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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Southies

It was the best of times and the worst of times for South Boston this week. Vertex Pharmaceuticals broke ground for a new building a stone's throw from where Whitey Bulger was being brought to justice in what the Globe called "the town he terrorized."

It's doubtful Bulger recognized anything. His return took him over a new roadway at Logan Airport through the Ted Williams Tunnel that was opening to commercial traffic only when he fled in 1995. He rode behind the Seaport Hotel, past the mammoth Boston Convention and Exposition Center and may have caught a glimpse of a new restaurant complex where Jimmy's Harborside once sat. From there, up and around Seaport Boulevard to the Moakley Courthouse, named for a beloved son of the Town.

The "South Boston Waterfront" was nothing but a bunch of parking lots and sub shops when Whitey ruled the Town, which most folks know really runs south of the Seaport. That's where brother Billy and the rest of the clan reside -- where the landmarks aren't Silver Line stops and LTK, but Broadway, L Street and Castle Island.

Bulger's return highlights the clash of eras, particularly a new Southie where young urban professionals (OK, yuppies) have been flocking and where restaurants with windows that open to the street are overtaking bars that hide their secrets.

The 81-year-old Bulger was the undisputed king of the Town. Some say it was because of his generosity, protecting residents from the scourge of drugs. Others, particularly cops, say it was through the gun and fear.

It's ironic that Bulger returned to a part of town that he never knew -- and never will. It's a fitting coda to a career that made Southie infamous for crime and intolerance. A chance for the Town to start over too, even if some of its long-time residents have to be dragged kicking and screaming into that good night.

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