State of the City: Not Only Can Menino Still Stand, But The NRA Can Go Fuck Itself

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I'm guessing that Mayor Tom Menino doesn't carry around a giant foam “Fuck You” finger. Because if he was looking at the same wild horde that I saw last night – that rabid pack of back-slappers and hand-clappers – then he must have noticed how many political animals out there either want his job, want somebody else to have his job, or hope to make money helping someone take his job. And with that kind of salivating posse filling Faneuil Hall, on the day of your big return to glory no less, it would have been a righteous time to flick off the entire Hub.

Of course, that's not the kind of politician that Menino is. He's an ace mover and shaker, capable of hovering leagues above the scrum, where reps, councilors, and hangers-on jumped over one another to congratulate outgoing State Senator Jack Hart on his tenure. Even with a cane in his palm, Hizzoner was the most agile guy in the room last night, maneuvering through the crush of cronies and constituents like a gladiator in the Colosseum. From the moment he emerged, stepping out to Kelly Clarkson, it was all A-game, all the time.

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As was only appropriate for Menino's 20th State of the City address, the hall was set for even more of a grand spectacle than in past years. The podium was decked with flowers; men in uniform filled row after row; in addition to the usual players, there was a Kennedy in the house – a young, newly elected Kennedy, but a Kennedy no less. And as is tradition at these things, the opening acts set the stage properly, with the director of the Mayor's Youth Council reminding all: “As long as I've been in Boston, the man at the helm has been Mayor Menino.”

And then there was the most clever stunt of all, involving the kind of wooden adult high-chair that you'd find in someone's Cape Cod backyard. Only when he finally stepped to the podium, Menino didn't sit in it, as so many of us thought he would. The message of his merely standing was so powerful that he might as well have kicked the damn chair over, or hollered at it like Eastwood. But once again – he's way too poised for that. You don't stay in power for two decades by berating furniture in public.

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Then, after two minutes of applause and a perfectly placed plea for “FOUR MORE YEARS” from the audience, Menino leaned into his speech, and let it be known whose house we were all in. Off the jump, he joked about the close proximity of rival congressmen Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey, then went on to thank his doctors before inviting another ovation with a line right out of the James Michael Curley or Sarah Palin playbook: “I'm just Tom Menino from Hyde Park . . . Thank you – you pulled me through!”

On substance, the mayor ran through a list of hopeful development and business projects – Converse, the East Boston waterfront, PayPal, Downtown Crossing. And he didn't leave out the forgotten places, summoning exuberant roars by pointing out that “There's a crane over Dudley Square!” Boston Public Schools came up next, and despite everybody in the room having different opinions on how BPS should be handled, they all agreed for the sake of the moment, and cheered on nearly every note.

And then came the fireworks and crowd pleasers. Rather than knee-capping municipal rivals and delinquent developers – as he has in past annual addresses – Menino went national, uniting Bostonians in their mutual contempt for conservative idiocy. In announcing plans to become the “first city in the country to achieve pay equity for women,” he gave Mitt Romney a good ribbing; the great female public servants who Menino has hired, he quipped, weren't found in binders. But that was just a warm-up.

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For his half-hour comeback speech, the mayor needed a clock-cleaning closer, and he got one in an issue he's been hammering for years. With utter respect for those who have lost friends and family members in recent suburban shootouts, Menino acknowledged that there's a Newtown in this city many times over every year, and asked his followers to stand with him against gun violence. If that wasn't enough, he called out chief NRA sleaze Wayne LaPierre by name, and more or less said that the guy is absolutely crazy.

From the raucous to the rhetoric, the State of the City was a throwback political moment right down to a ragtime number from the Boston City Singers. All grand events at the 18th Century Faneuil Hall feel somewhat authentic, but on this occasion, there was substance powering the old school vibe – an iconic mayor, back from illness, returning to his throne amidst pleasant pandemonium. It's hard to imagine a more graceful way to greet so many friends while telling naysayers and enemies to go fuck themselves.

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