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Weekly Dig Column

(Weekly Dig) My Last Column

This is my last regular column for the Dig, and I'm gonna miss it. I remember when I first fell in love with this paper. I was reading Media Farm, that merciless and unnecessarily rough takedown of all non-Dig media outlets. The paper had done another heinously ruthless attack on the Boston Globe's weekend section. It was mean, but its cruelty was easily surpassed by its hilarity. "These are my people," I thought. "I want to write for them." The first piece of mine that ran was a 2006 year in review of racism. Since this is my 25th and last regular submission, I thought it would be appropriate to end on a 2007 year in review of this very column. They haven't all been gems -- that's nearly impossible -- but I'm proud of some of the moments we've shared. In the beginning there was the MBTA bus driver who repeatedly threatened to kick my "fucking ass" and beat me with a wooden block in front of 20 or so passengers. Despite having lived in Boston for 11 and a half years before this encounter, I didn't really feel like a local until this happened. Thank you, anonymous psycho driver, for teaching me that the best way to make someone feel truly welcome in Boston is to make them feel as unwelcome as possible. For most unlikely situation to end well, nothing beat the 12 hour overnight JetBlue meltdown at JFK. It started with food shortages, dogs pooping on diapers and passengers threatening gate agents. It ended with me getting a free voucher, a good story and a great friend. In politics, I was generally annoyed at everyone, from the people challenging Obama's blackness to the misplaced anger at Imus's wackness. Helping me keep cool was that nice stroll we took together from D&D to shining D&D along the streets of Somerville. On the personal side, I got to share memories of my incredible mother, including the not-so-well-thought-out plan to disperse her ashes in the violent waters of the Atlantic. She didn't live long enough to read my column, but her spirit and memory were strong enough to help write a few. If there's one column I would like to have had the most impact, it's the one about our looming energy supply crisis and peak oil. My once-hysterical panic has been reduced to a controlled alarmism, and I've since taken steps to lower my energy profile, reuse more goods and get to know my neighbors. I hope you'll do the same. In the end, the column returned to its origins in the form of another traumatic T experience, this time not mine but that of the man named Bill who helped liberate so many from a stranded train. This time I wasn't threatened but rather rudely rebutted in the pages of this paper by Joe Pesaturo. It was an honor to do battle with you, sir, especially because your weapons were merely words and not the standard-issue wooden block. Thank you Dig and Dig readers. It's been an honor to share this space with you. BARATUNDE THURSTON WAS A BIWEEKLY COLUMNIST FOR THE DIG THROUGHOUT 2007. HE'S GONNA MISS YOU GUYS.

"Columnist" Responds to "Readers" (Weekly Dig)

