PROMISE OF “TORRENTIAL RAINS” CAN’T STOP THE BBQ ROCK; Third Annual Political BBQ & Hamburg Summit Goes Off Without A Hitch; Symington In House; Pollina Scores With Pie, But Eventually Stumbles In Much-Dreaded “Ryan Test”
For reasons we’re not at liberty to disclose yet, VDB was in NYC for several days in the run-up to the 3rd Annual Hamburger Summit. It was touchy work down there, and it had to be done, of course. But it meant being out of touch during the crucial 24 hours prior to the lighting of the grill, when we usually monitor the weather and — if necessary — lean on the Eye on the Sky boys in St. Johnsbury.
Needless to say, we flew in late Friday night to reports of gathering clouds, looming thunder boomers, and the stark prospect of “torrential rain.” A sobering prospect.
We had two options: call Odum and cancel the whole thing, or show the world that bloggers are, as Richard Burbage says in Shakespeare in Love, “men of parts.”
And, you know, women of parts.
By morning, the rain was nowhere in evidence. Haze, sure, thick enough to wet your face when you walked out the door, but no rain. And the sun lurking somewhere, palpably, above the cloud line.
And it turned out that the forecasts hadn’t made a difference after all: all the sorts of all the people we’d expected began to turn up from all their various home bases, right on time.
We had declared candidates, working the crowd.
We had a candidate launch his campaign right there on the beach, in front of God and everybody. That would be Nate Freeman, below center, who’s now officially hunting him some Dubie.
We had the Brattleboro contingent, very strong this year, almost overpoweringly strong, at 10 or so. And ten Brattleboronians equates to 27 attendees from any other city or village in the state.
They’re that intense.
Maggie and Arnie, as usual, stepped up to the plate and worked the grills. Maggie, the Paul Masson of grillmeisters, will sell no burger before its time. Don and Jason Lorber look on with some concern.
It got to the point where people were badgering us for sausage, hoping we could put a good word in with Maggie. But no dice. Not quite cooked is still not quite cooked.
A wonderful day to hook up with old friends, bloggers and longtime blog readers, and old friends who also happen to be bloggers and longtime blog readers.
On the gubernatorial front, we had something of an embarrassment of riches: Democrat Gaye Symington made the scene, and so did hard-charging Progressive Anthony Pollina, who came bearing pie.
Apple, to be exact. And mighty tasty.
But while Pollina scored initially with the pie, he would eventually face one of the diciest trials the campaign trail has to offer, what is now known simply as the “Ryan Test.”
J.D. Ryan, front-pager for Green Mountain Daily, is as savvy a political blogger as they come. But it’s fair to say that he radiates a certain band of skeptical energy, especially when it comes to working politicians, and for some reason this energy actually draws politicos, who seem compelled to try to put J.D.’s mind at ease.
Last year, it was Congressman Peter Welch, who found himself drawn into J.D.’s web of mild disbelief.
File Photo: Welch faces Ryan Test, 2007 BBQ
Welch was lucky to escape with a draw in 2007: J.D. clearly wasn’t 100% convinced, but at least his facial expression registered more or less neutral once the exchange was over. And that’s the key — J.D.’s face is closely watched by pundits and bloggers alike to determine the outcome of the exchange.
Which brings us to this year’s Ryan Test. Pollina, after a slow tour of the crowd, spots a potential voter in the mist.
He casually approaches, as J.D. forages for food. At this point, the gubernatorial hopeful has no inkling that he is about to encounter the Hamburger Summit’s human version of Missouri: the ultimate show-me blogger.
And once you realize what you’re into — that this will not be a conversation about weather or macaroni salad, but about all the things you’ve done and perhaps failed to do — there’s no turning back.
Once the conversation nears its end, the whole crowd surreptitiously checks for facial confirmation. Has Pollina managed to mollify his interlocutor? Has he put J.D.’s constitutional suspicions to rest?
Oooh, not good.
But Symington wasn’t having an entirely easy time of it, either. She brought no Secret Service detail, but if she had, let’s just say that they’d have laid down their lives before letting her be surrounded by a crowd like this one. You see what we’re saying.
Official Photographer Yusef is not ordinarily one prone to arthouse, but something about the haze and the stately presence of Gaye Symington seems to have moved him in that photographic direction. And really, this shot captures the way the haze seemed to swim always just at arm’s reach, outside the tree cover, all day long.
The rain never hit, though, and the overcast skies couldn’t stop any of it, any of us. Not that we didn’t spend the day scanning the skies and fearing the worst, waiting for that single strange bolt of lightning to take down the great BBQ tree and everything under it.
But isn’t that the way with politics? Fear the worst, hope against hope for the best, and turn out the people no matter the weather. Amen.
[Many thanks, as always, to the elusive Yusef for his sharp and timely photos. And thanks to all of those who helped in ways large and small to make this year’s event a success.]