What the Island of Misfit Toys Tells Us About People

In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, on the Island of Misfit Toys, there is a scene where Charlie-in-the-box throws the bird who can’t fly off the sleigh without an umbrella. People have long debated whether this was a blooper or a statement about resilience. Perhaps we can trace the decline of western civilization to this one scene in this one beloved and terrifying stop-motion animated Christmas special, and the effect that it had on the national childhood psyche from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies. I think you can essentially divide people our age into three categories: 1) people who were terrified that the bird was abandoned, 2) people who believe the bird could always fly but just needed someone to believe in him and 3) people who didn’t give a rat’s ass if the bird could fly.

There might be a few non-classifiable people, like those who believe an umbrella is not a parachute, but they’re assholes anyway.




Faster Than You Can Say Second Wife: A Family Thanksgiving Story

Holidays were always interesting at our house, largely because of my mother’s proclivity for picking up strays (yeah, yeah, I know: pot, kettle; apple, tree). She ran a halfway house for alcoholics, and often we’d host these broken, middle-aged men, who had once been successful doctors and lawyers with beautiful families, but had lost it all by the time they got to my mother. They were newly awash in The Program, exuding the humility and gratitude of a new recruit. But one Thanksgiving stands out from the other holiday gatherings, and luckily there were no alcoholics at this one, because I’m pretty sure their fragile sobriety would have been mightily tested. 

First a disclaimer: This is a true story, insofar as I believe that everything within happened. It’s conceivable that I have blended family holidays. This sort of thing happens to me. I often remember parts of several movies, putting them together to make a whole new movie, thinking that what I am remembering is the movie I remember. It’s also possible that I have left out parts of the story, or that aspects of the day have become embellished over the years. As I grow older, my memory grows general, with bursts of specificity that either advance my personal agenda or contain facts so trivial and irrelevant that I don’t know what makes me think of them.  

Second, some background: My father died in 1967, when I was four, my brother was three, and my sister was 18 months. This left my mother a widow at 34, with three babies, very little money, less job experience and a high school diploma. My mother felt that she was abandoned by my father’s family after his death, and she became estranged from his parents and siblings. My father’s youngest sister had lived with my mother and father for a time after they were married, and so my mother felt particularly hurt by that desertion. Now, my mother was a good Christian woman, who could be selfless and forgiving at times, but she was a bit controlling. She could hold a grudge with unrivaled tenacity, and demanded loyalty above all else (pot, kettle; apple, tree). But, while she perceived herself to be forsaken by her in-laws, and told us often that they weren’t the best people, she managed to forge a career, and raise three children who mostly went to college and grew up to be reasonably well adjusted. We had a fine working-class upbringing, and all was more or less well.

Third, more background: In the early 80’s, my brother got a scholarship to an Ivy League school, and began to live the life of an Ivy League student – you know, spending semesters abroad, dating heiresses - that sort of thing. While my sister and I seldom ventured farther away than the subway would take us, he was globetrotting, and unbeknownst to our mother, had established contact with my father’s youngest sister, who had moved back to Ireland years earlier. My brother visited her and her family there. I don’t remember what actually happened – I must have been really stoned or away from the homestead at this point, but I understood that my mother was furious with him. I can so clearly imagine her feeling betrayed that I can almost hear her screaming. But somehow my brother convinced her that she had to let go, and she did. She visited the Irish relatives herself, and my oldest cousin even came to live with us for a while. (I don’t know why he stayed though, because my mother, who had become a substance abuse counselor, so harassed the poor kid every time he had a beer, she might have driven him to drink the next one.) But in general, relations between my mother and one small village in Ireland had become cordial, if somewhat fragile, even though she told us she wanted nothing to do with the rest of our father’s family.

Flash forward a few years, and the aforementioned paternal aunt, her husband, and my cousin, are going to be with us for Thanksgiving. My brother, in his first year of medical school, is also coming, along with three or four of his fellow students who aren’t going home. He has also invited the mother of one of these friends, a very nice woman who sells real estate in one of the tony western Boston suburbs, and probably doesn’t often visit our gritty urban neighborhood. Also in attendance will be my maternal grandfather, maternal great aunt, and my sister, who has just had her gallbladder removed. (This being the mid-80’s, she’s had an actual operation, with a big incision and stitches, not like today’s wussy procedure, where you can go out dancing that night.) What my mother doesn’t know until about two days before Thanksgiving, is that my aunt has invited her brother, my paternal uncle, and his new wife.  We have not seen this uncle since my father’s funeral, and my mother is not happy. However, she is trying to deal with it, moving back and forth between forgiveness and planning something guilt-inducing designed to elicit a full apology.

