I have written about how magic Worcester can feel some nights. There are the escapades of breaking up a fight at Chippendales Dance Night at a now defunct gay dance club, there are my eyes filled with wonder as some of the best women I’ve ever met roller skate around the Hotel Vernon and serve me a $1 Narragansett, there’s the first Secret Walls during Pow! Wow! at what is now the New Tradition Co. building, and numerous other wild nights at the expected and unexpected places around.
When I first left college I moved to Cambridge and I had a mental breakdown and moved back home to Worcester. I was trying to go to auditions and taking stand-up more seriously. I got a job, and I wish this was a lie, working at a Newport Mansion doing a murder mystery every Thursday. The money was good, and they paid that night and it got out early enough that I would get back to Worcester around 11 and head to The Dive to use some of my earnings.
At the time Duncan Arsenault was bringing all of his super talented friends to play out on the patio. There, I got to see Dana Colley of Morphine, Jon Short, Troy Gonyea, Brooks Milgate, Shana Morrison and so many more of my favorites to see in the city. It was thrilling, honestly. Some of those people I consider friends now and it might be embarrassing for them to read this, but I felt like I was getting to see this secret and mind-blowing thing every Thursday. Listening to that organ and watching Duncan hop off his seat to hit the snare while I drink a beer I have never heard of in a back patio under the railroad tracks was the highlight of my week.
I was starting to perform stand up at the time. I was going to as many open mics as possible, and putting on dumb little shows whenever I could, but I made sure to head straight home after acting in Newport to get to the Dive and let the music fill me up. It is there I made connections with people, it is there I learned that Hillfarmstead is nectar from the Gods. I even started to make Jazz Mondays at the Dive the hang after my show at the Center Bar (now the Hangover Pub).
The Dive is where people learned my name and welcomed me back. For 10 years of my drinking life in Worcester I have felt this way at only a handful of places: Ralph’s, Hotel Vernon, Vincent’s, Nick’s, Beatnik’s and The Dive. The Vernon and and Beatnik’s have dropped off, because of time and change. However, Vincent’s places are staples in the city and has hired the most amazing people to make you feel that way. But The Dive, just became part of the late night language for me. Whether it was Duncan’s music, Chris’ hot dogs (I still make the “Completo” at home with my wife), or just knowing that you will know someone when you walk in The Dive was my friend.
I get FOMO a lot. The Fear of Missing Out. It is inherent in comedy. Things like: You had a show, but the other show across town, had a hot crowd or you were going to go hang at a show, but decided to stay in and a famous comic dropped in that one night you decided not to go. I think you get it, now. I don’t get FOMO when I don’t go to The Dive. Partly because there was a weird part of me that knows I wasn’t meant to be there that night and partly because I know it will happen again. That place is magic.
People have complained: the beer is expensive and there are no domestics and it’s cash only, but that’s not why I went. Yeah, the beer is expensive and high fallutin’ but I went there for everything I just talked about. I went there for Mama Roux, for acting a straight fool dancing to Schoolboy Q with Che, for Ricky’s playlists, for Porter’s bullying, for the patio, for the dogs, for the murals, for the stories, for the reunions of old friends, conversations with news ones, writing roast jokes, dancing on the bar and every other fun as hell/dumbass thing that has happened there.
I have two favorite moments and one is huge and one is tiny. The huge one is when Molly McGrath and I and a bunch of other misfits got together and packed out the patio, the train bridge, the tops of cars in the adjacent parking lot and performed Wet Hot American Summer Live, the first time in 2015. The excitement and the joy that was bouncing off everyone could have powered the electricity of the entire city. The participation was beyond our wildest dreams. The execution was on point. The cast, the crew and the audience were one. The love of a movie and a place merged to create a community. Friendships, businesses, most likely the Person Who Peels Oranges Well and other shows stemmed from that night. It was amazing and shame on you for missing it.
My other favorite moment there is tiny. It is tiny because you can’t quantify it. This memory doesn’t have a value like how much money I have spent there or how many people they were able to pack into the place. Its tiny because it is just one raindrop in the ocean that is Worcester. But the Dive as a raindrop caused ripples that made me who I am. There are so many other raindrops that caused ripples that helped make me, but when I trace back how I know people and how other ideas have come to fruition it was either at that bar or in its back patio. It will be missed, and like everyone is saying, there will never be anything like it again. Long live The Dive. Let’s go Bravehearts.