My Roadrunner testimony

Below is the text of the testimony I gave at this morning's hearing on Roadrunner.

December 19, 2013

Joyce Linehan

Testimony in support of HB.3573, An Act designating “Roadrunner” as the official rock song of the Commonwealth

Hearing of Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight

 

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee:

I am excited to be here to testify in support of HB.3573, An Act designating “Roadrunner” as the official rock song of the Commonwealth. I am proud to say I am the person who asked Representative Walsh, now Boston Mayor-elect, back in January, to introduce this bill. As you have undoubtedly heard, he has had an interesting year, and in a funny way, this Roadrunner campaign became a cornerstone of a forward thinking arts and culture policy that I would argue helped in some small way to propel him to victory. As his campaign Policy Director, and currently his Transition co-chair, I can say the subject comes up frequently, because to a group of dedicated fans of the iconic song who understand it symbolizes hope and optimism while professing its love of our home state, it is important. At the very least, it was a good luck charm, and it would be fitting, as he leaves the House, for the loop to be closed and this bill to be passed.

This has been an interesting journey. Over the year since the bill was introduced, we’ve gotten a ton of press, with stories in all the local media, plus Rolling Stone, Time, Slate, NPR, the BBC, the CBC and Gawker. A friend of mine in Tokyo said he heard me on the radio talking about Roadrunner. Famed author Nick Hornby voiced his strong support, as did the Dropkick Murphys’ Ken Casey, and the Daily Show’s John Hodgman, a Brookline native who invited the Mayor-elect to perform the song on stage with him recently. 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.

This was never meant to be a competition. If we’re going to recognize the most popular song, the song that has sold the most copies and generated the most revenue, then let’s just withdraw the Roadrunner bill now and be done with it. Truthfully, as much as I loved the publicity that resulted when a competing bill was introduced, (because very few things give me greater joy than extolling the virtues of “Roadrunner”) I was crestfallen. It’s a false equivalent, and if those who support the other bill can’t see that, then I can’t argue with them. They are both SONGS, but that’s where it ends. The other song is a great song by a great band who have been great citizens of our great Commonwealth. They’ve been generous to charity and ambassadors of our state around the world. But this isn’t about that. This isn’t really about the artist who created or performed the song at all. This is about a song that I believe captures the very essence of the spirit Massachusetts.

With that, I give you 17 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, the 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 essentially and 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.



Why Marty?

Why Marty? It’s a question I have fielded a LOT in the last few months. I understand that. On the surface, we may seem like rather unlikely friends. Beyond the shared background – we’re both Irish-American, Catholic school-educated and from working-class families in Dorchester – we’ve taken very different paths. But we’ve arrived at very similar places, and for some reason, my progressive bona fides are seldom questioned, while people assume that he is just another in a long line of white Irish Catholic guys from Dorchester. (I’d argue that of this particular line, he is most like Joe Moakley, but that’s another essay!) Marty and I share core values: equality, access, transparency and social justice. I believe he’s the most progressive candidate in this race, but more importantly, he is positioned to be the most effective, able to bring disparate voices to the table and convince them to work together. I’ve seen it.

Marty called the night we learned of Mayor Menino’s decision, to tell me he was running for mayor. I fully committed to him without hesitation. “Whatever you need.” We’ve known each other a long time, and we’ve worked closely together on many things, including the elections of Barack Obama, Deval Patrick, and Elizabeth Warren (we delivered 83% of the Dorchester vote under his leadership), as well as the U.S. Senate campaign of Mike Capuano, in which, for the record, we handily won Dorchester. He also asked me to help out on the first two city council campaigns for John Connolly (which I did), and introduced me to Felix Arroyo, who I have also supported in the past. I have several friends in this race, and we’re lucky to have a good field of candidates. But there is no better candidate for Mayor of Boston than Marty Walsh.

Early on, one reporter called to ask why I wasn’t waiting to see if a woman gets into the race. She was surprised when I told her that Marty has a great legislative record on women’s issues, and I had no doubt that he would continue to fight for my rights at every turn. Not all feminists are women, just like not all women are feminists. Marty is a feminist. Ask him. He’ll tell you. He’ll talk about pay equity, and a woman’s right to choose. He’ll mention buffer zones around abortion clinics, and access to birth control, a lack of sports programs for girls and how badly he wants to put an end to human trafficking. I realize that most of you don’t have my vantage point in this, and haven’t seen the way he is genuinely moved when someone is being abused or treated unfairly. But – here’s the difference – he has introduced bills in the legislature that address these things, and voted on these very issues. It’s easy to state a position; it’s harder to legislate one.

