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Brian McGrory

Milking our votes

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / June 18, 2010

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I was having lunch recently with Steve Grossman, who has completely lost his mind. He wants to give up a presumably high-paying job running his family business, as well as some empty nest years with a sophisticated wife, to serve as state treasurer, a job that, and I don’t say this to demean it, is currently held by Tim Cahill.

I was picking at my grilled chicken as Grossman went into elaborate detail about state pension fund returns, about the Lottery Commission, about where and how the state banks its tax receipts.

He is a nice guy, an honest guy, but I worried I might fall face-first into my Coke and drown. I took solace in the fact that if I did, as I drew my last carbonated breath, I’d be glad I’d never again have to sit with another down-ballot candidate.

Which is when, amid the jargon, I heard the words “ice cream tour.’’

What?

Grossman started elaborating on a lending incentive proposal until I said, “No, no. What ice cream tour?’’

So he explained that wherever his campaign takes him across this great Commonwealth, he’ll wrap up his visit with a stop at the best local ice cream parlor he can find. He posts his plans on Facebook and Twitter beforehand. Sometimes people show up and eat ice cream and talk about what he would do as state treasurer.

I was admittedly skeptical about a politician coming up with an idea this good, so I asked for some form of proof.

“We were in New Bedford recently,’’ he said. “The Acushnet Dairy. Fantastic Heath Bar crunch.’’

I volley back with the name Kimball Farms to gauge his knowledge. Anyone who knows anything about ice cream knows Kimball Farms.

“In Littleton,’’ he said. “Wonderful place. Did you have the mocha chip?’’

I’m mesmerized. Gloucester? “West End Sweets.’’ Northampton? “The original Herrell’s.’’ The Cape? He hesitated — I thought I had him — then said, “Tough to choose. The Sundae School, of course. But it’s hard to top Four Seas.’’

Good Lord, the leading Democratic candidate for treasurer is an ice cream savant.

He explained that he keeps a running list in his car of all the recommendations he gets, winnowed down by two key rules — the ice cream is made on premises, and the parlor isn’t part of a chain.

I started to wonder if he knew about my half-pint-a-day addiction. Did he know I sometimes have chocolate chip shipped to me from Graeter’s of Ohio on dry ice; that not a week passes when I don’t mourn the passing of Frusen Glädjé; that I once tried to bring the feuding founding brothers of Friendly’s back together to improve their once-great chain?

We did the requisite Boston ice cream thing, meaning we lamented the demise of the old Bailey’s, which is exactly when he stunned me with this exquisite nugget: “Do you know there are still a couple of places around that serve hand-packed quarts of Brigham’s.’’

No way, but he had the addresses to prove it. I let him know, without seeming to brag, that I spent my youth working at the Dairy Queen in Weymouth — albeit ice milk, not ice cream, and the kind of chain he claimed to eschew.

“Right by the Hearth ’n Kettle,’’ he said. “That’s a nice Dairy Queen.’’ Why did I feel so relieved?

As we left, he discreetly jotted down Graeter’s in a notebook, as well as Ron’s Gourmet Ice Cream in Hyde Park, a bowling alley/ice cream parlor I told him about, and I hope he remembered my advice to try Maple’s gelato in Portland, Maine, even if it wasn’t good for votes.

So how would Grossman be as a state treasurer? Shoot, I forgot to get a sense of that.

As far as I’m concerned, he knows exactly how to connect with the masses, and he’s quickly emerging as the cream of the crop.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.

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