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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Episode 8

Steering Committee Syndrome Unleashed, The Prelude  
By Robert Yarnall

Read the rest of the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series:
Episode 1 – Getting Ready To Fish

Episode 2 – Watchaug Bites
Episode 3 – Avoiding Car Sickness
Episode 4 – Bait & Switch (Not!)
Episode 5 – Still Baiting, Still Switching…
Episode 6 – Mother Gooser & Friends
Episode 7 – Under the Radar with L-T
Episode 8 – Steering Committee Syndrome Unleashed, The Prelude
Episode 9 – Steering Committee Syndrome Unleashed, The Kiss
Episode 10 – Snagged on the Epilog Epic-Log

Out of respect for the timely release of the Dolock Decision, wherein Superior Court Associate Justice Judith C. Savage sent the ill-farted Whalerock wind farm proposal back to the compost heap of local government for a thorough destinkification, all fishing is hereby suspended until further notice, or Veterans’ Day, whichever occurs first. This is about as close to a deadline as I ever want to be. Don’t like it. Choppy water.

From last week’s episode of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, you may recall that the Illwind activist group, fronted by a core quintet conveniently dubbed  “The Partridge Family” because they live within a three-home cluster of not-so-affordable housing on Partridge Run, gave Joe Dolock’s business-based turbine-fighting strategy a politely dismissive “Thanks, but no thanks” seal of disapproval.

Remember, it wasn’t so much that the PF-er’s had dismissed Dolock’s comprehensive anthology of All Things Whalerock that bothered him. After all, Joe was a veteran of the cutthroat battles of Wall Street, not to mention the jungles of Southeast Asia. In either environment, the battle was as much about survival as victory.

What really galled Joe was that The Partridge Family knew damn well that he was actively running for Charlestown Town Council and that his candidacy was based on his professional assessment of the Whalerock Wind Energy project and its associated partnership deal with the town.

Simply stated, Joe felt betrayed that PF-ers had unilaterally donated his Whalerock expertise, a chronology compiled single-handedly over a six-month period, to his cross-town political rivals, the CCA-endorsed trio of Dan Slattery, Tom Gentz, and Cliff Vanover.  

After Joe expressed his disappointment to Ron and Maureen Areglado, whose home served as Illwind’s general meeting site, the pair of former school administrators tiptoed down to his East Quail Run residence to attempt some sort of damage control. But the former combat infantryman had already folded his tent, and congenially recused himself from further involvement with the core of the activist group.

Only a handful of insiders was privy as to how this political flatulence had come to pass: the emergence of leadership within the Illwind activist group, the marginalization of Joe Dolock, the subsequent alliance to the CCA. The rest of us could only cast our collective nose into the prevailing offshore breeze, and hope to catch a whiff of a clue. From the viewpoint of those of us a row or two removed from the Illwind Dream Team’s[1] reserved orchestra seating, that clue turned out to be not olfactory at all, uh-uh. Instead, it was a purely happenstance visual sighting - the little man with the helmet.

Not long after Labor Day Weekend 2010, approximately a month after Joe Dolock’s persistent requests for detailed information relating to the proposed Whalerock LLC/ Charlestown Partnership coincidentally led to the withdrawal of the partnership agreement proposal by Whalerock Attorney Nick Gorham, fluorescent yellow leaflets appeared in neighborhood mailboxes courtesy of a courier not affiliated with the US Postal Service, unless being a retired federal employee counts as a permittable dispensation to utilize the postal infrastructure postage-free.

While I was standing around my Quail Run front yard chasing leaves with a rake, I couldn’t help but notice what appeared to be a pudgy kid with an orange helmet and color-coordinated fluorescent safety vest pedaling what looked to be a retro-style 60’s bike, heading north up the slight incline on Quail Run. He was stopping at mailboxes, pulling out bright yellow leaflets from a stack contained within an also-60’s vintage retro-style handlebar bike basket, and slipping them into their respective US Postal Service safe houses, arguing with the same wind that was making my yard work a futile effort.

I thought to myself, “Hey, good thing to see, must be one of the kids from the other neighborhood starting a yard cleanup business for the fall…must be getting ready for college…”

I must digress. We don’t see many kids of any age around here anymore. All of the Quail Run kids are grown up, gone to college and beyond. As a group and as individuals, having benefitted from the efforts of working class parents and a family-friendly town government, they became productive young adults in a variety of fields – law, medicine, finance, education, commercial fisheries, advertising, movie production, you name it.  Digression over.

So from a distance of fifty yards, under the cover of an oversize bike helmet framing his ruddy cheeks, sporting a pair of Foster Grants sitting atop a Rudolph-red nose, the eventual little man in the helmet looked somewhat like a budding young entrepreneur pedaling uphill against a brisk autumn headwind, looking to make an extra few bucks for an upcoming college gig.  Good kid.

The leaflet event gave me the perfect excuse to set aside the rake, grab a beer, and trudge out to the mailbox to check out the presumed kid’s presumed business solicitation. I opened my battered mail receptacle, whisked away the perpetual cobwebs, and retrieved what I had assumed was a hard working teen’s kid-for-hire announcement.

Click to enlarge
 Ooops, ‘t’wasn’t that at all, but rather an “Important – Please read” announcement about an upcoming town council meeting concerning wind turbines. The leaflet featured an effective graphic comparing the height of a pair of turbines with the height of the supporting structures of the Newport Bridge. That really got my attention, as well as the small-print disclaimer on the bottom, “Paid for by a neighbor.” Love that anonymous intrigue stuff…
“Huh? What’s up with this?” I thought, and made a beeline bivouac to Joe Dolock’s house, about a dozen casts of a ¾ ounce spinner bait from my garage.  I knew Joe had been following the antics of Larry LeBlanc, and since I, like most everyone, is always welcome at the Dolock’s house, any hour of the day or night, with or without foods-to-be-grilled, I was confident Joe would cut to the chase.

I found the lieutenant seated on his favorite piece of lawn furniture, which began life as dining room furniture until Joe converted it for use in a field environment with adaptive technology apparently familiar only to veteran military combat personnel.  He was sitting there reassembling his chain saw pole trimmer, which he had converted for some undisclosed task that may have had something to do with the lawn chair transformation. He didn’t say. I didn’t ask.

I told Joe the story of the little man in the helmet and showed him the bright yellow leaflet advertising the three-ring Big Lemon Circus that was about to pull into town. I didn’t have to do much prodding to get my official reconnaissance briefing.

“Oh, that, yeah, I saw the guy steerin’ the bike up the street,” Joe said. “That’s not a kid, that’s Dan Slattery, one of the CCA guys. Gotta watch him, federal investigator guy, y’know,” he joked.

It’s always hard to tell when the Vietnam-era combat guys are describing certain events, which expressions of jocularity are light-hearted humor and which lean to the dark side. While I’ll never know, I always keep that thought in the back of my mind and listen closely. Others tell me they sense the same thing.

It occurs to me lately that Joe Dolock’s characterization of Dan Slattery, as “the guy steerin’ the bike up the street” was something more than a random choice of words.

Leave it to a combat-hardened infantryman to sense the ambush.

Then lay low.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over.

Coming Next…Episode 9 - Steering Committee Syndrome Unleashed, The Kiss

[1] a.k.a. The Partridge Family