Gambling and politics is about winning or losing. Our Coalition is about doing the right thing, win or lose.April 2009
-- Tom Larkin, President
United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts
Gazing up Beacon Hill, it might as well be Kilimanjaro.
For some reason, Frank had dropped us off in the middle of Park Street, which tilts up toward the State House at what feels like a 45 degree angle, leaving Judy and me to hold what we now realize are the world's heaviest signs.
We were supposed to have a nice day for this event, but it's early. Right now it's still dark and cold and drizzly and all of Boston is lacquered with a depressing coat of fog. Worse, for me anyway, today is what people with a chronic pain condition politely call, 'a bad day.'
Earlier this week my son and I had made the signs with six sheets of poster boards and a new pack of sharpies. I'd bought some tall wooden stakes to nail to the back, and Judy had volunteered her husband, a retired carpenter, to add some sturdy wood frames so they wouldn't curl up.
It sounded like a good at the time. And the signs do look great - but now each of them weigh about a ton. Maybe more. And they're all different sizes, making the bunch of them even more awkard and difficult to hold.
We tried putting them down on the sidewalk, but it wasn't much wider than the signs, and they were blocking pedestrians. Just then a cop car went by and we decided we couldn't chance it. The putting down and lifting up were worse than the holding on to, so we just stood there trying not to look as desperate as we are. I try to hide the wince from Judy. Nobody needs a buzz kill.
We each call Frank about six times, but either his phone is off or he's parking the car in Worcester. He should be back here by now.
I don't have the cell phone numbers of any other folks who might be here already. So I send a text message to a friend who's always early, a colleague with the brawn to carry maybe three of these signs up all by himself.
Need your help.
And, for the first time in about two years, he doesn't text me back. Which is how I learn he's not coming out anymore. He's done.
And why shouldn't he be? How many times can people learn how little their efforts translate into Beacon Hill currency before they give up? You only get noticed if you're part of a crowd. You'll only be recognized if you're wealthy or well positioned. And you'll only be listened to, it seems, if you if you can do something for them.
It's been getting harder and harder to get people to come out. I've got some 'maybes' for today, and I'm grateful for that. I know it's hard to juggle life. Thank God for Judy and Frank. I think it's coming down to us. Even so, I've told them I'm done at the end of June - of course, before June we have about a million things to do. Seems like it, anyway.
It's been a good stretch. A year and a half more than I thought it'd be. Now I'm tired, I'm sick. Let someone else do it.
We don't even have the luxury of broadcasting our events to get more people here. We have to get the word out over the network, or else the union will call out the troops, all in matching t-shirts and lunch vouchers, to shout us down.
And if not the unions, then the flying monkeys - the squadron of fellow locals motivated more by venom and vendettas than a social conscience - all frothed up and seething on comment sections and message boards to anyone who'll listen.
But you have to believe you can make a difference, don't you? I mean, what's the alternative?
So I stick around, I show up, I beg people to come out, and, I guess, l carry some heavy-ass signs up a perpendicular sidewalk when they don't. Just another adventure in activism.
A guy walks by with his hands in his pockets, glances up at our signs, and gives me a look that says he'd rather be giving me the finger.
In the last two years, if there was ever a moment I thought I could just quit, just drop it all and go back to my old life, to leave the whole damn thing in the rearview mirror, it was that one.
But I know someone's waiting up there on the Hill for us. And I think, hey, maybe this is the one that'll do it. This is the one.
So I hand Judy four of the signs, and help prop her up against a parking meter, then take the remaining two under my arm. The pain is unreal. It slices me in two. But what choice do I have?
This started out being about a casino. Now it's about so much more. It's about what's right and wrong. About whether you fight or you give up. It's about letting the greedy stupid bastards with all the money and power push you aside, or showing them that, even if they do, you're never, ever, going away.
Just then, on the sidewalk at the top of the hill, through the fog and the gloom, is a familiar silhouette. The silhouette of someone who's never come out with us before, someone who I'd asked, but didn't think actually would.
But there she is. And sure, she's a senior citizen with her own chronic pain condition - but hey, I can work with that.
In my world, one person can still make a difference.
And usually does.