Up for Grabs
July 27, 2017 § Leave a comment
My job with the Town of Hull is defined simply (arbitrarily) as Research Assistant, to be employed as the Board of Selectmen (Dick Ryan, Chairman) sees fit. I sense at first a natural resentment—he’s happy to have an extra hand (I am a gift horse), but why not one of his jobless constituents, someone who knows the town, the politics? Why me, a bearded hippie outsider, overqualified in a useless field, a babe in the woods? He doesn’t have time to train me. What can I do?
I spend a few days in Town Hall reading up on the peculiarities of Massachusetts town government, with its two or three dozen boards and committees (commissions, councils, authorities, societies). Dick smiles sheepishly at my confusion, confessing he has trouble keeping track, and it dawns on one of us that my attendance at these meetings kills two birds with one stone—I learn how the town works, and he learns what its doing. Better still, to fill my 30-hour week, I can offer myself and services to any group that needs or interests me.
My first project comes from the Planning Board, for which I research and write grants for two local landmarks. It’s tedious, boring, boilerplate work, and Paul Weirs, the overpaid consultant in charge, is a pompous Aryan doofus who’s always right; but the historical data is fascinating, and his wife Judeth, who’s with the Boston Planning and Development Agency, is a remarkable woman who enjoys my company and makes things happen later on.
Meanwhile, I attend more meetings with all the town’s movers and shakers. To me they’re a blur of names and faces, but I’m a curiosity, very strange and different. They don’t know what to think of me. Most of the meetings are peremptory, dull and dry, my services menial (Of all the groups I visit during my first few weeks on the job, few want me for more than menial tasks, and only two appeal to me: the Historical Society, benevolently ruled by scholarly Thayer Baldwin, and the ad hoc Bicentennial Commission, charged with planning how the town will celebrate and exploit the grand occasion. So far they have nothing. Next month Lexington and Concord are staging reenactments of the shot heard round the world. What did Hull do in the Revolution? What can we do to celebrate? I talk to Dick, then join their brainstorm sessions, do historical research, and run across a long-lost buried treasure.