Bye-Bye Baby

My Brief Run-in with The Boston Irish Mob

I spent a lot of time in South Boston in the early to mid nineties and had friends in Bean town. I was at the salty dog bar, the one in Faneuil Hall, if you can recall. It’s no longer there. You walked down from both directions into the lower level bar. It smelled of seafood and stale cigarette smoke. I sat at the bar, ordered a beer and a bourbon back, and sucked on a Series R cigar. Bars allowed smoking back then. Being torn inch and a bit out of sorts, I was in one of my “fuck all” moods.

I bantered with the patrons next to me on both sides. It couldn’t have been three to four minutes when I had a tap on my left shoulder. I spun on my stool, and in my jovial mood, say nothing and flash a friendly smile. This guy was not smiling, he wasn’t happy. He looked like he hated everything and gave off a strong, unapproachable vibe. No one to fuck with. He had a bad vibe, an evil aura. He smelled of death.

The bar tender put a shot glass upside down in front of me and said, “this next one is on me.” I thanked him and his eyes said otherwise.

“Hey man,” I finally said. It was awkward.

“Hey, take your fuckin’ tag off your cigah’.”

I didn’t understand at first, as it was a weird request. I didn’t understand his angle. It had to connect to the cigar.

“Huh? Take my tag off?” I asked.

“yeah, tag your fukin’ tag off yah cigah’!”

“What is it to you?” I asked.

“Oh, it don’t bothah me,” he said with a slight chuckle in his throat. “It bothah’s my boss. Ya see, my boss hates cigah smoke. Not only does he hate cigah’ smoke, he hates when people are flashy and smoke their cigah’s with theah tags on.”

I said nothing, still taking it all in, try8ing to understand the situation as it was strange.

He continued, “ya know, he don’t want yah cigah to be better than a cigah that, let say, perhaps, maybe his good friend or associate may have…right?”

We sized each other up during this dialogue. This guy was my height with a solid build, but man, he smelled of hate. A vibe you feel immediately. I wanted no static from him and I slowed my roll and gave him a friendly fist pumped gesture in the chest.

“Who is your boss?” I asked. He didn’t reply. He repeated himself about how his boss didn’t appreciate my tag on my cigar. Showing my cigar could show that my cigar is a better quality than others is flashy and a sign of disrespect.

I told him politely to go away and mind his own business and continued smoking. I mean, come on, him and his people are on the other side of the bar in the corner. My smoke and my cigar tag are completely out of sight and smell from them.

That was the night I almost died. Bye-bye, baby. 

The bar tender put a shot glass upside down in front of me and said, “this next one is on me.” I thanked him and his eyes said otherwise. The tone of the room changed, and I sank into my stool unknowing, but feeling the weight of the room.

The woman beside the man on my right tugged my shirt. “Hey.” She said. I bend down behind the man.

“Yeah”, I said.

“Ummm. that’s Whitey Bulger.” 

BA-FUCKIN-BOOM

I sat up straight as if to stretch and looked over at their table. The guy who spoke to me was with others who didn’t seem important. Boy, was I wrong. 

I knew the name and of his Irish mob connection. Everyone in Boston knew Whitey Bulger’s name. I quickly pulled my tag off, but continued to smoke my cigar. The bartender put a glass of twenty-five-year Macallan single malt whiskey in front of me. “From Mr. Weeks” he said. I breathed a sigh of relief and raised my glass to his table. No one at his table was interested in me. I drained it in one swig. 

The room fell quiet with an awkward silence.

Years later, I read the book Brutal by Kevin Weeks and all the other literature on Whitey Bulger and his associates. Once he went on the lam, they all wrote tell all books and ratted out their boss and his sick crimes. A terrible life to be in or around, but a good read if you’re on the outside. Such a tangled web of deceit and betrayal. 

If I defied Whitey that night, I wonder if I would be dead or he would have seen balls in me and made me an errand boy? I am glad I never got to test that notion.

I walked out of the Salty Dog that night not knowing. I walked up the Government Center stairs, got on the green line, then the Park Street Redline to Alewife, then to the sixty-two bus into Lexington. I walked into my nanna and paps house, up to the guest bed, and crashed hard.

On my way back that night, I started humming a bass line rhythm in my head. I thought about being buried on the side of 93 with others in the body dump they found years later and realized I could have gone bye-bye.

I assembled bye-bye baby that night,in my head, in bed. The story and the song have no actual connection except that night I had thought of going bye-bye. But whenever I think or hear this song, it reminds me of that night. It’s strange how things connect in the future.

Bye-bye baby could have been about me almost swimming with the fishes. Without being alive, writing it would have been impossible. So instead of writing about that night, I wrote it about a girl instead. Fortunately for me, it is not a murder tale.

I worked the riff out at a practice enough where it became familiar to us all. It took on legs after a few runs, so I put simple lyrics I hummed a million times in my head, heading home that night. They stuck, and it never went forward or backward from there. The album version has no lyrics.

As we worked this song out, through time, I slowly added in lyrics during live shows. I think you can tell that my old lady is not my old lady, but my life.

To this day, the first thing I do is pull my tags off a cigar before I even put them into my mouth. Call it submissive or just classical conditioning. The asshole is dead now, but damn, that left a powerful impression on me.

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Ran Kime Writer
Ran Kime, a writer, poet, musician and recluse from New Hampshire, crafts abstract stories, flash fiction & poetry that probe the psyche. His collections include “Spectre of the Brocken: Halo for the observer” and “Way Past Tipsy & Other Silent Cries for Help”.