Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Jerry, they hardly knew ya

My North Shore town is not exactly a mob hangout. Hence my surprise at opening the local weekly and seeing a mawkish obituary notice for that sweet, innocent son of Boston's North End, Gennaro Angiulo. (I chose Zimbio for the link because a] it performs best and b] it isn't stuffed with hypocritical sentimentality about the end of an era. The Boston Herald and Fox News have been falling over each other with that sort of coverage since he died last weekend.)

End of an era? Damn right, and damn good. I'd bet some serious money that two out of three North End residents today had no clue who this man was, and what he represented, until the local media spelled it out for them. For such gentry, Angiulo's mob associations form a sort of racy and safely remote back story to their daily lives.

Thirty years ago today I was working in the North End. Geographically it was the same place, but that's about it. The organisation I worked for didn't have to pay protection. It was, for a variety of reasons, tacitly considered exempt from the usual methods of doing business; usual methods that permeated everyone and everything.

When anyone from the neighbourhood violated that truce, things were a little different.

By this date in 1979 I knew how things worked. If someone broke the peace, whether with graffiti, bravado, or outright threats, I knew how to insert my comments into the pipeline without any particular attention being called to the process. The breaker of the peace was forthwith reminded of his obligations. Typically, a "reminder" was all that was necessary. We had learned not to inquire too closely about the resolution of these problems. We suggested there was a problem, and the problem went away. Not surprisingly, we had very few problems with the locals.

The hand of organised crime dirtied everything it touched. It didn't seem possible then that the mob could be broken. It has been, but other groups have picked up the pieces, moved them to other neighbourhoods, and solve problems even more directly than the gentlemen of the North End solved them.

I shed no tears either for the deceased or what he stood for. I'll leave that to Fox News and the Herald.


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