Originally published in the November 7 edition of Boston's Weekly Dig (go there for the great art and here for a related reader letter). I'm trying something new for this column. I want to respond to critical reader comments directed at moi. Consider it part of my new accountability initiative. First up, "spokesman" Joe Pesaturo of the MBTA. I'm using quotes because Joe addressed me as "comedian" Baratunde Thurston in his letter, as if to say he doesn't really believe I'm a comedian. Well, I don't really believe Joe is a spokesman for the MBTA. What I do believe is that I'm rubber and Joe's glue, so whatever he says bounces off of me and causes a commuter train delay for you. "Spokesman" Joe criticized my last column in which I documented the heroic actions of a man named Bill, co-liberator of trapped MBTA Red Line riders. He said my claim that the train operator refused to turn on the air conditioning was wrong. The fire department cut the power necessary to run the AC system. "Spokesman" Joe wrote, "his misrepresentation of this basic fact casts serious doubts over the rest of the claims in his column." Joe, dude, I'm flattered that you're a fan of my column, but why are you coming at me like we're running for the same political office? To your point, if you reread my piece, you'll see that I never claimed the operator refused to turn on the AC. I merely quoted her statements "I don't know if I have the authority to do that" and "I don't have permission from Central Command," whatever that is. The real story is not my failure to precisely recreate what happened on that train, but the authorities' failure to handle the situation better. Keeping the public informed during a panic-prone incident, such as being trapped on a train, is the least you can do. Complaining to a columnist, weeks later, that what had happened was the AC could not be turned on because the fire department ordered the power cut is not helpful. Next time, use your spokesmanly powers to tell that to the passengers! This assumes, of course, that you have permission from Central Command. Next up: Jake Hess of Somerville. Back in August, Jake called me out, writing, "Baratunde Thurston has recently written about the potential ramifications of peak oil theory and how much he enjoys walking. Great. So, Mr. Thurston, why do you still own and drive a car? Mind the Categorical Imperative-what if everyone behaved like you?" While I don't like you throwing Kant in my face (we used to kick it back in the day), you are right Jake. I truly didn't realize the irony of writing about my road-raging bloodlust behind the wheel of an SUV so soon after my peak oil manifesto. And, although I drove the car infrequently, your letter helped motivate me to change my ways. Last week, I donated my car to charity. Thanks for keeping me honest. Besides lowering my carbon and petrol footprint, losing the car means that when I visit Boston, I'll have even more cause to take the T and write columns that will annoy Joe Pesaturo. BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY. WRITE TO THE TOP AT BARATUNDE.COM.

Escape from the T (Weekly Dig)

Originally published in the October 24, 2007 edition of Boston's Weekly Dig This column is about a guy named Bill, a hero whose story has never been told in print. On Friday, October 5th -- a polar ice-meltingly hot day -- Bill left his Central Square office at 5pm and boarded the first car on the inbound Red Line. The train stopped on the Longfellow Bridge, between Kendall and Charles/MGH. The operator explained that there was traffic ahead, and that they would be moving shortly. Minutes passed with no movement. Then she explained that there was a fire at Park Street. In the distance, helicopters hovered in the general area of Park Street, but there was no plume of smoke that might have explained why this train could not move. It was getting late. It was getting hot. People were getting irritable. A female passenger used the intercom to ask for the air conditioning to be turned on. "I don't know if I have the authority to do that," the operator responded. More time passed. Tempers, along with the temperature, rose. After another AC request, the operator claimed, "I don't have permission from Central Command." Her own windows were wide open. Most people grumbled and got even more irritable, but most did nothing. Bill is not most people. Surveying the train car for any opening, Bill and another passenger homed in on the emergency release above the doors at the front of every T car. They pulled the levers, and the doors opened. Shock and sweet relief poured through the car, along with fresh air. Bill and two other men jumped four to five feet down from the train, clearing a spiked iron fence and landing in the heavy traffic of Cambridge Street. They crossed and headed into Boston on foot. Then they turned around. Seeing their fellow riders back on the train, the men returned to help. One blocked traffic while the others helped lift dozens of riders down to street level. Soon, the doors of other cars slid open and passengers helped each other down and across the street. What a scene. Moses would have been proud. Public officials should be ashamed. "Your work is done here!" boomed an orange-vested MBTA worker from one of the open doorways. The jig was up. As helicopters and state troopers arrived, Bill decided it was a good time to leave. "I'm pretty sure what I did was illegal," he told me. How sad is that? Not only did officials refuse to help people, but they stopped people from helping themselves. It's a lesson we keep learning. That's why my emergency preparedness kit now includes an innocuous LED display. Whenever I require a rapid response from the government, I'll just fire that bad boy up. I may get hauled off to jail, but at least I'd have air conditioning. BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY. YOU HAVE PERMISSION FROM CENTRAL COMMAND TO VISIT BARATUNDE.COM.