When my uncle and his new wife arrive, it is disconcerting, even for my normally unflappable self. There is a ghost sitting in my mother’s living room: His physical resemblance to the father I only know through photographs and secondhand accounts is uncanny. This elderly man is who my father would have been, and he doesn’t quite live up to the hype that occurs when someone dies young. He is not superhuman, and yet he is alien. He is also divorced, and has married a much younger woman, with my first name, -- and having married into the family, my last name as well.  Since it is uncommon, I am not accustomed to another Joyce, let alone someone with my full name. 

My grandfather arrives. He is a little old man with a sixth grade education, who has never had a nice thing to say about anyone. An immigrant, he has a thick French Canadian accent, and as he has grown older, his nastiness has become rather funny, because his inhibitions died with his wife ten years earlier. His insults aren’t as hard to take when they’ve skipped a generation. When he asks me, “What did you use to cut your hair, the lawn mower?” or “Where did you buy your clothes, the circus?” I can laugh it off, but my mother wouldn’t be human if she didn’t carry some baggage. Papa, as we called him, had grown too feeble to climb the stairs, and the bathroom is on the second floor. A coffee can is procured for him, in the event that he needs to pee.

Arriving with Papa, is my great aunt, Katie, sister to my maternal grandmother, who has been widowed years earlier, by a man with whom I don’t remember ever having a conversation. He had been present at all the family functions, but I don’t recall him ever getting a word in. Aunt Katie is also French Canadian, with a thick accent and thicker cat-frame glasses. She is a woman of modest means, but she makes her own glamorous clothes and hats and always wears gloves. She is very active in her church, making “bandages for the leopards” and such. I think she means lepers, and I also think that by this time the lepers aren’t using homemade church lady bandages, but I admit I don’t know this for a fact. In reality, the church is trying to keep her busy, because she has a penchant for befriending wrong number callers, and for excessive bingo. My great aunt is also responsible, I am convinced, for the fall of Communism in Russia, which happens as a result of her prayers and those of her church ladies, though she wouldn’t actually live to see it. Above all, she is a pragmatist: I remember once telling her that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and she said, “Well, good. Someone has to write the words on the toothpaste tubes, so there will always be work.”

Papa spots my father’s brother, and because Papa is starting to lose his hearing, screams at my mother, loud enough that everyone on our street can hear, “Who is that man?” My mother explains that he is my father’s older brother, who Papa met many times, many years ago. He screams, again to the neighbors, “Who is that girl with him? Is that his daughter?” My mother tells him the “girl” is my uncle’s new wife. He then screams for my brother to take him to the back porch so he can piss into the coffee can. At this point, my sister has to excuse herself, because she can’t allow herself to laugh, for fear of popping the stitches in her gallbladder incision. 

The afternoon wears on, getting weirder and more uncomfortable. My grandfather keeps asking – “who is that man?” and “who is that girl?” at 15 minute intervals, and we give up answering him after the first few times. Aunt Katie screams at him, because she is also hard of hearing, telling him that the “girl” is my father’s sister, which of course she isn’t, but no one argues with her. My sister comes back downstairs, but by this point, my uncle – not the ghost-of-my-father uncle, but the husband of my father’s sister – has finished a few drinks and turns into the stereotypical jolly Irish drunk, determined to make my sister laugh, because apparently the Papa and Aunt Katie show isn’t funny enough for him. Meanwhile, when my sister is not warding off the tickling from Uncle Johnny, she is being chased around the house by my brother and his med student friends. After all, she is a live surgical specimen, and they want to see her incision, check her temperature and generally annoy her. I think they want her to pop a stitch, so they can get some practice. She moves in and out of the public space, as the hilarity and its effect on her stitches allow. 

