“2 Reasons Why I Am Afraid of Whitey Bulger”

2 Reasons Why I Am Afraid of Whitey Bulger
Saturday, January 31, 20009
I’m not really afraid of Whitey Bulger. I’m not connected in any way with organized crime, corruption or those various aspects of life that go along with the seedy underbelly of life. I have no reason to be watching over my shoulder for Whitey or any of the Winter Hill gang and I’m not an rat. So why would I say I’m afraid of Whitey Bulger? There are 2 reasons:

One: I was a visiting nurse for a short time in Lynn, Massachusetts. “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin…” It was pretty grimy and skeevey but it had that reputation so I knew going in what I was in for while I was there:
I went into an apartment where the floor was covered entirely with mattresses and the kitchen cabinet doors were pulled off and covered with wire to make chicken coops–the 6 year old great grandson translated for the family to tell them I was the nurse who was going to give the million year-old Vietnamese woman (she looked that old) a shot of epogen.
I saw a happy couple slugging it out on a sidewalk in front of an open bar at 9:30 one morning while I was waiting at a stop light. By the time the light turned green, they had each other in a clinch-hold and were rolling down the sidewalk.
I remember trying to do a sterile dressing on a leg wound in one of the filthiest apartments I have ever seen and telling the patient he really had to clean up if he didn’t want his leg to fall off, then we both burst out laughing.
Working in Lynn wasn’t the bad part of that job. I was always treated with a great deal of respect and many of the people I treated wanted to feed me, which was charming but pretty gross when you think about it.
The worst part for me was going to Revere. Yes, they do say it like “Ra-veyah” and most of the inhabitants on the sidewalk wear “leathah” jackets (or they did in 2000). It felt like a city stuck in the 1970s. The buildings, the business signs, the house styles and the personal style of the patients I visited were kind of a Brady-bunch nostalgia with a strong Italian flair. It was weird.
During that time, there was a media push on Fox televison in the Boston area called “Where’s Whitey?” I think the news ran a segment about Whitey Bulger, his crimes, his disappearance and that the FBI was renewing efforts to get him by upping the reward for capture to $1,000,000. On of the FBI theories was that Whitey could be hanging out and protected by his hired goons in Revere.
After that segment aired, I would look for Whitey Bulger when I drove to see patients in Revere.
One of my patients in Revere was a big fat guy, about 50, who needed daily dressing changes to his big fat belly because his surgical incision would not stay closed. He sent his wife out of the house after my first visit, although I was supposed to teach her how to do the dressing change. He said he wanted a nurse, not his wife to do it.
After the second week he offered to take me to Las Vegas as his personal nurse, to which I said “My husband would not like that.” He asked if my husband was a tough guy and I said, “You don’t want to make him mad.” and he said, “He Italian?” and I said, “No, Russian.”
So he stopped making Vegas references but still sent his wife out of the house before I arrived.
Then came the morning I thought I saw Whitey Bulger walking along Massachusetts Avenue while I was on the way to see my big fat belly patient. I did a double take, a triple take; it looked so much like a picture Fox 25 had on the news. There he was, walking along the street, not even on the sidewalk, Whitey Bulger.
I made the mistake of telling my patient who I thought I saw. I had resorted to inane, annoying chatter to hopefully bother this man into wanting his wife to do the dressing changes.
This comment, he did not find inane or annoying. In fact, he sharpened up quite a bit.
“Oh yeah? Where’d you see him?”
“Massachusetts Ave. but I know it wasn’t him.”
“I tell you what, I’ll send a guy out and if it is him, I’ll split the money with you.”
Oh crap, what the hell had I done? He’d send a guy out?? It really struck me that I was I was not in a good place. I started to sweat and get cold at the same time. I had made a big mistake.
“Come on, it wasn’t him, It’s just all that stuff on the news about finding him. Besides he’s a terrible person and I’d never turn him in.”
“Why do you think he’s a terrible person?”
Why am I having this conversation while trying to pack guaze into his huge abdominal wound?
“He kills people!”
My patient was quiet for a moment and I prayed the conversation was over but instead he said, “What makes you think someone who kills people is a bad person?”
It was chilling.
I jabbed my hand hard into his wound and he went “Ooooof!” then I told him the conversation was over. That was the last time I went to that house. I quit the job about 2 weeks later.

Two: Nine years later. I work in a hospital on a busy med-surg, detox, cancer, and everything else unit. There are some interesting patients. Recently we admitted a gentleman who was withdrawing from alcohol. He was pretty sick and took a very long time to come out of it. Patients who are withdrawing usually take about 3 days to clear up but this guy took well over a week.
He was interesting in that it appeared he was homeless, had a number of prison tattoos and had lost a good part of his left arm years ago. He had a very Italian name and his first name was uncommon; it was a name kids would definitely make fun of in grade school.
Because he took so long to clear from the DTs, the doctors were thinking they would have to send him to a long-term care/psych facility for the incurably insane (kidding, I don’t think that place exists, although I wish it did). But this patient was a puzzle and looked like it was more than what he first presented with until he opened his eyes one afternoon and asked if he could sit in the chair.
So he became the miracle man. He was amazed that he had lost 10 days of his life in the hospital and we were amazed that he was able to string two words together that made sense. He was able to give information about who he was. I am not sure if he told us anything that was true because had a criminal past.He was definitely a wise guy. He said his tattoos were from prison but wouldn’t say where. He had a brother in another state. He said he lost his arm in a motorcycle accident.
When he was well enough, we discharged him to a homeless shelter. On his last day, he told staff that he was one of Whitey Bulger’s boys and that we could look him up in some book about Whitey’s street warriors. I was doing his discharge and getting him a cab to a shelter that was far enough away that he would be taken to a different hospital if he got sick again. Then I asked if he was really one of Whitey’s boys.
“Oh yeah, I worked for Whitey! He wasn’t that bad. He was loaded (drunk) most of the time.”
“Well, you’re all cleaned up, so stay out of trouble.”
He laughed like he knew he couldn’t or wouldn’t stay out of trouble. Then he said, “You know Whitey wasn’t bad until he got hooked on percocet. Then he ripped off my arm.”

About EF Sweetman

bees, baseball, beverly, ma, culture, manners, society, writing
This entry was posted in Observations. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “2 Reasons Why I Am Afraid of Whitey Bulger”

  1. lizybee says:

    This was originally written on Facebook in January of 2009

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