Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Avenge the Patriotic Gore

RIP Willie Don
We've been gifted with some awesome governors in this state--some only from an entertainment perspective, some from a leadership perspective, and some from a WTF? perspective. Only one combined the best of all three, and that man, William Donald Schaefer, died yesterday.  Melonhead was undisputably the very finest public servant in Maryland history, a four-term mayor of Baltimore (and while we Mocomofos can breed as much as we'd care to, Maryland politics still begin and end in Charm City, and always will), a two-term governor, and a two-term state comptroller (after his terms as governor). For 40 years, he dominated politics in the state, and while many hated him (even those of us who loved him hated him briefly at one time or another), even the haters could not deny that he was a man who moved the state forward after years of moribundity.

I can haz attention?
Thanks to BFF for inspiring my image search with his posted pic of the quintessential Schaefer memory (and for saving me the effort of actually searching for the newspaper link). I chose the pic above, but BFF's black-and-white version would've been the one on the front page of the Sun--and let's not pretend that the Post is relevant to this discussion. He was mayor of Charm City then, and the occasion was the opening of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, one of the centerpieces of the Inner Harbor development, probably the consensus starting point of Baltimore's renaissance (non-yuppie Marylanders prefer other neighborhoods, but money is what money is).

I am the very model of a Maryland major general. Or admiral. Whatever.
The background of the above photo says it all. It's Admiral Willie Don's last day as mayor, his first day as governor. Baltimore's building. Think about all of it1--the harbor complex, Camden Yards, the revitalization of downtown, the light rail, the righteous ferocity of Melonhead's hatred for the Irsays and fucking twats like Parris Glendening--and then reflect on the words of our current governor (who only serves to boost the enormity of Willie Don:
"I think the legacy he would like the most is that people know that he cared, and there are hundreds of thousands of people all across our state who are remembering today their encounters with Mayor Schaefer or Governor Schaefer when they were looking for a job, when they needed to get a son or daughter into drug treatment, when nobody would come to address the problem of the illegal dumping in their alley or their broken swing sets in the park. And Governor Schaefer cared and he did something about it and he made sure government acted now for the people, government is meant to serve. And I think that is his most enduring legacy, really. I think that will live long after some of the memories of the built environment."
(Emphasis mine.)

Two greats, a convict, a prospective convict, and a twat.
The men who preceded and followed Willie Don, (Harry Hughes, at right above, excepted), only clarified how much the man shone. The exception, who hailed from a part of the state that Melonhead famously (and correctly) called "an outhouse," came on the heels of a pair of convicts, and while Harry is a wonderful man who restored respect for the statehouse, he just didn't have the luster of his successor, and really, I cannot emphasize this enough, his predecessor, immediately to his right above, actually spent time in a Federal prison for crimes committed while governor. It could equally be said that Schaefer benefitted from following a quiet, dignified guy like Harry Hughes, but the fact is that Willie Don had a pretty serious track record for flamboyance even before Harry showed up in Annapolis.

In retirement at Jimmy's
I wouldn't live in any other state in the Union. With Melonhead's passing, a big bit of what makes Marylanders better than you2 dies. The man exemplified our state and the notions of leadership and public service and citizen service, notions that politicians of all stripes have left by the wayside in the years since he stepped down as governor. I much prefer to think that, like Louie Goldstein, Willie Don is immortal, and for my own mental health, deep down, I don't really believe he's dead. But I have to nod to the news; rest in peace, Melonhead.

(Pic credit for the two flamboyant Williedon pics.)
1 Unless you're from Pittsburgh or Kissing Suzy Kolber, in which case you can, at this time, think about going and fucking yourself rather roughly.
2 No, I'm not fucking kidding, especially if you're from Pittsburgh or Kissing Suzy Kolber, in which case you can, at this time, think about going and fucking yourself rather roughly.


Sasha said...

Fuck. I just wrote a huge comment filled with memories and thanks and it fell into the ether. So while I mourn and try to reconstruct, let me say thanks for the memories, the pictures that made me laugh and cry.

A tour around my neighborhood shows many Maryland flags at half staff. Some things are still right with the world.

Sasha said...

Two greats: