Watching City Hall #329, (11-12-04)
“Maybe the dead guy’s right.”
It only took Dick Hongisto a few hours after he died to begin sending advice from wherever the hell he was. That impressed me but it didn’t shock me because I’ve had experience with that kind of thing.
“h., I’ve got some bad news.”
I’d called Matt Gonzalez to confirm he’d be representing me in the coming fiasco of ‘POA vs h. brown’. The news of Hongisto’s passing earlier that morning struck me silent for a moment which is a rare event in and of itself. … There was only the sound of the guys manning the taps on Matt’s phone chewing gum and drinking coffee. I was more than a bit surprised at how the news hit me.
I wasn’t finished with him.
You know what I mean? … Oh, it wasn’t like losing a father you hadn’t gotten to know or a lover you hadn’t treated right. It was the same kind of guilt but on a professional level. When we were together, I only yapped about myself and cut him off. I’d turned down his last couple of offers of a decent meal and some quality booze. … I hadn’t gotten enough of the man into my data base and now he was gone.
I hadn’t gotten him to elaborate on how he’d saved Walter Wong’s bacon when a change in the Mayor’s office had put Walter on the edge of bankruptcy. The state contracts that filled Wong’s huge building at 13th & Mission when … stories of the young Kucinich in Cleveland … and on … and on.
I had enough for one glass of wine
I decided to drink it at the bar at Original Joe’s which was Dick’s favorite haunt. I arrived in the early afternoon and it hit me what was unique about the place. … Everyone at the bar was older than me!
Was that why Hongisto liked the place so much? There was a comfort in it to be sure. My unkempt full beard drew cold stares from the seniors and I resolved to trim it back to a Van Dyke after the court appearance. The late lunch crowd was watching WWII films on the History channel and literally exchanging war stories. A question or two about the former controversial Sheriff brought only: “He was in here last night.” followed by silence. I guess Dick was watching and when I hit the street, he spoke up.
“h., I’ve got a message for Matt Gonzalez.”
He seemed really happy. They usually are. A couple of years ago, I held my frail mother’s 85 year old hand as she went back to her Maker and almost instantly, as her last breath left her body, I had a vivid perfect vision of her (young and spry again) running up a lush grassy hillside accompanied by a couple of small blue birds (they were her favorite). It was a ‘Sound of Music’ moment and it really happened. One of my sisters who was hundreds of miles away, had the same vision at the same moment. … But, mom just wanted to say goodbye and let me know she was joyously happy.
I almost blew the opportunity
It was just a voice with Hongisto. I immediately started asking him the usual questions about where he was and if he’d still be around. … That made him laugh. Nope, he wouldn’t be hanging around this zone for much longer. The other side was far better. But, he did have this message.
“Tell Matt not to run for Governor.
That’s when I started to take him seriously. I mean, I’d been trying to get Gonzalez to run for governor since he declined to seek the Green party’s presidential nomination after last year’s mayor’s race. But, ‘Lieutenant’ Governor? That was simply a topic I had no information about whatsoever. Nope, that thought didn’t come from me.
Hongisto went his way and I found myself standing in front of the newly reopened West Hotel where I’d applied for a City SRO. My heart fell. I’d gotten my hopes up and here the place was open and I hadn’t even been granted an interview. But, that’s another story.
I go to Kalish for advice
h.: (having related the tale) “So, what do you think?”
Charles: (mulls it over, nodding slowly) “Well, even if it is Hongisto, it’s still just advice from Dick Hongisto.”
h.: (struck by the thought) “Death doesn’t improve your credibility?”
Charles: “How long had he been dead when he contacted you?”
h.: “Maybe 8 or 10 hours.”
Charles: (shakes head and lights pipe) “That’s long enough to access some kind of cosmic knowledge, I guess. Lieutenant Governor is certainly an interesting idea.”
h.: “So, what’s your opinion?”
Charles: “Maybe the dead guy is right.”
That’s one of the reasons
That’s one of the reasons no one likes to admit that they take advice from me. I mean, consider the source. If I’m right, do you have to have a séance every time you have to make an important decision? Shit, what are we here … Ronald Reagan?
The entire question of advice and advisers and consultants and pollsters and the like is all pretty new to world politics if you think about it. For most of human history, prophets and kings and emperors prayed and smoked and ingested psycho-active ingredients in search for the right answers. They cut people apart and threw them into volcanoes. They went deep into the wilderness and starved themselves. They beat themselves with whips and danced to the point of collapse. It was all a lot like the Folsom Street Fair.
In other news
Is there an echo in here? … Anyway, changing the subject while staying on the same point, I want to talk about the 2 most important decisions any San Francisco supervisor has to make.
“Do you want to be my legislative assistant …
Ross Mirkarimi gets to hire two people to work for him. Now, he didn’t ask me for advice on his hires but that’s never stopped me before. And, I cannot begin to tell you how many people have asked if I’d back them for the job. … Let me put in a disclaimer here. I am NOT an adviser to Ross or any other politician. Oh, they listen. They listen because I’m right so often that sometimes it’s like I’ve got this fuckin’ crystal ball or something. But, bottom line is that I’m more Court Jester than anything else. Just remember, the Jester is the wild card in the deck and can be anything the player lucky enough to draw him desires. … That said.
