I was disappointed to miss the state Democratic Convention in Lowell last Saturday (although faced with the choice of vacationing in Berlin with my wife or spending a Saturday at the Tsongas Center with a thousand political activists, Berlin wins every time). Thankfully, frequent contributor Jim Peters attended the convention and shared his thoughts and observations right afterwards although my absence from the computer prevented my posting this until today:
I must admit to going into the idea of attending a major convention is not necessarily a good fit for me. I am basically reticent and I do not get involved with crowds, notwithstanding my time on early morning television. But, that is a controlled environment and there are only three or four of us there. So I try to stay away from crowds. A convention is not the place to test your degree of reticence, or stand-offishness, or whatever holds you back. I knew when I signed up that there would be a great many people there and there were at least a couple of thousand.
So, it generally takes a leap to get myself to a group involving thousands. Sometimes you find out things about yourself in a large group, however, and I did. I found that sometimes it is easier to go into a crowd that large instead of being locked into a smaller crowd, especially if you have not had a drink in fourteen years. Sometimes a crowd can consist of you, yourself, and one or two other people. Not necessarily a bad thing, but akin to being thrown into an elevator by yourself. You could make conversation but the impetus is kind of lost.
Those are the situations in which I found myself at the convention and its pre-game style opening. I was primarily interested in meeting the candidates for Governor because I believe that that is the most important state-wide office in the Commonwealth. So I went where they were supposed to be. I went to meet Steven Grossman, I went to meet Joe Avellone, I went to meet Joe Curtatone. I did meet all of these men, and they seemed like pretty nice guys. After meeting them, I decided which ones seemed the most organized (Steve Grossman and Joe Avellone), and which shared my views on historical architecture, abortion, and taxes. I believe in historical architecture, I only believe in abortion in matters of rape and incest (which still separates me from my church), and the subject of taxes. I believe them to be far too high.
Steve Grossman’s camp was a carnival-like atmosphere. There were tons of people wearing orange Steve Grossman shirts. When I got my chance to speak to the candidate, he looked at me for three seconds and turned to someone else. I waited for the opportunity to speak to him for a minute but it became clear that that was not going to happen so I left him. He had been my favorite candidate, but I found his lack of concentration slightly annoying. I then went to Joe Avellone’s party next door. He was not there, but came in later. I was impressed with their table of literature and brochures. By this point it was not taking a lot to impress me. I then went to Joe Curtatone’s party which was supposed to start at six and it was close to seven. His two workers had signs on the outside of the building but had not yet placed their sign, which they were wrestling with, on the column. No literature was evident.
I went back to the Athenian Corner to see Steve Grossman, but the lines were longer and I ducked into Joe Avellone’s camp. While there I met his very nice wife, his sister-in-law, and, when I asked for a chance to speak with him, it was allowed. I found out from his wife that they knew Paul Tsongas very well, and that he had been an adviser in the quest for the Presidency in 1992. They had even rented the “little house” on Cape Cod from Paul and Niki during some summer hiatuses. He mentioned that too, when I spoke to him. He also mentioned the part about being on Paul’s advisory group during the campaign. So, I was favorably inclined.
Back to the Grossman group one last time. I had no better luck. I decided to mull over my experiences and come to a conclusion later. I did not go to the big party at the Old Court Restaurant but instead went out to eat in a much quieter place out of the city. I do not usually dine outside of the city, but it seemed the thing to do.
I went home and related my impressions to my wife, Vicki. I informed her that I was definitely going to the Convention in the morning. I learned from Joe Avellone’s literature that he had been spending a great deal of time in the Worcester area. I wondered where the references to Lowell were, but did not really formulate that question in my mind until now. I believe that you have to love Lowell to get my attention.
Getting up the next morning was not hard. I had a mission after all. Participate in the elective process at the convention level. I parked in a friend’s space and walked to the Tsongas Center. Unlike the night before, when I had appeared in work clothes, this time I got dressed up. Shirt and tie. I went to find a breakfast for another Gubernatorial candidate but it was over and they were cleaning up. I wandered around the Tsongas Center and came upon some friends, Maria Sheehy and Patty Kirwin-Kielty. I saw thi s as an opportunity to learn a bit more about my party, elective politics, and some of the candidates. Joe Grossman used his opportunity to announce his candidacy (very little surprising there), while the other gubernatorial candidates were not given the chance to speak to the convention. It was chutzpah.
After 12, I had to leave to do a lawn for an hour and when I got back, everyone was involved in discussion on the issues that had brought us together. After that it was time for the final lunch at the downtown University hotel. There I found Curtis LeMay, his wife, Susan, Patty Kirwin-Kielty, Maria Sheehy, and someone I knew but could not and cannot name correctly. Names have never been a strong point, even though I recognize what a pleasant surprise it is to know someone’s name. I had a stroke ten or twelve years ago and I lost my short-term memory, so I gave up on remembering people’s names. This despite the fact that Governor Patrick had correctly called me Jim when he greeted me.
So, for a day, I was on the Democratic side of things. A bit of a change from all of my Republican friends. Especially those at the Lowell Motor Boat Club. Oh, and one last thing. Commodore Armand “Butch” Milot invites people to apply for membership in the Lowell Motor Boat Club. He wanted me to tell people that.