Monday, September 23, 2013

Polish Remover, Walter White and Other Notes From the Campaign Trail

I did what now?
If you are a reader of the Nutmeg Lawyer, you may be aware that I recently threw my hat into the political ring.  Like many lawyers, politics has always been an interest of mine.  It was an interest that steadily grew as a political science major at Manhattanville College.  As a law student, I had the privilege to work with a member of the fabled Kennedy family.  The experience allowed me the opportunity to rub elbows with all sorts of characters in politics. It spurred my interest further.  With my law office doing well, I decided to run in the local municipal election.  The race was on.  I was going to take a shot at a seat on my local city council.

Truth be told, my campaign experience has been pretty enjoyable so far.  Walking the city's winding neighborhoods, I encountered warm welcomes and lots of encouragement from both Democrats and Republicans. Even the residents who didn't want to vote for me were pretty cordial.  I didn't encounter any lawn sprinklers, thrown tomatoes or angry dogs. The worst I encountered was a temperamental cat.  Where it got uncordial was the anonymous world of the internet.  A place where normal societal norms could be ignored with a few anonymous strokes of the keyboard.  In cyberspace, you didn't have to look someone in the face. You could pretty much say anything with no worry of repercussion.

Thankfully, the mudslinging I encountered online was pretty tame. Not much more than some lame carpetbagger accusations and some tired old vintages of whine about lawyers in general. As long as the wannabe political pundits did not discover that I was late in returning a VHS copy of Summer Rental in 1989, I think I had a shot at surviving these anonymous braying jackals.    

Of course, It didn't help matters that I was the first candidate profiled in the local paper.  It was election season and the political hounds were chomping at the bit. I would be their first victim.  The comment section on the paper's online edition was the weapon of choice. Through anonymous postings, a small gaggle of curmudgeons and ne'er do wells began nipping at my heels. 

The first shot was completely out of left field.  I was accused of secretly living in the bath house of the local state senator to meet residency requirements. Strangely elaborate and oddly specific but OK. Another post said I had no idea where the Board of Education was located. The joke was on them.  I had GPS on my phone. Still another suggested I hung out with murderers. Shoplifting grandmothers yes.  Murderers?  Not so much. (My law practice includes criminal defense work.)  Soon, the battle lines were drawn.  Well intentioned readers who supported me began arguing with those that were against me.  I couldn't help but wonder if all the comments were really just one schizophrenic person locked up somewhere.  Or maybe it was my mother arguing with my opponent's mother.  While most articles had one or two comments.  I had a few more. 152 to be exact. 

There was no end to it.  A well seasoned candidate on the opposing ticket fired a low salvo at me.  We were not even running directly against each other.  In an online forum, he suggested  I was running for office based on my law office address.  Well, he didn't say "Adrian Baron doesn't live in town, he is actually claiming residency based on his law office address."  He was merely "musing" out loud about it. Was this guy actually trash talking me?  Was this guy actually suggesting that I was trying to circumvent election laws by faking my home address?  I guess if it's only musing, it doesn't count. Next time you are with a friend, start musing aloud if he stole ten dollars from your wallet.  See what happens.  I rolled my eyes at his sophomoric attempt.  

When I told a reporter that I found inspiration in John F. Kennedy's book "Profiles in Courage," the political hounds pounced at my choice. "Doesn't he know the the Kennedys killed Marilyn Monroe?  His choice of book shows his lack of judgement. What about the Bay of Pigs?" Well, what about the Bay of Pigs.  Was the Bay of Pigs my fault too?  I wasn't even born yet.  When they ran out of these new hits to spin, they resorted to the golden oldies.  "All lawyers are liars"  Ah, the classics. I sighed.  

I was basically a nice guy who cut his lawn, and took out the trash.  It didn't matter.  I should have followed the great advice I received.  Just ignore them.  It's the same two or three people in a relentless loop. The online accusations just got weirder.  "You aren't even Polish" was the latest attack. As if I had fabricated my cultural heritage for more votes. I rested my head on my keyboard. This was going be a long election.   No one ever accused me of faking being Polish before.  

New Britain's Little Poland festival is held
on the last Sunday of April.
To make sense of this weird accusation, it might help you to know that I am running in the city of New Britain.  If you are not familiar with the Hardware City, it has the largest Polish population of any city in Connecticut.  Playfully referred to as "New Britski", the city even has a unique business district designated officially as Little Poland. From lawyers to bank tellers, you can actually do an entire day's business entirely in the Polish language. The local post office has the word Poczta emblazoned on the window (Polish for Post). The area produces its own Polish language newspapers and offers a nice assortment of Polish restaurants, delis, day spas and professional services.  The annual Little Poland festival draws thousands of visitors to the city. 

