|Watching City Hall #205, AUGUST 8, 2003
Lancelot dropped his visor and
turned for his first run.
The old groom looked down
to hide his broad smile
For he alone, knew what was
about to happen.
(from: The Once and Future King by T.H. White)
Lancelot was 17 years old when he entered that first tourney in England. Hed been trained all of his life for this moment but, he had no idea how good he was. Only his personal trainer knew. Hed trained historys best knight in seclusion in France and it was time that the world knew what hed accomplished.
San Francisco is the modern Camelot. Matt Gonzalez is the modern Lancelot. Yup, uh huh, thats the truth. This boy is not manufactured image. He is the real thing. The aw shucks, Jimmy Stewart demeanor is real. The sacrificing of material comforts in exchange for the opportunity to serve the public is real. This guy didnt enter politics as an appointee of the Brown/Burton machine, put there to further serve the interests of his rich masters (like Newsom). Nope, the guy, like Lancelot doesnt understand that he cant lose. Cant lose. The competition is papier mache and San Franciscans can tell the difference. Look for the Mexican/American kid from the Texas border town to out-poll Newsom by mid-October.
Hurt feelings, elation & near-miss
I hung out with Gonzalez Monday while Joel Bernsteins crew (Producer/Director Ron Ress) taped the latest Matt Gonzalez show. I did a couple of my raging lunatic promos, then spent the next couple of hours making a final pitch to him about why he should run for mayor. He said he was sorry to disappoint me, but he just wasnt going to do it. I went home glad to have hung out with the kid and pretty much resigned to the reality of Mayor Newsom. Things changed the next night.
It was almost midnight when the phone rang. Now, you know me, Im given to partying hard and not always adverse to a touch of strong spirits. Therefore, Im usually down for the night by 10pm or so. Also, I share a phone with my friend, Ania Wierbowska and I generally keep the ringer turned off on my extension except when shes out of the building. Now, Im used to fires and shootings and wrecks and suicides but this ring sounded different. I picked it up.
It was Eileen Left
Eileen: Hes gonna run!!
h.: (knowing immediately) Gonzalez!?
Eileen: I was just in a meeting with his brain trust. You know, Whitney and Randy and Marianne and Aimee. That group. Enrique looks like point person.
h.: My Gawd! Who else knows about this?
Eileen: No one and you cant tell anyone! I just figured you had a right to know.
h.: Lord, Lord. When will he announce?
Eileen: Look for the shit to hit the fan Friday.
I keep my mouth shut
(more or less)
OK, I told Ania. Whos she gonna tell, anyway? And, I did ask JoAnn Remstad, (whose friend works for Newsome) I asked JoAnn if shed work for Matt if he ran. Shed met him for the first time the previous Friday at his monthly art show/wine fest. Of course! she said immediately. And, I might have mentioned it to Mar Wan, my friend who owns the liquor store on the corner. My student loan officer needed to know. Iggy, the postman, as an employee of the federal government certainly had a right to the information. Like I said, I kept pretty much clammed up. Hell, no one believes anything I say anyway.
Eileen: It will be in the Examiner tomorrow morning!
h.: He hasnt called me. Am I gonna get shut out of this whole thing?
Eileen: You have a big mouth, thats all. Every Court needs a jester, so youre in. Just make sure your voter registration is in order. He says he promised you hed let you sign his nomination papers if he entered and I dont want you fuckin everything up. You got any pot? I may need to sleep on Anias couch too.
Matt called a bit past 8am after hed taken out the papers. I couldnt sleep and was up by 3am going over the rumors all over the internet. Now, they were more than rumors. Milk Club was madder than a wet hen. The Exs Adriel Hampton took the scoop of Gonzos last minute entry and crafted it into the days best news story. He paired it with the status of Tony Halls campaign (Hampton has noted that the Hall/Gonzalez relationship is a kind of rat pack thing & hes right together, these guys make everyone else in the room including Newsom make em look like tourists from Peoria) Yeah, the race needed Tony Hall and didnt get him. That would have been something to see. If Newsom actually showed up to debate, theyd have eaten him alive (Gonzalez will do it alone) I could see a run-off in December between Hall and Gonzalez. No one else could, but I could and, no one who actually pays attention can deny Im usually right. I told Gonzo Id make the scene around 2pm and finally went to sleep. By the time I woke up, it was after 2pm.
Just in case remember this moment
Gonzalez really does combine the Lancelot/Jimmy Stewart kind of aura. When I hit his office a bit after 3pm, I expected to see it jammed with people, foyer/inner & conference areas. He wasnt even there. No cameras. No reporters. No candidate (which for a guy who pretty much lives in his office was truly amazing) Of course, Eileen Left was there (and showing way too much leg). Years from now Gonzalez finishes his second term as U.S. President, historians will write about this day and how close all of it came to not happening.
h.: I checked my registration and Im cool. Has he filed yet?
