REAL MEN: MY FRIEND PETER

An addendum to a chapter I so proudly wrote several years ago.  Peter Martin. 

Peter was simply an amazing, loyal, generous, kind friend and father figure to me.  When he passed several years back, I wrote these words to attempt to encapsulate his character and, moreso, his meaning to me.  Not sure I did that any justice.

Thank you, Peter.  Think of you often.

Real Men.

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My Friend Peter

We lost our friend Peter.

I never really knew Peter until about 10 years ago when he was hired at my company.  I knew his family.  I knew who he was.  But I did not “know” him.  At first I was a bit intimidated by Peter.  He was a seasoned executive.  Confident, calm and certain of himself, Peter was a serious businessman and I was not sure how we would mesh?

Very quickly I discovered this man would become much more than a co-worker, but one of the best men I have ever known.

During this period, my family was going through a very difficult time and I was distracted personally to say the least.  As I attempted to separate work from home, Peter was the person I was spending most of my time with and, naturally, he learned all about my life.  What Peter did not know was that he was quickly becoming my soundboard whether he liked it or not.  What I did not know, but quickly learned, was the incredible character and compassion that this ‘stranger’ possessed and just how much he would help me during these tough times.  I can only pray he knew that?

While too young to be my father and too old to be my brother, Peter and I shared a special bond.  Our friendship was extremely unique.  He could give me smart advice like my Dad, but also make an inappropriate joke like a best buddy.  Our friendship was perfect.

Also, during these early days with Peter, I uncovered his incredible generosity.  Peter’s generous and giving spirit was on display each day I was with him.  Peter was generous in every sense of the word; generous with his kindness, generous with time, generous with his knowledge, and certainly generous with his wallet.  As a very proud father of four himself, Peter knew I was being challenged at that time and needed a lot of help to get through it, and treated me like a son.

As we grew closer and spent many great times together, it was clear that Peter loved talking about one subject more than any other; his family.  Not just his wife of more than 30 years and their incredible children, but his brothers, sisters, his Mom and Dad.  I often would mock him when he would start to tell a story I had already heard by cutting him off and finishing it for him.  He loved the ribbing.

Many may not realize but Peter was a sentimental and emotional guy too.  Despite the macho, ‘team-Captain’ persona he gave off, he was a softy deep down.  After a bad day or a difficult situation I would frequently receive an encouraging note or text always ending with…

“Luv ya, P.”

Those little reassurances let me know he was in my corner no matter what, and I will never forget that.

Over the coming days (weeks, months and years) I am confident you will hear similar stories and memories of Peter.  I sincerely hope his legacy lives on with these stories because if Peter knew about anything in this world, it was how to be loyal.  Loyal husband, dad, son, brother and friend.

I just hope he knew I was always in his corner too?

Thank you for everything, my friend.

Rest easy.

‘Luv ya’ too buddy

REAL MEN: BUBBA

I first met Joe Bianculli on July 4th 1997. It was a scalding hot summer afternoon at Joe’s do-not-miss-cookout at his home in Milton, Massachusetts.

It was an intimidating day.

The youngest of Joe’s three sons, Matt, and I were dating sisters. Matt and I had met months prior and this was my first introduction to the Bianculli family (and by “family” I mean more like the Gambinos or the Sopranos). As I rolled up on this magnanimous Italian summer feast, I quickly understood this was a hard core family, lead by “Bubba”, a term his future grandchildren would deem.

A product of the Savin Hill section of Dorchester, Joe is the middle child with two incredible sisters bookending him and keeping him in line. His Dad, Dominic, a Boston political legend and mother Martha (dubbed Charlotte Cha-Cha), the Bs were a tight knit brood. Joe grew up in the glory days of Beantown. And lucky for Joe, he courted and married his wife, Christine, of nearly 50 years, he has lead an admirable life.

As I walked in to that first cookout, I smelled the intensity of this man (ormaybe it was the onions and peppers?). Fire and passion.

Matt proudly grabbed me for in introduction.

“Dad, this is Fra….”

“Frankie Baby!” he yelled, cutting off Matt’s intro. A huge hug to follow at our first-minute-ever spent. Yup, I dig this dude.

“How you doing, pal? Good to meet ya! How about a Pearl? (a classic sausage/hot dog kind if thing he always had for his guests).

Deep breathe exhaled.

“Sounds great . Thank you, Mr Bianculli!”

