Tom in MN: The RNC Ringleader

by sAM on April 20, 2009

The RNC Ringleader

by Mary Jane LaVigne

“If you only help others…” Tom Kennedy pours beans in to my coffee grinder, cocks his head, gives me a sideways grin,“ …and don’t let yourself receive help… ” The whirr of the grinder drowns the end of his sentence, but I know what he means. I’m feeling a little bad. We’re sitting at my kitchen table on the Tuesday morning after Labor Day, the second day of the Republican National Convention. For the last four days, the Missile Truck, the MDC bus and a dozen Missile Dick Chicks, have roosted at my suburban White Bear Lake house, swooping down on Minneapolis and St. Paul to taunt Republicans.

This morning, I hit my limit. There’s been no ultimatum, just a sense I woke with that my family, my neighbors and I had had enough. As we made the bed, I told my fella Allen what I was thinking. By the time I was out of the shower, Tom and Allen had it all arranged. Now, the Chicks, the bus and the Missile Truck are packing up and moving on down the shore to finish out the Convention at my friend Larry’s house.

“I’m not holding up my part of the bargain,” I say, “expecting Larry to take up the slack.” Through the kitchen window, I watch the neighbor girls in their new clothes head off to the first day of school. In my yard, the big old MDC bus belches exhaust their way, while their mother, a middle-aged woman like me, casts a critical glance and gives me a forbearing nod. Soon I’ll be back to Minnesota mundane.

There’s plenty to do to move the Missile Dick crew, but Tom pours me more coffee and sits down to tell me a fable about asking for help. Tom’s story is about Bosnians, bridges and bikes. The cast of heroes includes an old girl friend, Shelly Buschur, the U.S. Air Force and a NATO commander from Northern Ireland. Did a kid’s bike parade create peace between Bosnians and Serbs? Tom doesn’t go that far. But the opportunity to pitch-in drew the best from everyone involved.

When the story is over the bus is packed and my living room floor is again innocent of cots. It’s clear, my concern for the convenience of my friend Larry, the next host to this troupe, is minor. In truth, I’m sad it’s over. “Our goal is to beat the bad guys by having more fun,” Tom had emailed me months ago as we were planning for the Republican Convention. Mission accomplished.

“Once everyone is gone,” says Tom as he hugs me good-bye, “a couple of us will come back and make sure it’s just like we found it. There’s red paint on your driveway. We’ll take care of that.” Like the Cat in the Hat when the mother comes back, all is in order when the bus and Missile Truck chug out of my yard.

A few days later, when they’re just about to head back west to San Francisco, Tom calls to say he wants to come by and take care of the red paint. “Forget it,” I tell him. “Consider it a souvenir.” Now that Tom won’t be coming east again, with his head full of visions and his emails full of schemes and new refurbished hopes, life doesn’t offer as happy a prospect. What’s left is a passel of memories of when the circus stayed at my house and of Tom Kennedy, the best ringleader of them all. That, and a little red paint on my driveway, will have to be enough.

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