Eileen: Nope. Hes supposed to be here in 15 minutes or so. (Filing deadline was 5pm and all he needed was a couple of dozen signatures and a cashiers check for $3,400 and he was set.)
h.: This is nuts! I mean, its OK to file a counter-ballot measure at 5 minutes til 5, but you dont take chances like this with the paperwork for a major candidate!
Eileen: Says the guy who never got more than 1% of the vote.
(we are interrupted by the opening of the inner office door Marianne Love steps out shes Gonzos legislative aide and its her last day before she heads back to Berkeley & school Matt mentors aides like a Queen bee sending worker bees all over the world and some of them will surely even surpass him)
Marianne: h. Matt says go on up and meet him at his house.
h.: (Im psyched, assuming there will be a serious war council there and Im going to at least watch and report a bit or, maybe even contribute) Can Eileen go?
Marianne: I think Eileen can probably go anywhere in the world she wants.
Hes alone but has tequila
Its 4pm by the time Eileen and I arrive. She stops outside the door and unbuttons some things and unzips others and I shake my head and tell her that Jimmy Stewart doesnt do the deed with trollops and were bickering and one of Matts roommates, Michael lets us in. Gonzo is pacing the apartment like a large caged panther. Its so unusual to see him not surrounded by mounds of paper and computer monitors and people just Matt and his cat. The cat smiles and we smile back.
h.: I was over at the Department of Elections and Doug Comstock was doing the rest of Angelas paperwork. There were a couple of Harris people there and they said they didnt think youd make it in the race because the mayor thinks you cant raise $3,400.
Matt: They may be right.
Eileen: Seriously, are you paying cash?
Matt: Im gonna give em a check.
Eileen: It HAS to be a cashiers check or cash they wont take a personal check!
The next 30 minutes are a blur. Matt makes a couple of low key calls to be certain Eileen is right. Then, he relays instructions to Randy Knox & Enrique who are headed to pick Matt up & take him to City Hall. Theyd planned to have the filing done by noon, or 2pm at the latest. It is 4:20pm and the candidate is not yet united with his nominating petitions and moolah. What if theres a line at Elections? Randy drops Enrique at a bank in the Mission to get the cashiers check and heads back to pick up Matt. Art Agnos is in front of Matts house when he emerges. Art has brought some mayoral duds for the young challenger. Say, huh?
A little help from my friends
Art asked me, How do you live on 35k a year? and I said that I live cheap and my friends help. Thats how Matt got his suits from Art. Former mayor Agnos is one of Gonzos many friends across the spectrum and they were having dinner. Hey, Ive got a closet full of suits and a lot I never even wear. Why dont you come over and pick some out and Ill have them tailored for you? This was weeks ago. Gonzo had chosen 5 great suits (They only needed a little work around the arms.) Now, here was Agnos, personally delivering the suits to Matt on the day Matt files for mayor. And, accidentally meeting Matt in front of his apartment without having called beforehand. Weird, huh? A San Francisco moment. Here, while Eileen and I watch, a past mayor (who got shot in the Zodiac spree) heres Agnos passing these fresh suits to what could well be the next mayor while Enrique gets the cashiers check 2 miles away and heads down to Bart. Its not supposed to be this exciting. Randy Knox, Matts campaign treasurer, pulls up and we pile in. It is 4:40pm. Eileen and I sign the nominating petition which has a few remaining blanks. What if theres a line at Elections?
Seat of your pants ending
Matt and Randy took turns phoning Enrique on Bart. He was on at 16th! What if it stops in the tunnel? said Eileen, helpfully. We were stopped at a light on Franklin. It was 4:45pm. Matt just grinned: Like clockwork. Yep, thats what he said. Enrique was off Bart at Civic Center, had the check and was sprinting through U.N. Plaza scattering pigeons and drunks. We were pulling into the loading dock area. Randy had Matt sign a couple of more papers while we waited for Enrique, who appeared as a growing speck racing up Grove. It was 4:50pm. We merged at the door at 4:52pm.
There was a line
It wasnt a long line. None, really. Elections had their act together for the last minute rush. They werent gonna lose a candidacy through not being prepared. Eileen and I backed off into the hall to read Rachel Gordons notes over her shoulder. Matt waded into the tv cameras and reporters as easily as a kid easing into a cool Texas river on a hot August day. The new suit looked good. It was 4:58pm. Wed made it. I turned to back up further and ran into one of Gavin Newsoms aides. Cutting it a little close. the staffer said. I just looked. Eileen ran her fingers through his hair and said: We did it on purpose for the dramatic effect. Ya gotta like that girl.
Im gonna go watch the Giants now. Then, the 49ers. I am in Heaven. Afterwards, Im going to make up my Gonzalez for Mayor sign and hang it in Anias window. Hows about you making your own sign for your own window? We got somethin going on here.
Gonzalez for mayor!: firstname.lastname@example.org