not a good combination, because on Thursday morning he crashed into a telephone pole and died later that night from injuries sustained from the accident.

I first heard of the accident when Mr. Butch was still alive. My brother forwarded me an email that stated Mr. Butch had been in an accident and was being held in intensive care at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

The hundreds of people who have left kind words on's guestbook, set up specifically for him, and Mr. Butch's myspace page have made it very clear that this man had a major impact on their lives.

Mr. Butch chose this life. He chose to live on the streets. Through it all, he maintained a better set of morals than most of us. Sure, he was a drunk, he smoked a lot of weed, and he had a police record that was longer than most of my college papers, but he was a selfless and kind man. He had been arrested in the past for drunkenly attempting to direct traffic while helping an elderly woman across the street. He didn't have much, but what he had he was willing to give to those in need. There was a mutual respect between him and the people.

Local stores would let him sleep on their floors in the harsh Boston winters; they'd keep his money and belongings, and help him get social security and medical insurance. The owner of local tattoo parlor Regeneration (where I got my third tattoo) even bought him a van to sleep in.

When I first heard the news, I felt incredibly depressed. When I first read the Boston Globe article, I cried. When I read the comments posted by Mr. Butch fans, friends, and family offering their Mr. Butch stories and experience along with words of sympathy, I cried some more.

These feelings surprised me because I had never gotten to know Mr. Butch as well as most of my neighbors. I didn't understand why I felt so incredibly saddened by the death of someone I barely knew. But then I realized that I was feeling so depressed not just because this inspirational man had died, but because I hadn't gotten to know him well enough and now my chance was gone. I wished I had gone to talk to him more often, to listen to his wisdom and his rhymes.

And so I headed into Allston that night to experience the saddened mood of my old neighborhood and visit the memorials that had been set up all over the area.

Rest in Peace Mr. Butch.

You will be missed.
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