Other people asked if I was with him just because we’re friends. I told them that’s about 10% of my reasoning, but the other 90% was because of his record, and his character. I’ve seen his work in the trenches, and been on the other end of a broken lunch date because someone needed a detox bed, or a re-entry program. Marty and I have worked extensively together on issues of substance abuse, which has touched both of our families. I’d bet anything it’s touched every single one of yours as well. Marty is a person who will stop at nothing to help people in need. I have also seen him walk into a room full of my friends – super progressives – many of whom have an idea, based on his demographic, that he is a vestige of another time. They all walk away supporters, impressed by a guy with a depth and breadth of knowledge and compassion, and an openness and willingness to listen. They’re converted. This is why so many of my friends are actually working on this campaign.

Marty has it all as a candidate and a leader. Where other candidates may appear to be superficial, Marty has an impressive grasp of issues of economic development, workforce development, education and public safety, but more importantly, an understanding of the root causes of the problems that hold us back in these areas. Through this campaign, I have been continually impressed during policy discussions, when the ideas are flowing and people are excited, and Marty steps in with the concept that just crystallizes the position, and then leads us to the idea that will help solve the problem. His ability to do this is rooted in his willingness to listen to people and acknowledge different points of view. He has a great analytical mind, and a nuts-and-bolts knowledge of the way policy is moved.

I’ve never seen anyone with a greater gift for bringing disparate voices to a table, leading them to their common goals, and getting them to work together toward the solution. He has done this time and time again over an impressive career, but two instances stand out for me.

I think many of us have forgotten, now that we have led the rest of the country to see that diverse families actually STRENGTHEN our communities, what a contentious time we saw in Massachusetts when a few “family values” interests attempted to put the issue on the ballot, after the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirmed equal marriage. It’s easy to forget. It was a long time ago. Ten years later, it’s all so normal. But then, it wasn’t, and as the Massachusetts house began to debate the issue, LGBTQ leaders on Beacon Hill went to Marty to lead their fight. They knew that having a white Irish Catholic man from Dorchester make the case would sway the votes they needed to defeat the measure. So, he acted as the Floor Whip for MassEquality during the debate. Marty didn’t hesitate when asked, despite the fact he knew there would be considerable resistance from the conservative corners of his very diverse district. Leaders of that movement continue to single him out for his assistance, and he calls it his proudest vote. From what I have seen, all but two of the 12 candidates in this race are on the right side of the equality issue, but only one has had to stand up, facing resistance from his base, and vote on it.

The second thing everyone needs to know about Marty is that he started a program called Building Pathways. When he became the head of the Building Trades a few years ago, he looked out over a room of white men, and realized the trades needed to diversify. He conceived this first-of-its-kind pre-apprenticeship program that guarantees union placement and well-paying jobs to underserved communities, mostly people of color and women. There are many apprenticeship programs, but this is the only one that guarantees placement, and it has become a national model. There was resistance from the trades, but Marty persevered, and now they compete for the graduates. There has been a lot of talk about Building Pathways on the campaign trail, because the idea of offering opportunity to people appeals to many. I’ve really enjoyed meeting the graduates of this program. They are impressive people who have so much to offer the world, and this opportunity Marty created and they pursued will allow them to do this. That’s good for our City. The piece of this I really like though comes from a different perspective; a program like this actually strengthens the unions. As populations change, unions must change to stay relevant. This relates to reframing the conversation around Labor, and communicating its importance as an economic driver in Boston and around the country. As the income gap grows larger, and the very existence of the middle class is threatened, we need to organize more than ever. We won’t be able to do that until some of the unions themselves evolve, and I see Building Pathways as a piece of this evolution.

In his 17 year career on Beacon Hill, and as a community activist before that, he has accomplished great things. Dorchester is a MUCH better place for his service. When I talk to someone from our neighborhood who is supporting someone else, I point to the Red Line stations that spurred so much development here; Pope John Paul II Park and the Neponset Trail; Carney Hospital, still open despite MANY attempts to close it; all of the sports and arts and social programs he has championed. The list goes on and on. Thankfully, most of them get it.

Marty Walsh is my friend, and he is my candidate for Mayor. I say this loudly, unequivocally and without reservation. What I can also say without equivocation is that he is the best candidate in this race. I am asking you personally to cast your vote for him on Tuesday. I promise that if you think you share my values, it's a vote you'll never regret.

Joyce Linehan

 

Hit by a car

So, I am 99% OK, but I got hit by a car yesterday. It was as close a call as I have ever had, and I am grateful that I wasn’t badly hurt. As the car was coming toward me, I really thought I was in trouble.