Ashes to Splashes (Weekly Dig)

Originally published in the October 10 edition of Boston's Weekly Dig. (Be sure to click over to the Dig for the artwork). Like many mothers, my mom loved saying, "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!" But it was how she wanted to leave this world that was a more serious declaration. She did not want to be buried. Instead, she wished to be cremated and for us to spread her ashes in the ocean. Nearly two years after her passing, my older sister and I finally fulfilled her wish. After abandoning plans to drive from New York to one of our mother's favorite beaches in either Virginia or Rhode Island, we settled on the much closer town of Montauk on the eastern edge of Long Island. Since no Thurston had been there before, we thought it would be an adventure for the three of us. We were right. We arrived early on a sunny Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, we had no idea what we would do next. Neither of us had put much thought into exactly how you get someone's ashes into the ocean. The movies make it look tranquil, simple and beautiful. There's either a ship in the middle of the sea or a small low-flying plane; or it takes place on a cliffside with the wind blowing just so. But we were not in a movie. We were in Long Island on a beach without a pier. For an hour, we hiked along the coastline, scrambled across rocks and trudged through the sand looking for the right spot. At a calm-looking section of sea, we decided to roll up our pants, empty our pockets of electronic devices and wade in. This would be just like the movies. I suggested we head for the other side of a large rock about 20 feet out and distribute the ashes there. The rock would shield us from other people and provide physical support in case we slipped. I am an idiot. The current was strongest around the rock, and the ground there was covered with sharp, broken seashells. Things were even worse on the ocean side. Rather than providing support, the rock just gave the ocean something to slam us up against. Every 15 seconds or so, a wave that had looked calm from the sandy beach pummeled us against the slippery, algae-covered rock. Rolling up our pants had been a quaint idea, but getting them soaked only made us more determined. "You're the strong one! You have to do it!" my sister yelled to me, as she was knocked over by yet another wave. It sounded so melodramatic that we both laughed. All the somberness of the moment evaporated as it became clear to me this was really quite stupid. We could get seriously hurt. I quickly opened the urn and untied the plastic bag with my mom's remains. "You've got 20 seconds!" warned my sister. I finally got the bag open and began unceremoniously dumping my mother's ashes into the Atlantic. Just as I finished, the biggest wave yet launched me against the rock, jammed my foot onto the broken shells, cutting it open, and drenched my sister and I from head to toe. As we limped and laughed back to the beach, I was sure I could hear our mom yelling her favorite threat. BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY. CATCH HIM PERFORMING AT THE BOSTON COMEDY FESTIVAL THIS WEEK. FOR DETAILS, VISIT BARATUNDE.COM

We Are All Mercenaries (Weekly Dig)

Originally published in Baratunde’s bi-weekly GOODCRIMETHINK column in the September 26, 2007 edition of Boston’s Weekly Dig. Click through to see the awesome graphic the Dig created! And now, back to our war. Last week, the Iraqi government said it was going to cancel the license of Blackwater USA for allegedly killing 11 civilians in a gun battle surrounding an official's convoy. I smiled when I saw the headlines and thought, "Oh, isn't that cute? The Iraqi government thinks it can govern." There are just over 160,000 US military personnel in Iraq and 180,000 private contractors, including up to 50,000 employed in "security" functions. Blackwater is one of the most important to the American government. The State Department has a large contract with them, as does the Defense Department. They're so close that when the secretary of defense visits Iraq, he is protected by Blackwater forces, not the US military. Given the elderly, criminal and mentally unstable (but, by God, not gay) recruits the Pentagon has been desperately snagging lately, I can understand the decision. With all this, the idea that Blackwater can simply leave Iraq will remain just that: an idea. Didn't anyone tell the Iraqi officials that private security contractors were explicitly granted immunity from Iraqi law back in 2004? Didn't anyone tell the Iraqi officials that they cannot "revoke" Blackwater's license because all evidence suggests the company has been operating without a license since 2006 or earlier? Really, what does the Iraqi prime minister talk about with US officials who constantly drop in for surprise visits, Bill Belichick's intelligence apparatus? "But," many of my left-leaning friends say, "they're mercenaries!" OK, just what is a mercenary? Critics argue that the private contractors are only fighting for the money, but why else would you be in Iraq? Freedom? Democracy? Hummus? If money is the true motivation, then be prepared to call that American kid enticed by the Army's $25,000 "Quick Ship" signing bonus a mercenary, too. With the entire US occupation based on America's need for oil and the money flowing from it, we are all mercenaries. Besides, mercenaries are not always a bad thing. Do me a favor, and watch The Devil Came on Horseback, a film about the genocide in Darfur. After you're done watching the mass displacement, rape and slaughter, and after you've heard the latest resolution-without-action from the UN and US politicians, tell me you don't want to send in some hard Blackwater guys to take down the Janjaweed immediately. I will help you raise the money myself. Blackwater is not the problem. It is a symptom. It is a symptom of a rush to war on the cheap and without proper planning. It is a symptom of our bias toward privatization combined with a failure to establish clear rules for just who these private contractors are accountable to. It is easy to look at this most recent Blackwater incident and blame private contractors for all the problems surrounding them in Iraq, but these companies are, after all, contractors. This means somebody contracted with them to do their work. Demanding that Blackwater leave the country was as far as the Iraqis could go. They'd be hard-pressed to find, much less cancel the license of, the US government. BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY. CATCH HIM PERFORMING AT THE BOSTON COMEDY FESTIVAL NEXT WEEK. FOR DETAILS, VISIT BARATUNDE.COM.

