A few days earlier, Patti had officiated at the wedding of Trish’s daughter. Now we were sitting on the waterfront deck of the lovely home Trish shared with her later-in-life partner Timmy on the shore of Quincy Bay just south of Boston, having a quiet drink together to savor the afterglow of the event.
You’ve seen Timmy before. A bony, wizened, and fairly shrunken seventy-something with a deeply wrinkled visage riven by way too many cigarettes, he looked like a grainy photo of somebody’s great-grandfather. His crackly, squeaky voice still carried plenty of Irish brogue, though, and certified his proud origins.
I had heard rumors that Timmy was a now-retired member of the notorious Winter Hill Gang, the Irish mafia run by Whitey Bulger. In later years, members were convicted of a smorgasbord of questionable entertainments such as racketeering, loan-sharking, assault, murder, bribery, fraud, theft, robbery, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, money-laundering, corruption, extortion, prostitution, weapons trafficking—that kind of stuff.
So I asked Timmy about it.
“Timmy, I understand that you spent some time with the Winter Hill group, right?”
“So,” I continued, “if you believe what you read in the papers, there’s an awful lot of violence that goes on. But, what I wonder is this: how much of that is real, and how much of it is overblown by the media, for sensationalism?”
Timmy shifted a little in his chair and leaned forward, so he could face me squarely and speak matter-of-factly.
"Well, look, it’s kinda like this,” he squeaked in a thin voice utterly inconsistent with physical violence. “When you’re coming up in the business, you know, when you’re a kid and gotta make a name for yourself, you maybe gotta hurt a few people real bad, you know? Word gets around.”
“But here’s the deal,” he confided. “Once people understand that you’re willing to hurt them, well, you don’t really have to do it all that much after.”
I wonder if Vladimir Putin and we aren't living out the Winter Hill playbook. How else to explain our semi-paralyzed spectatorship of his nonstop massacre of an entire people? How else to explain the hesitation of the West to order him to immediately cease-and-desist? How else to explain why “we” don’t say, “Cease fire instantly. Stop firing your missiles and order your troops back to Russia right now. Tomorrow morning, we’re sending in massive waves of non-combatants to help the devastated Ukrainians recover and rebuild. God help you if you harm a hair on their heads.”