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Man runs for Mayor of 'Boscago'

Posted by boston.com  November 5, 2013 11:28 PM

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By Victoria Bedford, Globe Correspondent 

As Boston buzzes with the excitement of its first competitive mayoral election in two decades without the name Thomas M. Menino on the ballot, another candidate is waging a lonely, one-man campaign to become mayor a an even bigger city that lives – it turns out – only in his imagination: Boscago.  Yes, Boscago – as in Boston and Chicago.

 Max Grinnell, 37, has lived in both cities. And, as he explains it, since the age of 15, he has been a curious explorer of  of landscapes, sights, sounds, and the human experience within a place.  So why not, reasoned Grinnell, who teaches social sciences at Boston University, take the best of both cities, promote a new city and hold an election?  And why not declare his own candidacy?

 Grinnell has done just that, coining the name Boscago, and promoting his candidacy in speeches and on social media. He’s expressed confidence he’ll win by a landslide, but then, he’s the only candidate.

 “I’m looking to celebrate all that is best in both cities,” said Grinnell, who has given stump speeches in the Boston Common to nobody in particular.  On his twitter feed Grinnell posts motivational messages, such as, “Today is the most important election in a generation. A vote for the mayor of Boscago is a vote for the future. Join me.”

 The idea for the Boscago came about when the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks entered the playoffs this year. Grinnell isn’t a huge sports fan, but he’s enamored with both Boston and Chicago hockey teams, and this meeting of his two favorite teams sparked the idea for his campaign.

As part of his candidacy, which he describes as “very competitive,” Grinnell boasts an impressive record of travel and exploration between the two cities as an urbanologist, or urban explorer, a writer of travel guides, and a self-described “rail fan junkie.”

He first came to Boston when he was 15, arriving on an Amtrak train from Seattle. He fell in love with the city, and now lives in both Chicago and Boston.

If, he says, he were to win as mayor of Boscago, he would bring more “exuberant street culture” to his imaginary, almagamated city, including happy hours in bars, public art,  street art, and better Mexican food (neither, let’s face it can compete with places like Albuquerque or Los Angeles).

On a recent walk through the Boston Common, Grinnell stopped two tourists from Philadelphia. He brought up his run for mayor of Boscago, briefly mentioning that Boston’s mayoral race was coincidentally happening on the same day.

“One of those campaigns is much more important,” Grinnell said. “We don’t need to get into which one.”

 Grinnell  says he makes his living traveling and writing, stopping and focusing on details that become forgotten in a cityscape.

“Boston and Chicago both have these monuments to sailors, which are kind of forgotten,” he said. “I think they’re fascinating, because they’re pieces of art.”

Grinnell paused in front of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the Common, erected in 1877. 

He stared at the statue with an admiring smile.  “But,” he said. “I do think if we were to do Boscago, I would replace it with a statue of Paul Revere, on his horse, jumping over Willis tower, while eating a hot dog.”

Grinnell insists neither city is “the red-headed stepchild” of his life. He insists he loves them both.

 “I don’t believe I have to pick.” Grinnell said.

 And his favorite accent?  Sorry Bostonians.  “That stereotypical, classic, kind of nasally Chicago accent.” He said, “will always get my vote."

 Grinnell always tells his students to "act like the mayor wherever you go." If he should top the Boscago ballot, he'll take that mantra one step further, joining together two cities in mayoral office.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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