Read a Muh'fuckin Press Release (Weekly DIg)

Originally published in Baratunde’s bi-weekly GOODCRIMETHINK column in the September 12, 2007 edition of Boston’s Weekly Dig "Read a Book" is a rap video that has blown up online over the past few months, and in mainstream media over the past few weeks. Created by poet and activist Bomani "D'Mite" Armah, the video is a send-up of the misplaced priorities promoted by popular rap music: grillz, spinning rims, ass, drugs, ass, guns and, of course, ass. The song is short on length and lyrics, simply urging the public to "Read a book, read a book, read a muh'fuckin' book." It also asks that individuals raise their kids, wear deodorant, buy some land and drink water. While there is explicit language and ample booty shaking in the video, satirists, obviously enough, must use the tools and techniques employed by the target of their satire. We could listen to another angry lecture from Bill Cosby, or we could hear a challenge, with a beat, to rap artists, executives and the consuming public to act reasonably. "Buy some land?" When's the last time you heard that kind of sense? I love the video, but, unsurprisingly, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition don't. Rather than praising the video for its evisceration of pop culture images that are literally killing black America by supporting unhealthy eating, unsustainable consumption and a threatening image that itches the trigger finger of an already gun-happy, black-bashing law enforcement community, Jackson and company have gone out of their way to condemn the video. Some choice quotes from their press release: "Billed as a satirical look at popular culture, a viewer is left with the distinct impression that nothing matters, that life is futile, knowledge fruitless, manners meaningless." Actually, I was left with the distinct impression that I should read a book, read a book, read a book. "A common definition of satire is witty language used to convey insults or scorn. The video is plenteously scornful and insulting, but not of crassness. The video insults reading, personal hygiene, family values and frugality. 'Read a Book' heaps scorn on positive values and (un)intentionally celebrates ignorance. The narrator is obviously illiterate, unkempt and disrespectful. So who takes his advice seriously?" Apparently, Rainbow/PUSH does. How can you define satire and then interpret art literally, all in the same paragraph? That takes a special kind of incompetence. "I was prepared to forgive the crude language and lack of creativity if there was a message encouraging viewers to read and otherwise conduct themselves responsibly. I was disappointed. The simplistic repetitive rhyme and tune made it clear that the creator had not taken his own advice, i.e. to Read a Book." Hmm. How could the song encourage the viewers to read? How about naming the song "Read a Book" and repeating it ad nauseam? So, no more press releases from Rainbow/PUSH, OK? Of all the no-good rap videos that disgrace our screens, they had to focus on the one that actually says something? It hurts that the people who advanced the civil rights movement, when poets and actors and musicians played such a vital role in opening the public's eyes and challenging the system, are now so blind to the same role being played by today's artists. Unless, of course, Rainbow/PUSH's press release was itself a work of satire, targeting an increasingly out-of-touch and irrelevant generation of has-been civil rights leaders. That might explain why the video version of the press release featured Jackson making it rain $100 bills on his baby mama with money he extorted from white folks who use the N-word. BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY. IF YOU CAN'T READ A BOOK, AT LEAST TRY TO READ BARATUNDE.COM.

