For years I didn’t really know who my parents were talking about when they mentioned Whitey Bulger in phone conversations between our respective coasts. I’m sure I feigned my understanding of this fugitive who had captured their imagination. And on the day when he was finally apprehended, I got an excited earful.
This man with Alcatraz in his past, comparable in our day to Dillinger and Al Capone, rose to #1 on the FBI’s Most Wanted List after the capture of bin Laden. Millions had been spent on the manhunt for Whitey, and I don’t know why I hadn’t known about him except that I never watch the program “America’s Most Wanted” and obviously don’t pay attention to the posters in post offices.
Whitey’s folklore out here in New England, however, was astounding. Even as his gang activity specialized in loan sharking, extortion and drugs, Whitey at one time conned the FBI into hiring him as an informant. And while on the run he hid in plain sight in Santa Monica, California, renting an apartment, assuming another name, and strolling the boulevards. A mere four miles from the Los Angeles FBI headquarters.
And on what was to be a pleasant little visit with my parents in New England, what I didn’t know was that a gangster would run through it. And here I sit today, researching the dude.
Boston’s Irish-American mob boss, Whitey Bulger, was sixteen years on the lam. My mother fell on the stairs our first night at her home. Whitey was incarcerated in The Plymouth County House of Correction, and mom spent the night in the ER and the next five days in Jordan Hospital, through the woods and across the street from said prison in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Canadian geese fly back and forth, grazing and pooping on the grounds of both.
I might have left Whitey to his prison, and mom to her hospital, and never the twain shall meet, but for the fact that Whitey kept complaining of chest pains or irregular heartbeat from his high-security cell. By the time we arrived with mom in an ambulance, Whitey had made at least three trips to Jordan Hospital. As concerned as I was about my mother, I kept looking over my shoulder at white haired men on stretchers and in wheel chairs, wondering is that him?
“Don’t believe it!” I wanted to implore the hospital staff. Once a con, always a con. And a hospital, it seems to me, is full of uniforms to slip into, hiding places and escape hatches. My mind was racing.
Meanwhile, my mother was concerned with other matters. You need to know that this obsession was entirely new. I’d never seen it in her before, and she had been sucked in grandly. Mom had been playing, and was led to believe that she was a final contestant in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstake.
“Why, even the florist in town has been alerted!” she cried from her stretcher in the ER.
So I took it as an incentive to get her home, to “spring her,” as they say.
We kept bringing in the mail over those days, all those Publishers Clearing House envelopes, all the forms-to-fill-out. And it cheered her up so. I noticed too how they keep postponing the announcement date, much like Whitey’s trial is continually postponed….
Whitey faces nineteen murder counts. My mother is hoping to win anything: five hundred dollars, or five-thousand-dollars-a-week-for-life. But the fact is she is home.
While Whitey sits there, in that horribly gray building, hoping for what? I think he already had it.