Alistair Cooke, Inside Golf Atheneum, 1985
In the legend, Daedelus built wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son, and warned young Icarus to be discreet and not fly too close to the sun lest his wings melt and he fall. Icarus ignored the sage warning and plunged to his death. Our local Greek God may soon be heading for the same fate.
Ask anyone in Barnstable why they voted for the then-young Demetrius Atsalis and you stand an excellent chance of getting one answer – his mother and father are so nice. The substantial popularity of John Atsalis is the major reason young Demetrius won elective office as his first full time job outside the bosom of his family, but now an older and more cynical Demetrius shows every sign of ignoring his father’s good reputation, and beginning to fly straight for the sun.
His has been a troubled legislative career. In his first term, he was embroiled in a shoving match during the infamous ‘Toga Budget’ session, at a late night drinking session in the Judiciary Committee over some young ladies present, but the Cape Cod Times decided not to cover the story the way the Herald and the Lowell Sun did, as the lad was obviously unused to strong drink and had fallen in with a fast crowd in the wicked city. It was an exception, an unfortunate incident – nothing like it would happen again.
Except it did. Over and over. Demetrius took to bragging that he had the Ear of the Speaker, and announced that those lesser mortals should fear him – hardly the behaviour of his father’s son. He challenged respected committee chairs, and earned a reputation for thinking that the rules were for other, littler, people. Fiddling while Barnstable’s budget burned, he delivered his maiden speech in the House on the compelling subject of school dress codes.
Demetrius showed his strain of arrogance again whn he was embroiled in a shouting match at a golf course later, playing the ‘Do you know who I am’ card so hard that the police were summoned to the course. The Times chose to reluctantly cover the story only after it ran in the Herald and the Barnstable Patriot, and was scathingly written about by local reporter Paul Gauvin. Just another flap – of his waxen wings, carrying him higher yet again.
When the legislative pay raise became an issue, he pledged to donate his to a peculiar charity – he would pay a $1.30 prescription surcharge for his constituents who gave him their druggist receipts. Of course, the surcharge was repealed and the money refunded to the drug store customers. There is no evidence that he ever donated his salary at all. Perhaps this is where his interest in unusual charities began.
Now, it has been discovered that for the last six years his annual ‘charity’ golf tournament has been raking in money, and was not even legally registered with the Commonwealth. Last week, he claimed to have taken in a little over $4,000, and he might $2,900 to give away. Eventually. Maybe. He has had high flyers at these tournaments – this year, Majority Leader John Rogers, Chairman David Torrissi, Rep. James Fagan (D-Taunton), Rep. Anthony Petrucelli (D-East Boston), Rep. David Flynn (D-Bridgewater) the ‘Dean’ of the House, and Rep. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), Rep. Michael Rush (D-West Roxbury), Rep. Thomas Stanley (D-Waltham) and Rep. Frank Smizik (D-Brookline). It is to be hoped that these Representatives used personal checks, as those from campaign accounts can only be given to an organized charity. Perhaps a flurry of amended campaign reports is in the offing.
The smoked cigars, they drank beer from the coolers in the golf carts – all on a bright blue Tuesday afternoon, while those lesser beings whose taxes subsidized their sport worked to support them. Perhaps the most loutish aspect of Demetrius’ behaviour is that fact that while he was chomping his stogie and playing BMOC with his elders and betters, Senator O’Leary, Rep. Gomes, the head of Massachusetts Fisheries and the Commissioner of the Division of Fisheries, Wildlife and the Environment were holding an informational press briefing in his district on Scudder Avenue to stress that the oceans were safe to swim in, and that the seafood for sale was safe to eat. The Representative was notable once again for his absence at this event. It has been suggested that he thinks red tide is the unscented detergent, but the danger to the Cape’s delicate tourist economy must have penetrated even his self absorption. Perhaps.
The state Republican Party, curious as to where the money has gone all these years, is filing an Ethics Committee complaint against him, as the spatter of wax falls to the ground ever more rapidly. Demetrius Atsalis is a few feathers shy of a full wing, and with eyes fixed on the sun, he may not notice that his elevation is beginning to dip.
The sneer is the last thing to go before the final plunge.