Dear Boston (Weekly Dig)

Originally published in Baratunde’s bi-weekly GOODCRIMETHINK column in the August 29, 2007 edition of Boston’s Weekly Dig Dear Boston, This is the hardest (and first) letter I've ever had to write to you. I'd like to think I could tell you anything by now. I'd like to believe that you'd listen, but I know better because I know you. We all have our own coping mechanisms. You've got a wicked temper, and when you get angry, you tend to drink heavily and burn cars and finance unstable infrastructure projects. For that reason, you might want to sit down. I've got something to tell you, and you may not like it. Here goes: For the past few years, I've been seeing other cities. At the time, I told you they were just business trips, and at first they were: a festival in Austin, a comedy gig in Chicago. Still, things have gotten serious with one of them. We stay up late all the time, sometimes just talking about my dreams. She gives me more comedy and writing opportunities. She says I'm not really living unless I spend every day under threat of a dirty bomb explosion. I'm moving in with New York. Don't try to change my mind. My bags are packed, I have a place to stay and I've already changed my network on Facebook. Before you go canceling another round of elections, I should make it clear that I have no intention of supporting the Yankees. I didn't care about baseball in Boston, and I damn sure won't start in New York. My rule has always been, if it makes bitter Bostonians happy, I'm for it. So, go Sox! Boston, we've been together for a long time-12 years. We never talked about our "future" or raising a family, but I know you assumed we were headed there. You've got to understand, though, that a person gets tired of going to bed in the same town night after night, year after year. It's not you, it's me. However, this doesn't have to be a goodbye letter. I refuse to simply throw away all that we've built together. I'll visit you often, and I'll stalk you online at Universal Hub and the Dig's new 'website. I'll continue to recommend you to drunk high school students who are looking forward to becoming drunk college students. And of course, if you'll let me, I'll continue to write for the Dig. The timing of my announcement is probably rough for you, falling just before the annual Running of the Rental Trucks from August 31 to September 1, but you'll do just fine without me. My one unrealized Boston dream was to be present when some government inspector finally shut down the U-Haul in Central Square, where the employees' idea of customer service is to lift a ringing phone six inches and slam it right back down on the receiver. I know New York can be a brutal bitch, but I've still never seen something as cold as what goes down in that dream-crusher of a retail operation at 844 Main Street. Oh, and tell Somerville: Nice job on giving me a parking ticket my last day in town. I get it. Ranting about peak oil while owning an SUV cannot go unpunished. Justice was served. BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR LIVING IN ... OH, WE CAN'T BEAR TO SAY. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY. CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS WITH BARATUNDE.COM?

Evenin', Guvna Dean! (Weekly Dig)

