SUN-DRENCHED SIXTH ANNUAL HAMBURGER SUMMIT GOES OFF WITHOUT HITCH; No Incidents of Drunk, Lewd, Or Disorderly Conduct Reported; Weather Mysteriously Cooperative; And Finally, The Enduring and Existential Mystery of One Jake “Pappy” Perkinson
For whatever reason, the Gods enjoy the Hamburger Summit, and they always clear the skies routinely when the time comes. Granted, the Gods are capricious, and sometimes they wait until they’re damn good and ready. Case in point: the Sixth Annual Hamburger Summit, this past Saturday, July 9, 2011. Weather reports — from the 10-day forecast, to the five-day, to the three, and then to the daily forecast had all agreed: the weather would be killer.
Yet Saturday morning there it was, a massive dark cloud bank rolling slowly and ominously over the lake. Of course the hourly break-down showed the clouds rolling out at noon, an hour before we were to light the grill, but still these were dark, heavy clouds and they brought the cold with them. Which can produce anxiety and doubt in a lesser crew.
But VDB and Green Mountain Daily have been through tough waits before: the 2000 Florida recount; the anxious interval when it looked as though Norm Coleman might steal the vote from Al Franken; and the even more tense moments when it looked as though Tom Salmon Jr. might change his mind about becoming a Republican.
So needless to say, we gritted our teeth, and we waited. And then, come 12:14 pm, right on schedule, the dark knife’s edge of the long cloud bank appeared, the sun lit the beach like a Frankie Avalon movie and we never looked back.
The day’s Profile in Courage? GMD front-pager Sue Prent, who stepped in at the last moment and dominated on the grill. And not just grilling — Sue did set-up and tear-down, and everything in between. A rock, that Sue Prent, and it’s fair to say that with her performance on the beach this year she has catapulted herself into the Summit pantheon, with other master grill artists, like Maggie and Arnie Gundersen.
So many thanks again, Sue.
We had the stalwarts who make every Summit, and we had some new friends, drawn by the prospect of free warm Labatt’s. On the State Senate side of things, we had Democrat Sally Fox and Republican Joe Benning, in his leathers, who had decided on a whim to interrupt his long motorcycle trip from the Northeast Kingdom to Virginia for a little conversation. Ashley Grant, John Campbell’s majordomo, was there to drop sly, cryptic remarks and lift the occasional eyebrow meaningfully.
As always, once the grill was turning out burgers and sausage, and the sun had been sitting in the sky a while, we forgot about the time, and just yakked about politics, non-stop. We had your bloggers, your Twitterers, and your Facebookers. We had app developers, and renewable energy types, and we had renewable energy app developers. Pretty much any combination thereof.
Did anyone manage to record the entirety of the BBQ in real time using a mind-numbing staccato of 140-character tweets? That would be @CouncilorAdrian, who functioned as the lone paparazzo until VDB-wingman Don Shall arrived with Selene Hofer-Shall and began snapping pics.
A lovely time in the dappled shade, to catch up with folks we don’t seen often enough. But was it entirely trouble free, entirely without anxiety and doubt? Nothing in this life is perfect, friends, and we’ll be honest: there was a moment where fear flowered on the Beach.
It began with the arrival of one Jake Perkinson. Jake is a former Chair of the Burlington Democrats, former Chair of the Chittenden County Democrats, and was recently elected Vice-Chair of the Vermont Democratic Party. And of course Jake’s political consulting firm, Theseus Advisors, was a driving force in VDB’s own campaign for the Senate last time out. Have spent many, many hours with the man, talking through the mine-fields of a County-wide run.
A friend. Or so VDB thought.
Because as he came through the crowd, people shook his hand and called him — Scout’s honor — they called him “Pappy.” Pappy made to rhyme with “happy.”
You know, what children in early Gunsmoke episodes call their grandfathers.
And word spread that this was a nickname that all Jake’s friends used. In fact, later that night, we would find a press release from the State party, which concludes as follows: “Known to his friends as ‘Pappy,’ Perkinson resides in Burlington, Vermont with his family where, among other things, he is on the Burlington Fire Commission and a coach for the Burlington American Little League.”
So there was a two-fold problem, almost existential in scope. First, this average Joe, a guy we’d eaten and drunk with as “Jake,” was now somehow also some sort of neo-Walter Brennan, a “Pappy” with possibly unpredictable new qualities. Who, then, was this “Pappy”? What might he do?
Second, and maybe more to the point emotionally, it seemed clear that anyone Jake considered a friend was already in on the secret of his, well, Pappyness. That he’d never felt the need to share his secret with VDB seemed to indicate that we never had been friends, not really, no matter how it had seemed at the time. We’d been only acquaintances on a more formal basis, a “Jake” basis.
And that hurt. That hurt wicked bad.
But again, this was the Summit, and negative emotion tends to evanesce, to vanish and leave in its wake only sun and good fellowship. So we forgot all that, and returned to the gossip about the Mayor’s race, handicapping the Treasurer’s run, and a general anatomy of Barack Obama’s current dishwater version of Hope and Change.
Again, thanks to all who made, and make, this event possible. It exists only to bring together in three dimensions the people who give politics a vibrant, digital life in the state, which is to say that if you didn’t attend, the community would be measurably poorer. And thanks again to Don Shall, and to Councilor Ed Adrian, for supplying the key shots here.
Aloha. Until next year, which, if memory serves, is not simply an election year, but a Presidential election year. And that means a Summit to end all Summits. Expect anything and everything on that day of convergance. Will VDB even manage to become full-fledged “friends” with Pappy Perkinson on that fateful day?
Only time will tell.