“Joe! I’m Joe. Cut that Mr. Biancull bullsh#% out”.

Joe was a wild and energetic soul. Fun, loud, anxious and excited. I knew from Day 1, I liked this guy. Reminding me very much of my own Dad, Joe was a screwball.

Temper of a demon, heart of an angel.

And so, years wore on and I got more insights on Bubba. I heard a lot of stories. Stories of a guy that would road rage to the point of a Wild West gun fight. Stories of a guy that would chase a hockey referee in to the stands to challenge after a questionable off sides call. Stories of a madman I had never met.

Turns out, I never did get to meet “that” Joe Bianculli.

Not sure if that was good fortune or not? But I have had the pleasure to spend the last 20+ years around the only Joe I ever met; a complete softy. The Joe Bianculli I have spent my adult years around is a perfect husband, father and gentleman. And, not to keep you in suspense, he is freakin’ awesome.

You know when you see that person that you know will deliver the greatest hug ever? That’s Bubba.

Need a compliment when you aren’t feeling so great about life? Look, there’s Bubba.

Need a kick in the ass to get your world together? Also, Bubba.

As years passed, as they tend to do, Bubba became as much a friend to me as a father figure. We have waxed poetic about life and the world. We have tried to figure it out. And it always started and ended with a hug and a kiss. (Real men don’t mind giving a hug and a kiss; just so you know.)

My own father, very similar to Joe, fell ill a few years back. Joe never EVER failed to stay in touch with me through it all. He, and his beyond wonderful wife Chrissy, always reached out to me with love and prayers.

Joe made me feel like the 4th Bianculli son ( the really pale brother that could not skate or fight like the others).

Joe called me often. Simply to say hello. Ask about my Dad. Sent his prayers and love. Always. When my Dad did finally succumb to his cancer, Joe was one of the first in line to just offer his condolences and love.

Joe will always be an influence on me. He’s the best. I love this guy.

Real Men.

REAL MEN: Mr. Manager

If Cambridge Massachusetts was a man, he would be a homeless, hippie, double-MBA from Harvard grad, stepping down as CEO from Biogen to run for City Council as a Liberatarian while simultaneously writing the next War and Peace as he is being arrested for urinating in the Charles River.

How’s that imagery? 

Cambridge is the one of the epicenters of intellect, imagination and ingenuity.  It is also the birthplace of my mother and her family. However, Cambridge is not the epicenter of this story, just the backdrop.

My mother’s oldest brother, Robert “Bob” Healy was the City Manager of Cambridge for more than thirty years.  With the gentle-est of Iron Fists, Bob turned this once downtrodden municipalities into an economic iconoclasts envied by others in his post across the nation.

Below is the very first column I ever penned and put “out there” for public consumption.  Thankfully this article was well received, not because of my powerful prose but because of the substance of the man I was writing about.

Bob was a humble legend.  A yeoman-level workaholic, Bob was always a simple but not-to-be-fooled-with leader.  Bob could be on the phone with the Governor while he was ordering a hot dog from the cart next to City Hall (he was on a first name basis with both of those guys, by the way).

The oldest of six children and the son of a Cambridge bus driver, Bob epitomized “self-made”.  I was always impressed by him, but not because of his status, title, or power.  I was impressed by him because he was such a kind, compassionate, genuine man.  

A great leader but, moreso, a great husband, a great father, a great friend (and pretty great uncle too).

Real Man.

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Standing the Test of Time

Lowell Sun

February 3, 2009

I wanted to take this opportunity to recognize one of Lowell’s finest leaders – Bob Healy.

Who, you ask? True, Bob has not been part of Lowell city government in 30 years, but itis where he got his start. If you don’t already know, Bob has served as the City Manager of Cambridge, Massachusetts for nearly 30 years and has been a resident of Lowell for over 40. In an age when we see our public officials come and go as nearly as fast as our professional sports heroes, Bob has stood the test of time in his post. How has he done so? Quite simple. Honest, hard work and the ability to get along with those around him no matter the circumstances or varying personalities.

This brings me to my next point – diversity. No sure how much you know about Cambridge, but it may very well be the most diverse and liberal major city in America. Cambridge is the home to, arguably, the nation’s most prestigious universities in Harvard and MIT, and some of our country’s most cutting edge bio-tech companies, but you are never more than a stones throw from a homeless person or low income housing. Bob, himself, has joked many times, “If it were not forCambridge and Berkeley, CA the country would tip over!” (referring the extreme levels of racial and economic diversity in each city)

Its FY 2007 residential property tax rate was rated one of the lowest in Massachusetts.Cambridge enjoys the highest possible bond credit rating, AAA, with all three WallStreet rating agencies.