The “girl,” or aunt by marriage with the same name as mine, now also known as The Other Joyce, is obviously nervous. Who wouldn’t be, given the screaming? I don’t remember much of the conversation beyond the screaming, though I do remember her asking me what I did, which was always dangerous territory, as I had dropped out of college and was working for an outspoken lesbian who managed punk rock bands.

We sit down for dinner, and it is actually good. This is a bit of a surprise, as my mother, a talented woman in many regards, was no cook (pot, kettle; apple, tree), and often spoke of inventing a “turkey scent spray” that you could use in the house when you wanted people to think you actually made the turkey. There was a lot of polite conversation, and Papa was quiet, having procured a giant turkey leg, which was his favorite. 

We are all nearly finished our first helpings, when The Other Joyce begins to shake, her eyes rolling back in her head. Before the army of med students can get to her, she spasms and throws up all over the table. Aunt Katie quickly grabs the turkey and moves it out of harm’s way. Papa doesn’t look up from his turkey leg. The med students get her to a bedroom to lie down. My uncle won’t let anyone call an ambulance, which makes the med students positively giddy. He claims that nothing like this has ever happened to her before. I go to Aunt Katie, who, in addition to being hard of hearing is also more or less blind, and was directly in the line of fire, and ask if she’s okay. She says that she’s fine and asks for a Kleenex. The table is cleared faster than you can say “second wife,” and my sister has to go lock herself in her room, because she can’t take it anymore. I settle Papa and Aunt Katie in the living room, and he screams, “What’s wrong with that girl? Is that girl’s father going to take her home?” and “Boy! Could that girl puke!” The real estate woman from the western suburbs who had come with her med student daughter makes a gracious exit, but later sends a lovely thank you note, mentioning nothing of what happened. Her manners were impeccable.

My uncle and The Other Joyce leave after she has rested for a couple of hours, and I never see them again. Papa and Aunt Katie both died not long after, though I don’t think their deaths were related to the festivities. Mom also died around Thanksgiving in 1999, but I think she taught us an important lesson – that NOT letting go of grudges might actually make for more relaxing family holidays. 

(Thanks to KS for the assist.)

Get off the cross. We need the wood for the fire.

Since I'm no longer a practicing Catholic, all this talk of Holy Week has me feeling left out. I'm going to start an alternative celebration: Holier-Than-Thou week. On Friday, we'll have the Martyr of the Year Awards Banquet (at Florian), and on Sunday, we'll leave baskets full of platitudes out for the kids. I'm TOTALLY going to win the Soapbox Decorating Contest. I'm not touching anybody's feet though. More soon about a planning meeting.


My take on last night's GOP debate (posted March 4, 2016)

My take on last night’s show starring The Short-Fingered Vulgarian, Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted and Governor Aw,Shucks.

I did love the Mondrian/Partridge Family stage backdrop. That was the best part.

The festivities opened with The Short-Fingered Vulgarian being pressured to disavow the KKK, which he did after some clarification. “I thought they said AAA. I like them. My car broke down once. They helped me out. Sent a nice guy - Tyrone. Of course I disavow the KKK.”

There was manly talk of manly anatomy among the candidates, led by the S-FV. And involving Jazz Hands for some reason. (As a theatre fan, I admit I was drawn to this.) Now, this has certainly happened before, and no doubt in multi-partisan fashion, but I believe this to be the first time on stage. On television. In a debate. For the presidency. Of the United States. Of America.

Megyn Kelly asked Lyin’ Ted – I’m paraphrasing a little here – “Why are you such a losing loser in this race?” LT responded – and I am NOT paraphrasing now: “Obama!”

The S-FV was boasting about a million-vote lead in some contest or other. He said “A million is a lot of votes.” It’s not a lot of dollars if you’re the S-FV, but it’s a lot of votes. I believe he added that he is also up in the polls by a million percent.

Fox News person Bret Baier seems to be working on the beginnings of a hair tribute to the S-FV. I don’t know if there are any equal time rules on something like that.

Governor Aw,Shucks said he was the normal one up on the stage, which is true, unless you look at his record or talk to right-thinking people in Ohio.

S-FV remains VERY concerned of the devaluing of currency in China and Mexico, which FORCES him to manufacture his Trump Ties in those places. I remain very concerned about the devaluing of the American presidency.

