Champagne Tommy

Statue of former-Mayor Thomas Whalen III and h...

Statue of former-Mayor Thomas Whalen III and his dog Finn McCool in Tricentennial Park, Albany, NY, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here in Albany’s Tricentennial Park,
he’s sitting on the bench to my right,
old Mayor Champagne Tommy, bronzer than
any old toper could ever get in a gin mill.
The alloyed but not allied Dutchman and Mohawk
stand between us–the former overdressed,
and the latter, barely dressed at all.
But Tommy’s rigged for action,
collar buttoned and tie snugged up nicely.
The former judge’s jacket’s open,
exposing the slightly straining belt and buckle
tucking back years spent
sitting at the Bar and in a few.
Tommy’s got a big head,
too big for his hairline, as I like to say.
But Tommy’s comb-over withstands winds
and rains. Hell, even blizzards won’t budge it.
Yeah, he’s a statue.

“Assiduity,” blares the Dutchman, beckoning
with two fingers and his jaunty Van Dyke,
like some stuffy maître d’ in Utrecht or
maybe a ruffly pimp in Amsterdam.
The Indian remains silent, probably
not wishing to draw attention to himself,
as if standing near-naked next to
that Dutch dandy wasn’t baring witness already.
But Champagne Tommy, grinning that perpetual
grin, pays his neighbors no mind. He’s squinting
unblinking amity out onto Broadway, watching
each day’s passing parade and sharing his
park with the lunchtime crowd and their
cell phones, sandwiches and lattes.

Tommy rests on his bench, his left arm
draped across it’s back, as if waiting
for some downtown companion
to curl into his metal-firm embrace.
If she doesn’t show, Tommy will be okay.
He still has his burly blond pal, Finn McCool,
by his side. Finn sits on the ground
beneath his master’s right hand,
silent, strong, smiling his dog smile,
giving new meaning to the command, “Stay.”
The tulips are in bloom here today, their big
annual celebration kicking off tomorrow.
Tommy won’t be attending this year,
though his spirit presides over every party
this town throws. C’mon, why do you think
he’s called Champagne Tommy?

“Slainth Mhath,” Tommy. Even now,
you’re the life of the party.

Seal of the City of Albany, NY monument in Tri...

Seal of the City of Albany, NY monument in Tricentennial Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to sit with old Tommy at lunchtime when I worked in downtown Albany. I may have been the only non-tourist long-term sitter to hang with His Honor on that broiling or freezing bronze bench.

5 thoughts on “Champagne Tommy

  1. for someone bronzed, you sure bring him to life joe…smiles….glad he had you as a companion all those years, i dont know who should be more honored…smiles….i am sure even in his absence his spirit will enjoy the festivities…

  2. This makes a really good read. I don’t know Albany (I live the other side of the Atlantic) so the photos help, but after that prompt the lines just carry the reader along with a natural and consistent tone of voice, a telling selection of little details, and a delightfully subtle humour. I especially relished the comb-over!

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