Cleaning Blood from the Brownstone

It’s pretty tough watching all of the violence that has been unleashed by various ne’er-do-wells in our city over the past few months – particularly over the July 4 holiday and into this week.

There are too many guns and bullets, but to speak freely, there are too many nutsos out there. People who have no value on their lives or those of others around them. The City has done enough. So much is spent on reaching out. Maybe they’re missing something, maybe the police are missing something, but how nothing can stop someone who has taken that step across the line from having a gun to firing a gun at a human being.

It doesn’t seem like a big line to cross, but it’s as wide as the Charles.

Every year, there’s that rectangle of violence that picks up parts of the South End and sweeps down into Dorchester and Mattapan and Roxbury. Is it lack of summer jobs? Is it an oppressive system that dates back to the dawning of the country? Is it the breakdown and dysfunction of the family?

It’s probably all of that, but in the meantime, the acts of violence – while less than in the past – seem to get more outrageous, more cruel.

Last week, we even saw bullets fly into police headquarters. Can you imagine that? Someone shot up police headquarters and most everyone has already moved on from it.

We see these things mostly on the news these days.

Certainly, the South End can hear shots at night, and the Back Bay isn’t immune to a stabbing or shooting at its many clubs. But it’s few and far between from what it once was.

Both places were seedy, and the South End was dangerous – even as late as the 1990s.

It’s quite a thing when the violence comes to your front door.

A quiet summer day can quickly turn into a police state basically in your living room. Someone that you likely don’t even know wanders onto the street you live on, gets assaulted or shot, and dies on your front step – the place you walk every day or pick up this paper each week. I saw that happen in times past.

I remember wondering how to feel about it. It’s overwhelmingly sad. I used to get mad about it, but it’s hard to know who to be mad at. I mean, who do you get mad at when you don’t even know who got killed next to your pot of marigolds.

Isn’t that just crazy? But that’s Boston. The thing about it today is that you can be living in one part of Boston and feel as secure as Sunday soup, but living in that same city just a dozen blocks away and feel like you’re in a war zone.

An old skill one used to have is how to get blood off of the brownstone when an “incident” unfolded on your steps – if someone got stabbed or shot on your property. Often when the police left, after they photographed the scene a half-million times, you were left with an unsightly glob of blood on the steps. You can’t just step over it for a few months, so you had to clean it. The police did a cursory cleaning, but the owner had to get out a bucket the next day and a scrub brush. No one wanted to leave that painful reminder on their front stoop.

In hushed tones, old-time neighbors would share the secret formula – diluted dish soap, scrub, marinate in peroxide for 15 minutes, then scrub again. That was how you did it.

That was a part of living in good old Boston back in the days.

Sadly, in other parts of our city, that’s still a part of what neighbors have to do to keep things moving.

For me, I’ll never stopped wishing for peace on our streets – even if it’s far-removed from Boston proper nowadays.

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