I was coming out of Sweet Life, having picked up some food for a meeting I was having at my house. I was crossing Dot Ave., when a car pulled out of the Pat’s Pizza Parking lot, trying to make the left on to Dot Ave. He never even looked to his right, according to a witness, and I never saw him coming. As I stood there in the middle of Dot. Ave., paralyzed, arms full of a platter of food, watching the red Volvo come right at me, and bracing for the impact to my legs, what flashed through my mind? Not “Oh my God, who will take care of Charlie if I’m hurt?” or “Oh my God, how will I pay my bills if I can’t work?” Nope. It was “Oh my god, the campaign!”

I don’t really know what happened. I know there was a mass casualty of sandwiches, but I managed to save the coconut caramel shortbreads, which, you know if you have tasted them, is very important. I didn’t go down. I took the hit with my legs, and have a little bruising, but they never buckled. Practical application of Bikram Yoga. All that standing on one leg has made them both rock solid. I was pretty shook up, and a little confused, and couldn’t really move from the street. As people came out to help me, the driver, who was a scared young man clearly driving his Dad’s car, got out to say he was sorry. I couldn’t really say anything, but someone there said “You need to pull over and write your name and license number.” While we waited for that to happen, several people told me they thought I needed an ambulance, but it was 4:10 and I had people coming to the house for a 4:30 campaign meeting, so I didn’t have time for an ambulance. Kristen from Sweet Life came out and said they were making more sandwiches, and would bring them to the house, which was very nice of her. Pat from Pat’s Pizza had also come out and was being very helpful, staying with me until he thought I was OK to drive.

We had the meeting – Marty, me and a few others, and I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. After it was over, I called Marty and said, “I got hit by a car.” He said, “Yeah, I know. That meeting was brutal.” And I said, “No, Marty, not figuratively. Literally. I was literally hit by a car, right before the meeting.” I told him the story, and he told me I cannot, under any circumstances, get hit by a car before the election. If you see me being helped across the street by any young men who look like they might be in construction, that’s just my new security detail.

I thought about not posting this, because as I was thinking about it, I of course thought of Bill McDermott, my friend, without whose help I might not have been able to purchase Ashmonticello. Bill was killed after being hit by a car in February. He was a close advisor to Congressman Lynch, who of course was running for the U.S. Senate at the time. But then I thought about Bill and his daughter, my friend Deirdre, and realized that they, of all (Irish) people, would have seen the gallows humor in the idea that multiple Boston political operatives were being hit by cars.

Anyway, this morning I went back to Bikram, and was pretty sore. Though I wasn’t hurt when I was hit, I must have tensed up waiting for the impact. But after completing that 90-minute class, walking four miles in the baking sun in the Dorchester Day Parade, and then spending a couple of hours at the Ashmont Grill with a pal, picking off votes, one-by-one for Marty, I’m ready to declare that I was unhurt in the incident.

Onward!

 

 



Massachusetts - Radio ON!

Massachusetts, spread the word.

Please call your rep now and ask her or him to call Rep. Marty Walsh's office to sign on to co-sponsor HD3506: An Act designating the song “Roadrunner” as the official rock song of the commonwealth.

If you don't know who to call, check here.

Here's the Phoenix article about the campaign.

And the Globe article.

Sorry I couldn't get HD123456!

The best part - at some point there will be a public hearing at the State House - probably in April or May, where you can all testify about WHY this should happen. It's possible we could be challenged by another song, but I'm not worried. If there are two things we know how to do, they are 1) run a grassroots campaign and 2) put on a show!

Why I will not be packed for the move...

Why I will not be packed: 1) I was at Ashmonticello to receive assorted deliveries at 7 am. 2) Instead of driving by Standish Village, I stopped in, where I found that my aunt had forgotten to get her breakfast, so I took care of that. 3) I stopped for coffee, and when getting back into the car, I smacked myself in the head really hard with my car door, causing blood to stream down my face. (I heard a guy ask someone else if I was OK, but he didn't ask me!) 4) While driving home, I was flagged down by some neighbors trying to catch a stray dog that has been running around the neighborhood for a couple of days. I spent about 20 minutes coaxing the poor thing into a crate and brought him home. 5) I called Animal Control (should really be called Animal CARE and Control) and had to wait for them come take him. 6) Was feeling woozy, so decided to go to the ER to check on the giant goose egg on my head. I may have a concussion. I will be OK, but will probably have a black eye. 7) I did get the pie though, so Thanksgiving isn't ruined. Yet.

Find of the weekend #1

Cleaning out Aunt Theresa's house, I found this picture of Rocky and Teddy, who belonged to my Grandmother, Zita, and her sister, Katie, respectively. Rocky is very interested in a bunny rabbit you can't quite see. I don't know what year this is from, but Charlie Ashmont was happy to see his ancestors.