Originally published in Baratunde’s bi-weekly GOODCRIMETHINK column in the August 15, 2007 edition of Boston’s Weekly Dig Baratunde & Obama "So, Baratunde, what did you do last weekend?" "Oh, you know, the usual: got quoted in the New York Times, challenged Barack Obama on his support for coal and booed Hillary Clinton along with 1,500 new friends." It was another conference, another show for your weathered, state-hopping, joke-telling, peak-oiling sometimes-bouncer and Dig columnist. This time, I was in Chicago with comedians from Laughing Liberally to liven up the YearlyKos "Netroots" conference -- a gathering of liberal bloggers and activists. I performed on the first night, opening for Governor Howard Dean, the man who shook the world in 2004 when he said "I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." He might as well have tossed up an "L" with his hands and screamed, "Left side represent, son!" Backstage, I chose to greet him by affecting a horrible British accent, saluting and yelling, "Evenin', guvna!" I'm so stupid sometimes. The next few days were full of memorable moments like: -Meeting S.R. Siddarth, aka "Macaca," which translates to "I might have been president, but my racist bullying, Confederate flag and noose got in the way." -Answering questions from Fox News and covering the logo on their microphone to avoid embarrassing my family. -Finding out that Rudy Giuliani's daughter supports Obama for president, and thinking she probably also supports Obama for "dad." -Discovering irony in the scheduling of the "Rebuilding New Orleans" panel opposite the "Global Warming" panel. I chose global warming, hoping that it would reduce the need for a "Rebuilding <insert city name here>" panel in the future. -Watching Hillary Clinton dis-endear herself to the debate audience by trying to defend Washington lobbyists. A friend described Clinton's penchant for detailed answers well: "She likes to get into the sausage-making." Unfortunately, most of us just want to eat them. After the debate, each candidate held a Q&A session in a small room. I chose Obama. People ran to his room to get a seat. Ran. After witnessing firsthand the misplaced devotion of thousands who camped out for the iPhone, I was genuinely proud of my fellow Americans for caring enough to exert themselves in the name of democracy. In the session, Obama took a question from me. I stood and introduced myself, receiving a big round of applause from people who saw me perform earlier. I was brief, expressing support for some of his energy-related positions but confusion over his support for environmentally destructive, petroleum-intense, worker-abusing coal. For about a minute, he locked eyes with me (if it were Cheney, I'd be dead by now) and answered in a comprehensive, thoughtful, but disappointing way, excusing his support with references to America's vast coal reserves, entrenched infrastructure and the need to develop and sell hypothetical "clean coal" to China and India. I had gotten his attention. During the handshaking period at the end, Obama said to me, "Apparently, you're somebody I need to know." True. Now clean up your energy plan. BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR LIVING IN SOMERVILLE. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY IN THE DIG. DROP BY BARATUNDE.COM SOME EVENIN', IF YA PLEASE?

Welcome to town (Weekly Dig)

Originally published in Baratunde’s bi-weekly GOODCRIMETHINK column in the August 1, 2007 edition of Boston’s Weekly Dig I've been trying for a week to get my car inspected--something that I should have done a month ago. I began at the gas station that performed my last inspection, but the mechanic told me his emissions machine was broken. He said I should come back on Saturday. Dutifully, and stupidly, I did as he requested. On Saturday, I returned and asked him if his emissions machine was working. "Yeah," he said, "but it won't work on your car." "Then why did you tell me to come back on Saturday?" "Did we have some sort of agreement or something?" Apparently not. And now I have to make sure as many people as possible avoid giving their business to the unnamed gas station at the intersection of Broadway and Prospect Street in Cambridge. It pains me to wield this column as a flaming sword of justice used to vanquish my enemies. Pity it has to come to this. Anyway, two days later, I drove to two other service stations in a attempt to fulfill my duties as a law-abiding car owner. Both denied me service, claiming it was "too early" in the day. All this searching had made me late for a meeting, forcing me to drive into town, illegally. I passed my normal walking path and reached the Museum of Science. As I began my descent into the scene of the Great Tunnel Flood of 2022, a/k/a the Big Dig, I noticed a little man wearing a neon orange construction vest driving a little PT Cruiser with little North Carolina plates. He was behind me, but decided to "merge" using the shoulder lane in an attempt to occupy the space-time placemark that my vehicle was occupying. I prepared for battle: I turned off the BBC, got off the phone and put down my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He kept coming, daring me to hit him. Then, somehow, he was in front of me. He. Cut. Me. Off! This was not supposed to happen. I learned to drive in Boston. I go to small towns in North Carolina and take advantage of their quaint manners, cutting people off on exit ramps at the last moment. Who was this guy? I slammed on my horn, and I rode his tailpipe, and I did this for a full minute. I felt like a murdery stalker. I didn't feel rage. I just felt very calm. I was like, "I have a job to do, people." I raced around him two lanes to the left, merged fast to the right and cut him off, barely avoiding a collision. Then I slammed on my brakes, drove at about 20 mph and resumed eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Your move, little man. He changed lanes to the left, preparing to take the Logan Airport exit. I maintained my pace, and he refused to accelerate past me. He was scared! The only thing keeping me from following him is that I really did not want to go to the airport. That would have cost, like, $3. Instead, I thrust out my middle finger in victory and drove onward. BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR LIVING IN SOMERVILLE. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY IN THE DIG. THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS HAS DEEMED BARATUNDE.COM TO BE COMPLETELY STREET LEAGAL.

