For a brief moment Monday, Thomas M. Menino sat alone by the large window of the office he has occupied for more than 20 years, gazing out at Faneuil Hall below.
Behind him, aides and longtime friends were occupied with each other: hugging, trading stories, taking pictures.
“I’m going to see the future,” Menino said, as though to himself, as he hunched over the empty conference table in the now-bare room. Then he turned and exclaimed to the crowd. “I’ve seen you all for the past 20 years. I want to see the future.”
At an informal gathering of Menino’s inner circle in his last moments as mayor, the overriding emotion was release and relief that this chapter of his life, and Boston’s history, was finally over.
“I’m going to go someplace, and someplace else, and someplace else, and someplace else,” Menino chuckled.
He placed a call to a local newspaper editor.
“I’m signing off as a public official,” Menino deadpanned. “You can’t write about me anymore. I’m Joe Citizen.”
He checked his watch.
“Executive order,” he chortled. “Let’s abolish all boards and commissions.”
The fifth-floor office was devoid of the many trinkets acquired over the years. The black electric guitar from Aerosmith was gone. So was the painting depicting the mayor’s grandfather against a split-scene backdrop of the Boston skyline and the family’s homeland in southern Italy.
The huge collection of table clocks, gifts of luminaries and dignitaries from around the world, had been depleted, the remnants set out behind the receptionist’s desk.
Where had it all gone?
“Twenty years, you cannot believe what's in my basement,” said Menino’s wife, Angela.
The sole volumes occupying the once-teeming bookshelf were a few books about Ireland and the Irish that Menino, the city’s first Italian-American mayor, was leaving behind for Irish-American Martin J. Walsh, who was inaugurated Monday.
A more direct message to the new mayor was left on Menino’s old desk: An envelope inscribed in neat cursive “Mayor Marty Walsh.”
Menino declined to divulge the contents.
The mayor again checked his watch. Michael Galvin, the city chief of public property, showed Angela Menino a photograph from the early 1990s, when the Menino administration was new. “When we all had black hair,” Galvin said.
Someone produced white T-shirts that read “Grazie Mille,” (“a thousand thanks” in Italian) on the front, “Team Menino” on the back. Dozens of staff and old friends donned the shirts, lined up with the mayor, and sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”
Menino slumped by himself in his chair, looking down at the ground, gripping his walking stick, a converted Louisville Slugger bat that commemorates the Red Sox’ last three World Series victories.
He looked at his watch. It was close to 10 a.m., and the Meninos were hoping to make a midday flight (he refused to say where).
The lighthearted repartee was interrupted once, by Menino’s chief of staff, Mitchell B. Weiss.
“Look around the room, and for the rest of your life, you’ll know that you’re part of this team,” Weiss said, his voice cracking with emotion.
“And you’ll remember the greatest man who ever led this city. And you’ll feel very proud of him and what he did for the rest of us.”
Menino responded in kind.
“I really believe in my heart you’re the best team ever put together,” he said.
Then it was time to leave.
One last time, Menino took his private elevator to the ground floor.
Slowly, he walked out of City Hall and stepped gingerly into the mayoral Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, pulling himself into the seat by the handle above the passenger seat door.
“Thank you, all,” he said with a wave, and rode off, out of public life.