The mayor arrived for lunch in East Boston in the customary black SUV. A little over a month after surgery for a broken leg — the latest in a string of ailments — he was moving gingerly on crutches, but his spirits are clearly undampened.
Normally, he would be racing between events, but his pace has slowed perceptibly. “I’m keeping a mayoral schedule,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said when I asked about his schedule. “Not a Menino schedule, just a mayoral schedule.”
In 241 days — yes, he’s counting the days, just for fun — Menino will become the first Boston mayor in 30 years to leave at the end of a term. Boston has almost forgotten what it is like to have a mayor leave office. I asked if it was strange to watch the city begin to debate his successor.
“It’s interesting to watch from a distance,” he said, before repeating his pledge not to become involved in the election.
As far as the candidates are concerned, his affection for his former aide, Charlotte Golar Richie, is no secret, though of course he has connections of some kind with almost all of the major candidates. Though Menino is usually quite fond of predicting who will win elections and why — and almost always right — he declined to handicap this one.
On this day, Menino was glowing about the success of One Fund Boston, the charity he and Governor Deval Patrick organized to aid victims of the Marathon bombings. It had reached $28 million, and was climbing. The original goal of $15 million was quickly surpassed, thanks in part to eight donations of $1 million or more.
The Marathon attack, of course, is on his mind constantly. He talked wistfully about his instant decision to sign himself out of the hospital when he got word of the bombings, and his insistence on standing to deliver a speech three days later at the interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. He had brushed aside a suggestion that a microphone could be brought to his wheelchair.
“You have to stand up at a time like that,” he said. “It’s an important statement.’’
Anyone who has watched him through the years might guess that winding down would be a challenge for Menino.
Indeed, the past few weeks have brought a steady stream of announcements from his office: a new development in the Fenway, a renovation of the facade of the unloved “new” Boston Public Library building, and, soon the beginning of a search for a school superintendent to replace the retiring Dr. Carol Johnson. Taken together, it almost looks like a state of denial.
“It’s too important to wait,” he said of the superintendent search. “We have to start the process.” Despite the possibility of saddling the new mayor with a schools chief he or she might not have picked, I think he’s right.
The one subject Menino didn’t care to address was his postmayoral future. He laughed off rumors of becoming a professor, before turning serious. “All I know is that money won’t be an issue in whatever I do.”
There really is no guide for how to leave, partly because the changing of the guard occurs so seldom here. Twenty years ago, Ray Flynn drifted through his last few months, eager to get going on his diplomatic post as US ambassador to the Vatican. By contrast, Menino seems determined to savor the last few months.
In fact, Menino continues to operate like he’s going nowhere. As he likes to say, he only knows one way to do the job. He will be an ex-mayor soon — and maybe an afterthought before that — but pondering the future has never been his style.
As he was about to be whisked back to City Hall, a couple of tourists jumped out of a car and asked to take a picture with him.
He ate it up, as always.