Baratunde feels the burn (Weekly Dig)

Originally published in Baratunde's bi-weekly GOODCRIMETHINK column in the July 18, 2007 edition of Boston's Weekly Dig I've lost a lot of weight. I know because everyone keeps telling me that I've lost a lot of weight. Then they ask, "What's your secret?" It wasn't part of any plan, and I'll share the "secret" without ganking a basic concept from a late 19th century religious movement, packaging it into a DVD/book/CD and charging $29.95. Ready? I no longer eat dinner at midnight, lunch is my biggest meal, and my primary form of local transportation is walking--20 to 30 miles per week. I get exercise, and I get to experience the city. I thought I'd bring you along with me on one of my regular routes from my apartment in Union Square, Somerville to the Mass General Hospital area. Transformers, roll out! Our journey begins, as any real Boston journey should, at a Dunkin' Donuts. This one is at Prospect Street and Somerville Ave. I'll never be a real New Englander because I hate most things about Dunkin' Donuts. The donuts suck, and the "coffee" is just liquified sugar. There are a few redeeming qualities in this particular location, however. First, it's open 24 hours and serves as the second bathroom for my apartment. Second, it's open 24 hours and serves as a satellite police station for my apartment. Now, head east on Somerville Ave, passing two of the six auto repair shops that dot my route. I'm sure these businesses will be replaced with luxury condos when the Green Line gets extended to Union next century. This building on our right with the perpetual soccer match on the screen is the Demosthenes Democratic Club. As far as I can tell, it's where Greek men go to avoid saying hi to me. As we approach a right turn onto Medford Street, you'll see Target on the right. Living near a Target used to excite me. Then I found out Target allows its pharmacists to refuse to fill women's contraceptive prescriptions. They haven't gotten a dollar from me since, but I have considered donating unwanted babies. Pass under the commuter rail overpass, and pause at Medford & Ward Streets, home of La Hacienda. A British taxi driver told me this place had the best pizza in the area. He was right. I recommend the four-cheese white pizza. After a few more auto body shops and the hideous Twin City Plaza strip mall, Medford St. becomes Gore St. on the Cambridge side. There's another Dunkin' Donuts at Third St., this one protected by Cambridge's Finest. Keep walking straight, right through the Lechmere T stop onto McGrath Highway and alongside the Museum of Science. Be sure to yell "quack quack" as loud as possible at the Duck Tours. The drivers love when you do that. Ahead and across Storrow Drive you can see the Charles River Park Apartment towers, the "If you lived here, you'd be home by now" people. What they don't tell you is that if you lived there, you'd also be broke by now. A one bedroom can set you back over $2,000 a month. The downside of all this walking is the oppressive summer heat, but on hot days like these, it's nice to know I can pop in to the State Police Department at Storrow amd McGrath and walk out with a refreshing Coolata. BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR LIVING IN SOMERVILLE. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY IN THE DIG. WALK YOUR INTERNETS TO BARATUNDE.COM, AND THEN SWEAT ALL OVER