LT described his vision for the tax code, describing a lone man in the Treasury Department receiving the postcards on which Americans pay their tiny taxes. Or something.

S-FV was defending his 2008 contribution to HRC’s campaign by saying it was a business decision, and he owed it to his family, his business and his country to make good business decisions. I assume this extends to his decision(s) to exploit the system and declare bankruptcy. A lot.

S-FV was continually pressed on his changing views of everything (except his manly anatomy), to which he continually responded “Flexible. Believe me. Winning because flexible. And I was off the record, so flexible.” He further explained that the Mexican-financed border wall might be 45 feet, might be 50, because flexible. Or something.

S-FV was crowing about his endorsement from Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which got me to thinking about the string resemblance between the Sheriff and the Burgermeister Meisterburger. (See photos.)

For a little while, I had trouble concentrating, because I couldn’t stop picturing Megyn Kelly’s eyelashes on each of the candidates.

Little Marco commented that radical groups grow when they are given operating space. I agree with LM. Radical groups were given operating space in the GOP, and look where it has ended up!

S-FV was defending the extended use of torture, and added “We are starting this tonight and the subjects are the people watching this broadcast.”

S-FV was being pressed on his “flexible” views on Afghanistan and Iraq. He defended himself, saying “I thought you were asking if we should send afghans to Iraq. You know – blankets.”

It is a scientific fact that every time S-FV said “believe me” last night, an angel in heaven gauged out its eyeballs with a knitting needle.

S-FV pushed back on the revelation that Trump University was given a D- by the BBB. He said the rating was actually an A, and accused everyone there of not being flexible.

LM on Flint: “Heckuva job, Brownie!”

LT was asked why Detroit has fallen so far since the height of the auto industry. His answer was NOT because the right has done everything they can to break the back of labor over the last several decades.

There was a lot of talk of photography and gays. The one thing that was NOT addressed is what happens when a GAY photographer is asked to photograph a wedding between a man and a woman. I think this is important, because though it’s rare, sometimes gays go into the arts.

LT was asked about gays adopting kids, and he said that is a states’ rights issue. He said gay people in gay states can adopt gay kids and they’ll all end up in gay hell.

There was talk of Scalia and the Second Amendment, and maybe I got confused at that point, but I am PRETTY SURE someone suggested that the next Supreme ascend to his (yes, his) seat by winning a duel. (“Number 1: The challenge, demand satisfaction…)

S-FV gave credit for the creation of Obamacare to Justice John Roberts. This obfuscation of the facts is understandable, given his undoubtedly hurt feelings at the drubbing he got yesterday by Obamacare’s ACTUAL creator, Mitty Cent.

Right before the debate, I was asked “What’s the ONE word that won’t be uttered during this debate.” I said, “Yoga.” Boy, was I wrong!

There was some kind of exchange about the leadership ability of Kim Jong Un. I think it was led by Don Il Trump, but not sure.

S-FV was underscoring the idea that his support comes from unlikely places when he said, “Even with ISIS, my poll numbers are high.”

Ben Carson contributed as much to this debate as he did to the last one.

LT loudly proclaimed his support for first responders at the end, but it’s said that he muttered “except in collective bargaining” at the end.

The winner? NOT America!

 

Last Night's Debatacle

Posted February 14, 2016

My wrap up of last night's GOP debate:

Overall, it was full of argle-bargle, jiggery-pokery AND applesauce.

The Somnambulist (Yes. He is still there.) says life expectancy wasn’t as long when the Constitution was written, urging we take a more actuarial approach to SCOTUS appointments. Fair point. To solve this, they could appoint a poor person. They don’t live as long.

Sen. Eddie Munster said the Senate will do all it can to see the next president make the SCOTUS appointment to replace Scalia. Translation: “We're not going to allow Barack Obama to do his job, just as we've been doing for years now.”

Jeb! also says “nucular.”

The moderator missed an opportunity when he made reference to “extremists operating in many countries,” but failed to reference extremists operating on that stage last night.

Jeb! told The Donald Grump that W kept us safe from terrorism after 9/11. In fairness, Grump kept us safe from Omarosa.

Robotio said "I thank God that it was Bush in the White House on 9/11 and not Al Gore." But it's not God he should have thanked. It's Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, et al.