Not bad.

To know Bob in private life, as I do, you would never know he is the leader of a major metropolis. Quiet, shy and extremely unassuming. But, turn on cable access on Monday nights in Cambridge and you will see a very different Bob Healy. Eloquent, confident,calm. Calm to the point of nauseum even with an upset citizen or disgruntled city councilmember screaming from the hilltops. It is perhaps this quality – calmness in the face of adversity or hard times- that above all has allowed for his longevity and separated him from the pack. (Bob is the longest serving city manager in Cambridge history) Bob is a fully ’vested’ state employee – and by that I mean his has reached his maximum lifetime pension requirement in regards to years served– yet he continues to work. Work REALLY hard. Rarely a day goes by when Bob is not the first person at Cambridge City Hall. It is not uncommon to see his car pull out of his driveway on Raven Road in Lowell heading for the People’s Republic of Cambridge (as it has been dubbed by it’s citizens for it’s extreme liberal nature) at 4:30AM. And when it starts to snow…forget it! Bob is racing the snow plows down Route 3 in the middle of the night to get to his ”command post” at city hall to ensure ”his” streets are safely plowed! So, why does he continue to work so very hard for virtually pennies on the dollar related to his retirement package? No one really knows but Bob. My guess is because that is all he knows how to do – and when you are really good at something, as Bob is, it is hard to give that up.

This coming Saturday, February 7th, the City of Cambridge will honor Bob by unveiling the new ‘Robert W. Healy Public Safety Facility’, which will include a state-of-the-art Police Headquarters and Emergency Communications Center.

Bob will probably make a few very brief and humble remarks and rush back to his office.I hope he takes at least a few minutes to reflect on all he has achieved.

If this reads as somewhat biased, it should – I am Bob’s nephew.

-Frank McCabe, Jr.

REAL MEN: TIGHE-ger TRACKS

So, finally ready to start the book I have had in my mind, for years, titled “REAL MEN

Decided to get it started and my first entry is about one of my favorite families; the Tighes. Hope you enjoy. If you have a tale of a Real Man; father, brother, son…worth telling, send me a note and we can include a chapter.

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Philomena“Philly” Tighe died of cancer at a young age. A lovely Irish lady, Philly left behind her husband, John, and their five young sons to figure the world out (don’t worry, they all did a wonderful job of that).  My father’s family were the next door neighbors to the Tighes and they grieved with them. As years passed, my dad and mom always shared some fun and funny tales of their years living next to the Tighes on Moore Street in Lowell.

When I was 4 years old my parents packed up to build their first home. As the house was being constructed, a chimney needed to be built and bricklayer “Old”  John Tighe was the only man ever considered for the job. John was a cool, calm badass of a man and I became infatuated with his mason craft. Cigar hanging out of his mouth, John carried layer upon layer of bricks up and down a ladder, all day. I was mesmerized. So much so, I attempted to carry bricks around the yard, following John. At first, I grabbed one. Then two. Soon I thought I could carry as many bricks as my mortar-l idol, John .  And…hernia. Pain, surgery, scrotal-area scar…whatever.

It was worth it, Mr. Tighe

Flash forward 36 years.

My annual boys golf trip. Gratuitously titled “The Green Jacket“, a tradition unlike any other. Twenty-five aging married men with children drinking for a weekend and a round of golf might have accidentally broken out. October in the Live Free or Die state for 48 hours. Epic event that lasted nearly two decades. Personally, my last G.J. was 2014 as I just turned the page in to my fourth decade.

Here is why it was my last.

On the first day of our cherished tradition I had a bit of an “accident”.

Rather, another Tighe sent me to the emergency room.

This time the culprit was the youngest of their clan, my old buddy Marty. At a table set for 25 inebriated men we were having a bit of a Craic. Marty, at the head of this banquet table like a Dean Martin Roast, and I to his right, were laughing like the audience of court jesters. Then it took an unexpected turn. A playful slap on my arm from Marty quickly devolved into a more jovial tackle.

Boom.

Ass-over-tea-kettle, my noggin smashed off the nearly 100 year old hotel radiator. As I sat back up in my chair, still belly laughing, I observed the looks of despair on my mates’ faces. My cousin, Kevin, directly across from me, says in his best Boston accent, “Ah, dude, that’s gonna need stitches.”