What D5 needs on the phone
Mirkarimi himself has been around the scene at da Dome long enough to know that the place is a pool of piranha. Piranha and wolves. Yeah, they come at you like piranha and wolves. You don’t hire defenders against such attackers based upon looks or loyalty or even, simply brains. You need experience, wisdom and unlimited energy. Because it’s San Francisco and D5, you need vision. Here are my recommendations to Ross.
1. Barbara Meskunas - People listen to her and she knows more about D5 than God does. Tys Sniffen used to bring up on the campaign trail that the voters of 5 should pick a supe who had extensive experience with neighborhood organizations. He was partially right (although, of course I derided him at the time). Nick Waugh brought out the same point in one of his answers on a questionnaire (I keep polls and questionnaires under the TV with the Playboys and hard core porn) … Waugh said that the neighborhood organizations would be his connection to the people. As head of the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhood , Meskunas has got it all. Of course, only a very secure man can work with such a dynamo. (Plus, she’s a hell of a writer who has ghost written tons of material for politicians over the years and can keep up with the press.)
2. Cheryl Brodie - Same kind of breadth on D5 issues. Meskunas is her mentor. Same strength and dedication. Same kind of stable home base and understanding spouse (the job is 25/7 /366).
3. Windy Chien - Organizational whiz. High energy. Great people skills. A serious cog in the new Progressive push that followed Gonzo’s mayoral campaign.
4. Amy Laitinen - Would provide continuity in the office. Strong and devoted. Good ties to organized labor.
5. Kimberly Knox - Boundless energy. Doesn’t care if meetings are at 6am or midnight. Will be prepared for all of them. Public policy wonk. Truly deserves the shot.
6. Savannah Blackwell - Remember her piece ‘Run, Ross, Run’? Got him into the race. Shares mantle of best investigative reporter with Matt Smith. Knows and is respected by everyone. You wanna write environmental legislation, Ross? Here’s your co-author.
1. Boris Delapene - A key engine in the campaign. The immigrant Frenchman adds to Mirkarimi’s own international appeal and the kid, despite his age, knows the terrain at City Hall. A former aide to Gerardo Sandoval and Department of Elections employee. Serious, hard worker able to keep a task force of fun-loving progressives on point for as long as need be.
2. Marc Salomon - The best political mind in the City. Bar none. He’d keep Ross abreast and beyond on every possible development. If Mirkarimi truly seeks greatness, he’s gotta have Marc. Salomon’s only weakness is that he does so much work for free that people think they can always count on him being there, but Marc and husband George have a mortgage too. Time to put Salomon on a payroll.
3. John Dunbar - Best contacts in San Francisco. Steady in any storm. Can be counted on for level-headed assessments. While others dissolve into seas of anger, Dunbar keeps his flap and calmly tells you just exactly WHY what just happened to you or to San Francisco, just happened to you or San Francisco.
4. A journalist my favorites are Adriel Hampton and Matt Smith. I genuinely doubt either would consider the job but the catalogue of great reporters who have gone on to contribute significantly to political administrations compels me to go there.
5. Bill Barnes - Hey, I’m burned out on the Democrats too, but the boy’s got game. He took a whale of a licking for 4 years anchoring the good ship Daly and never missed a beat. He ran a clean campaign for supe (a big mistake, but you’ve got to learn to forgive honesty and integrity from time to time) …
6. Jack Davis - To make Warren Hellman wake up in cold sweats.
With the exception of Nicole Derse, no one worked harder on the Ross Mirkarimi campaign then Rebecca Robinson and Bruce Wolfe. Bruce kept the IT network going and Rebecca was gatekeeper to the thundering herd that came to experience politics by dipping a tentative toe or diving in naked. Day after day I sat drunk and stoned and watched each of them quietly do their thing. Bruce kept Horseshoe operator, Robert (the French/Peruvian) happy while tripling the number of computers online and underfoot at a moment’s notice. Rebecca did everything from soothing egos to walking Ralph Mirkarimi (Ross’ dog). Any of the 3 would also make great legislative assistants but, again, I doubt they’re interested. Nicole is heading out for a round-the-world trip. Rebecca (who reminded me of Kim Novak, with her black cat always on hand to provide counsel and contrast to her gorgeous & lithe mistress don’t get me started) … Rebecca wants to get situated here, then head for a Malibu vacation. And, I’m doing my best to nudge Bruce and Gonzalez together to brainstorm state-wide IT strategies for a Green race for one of the top state offices.
This shit takes lots longer than you’d suspect. I’m at Susan King’s place while she’s in London and Amsterdam (do my friends travel or what?) … her computer ate the first hour of work on this column and that’s not unusual for someone who moves around so much. My e-mail at ludd.net is still dead and I have to call Phil to stop by when I want to send a column out. I am, indeed, a luddite. For those of you trying to reach me … maybe God is trying to tell you something. I mean, can’t you find anything better to do than read the ramblings of a clearly insane hacker and his dead buddies?
Think about that: Gimme shelter, Trent!