Robotio said that parenting is the most important job any of us (except the gays) will ever do.

Romneycare, also known as Hillarycare took a beating last night.

Grump again talked about his wall, but neglected to say how it would impact all of the Mexicans traveling BACK to Mexico, as documented in the recent Pew study that says more Mexican immigrants are leaving the U.S. than are entering. (Maybe he should consider some kind of one way doggie door.)

Sen. Munster had this memorable quote: “I will rescind every illegal executive order on the legalization of illegal illegals issued by illegal Barack Obama.” And he meant it.

Grump said he was not “in love with eminent domain.” Fair enough, but he’s certainly attempted to take it home for a one night stand every now and again.

Grump talked a lot about consensus. Given his style, I am not 100% sure he’s using the word correctly.

Robotio scored when he said that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was doing a better job curing poverty than President Obama. It was masterful pandering albeit pure, documented bullshit.

The Somnambulist, on the other hand, knows that it’s Wall Street regulators who are standing in the way of poverty eradication. He said that all we have to do to get rid of poverty, is get rid of the regulators.

There was much bickering about Grump’s bankruptcies and Jeb!’s fiscal management of Florida, which led me to think it was too bad that Jeb! could not declare bankruptcy for Florida as Grump could for Trumpida.

During GOP Debates, I need to stop posting on Twitter reminders about Ronald Reagan's role in the spread of AIDS, because it invariably leads to a Twitter troll who wants to make sure I know that he didn't invent AIDS. I do understand that. He merely allowed for its rapid spread.

I had taken a little cough medicine prior to the debate, so when Frank Underwood appeared on the TV, I thought through the haze it was a walk-on, which would have been the best incidence of product placement ever. I was disappointed when I figure out it was just a commercial.

Gov. Aw, shucks of Ohio had a lot of Stuart Smalley moments, but the most smalleyesque came when he told EVERYONE they're special, not realizing that if EVERYONE is special, no one is.

Robotio was right about America's reputation being in decline around the world IF the rest of the world is watching this debate.

Sen. Munster asked if America wanted "another Washington deal maker," but should have added "OR someone Washington deal makers can't stand."

 The winner of the debate? NOT America.

(Pictured: Mercy's take on last night's TV viewing.)

 

 


Roadrunner testimony

Testimony in support of HB.2779, An Act designating “Roadrunner” as the official rock song of the Commonwealth, as prepared for delivery on October 20, 2105 at Hearing of Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, sophisticated music fans:

First, let me thank Senator Hedlund, Rep. Linsky and Rep. Garbally for sponsoring this bill. I am excited to be here to testify in support of HB.2779, An Act designating “Roadrunner” as the official rock song of the Commonwealth. I am proud to say I am the person who, in January 2013, asked Representative Walsh, now the Mayor of Boston, to introduce the first version of this bill, which failed to make it to the floor last session. We’re back, because a group of dedicated fans of the iconic song understand it symbolizes hope and optimism while professing its love of our home state. It is important, and the perfect song for this honor.

This has been an interesting journey. Over the nearly three years since the original bill was introduced, we’ve gotten a ton of press, with many stories in all the local media, plus Rolling Stone, Time, NPR, the BBC, the CBC and Gawker. A friend of mine in Tokyo said he heard me on the radio talking about Roadrunner. When an ill-conceived competing bill was introduced in 2013 to bestow the title on Aerosmith’s Dream On, there was even more national and international press. My favorite was an essay in Slate by Jack Hamilton, an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Virginia, which talks about the Massachusetts paradox that made the Aerosmith episode so predictable. He said, “In a rock-snob worldview, the Modern Lovers’ failure at the moment of Aerosmith’s success is evidence of the former’s worth: Part of the reason the Modern Lovers are great is because everyone else loves Aerosmith.” Remember, in 1972, the year both Dream On and Roadrunner were recorded, Massachusetts was the only state to vote George McGovern for President. We revel in the obscure and esoteric. We punch above our weight. We root for the underdog. We wear our idiosyncrasies with pride. And sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s who we are.

