I Hung Out In Lynn, Mass. What Can I say?

by Bill Brenner on July 25, 2011

In this corner of the planet, Lynn, Mass., is the city everyone likes to pick on. One barb I do agree with is the saying, “Lynn, Lynn, city of sin. You never come out the way you came in.”

But I don’t see that line in the spirit in which it was intended.

Mood music:

It is a city of sin, but every city is a place of sin. We all sin, so it’s wherever we go — even in the little towns with the white picket fences and bunny rabbits hopping around freely.

Me? I’m a better person for having spent a lot of time in Lynn.

Lynn is as much a part of me as Revere. The neighborhood I grew up in, the Point of Pines, is the last stop in Revere before you cross the General Edwards Bridge into Lynn. The house I spent my boyhood in is on the Lynnway, which stretches from the edge of Revere Beach Boulevard to the edge of Lynn Shore Drive.

As a boy, my father would take me to the Osco Drug store in Lynn to buy Star Wars action figures and coloring books, followed by a trip to a nearby Friendly’s Ice Cream shop.

Since there was nothing to do in the Point of Pines, me and my friends walked across the bridge into Lynn, where we would hang out in a Building 19 and flea market just over the border.

When I was 11 a huge chunk of downtown Lynn went up in flames. I could see the reddish-orange glow of the fire from my neighborhood. They built a campus for North Shore Community College where the burned out buildings once stood, and that’s where I spent the first three years out of high school before transferring to Salem State. I used to laugh as I watched the campus security officers aim the parking lot surveillance cameras at a gay bar next door called Fran’s Place so they could watch the drag queens going in and out of the place.

At the community college, I met Mike Tranfaglia, a mullet-headed, foul-mouthed kid with Lynn coursing through his blood stream. He smoked and said “fuck” a lot, so we got along famously. We’ve been friends ever since. He was in my wedding. He’s a Freemason now, and Friday night he invited me to the lodge, practically next door to the Osco that supplied the childhood Star Wars toys I eventually burned when I went through my pyro maniac phase.

At the lodge we ate steak and smoked high-end cigars. The smoke brought a lot of memories wafting back at me. Memories painful and comforting at the same time.

When I went into newspaper reporting in the 1990s, I covered Lynn for a year. I worked six days a week for two publications and nearly had a breakdown from the exhaustion. It was also soon after my friend Sean Marley took his life, so my emotions were raw and bloody.

But the job put me in contact with some of the most colorful characters I ever met. The politicians were cartoon characters, some of them corrupt characters, some of them crazy, including a city councilor who patrolled the ward he represented on his bicycle with a gun strapped to his side.

I covered a murder my first day on the job, a kid who was gunned down outside a nightclub. I’d cover plenty more murders after that.

That year I started working closely with Peter Sugarman, who would take Sean Marley’s place as my best friend until his own death in 2004.

Peter ate, drank and breathed Lynn. He introduced me to the people that formed the spine of the city — including a tough little Greek woman who ran a corner fruit stand and fought with the politicians over any number of things for sport, the folks from the art scene, and the aging WW II veterans.

I even have fond memories of the police station visits on Saturdays at 6 in the morning. It was in the old police station that was standing by sheer habit at that point. There were always homeless people sleeping in the entry way and the smell of piss hung in the air like a toxic cloud. But the cops were always nice to me as I stood there reading through the police logs.

When I left that job, Lynn ceased to be a second home and became the place I had to drive through to get to wherever else I needed to be.

But it was nice to spend a couple hours there Friday night, remembering old times. Thanks for the invite, Mike.

I didn’t come out of Lynn the same person I went in as, but that’s fine by me. The people I met and befriended there made me a better person.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

wendy jutras July 25, 2011 at 10:44 am

Love it Bill…another great article….I am Lynn kid too so some of this I remember.

Regina Boratgis September 3, 2011 at 11:17 am

You’re always welcome back, you know.

Jason Lozzi July 4, 2012 at 9:14 am

Bill, reading this made me think of all the times that I had in Lynn. I too like you grew up in my early adulthood in Lynn and you are 100% right you never come out the way that you went in. Lynn has changed me for good and bad and everything inbetween.

Lynn is an interesting place! Great post

Eli January 1, 2013 at 9:14 am

That saying is so true haha in more ways than one! I really have a fondness for Lynn I have to say maybe it’s the character of the city (as well as some of the characters in the city!)

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