Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Love and Politics

I thought I would take a break from the rancor our politics seems to invite these days. I find the level of harsh rhetoric engaged in along the entire political spectrum bemusing insofar as it consists mostly of shouting at one another to "turn down the rhetoric".

We need a break.

I had a marvelous dinner of seared ahi tuna and San Francisco-style cioppino last week at the Blue Point restaurant in tony Wayzata. Charlie Leck (my blog mentor and host for the evening) and I were joined by our friend Steve Eckman to discuss the upcoming municipal elections in our corner of Lake Wobegon: Independence, Minnesota.

We gathered early enough to take advantage of happy hour, but sat in the restaurant rather than in the bar, so Charlie paid retail. Steve and Charlie have lived in Independence long enough to know all the players, alive and otherwise, all the alliances, all the blood feuds, most of the dirt, who can be relied on and who needs to be politically neutralized. It's a small town; the players take on caricature-like personas. As a relative newcomer to Independence with only one election under my belt, I mostly listened and offered up forest-from-the-trees strategies. It was a wonderful accompaniment to my Grey Goose.

The evening became even more enjoyable when John and Mary Beattie arrived at the Blue Point to celebrate their 32nd wedding anniversary. "You're the reason we're here!" proclaimed Mary to me as she stopped to greet us. Curiosity piqued, Charlie and Steve insisted I explain Mary's comment. Once explained, Charlie insisted I share it with my reader(s).

By way of disclaimer, I am a romantic. I am also a huge fan of Humphrey Bogart and, particularly, Casablanca. Whenever I revisit that masterpiece, I am struck by the amount of colloquialisms that have made the jump from the screen into my vocabulary. They are second nature to me now, like breathing out and breathing in (to borrow from another masterpiece). A little more than 32 years ago, my romanticism and admiration for Richard Blaine collided, resulting in the Beatties' visit to the Blue Point last week.

In November, 1978, I was getting ready to leave Washington, D.C., where I had been working for Senator Wendell R. Anderson as his legislative counsel. The Senator had lost his election in November and the office was in a transition mode. I was returning to Minneapolis to start a job in private practice. Mary Hartigan worked as the secretary to Peter Gove, Senator Anderson's legislative director. She had developed a crush on John Beattie, who grew up with Peter in St. Louis Park and was then working as an attorney at the Department of the Interior. Although Mary was convinced there was a mutual attraction, John was too shy to respond to any signals she was sending.

I was also in a transition mode. I had spent a few months of quality time with a lobbyist for the rural telecommunications industry, convincing her to make an exception to her self-imposed "no dating Senate staff" rule. The relationship had had a bittersweet ending some months before and my lobbyist and I shared one last lunch at the Monocle on Capitol Hill before my permanent departure from D.C. It being 1978, three martini lunches were not atypical. It was a great lunch. I had the chance to emulate Mr. Blaine and say all things you want to say to let someone know you'll remember them always and that you know that they know that they'll remember you, too. Fortified by vodka, we spent a couple of hours reminiscing, laughing until we cried and crying until we laughed. At the end, she might as well have boarded a plane to Lisbon. I had achieved my storybook ending to what had been an intense romance.

And I was in a mood. I knew of Mary's pining for John. I thought they'd be perfect for one another. And, having just closed the book on one doomed romance, I was determined not to allow Mary and John's story end without so much as a prologue.

I walked to the Capitol from the restaurant and went into the dome to the Senate Library. This was, of course, pre-cell phones so I needed to find a phone somewhere that allowed a private conversation. I called John at his office at Interior, still fortified by the three martinis. When John answered, without any introduction, I said something like, "John, I am at the Capitol and I am on my way to the Russell Senate Office Building. By the time I get there, I expect you to have called Mary and to have asked her out. She's nuts about you and if you don't follow up before heading back to Minnesota, you'll regret it, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But soon and for the rest of your life." And I hung up.

When I walked into the office ten minutes later, Mary came over to me. "What did you do?!!" she asked.

"Why?" I responded.

"JB called and said you told him he had to call me. We're going out tomorrow night."

I had forgotten this, but if last week was Mary and John's 32nd wedding anniversary, they were married two months after my intervention. I returned to Minneapolis in December, 1978 and, three months later, went on my own blind date with my bride of 30 years. John and Mary also moved back to Minnesota and raised a family of three sons.

Of all the gin joints in all towns in all the world, they walked into the Blue Point and, thanks to Charlie, I get to share this beautiful relationship.

1 comment:

Charles Leck said...

Great blog! It was a lovely dinner and meeting the two love-birds was a special treat. What a fantastic story! It was very nice to be a part of the little reunion! Hope lots of people read this. Chas