I saw Gerry Doyle the other day. The former city mayor was looking both fit and able. So, immediately, I asked him what was wrong.
OK, there's a joke in there somewhere. But it was no laughing matter recently for Doyle when a week's vacation on Cape Cod turned into a weeklong adventure at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis. A urinary tract infection spread to other parts of his body and a raging fever ensued.
It wasn't good. In fact, it was pretty scary. "I think at one point there might have been a priest involved," said the Pittsfield native and longtime West-sider.
Doyle said that after returning to the city he ran into a friend.
"I told him what a coincidence. I told him that I had a dream while I was in the hospital that he had come to visit me." The friend told Doyle it was no dream.
"Some people did come down to see me and I appreciate that," Doyle said. "And when I got home my phone messages were full. I want to thank everyone for that, too."
Doyle is not the biggest fan of the Cape, although his wife, Beth, and family are fine with it all.
"I call it Cape Cod Penitentiary," he said. "In the summer, once you're on the Cape, you're stuck there. We were staying in Orleans and Beth had to drive each day to the hospital in Hyannis. I knew how slow that drive would be."
Doyle was mayor of Pittsfield from 1997 through 2001, Previous to that he was a member of the City Council under three different mayors. His time of service to the city dates back to the early ‘80s.
It may have seemed animated at the time, but Doyle noted that "we all got along pretty well. I can't say it's always like that now. People like Tom Hickey did a good job keeping us together not just as a council but also socially. Often times, after meetings, we'd walk down to Lach's Lounge or The Highland and go over things."
Doyle said he's in favor of the change in the city charter that will extend the mayor's office from a two-year term to twice that.
"Certainly it gives someone the chance to get more comfortable," he said.
But, he cautioned, a mayor is sometimes only as good as the City Council he or she works with.
"And I had some great ones," he said. "When I took office I had PCB negotiations and a downtown initiative to take on right away. Thanks to a great City Council, we made progress."
One year, Doyle said, while on the council, only he and Arlos remained after an election year when seven others had either left or been defeated. The makeup of the council, he said, can change that quickly. That might be something, he said, a four-year mayor might have to face. Council terms, he noted, are two years.
Doyle said that even though he's out of active politics, that doesn't mean he can't offer an opinion or two. That's easy, he said, when people "continually" come up to you with questions.
Said the former city leader. "People don't want to call, but if they see you out they don't mind coming over. They know you're cornered."
Still, he doesn't mind casting out a thought or opinion. "I usually do," he said.
When Doyle became mayor he hit the ground running. He had a financial mess to clean up at the Berkshire Employment and Training agency and he had to iron out the wrinkles that was the city's health insurance.
"Those were probably the two things I had to deal with that I wasn't expecting," he said.
These days it's a little bit of a softer music selection. He's a part-time employee for Secretary of State William Galvin and stays in touch with former mayors such as Mike Albano, of Springfield, John Barrett, of North Adams and Jim Ruberto, who had four two-year terms in Pittsfield.
Still in his 50s, Doyle is a grandfather now and said he loves riding his lawn mower.
"A couple of days a week, if I can, I get a coffee in the morning and buy a couple of newspapers and go out to the causeway on outer Pecks Road," he said. "It's quiet there, I like it."
Certainly not as quiet as a busy afternoon on Cape Cod laying in the ICU.
"The hospital treated me and my family very well," Doyle said.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.