Jonathan Richman, the eccentric genius who wrote the song has said that he doesn’t believe the song is good enough to be any kind of official song. This is exactly what many of us expected him to say, and it just adds to this already-great legend. But this isn’t really about the artist who created or performed the song at all. This is about a song that captures the very essence of the spirit of Massachusetts. And let’s acknowledge the first bill’s anti-climactic death. Of course it died. That we’re still spending time on this when it should have been done so long ago is testament to the fact that we sometimes can’t get out of our own way. And, no matter what happens from here, we will still have a great story.

Famed author Nick Hornby voiced his strong support of our efforts on the first bill, as did the Dropkick Murphys’ Ken Casey, and the Daily Show’s John Hodgman, a Brookline native who invited the soon-to-be Mayor Walsh to perform the song on stage with him in November 2013. THAT was a highlight of my life, which I am grateful to say has been pretty full of highlights.

It has been a blast. This story – indeed this song – captures imaginations around the world and communicates the very character of our Modern Massachusetts and her people.

With that, I give you 17 really quick reasons why “Roadrunner” should be the official rock song of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

1.    Jonathan Richman, who wrote the song, is a Massachusetts native, born in Natick.

2.    The Modern Lovers, his band, started out in the Boston area.

3.    Many of Richman’s songs reference growing up in Massachusetts.

4.    “Roadrunner” is an upbeat, youthful ode to the greatness of being alive, and the simple beauty of the Commonwealth.

5.    “Roadrunner” is a tribute to the urban landscape, with nods to Massachusetts landmarks both civic and industrial, including the Mass Pike, Howard Johnson’s, the North Shore, South Shore, Routes 3, 9, 90, 495 and of course 128, the Prudential, Quincy, Cohasset, Deer Island, Boston Harbor, Amherst, Needham, Ashland, Mattapan, Roslindale and Stop & Shop.

6.    “Roadrunner” celebrates Route 128, which opened in 1951, the year Richman was born, and came to be known as “America’s Technology Highway.” To this day, it still represents Massachusetts’ vibrant Innovation Economy.

7.    The many versions of “Roadrunner” contain lyrical variations and musical deviations that have inspired many passionate late-night conversations among rock music fans about which is the best version.

8.    “Roadrunner” has been consistently popular and relevant since its creation in 1970.

9.    “Roadrunner” has been described as the first punk song.

10. “Roadrunner” communicates its unbridled, unapologetic exuberance about youth, freedom and Massachusetts economically, using just two chords.

11.“Roadrunner” contains one of the most brilliant lyrics ever written: “going faster miles an hour.”

12.“Roadrunner” also has the greatest count off in rock history: “1-2-3-4-5-6!”

13. Rolling Stone ranked “Roadrunner” #269 on its “500 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time.”

14. A recent article in the Guardian UK convincingly made the case that the “Roadrunner” rock ‘n roll pilgrimage is just as important as those to Chuck Berry’s Route 66, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61, Robert Johnson’s Crossroads, Elvis Presley’s Graceland, and others.

15. Legendary rock critic Greil Marcus called “Roadrunner” “the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest,” which just proves that HE’S never driven Route 128 at night. Of course, he is not wrong.

16. “Roadrunner” is a song that describes the mystery of the modern Massachusetts landscape. It has taken the specifics of that mystery and captured the imaginations of people around the world who have internalized it as their own, creating awareness of and interest in our state.

17. It is an unabashed valentine to our beloved Commonwealth. It says “I’m in love with Massachusetts” right in the song!

There’s no question that “Roadrunner” deserves the designation this bill seeks to bestow, and I urge you to look favorably on its advancement, with the Radio On!

Thank you.


Keys to the Car

I’d like to introduce you to my new associate, Ami Bennitt. She is joining Ashmont Media as a Senior Account Executive, overseeing all of the day-to-day operations for all of our clients. Ami has been a long-time friend and colleague in the arts community, and we have shared roots in the music industry. I have long been impressed with her work, and have recommended her to potential clients many times, when my workload kept me from taking new projects.

This is a bittersweet note. As you may have heard, I have taken a great job in the administration of my dear friend, Boston’s new mayor, Martin J. Walsh. This was an unexpected turn of events; though I worked hard for his election, and played a lead role in his transition, I fully intended to return to Ashmont Media, the public relations business I have been building since 1999. But the Mayor offered me the job of his Chief of Policy, which means I get to lead a team that will drive ideas and initiatives from a city that often leads the way in the nation. I couldn’t say no.

