Sinners, Saints and Subs

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I met a woman once who told me that a long time ago, she lived in an apartment above Leone’s Subs, on Broadway in Somerville. (It’s along the route that Paul Revere took to warn that the British were coming – a drawing project of mine.) She remembered that at the time, the owner of the Leone’s was asked if he’d mind if a few wires were run through his property to bring cable t.v. service to the auto body shop behind his property. He obliged without any hesitation. He wasn’t stupid. He knew what that place behind was the headquarters of the Winter Hill Gang – Boston’s Irish mob. Perhaps you’ve heard of the gang’s most famous member – Whitey Bulger. He’s the ruthless killer who was protected by the FBI  for quite a while (in exchange for information). He was tipped off, too, and escaped arrest – living for years on the run before capture in California, where he lived with his girlfriend by the beach. He’s now in jail for the rest of his life. Jack Nicholson’s role in Martin Scorcece’s film “The Departed” was loosly based on him. “Black Mass”, the actual story of Whitey Bulger, was recently filmed here in Boston and will star Johnny Depp as Whitey.

 

The Winter Hill Gang is long gone now. And their hangout on Marshall Street, behind Leone’s, has made quite a conversion. It’s a Pentecostal church now, serving an immigrant population. The neighborhood has changed. The little store that I drew in front of, was “El Valle de la Sultana Market”, with plantains and big bags of rice in the window.

 

As I drew, I watched firemen and truck drivers stop in for subs up ahead, under Leone’s big, funky neon sign. Quite a few times, some tough-looking African American guys with neck tattoos snuck up from the barbershop behind me to see what I was up to. They came back from time to time to check on my slow progress. The owner of the barbershop started coming over too, but he never smiled. He just squinted at the drawing. After a couple of hours the light had changed too much to continue, so I decided to finish things at home. The boss came over to get a last look as I packed up and I told him that I’d send the finished image by email if he’d give me his address. He went back and then returned to give me his business card. 

 

I was more than happy to send him the drawing scan. After all, I’m not stupid. His shop is called “Goodfellas Barber Shop”. 

The Cemetery Shortcut

Cemetery Tree loPaul Revere ran right through here in the still of night—right by where I was sketching. It was a cemetery then, too. He was not on a horse and he was not alerting the locals that the British were coming. Later, the British would indeed come and leave eight colonists dead and ten wounded on the Lexington Green, just a stone’s throw away.

Revere was racing back to the Reverend Jonas Clark House, where he would help usher John Hancock and Samuel Adams out of town. It would be the second time he warned them of the oncoming British. The first time, hours before, was on his famous ride. That ride had ended abruptly with his later arrest in Lincoln, Massachusetts. (Revere had decided to race on to warn the town of Concord, too, of what trouble marched in their direction.) His British captors released him soon after when they realized they had bigger things to worry about—a gathering storm of revolt. Revere hustled back to Hancock and Adams, cutting through this cemetery, a perfect shortcut. They all escaped before the British finally arrived at dawn—just hours before the Battle of Lexington.

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On a beautiful summer afternoon, I sat in the Olde Cemetery Ground drawing peacefully among many of the victims and participants of that famous battle. Captain John Parker, the leader of the Patriot troops, is buried here. So is Reverend Jonas Clark, under a large table-like marker, which, it turns out, I had used as a table for drawing. Among the gravestones I sketched is that of Jonathan Harrington, who, after being shot, crawled the short distance to his home, only to die on his doorstep before his wife. She’s buried here too, along with their relatives, in graves embraced by the roots of the huge maple tree before me.

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As I drew, tour buses came and went down the road, just out of sight. I could hear the muffled voices of the visitors as they walked around the Lexington Common. But, behind the church, only I disturbed the patriots that afternoon.

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