During a recent visit, Poland's ambassador to the United States included a visit to Little Poland on his itinerary accompanied by members of the Polish Parliament (Sejm), two United States Senators, a US Congresswoman, the mayor and various local and state dignitaries.   As you can imagine, there are many Polish voters in New Britain.  If you want to get elected, Little Poland is considered a mandatory whistle stop.  

(LR) US Senator Richard Blumenthal, Polish Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf,
US Senator Chris Murphy, US Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty,
local candidate Matt Dabrowski & yours truly hanging out in Little Poland
It was no wonder they accused me of not being Polish. Some thought Poles had a big advantage in the polls. Little Poland was located in my district.  My law office was there. I had Polish "street cred." Not only did I claim Polish heritage, I spoke the language fluently.  If that wasn't enough, I was the guy who got the city to designate the area as "Little Poland."  I was even the guy who came up with the area's mascot "Stanley the Polish Dragon".  How could anyone question my Polishness?  My wife was Polish.  I even studied business law & trade at Jagiellonian University in Krakow.  Founded in 1364, it was the same university where Polish icons Copernicus and Pope John Paul II attended.  I had Polish coming outta my ears.  If you wanted a Polish candidate, I was your guy.  Or was I?

Which brings us back to the accusation that was leveled against me. Four harsh words that would forever question my identity and change my life: "You aren't even Polish."

Aren't even Polish indeed. I cursed to myself. "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."  Where did I make a mistake? How could I be so reckless?  I was so careful in my years of deception. Years of publicly eating kielbasa and pierogi.  Years of polka music and Polish American Boy Scouts. The red and white hats.  The babica.  Was it all for nothing?  Did someone see me eating a store brand kielbasa from a grocery store rather than the real stuff?  Had this anonymous poster removed my Polishness with one stroke of the keyboard?  How did he find out I was not Polish?  Someone must have talked.  I thought of that scene in Breaking Bad where Walter White tried to convince Hank not to turn him in.  Like Walter, there was nothing I could do.  The damage was done.  It was out there in cyberspace "You aren't even Polish."  A digital footprint that would last for eternity.  

In a weird way, I was relieved.  I want to thank that anonymous poster. Yes, the whispers were true.  Rather than hold a press conference, I have chosen this forum to come clean.  My fellow Americans, I am not Polish. The truth is, I am a Polish American. As the great bard Bruce Springsteen once eloquently put, "I was born in the USA."  Of course, there is more to this truth. For years I had claimed to be the son of Polish born parents who I aptly named Janusz and Marysia. I can now admit that these individuals posing as my parents for 39 years were hired actors. They are actually Jim and Delores McGillicuddy of Whipper Fall, Kansas.

Stanley the Dragon throws out the first pitch
during Polish night at a New Britain Rock Cat game.
The claim that I speak fluent Polish? Also an elaborate ruse. (Think the Swedish Chef on the Muppets).  Truth be told, I was just making it up as I went along. I was speaking complete gibberish.  Each pierogi I ate and Bobby Vinton song I played added to the illusion. I learned to make Italian sausage look like kielbasa.  I learned to dance the Polka and planned an elaborate hoax wedding in Poland complete with horse drawn carriage.  I wish to apologize to the guests who attended. Especially those who actually traveled to Poland. Turns out it really is a country.  There is one more final truth.  I hope you are sitting down. The "Stanley the Little Poland Dragon" costume was made in China.   

OK, so maybe I'm having a little fun at the expense of these posters. A little good natured jab at those who questioned whether I am faking being Polish to get votes.  My heritage really is Polish.  I am proud of it.  Both my parents and my wife really were born there. And I do speak Polish fluently.  I have actually done real estate closings completely in the language. But I digress.  Does it matter?  

If I finally learned something from my encounters, it can be summarized in this Oscar Wilde quote.  “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."  Now please excuse me, I need to go vacuum the Senator's bath house.  Or as we say in Polish "do zobaczenia." 

Paid for by Baron for New Britain.  Marie Baron Treasurer. Approved by Adrian Baron


Sarah B said...

Whether you're Polish or Fauxlish, I wish you luck!

LA Lawyer said...

Adrian. I like your various play on words and how you approached this situation with a great sense of humor. The candidates they attack this way are usually the ones that are considered a threat. My guess is you are a pretty strong candidate for the seat. I wish you the best of luck. I hope you continue writing after you get elected. Your posts are very enjoyable to read.

Anonymous said...


Home Place said...

You, Adrian. Are a funny, funny writer! Nice post and I wish you continued luck on the campaign trail!

Jessie said...

Wow, how crazy! You're in good company, our president has also been accused of not "being" what he claimed to be lol.

Jess said...

If even reading Profiles in Courage is considered controversial, I think it's time to give up on humanity. There is literally nothing you can do right. Go back to your non-Polish bath house and weep.

(Though really. . . a bath house? That's their first assumption? Wouldn't even be on my list of top ten possibilities, but okay then.)

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