Ami brings with her experience in media relations, marketing, events, and fundraising. Over her career she has served as Marketing and Public Relations Director at New Repertory Theatre, The Lyric Stage Company of Boston, Boston Theatre Works, and the New England Quilt Museum. Additionally, she founded/programmed two lowbrow visual art galleries: the Paradise Lounge Gallery (2002-2008) and SPACE 242 (2008-2012), and consulted arts clients through her Motor Media & Management including First Night Boston 2014, Kingston Gallery, Fourth Wall Project, former Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ founder Nate Albert’s solo act The Kickovers, and former Weezer bassist turned visual artist Mikey Welsh.

In the 90s, Ami was artist manager for international recording artists The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and held posts at Nasty Little Man PR, High Noon Entertainment, PolyGram Group Distribution and Sony Music. She studied Arts and Entertainment Management at University of Massachusetts, Amherst and lives in Dorchester with her husband and two Australian Cattle Dogs.

Ami will officially begin February 3, but will help out on Ashmont projects until then. She may be reached by email at ami at ashmontmedia dot com.

I will still be overseeing and advising as I settle into my new role, which begins officially on February 3. I still remain active in Ashmont Records, the business I own with recording artist Joe Pernice. I don’t have my City Hall phone and email yet, but can always be reached at joyce at ashmontmedia dot com.

I have enjoyed working in the arts in Boston, and look forward to keeping the arts a priority from my new perch on the 5th floor at City Hall.


I know what I said...

I know what I said. Something like “I’d rather have all my teeth pulled.” Or “I don’t care what anyone says, I won’t.” Or “there’s no way on God’s green earth that will happen.” And I might have used saltier, more definitive language. I remember dismissing John Barros back in early November when he admonished me, saying “don’t say never.” He was right, and here we are. I was presented with the opportunity to help drive the policies of a progressive Mayor to whom I am devoted, in my beloved Boston. How could I say no? I have accepted the position of Chief of Policy in the Martin J. Walsh administration. I am the (second?) luckiest person I know. At a time when national policy is increasingly driven at the municipal level, I will be working on putting into action the values of a great leader, in the City that often leads the nation.

The year started like many before it, with me very happily living a great life, having built a solid public relations business with fantastic clients, surrounded by friends and immersed in all kinds of projects and causes. I was, as I have been for years, dabbling in elections as a volunteer. But in March, my dear friend, Marty Walsh, decided to run for Mayor. I committed to him on that very first night, and over the course of the year, I found myself first as his press person, and then becoming his Policy Director – a position the likes of which I’ve never held before. We assembled a team of hundreds of great, forward-thinking people, and worked together to articulate the values of our candidate – shared values. I learned so much, and had a blast, but had every intention of returning to my life after helping the Mayor-elect transition.

As inauguration day grew closer, I started to experience what can only be described as separation anxiety, but having publicly staked my claim, continued on with my original plan. However, last week, in a small meeting with some of his key transition advisors, the Mayor-elect said, “What if I wanted someone – just as an example – someone like Joyce Linehan, to keep track of our policy initiatives and work with City Hall cabinet heads to figure out how to do what we said we’d do?” Everyone around the table smiled and looked at me. Clearly, there had been at least one meeting to which I had not been invited.

How could I not do this? It’s a mid-life career change for sure – as well as a wholesale cultural change. Aside from one short summer between my junior and senior year of high school at the First National Bank of Boston, I have never actually worked in an office. I seldom wear shoes that aren’t sneakers. I do not own one business suit. This should be interesting.

It would seem that I am the only one who is truly surprised by this. As I have notified family, friends and clients, it has become apparent that this is not unexpected by anyone but me. I will be winding down with my existing clients, who have been great to me – ArtsEmerson, the ICA and the Boston Book Festival. I can’t shake Pernice though, and will continue to co-run the best little indie record label in Dorchester.

I am really excited about the future. So many great people work in City Hall – some who have been there for years, and some whose first day was January 6, 2014. And so many Bostonians care about our shared future. Happy New Year everyone. I’ll see you out there!