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September 10, 1998: The Year in Review

Good Will Hunting thrusts South Boston geniuses into public eye

SOUTH BOSTON — Inside O’Malley’s Tavern in South Boston, a group of men huddle over pints of Guinness at a back table. Their conversation is fast-paced and genial. "What a fuckin’ hard day." "I’ll drink to that!" "Not the Platonic ideal of a day, I’ll tell you that right now for fuckin’ free!" The bartender calls out from behind the bar: "Hey Jimmy, settle a bet for me — what’s the vaporization point of mercury?" "What, are you some kind of asshole?" comes the reply from one of the men at the table. "It’s 356.9 degrees Celsius! Now shut up and get me another beer!"

These are Southie geniuses, and they are tired.

Historically, few have taken notice of South Boston’s unusually large genius population. To this notoriously private and antisocial group, that has always been just as well. However, with the release of Good Will Hunting late last year, Southie’s best and brightest citizens have found themselves uncomfortably thrust into public view.

Since the film’s release, virtually every major corporation and think tank has sent recruiters to scour South Boston for talent. Day and night, black sedans cruise the streets looking for geniuses, their drivers barking out Mensa mind teasers to passersby. Other companies have set up local offices to give them easy access to potential Southie consultants.

The Rand Corporation, for example, now has a branch office above Sam E’s Discount Variety and Liquor, and the Research Triangle Institute installed a special phone line that goes directly to the billiards room at O’Malley’s.

One South Boston genius, who spoke under condition of anonymity, bemoaned the plight of the Southie savant. "We used to be able to keep to ourselves, y’know? Just a quiet life of work, reading, maybe going down to the pub to partake in some Hegelian dialectic over a Black and Tan — it was all we wanted. But then, thanks to that fuckin’ movie, every asshole who needed the four-color map problem solved started bangin’ on my front door.

"I moved to a new place and unlisted my phone number, but I still get people coming by every once in a while, askin’ if I know anyone who can solve a fourth-order differential equation in his head, or whatever. Nowadays, I just fuckin’ punch ‘em in the nose if they ask me shit like that."

"If I ever meet Matt Damon," he concluded, "I’ll break his fuckin’ kneecaps with a pool cue."

Brian Toolan, a member of the "J-niuses," a super-intelligent street gang based off of J Street, is upset not only at the attention Good Will Hunting has brought to his neighborhood, but to the character of Will Hunting himself.

"I mean, he’s a total stereotype of the typical Southie genius," Toolan told the Weekly Week as he lit up a Parliament. "Okay, so he was abused as a kid. I mean, who wasn’t? And we’ve all dealt with the tragic death of one or more siblings. But we don’t all deal with it by turning into violent assholes.

"Sure, I do," continued Toolan. "But others just quietly drink, or turn to hobbies, or whatever. And the idea that you can’t have a good life unless you leave South Boston — that’s bullshit! My family’s been Southie geniuses for four generations — my great-great-uncle, Jimmy Toolan, came up with Schroedinger’s equation."

"‘Course, it was called Fat Jimmy’s equation in those days," he added.

Sally O’Flannery is another South Boston resident who, while not herself a genius, is upset by recent developments in her neighborhood.

"We had a nice fella named Sean around the corner who helped me calculate exactly how much paint I needed to repaint my dining room using only a ruler and a piece of string, and last spring he helped my son Greg genetically crossbreed a new strain of wheat for the school science fair. He also helped us get free cable."

"Now, though, I haven’t seen poor Sean in weeks — there’s government think-tank types wandering all over the neighborhood, bringing him job offers, makin’ a racket at all hours of the day and night."

Sighs O’Flannery, "I just wish that movie had never come out."

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