Sinners, Saints and Subs

Leones Subs_lo 

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.


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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End of the Line

End of the Line

In Lincoln, Massachusetts, by the side of the road, there is a marker called the Paul Revere Capture Site. A circular stone wall marks the spot where Paul Revere was arrested by a British patrol. For Revere, it was the end of the line, but not the end of that night’s story.

Revere and William Dawes were on the road from Lexington, where they had just warned Samuel Adams and John Hancock of the coming British. Now it was after midnight, and they were on their way to warn the citizens of Concord, alarming households all along the way, when they were overtaken by Dr. Samuel Prescott of Concord. He was returning late from courting a Lexington woman. Sympathetic to the cause, Dr. Prescott joined them on their mission.

As the three came around a bend in the road, they were surprised by a British patrol. The patriots scattered. Dawes reversed direction and escaped. Prescott jumped a stone wall and, to elude capture, used a side path he knew of. He fled to Concord, where he alarmed the town to the approaching storm of trouble. Revere headed for the woods but was intercepted by the British patrol.

Surrounded by six British redcoats, he was interrogated and searched for arms. An officer “clapped his pistol to my head, called me by name, and told me he was going to ask me some questions, and if I did not give him true answers, he would blow my brains out.”*

Apprehended, Revere was lead back toward Lexington. A major told his sergeant that if Revere attempted to escape, he should “blow his brains out.”* About a mile from Lexington Common, the captors were alarmed to the sounds of the Lexington militia firing muskets. Revere was ordered to dismount and to suggest an alternative road for them to take to Cambridge The British then rode off, taking his horse, but leaving his brains intact.

Free again, Revere continued his nighttime adventure—running through Lexington’s Old Burying Ground to rejoin John Hancock and Samuel Adams at the Clark House and hasten their escape to the town of Woburn.

* From Revere’s personal account, a letter to Jeremy Belknap.