When the Blue Suit stepped into my car Tuesday afternoon I took him to task immediately.
“You made a big mistake last week,” I complained to him.
He was caught completely off guard. You would have thought I spilled a bowl of beef stew on his pants.
He went upright and appeared stiff and starched, like a white shirt fresh out of the cleaners.
“Hey Josh. You’re about the last person in the world to tell me I’ve made a mistake. You’ve made a few of those, haven’t you?”
I shot back.
“This isn’t about me. It’s about you. You made a mistake last week in the column,” I repeated.
“OK,” he said. “What did I do wrong?”
“You called Darren Costa the councilor, Dennis. I’d say that’s a bit of a mistake for someone who considers himself a maven about Everett politics.”
I pulled a copy of the Leader Herald from the back seat of my car and showed him where he referred to Darren as Dennis.
“I can’t believe it,” he said to me. He seemed bewildered.
“I don’t know how I could make such an error. I hope Darren is not upset with me. I mean, I haven’t really talked with Darren directly but I like his style. If Darren was a suit, he’d be a really well tailored, finely designed, piece of expensive wool cloth with all the bells and whistles.”
“That’s not the point. You made me look bad calling Darren Dennis.”
I apologize,” the Blue Suit said to me.
“Apology accepted,” I replied.
“This mistake you made misnaming Darren proves you have human qualities,” I added.
“Please, Josh. Don’t start again with that rap that I don’t exist,
that I’m just a figment of your imagination. I’m as real as you are,” he said. He was heating up just a bit, sweating inside his suit. He opened the window. He tried to cool off.
He changed the subject as we drove down Main Street heading toward Santilli Circle.
“What did you think about the school committee refusing to extend the superintendent’s contract?” he asked me.
“I shot back at him: “What did you think about that? Tell me.”
The Blue Suit fixed his sleeves. He unbuttoned his suit jacket.
“I knew that was going to happen. She didn’t have the votes. You can’t win if you don’t have the votes. Its really that simple, Josh. You know this.”
“I do. I do. But I thought maybe those who voted against the extension might be persuaded by the dozens of folks who spoke for her, or wrote e-mails and all that,” I answered.
“Forget it, Josh. There could have been 5,000 speakers all crying and weeping that the superintendent is doing a great job, blah, blah, blah, and that wouldn’t have turned a single vote into her column. You often forget, Josh. This is a tough neighborhood. It is a difficult environment.
Within the political realm, this is one off. It doesn’t get tougher politically than it does in Everett. It’s been that way for as long as I’ve been worn,” the Blue Suit said to me.
He loosened his belt.
He started in on me again.
“Did you really think the superintendent had a chance? If you answer yes, then you are clearly out of your mind. That vote was like something set in stone. Nothing could have changed the outcome. Nothing,” he repeated to me.
I thought about this for a moment. We cruised through Santilli Circle.
We were heading for the casino.
The Blue Suit was right. He understands Everett better than I do. But then, he’s been closer to all the ins and outs of politics than me. He gets it. I don’t. Well I do, but I don’t. What I find hardest to believe is that no one outside of Everett cares about what happens inside Everett. This explains why the system here goes on unimpeded, for better or worse, for decade after decade. Outsiders don’t mean anything here. Everett marches to the tune of a different drummer. I’m not sure Thoreau would describe it as such, but that famous phrase of his works perfectly when describing this place.
This is a tough, tough place.
As one of the speakers Monday night said, I think it was School Committee woman Samantha Lambert: “I came here when I was five and I’m still told I’m not Everett enough!”
I get it.
I cannot understand how the political culture here has survived so long the same way without finally collapsing or imploding.
“Maybe you should try another city, Josh,” the Blue Suit suggested to me.
“Thanks buddy, but I’m sticking around. Everett is a challenge. It is an exciting place. I won’t be trading it for another city anytime soon, you can be sure of that.”
“Why do you want to punish yourself?” he asked me.
“Because I welcome the challenge. This is a very challenging place filed with some very aggressive people who understand how the world turns – that is – they understand how their world turns. You get what I mean?” I asked the Blue Suit.
“Of course I do. Do you think I’m a fool?”
“Hey buddy. Go easy. You don’t have to get down on me. I’m your friend and don’t forget that. I gave you life. I made you who you are.
Without me, you’re just another cheap, off the rack blue suit destined for a rummage bucket at a local yard sale,” I added.
“Who’s getting down on who now?” the Blue Suit asked.
Then he dropped the bomb. “I’m hungry.”
I could hear his stomach growling. There’s just about nothing worse than that.
We rode into the parking lot at Mike’s Roast Beef. We went inside.
Several people went right up to the Blue Suit asking for autographs, slapping him on the back and high-fiving with him.
Then came his order…but at this point, I don’t have the heart or the time or the space to tell that story.