He was right. Ambulance whisks me of to “We Almost Went to Medical School General Hospital” in East Nowhere, NH for nine badboy sutures just west of my left eye. Dr. Quinn, Almost Medicine Woman, asked me if I had been drinking to which I eloquently responded, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA”

No local anesthetic needed, Doc.

It was worth it, Marty.

And so, Tighe men, thank you.
Two lifelong scars but two better lifelong memories.

Real men.

Just go, Man

The world is weird right now.

Very weird.

Last I saw, our world is on standby.  School.  Work. Church. You name it.  It’s all on hold for now.  We are being told (forced?) to stay home.

Weird times.

That said….what a remarkable opportunity we have been presented. Right?.  When, if ever, in our lifetime have we had a guilt-free period to simply “be”? Yes, there is a worrisome pandemic, but I would like to believe most of us will avoid and manage this scare with a bit of resolve and practicality.

And so, why not embrace this time?

Grab a book.  Grab a board game.  Grab a loved one.

Cook that recipe you have been afraid to attempt.  Pick up that guitar you have been staring at.  Take that long walk you always have in mind (with your dog or your significant other. No judging here).  Love-the-one-you’re-with kind of vibe, kid!

Go!

Send that card to Nana.  Mix that cocktail. Scoop that ice cream!

Just go man!

Why not?

I am the biggest, sarcastic hypocrite ever, but hey…let’s give it a shot.

 

A Tale of McNuggets: I’m Loving It

McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, by definition:

“The Chicken McNugget is a small piece of processed chicken meat that is fried in batter and flash-frozen, then shipped out and sold at McDonald’s restaurants.

McDonald’s first executive chef, René Arend, created the Chicken McNuggets recipe in 1979. “The McNuggets were so well-received that every franchise wanted them”, said Arend in a 2009 interview. “There wasn’t a system to supply enough chicken”. Supply problems were solved by 1983, and Chicken McNuggets became available nationwide.

According to McDonald’s, the nuggets come in four shapes: the bell, the bow-tie, the ball and the boot. The reason for the four different shapes is to ensure consistent cooking times for food safety. Four shapes were chosen because McDonalds states “The 4 shapes we make Chicken McNuggets in was the perfect equilibrium of dipability and fun. 3 would’ve been too few. 5 would’ve been, like, wacky.”

Blah, blah, blah.  I don’t give a crap about the invention of McNuggets nor their God-fearing nutricional UN-value.  I don’t.  And if you care to comment at this stage of this column I respectfully ask you to take your opinion to the nearest Wendy’s.

This is a story of McNugget Lore.  A love story.  A story of passion and poison.  Gluttony and greed.  It has all the elements of a Michael Douglas B-Rate thriller coupled with the spoiled-oil grease trap cooking these American legends across our great land.  McNuggets are the Broad Stripes and Bright Stars.  The Purple Mountain Magesty.  The Amber Waves of Grain. Deep fried deliciousness.

OK, you get my stance.

And now to the long overdue story….

About a year ago….we will call in ‘Ought ’18, a few of my closest and dearest were enjoying some well-deserved Friday Beers over some conversation and comradery at one of our favorite watering holes in the mighty Mill City.  In our spirited discussion, the wildly popular topic of food naturally arose.   More specific?  Fast Food.  Despite the incredible pressure and political-correct-crapness to insist this cuisine is taboo and should never grace our pallets; lets be freakin’ honest for one Millennial second.  If you are a child of the 1970s, 80s, and even 90s….you loved yourself some drive-thru.  Of course you did.  You wouldn’t be human or from the USA if you didn’t.  One thing made you happier than anything else; The HAPPY Meal.  And thence into beauty.

McDonalds, above all of the other gullet-stuffing, caloric-Titanic-disasters of the fast food chain made us all smile in a guilty but genuine glee.

As such, the gang and I all waxed poetic about the delicate decadence of the Chicken McNugget.  Oohs and Ahhs quickly turned to bravado…

“How many McNuggets could you take down?,” one member of our crew shouted.

Insane mathematical impossibilities were exclaimed.

“40!”

“No way, I can do 60!”

“I got 100 in me on an empty stomach!‘ screamed the most clearly inebriated of the clan.

Arguments, fuzzy logic and Venn diagrams even appeared within this classroom of cocktails.

And then a calm and sober voice interceded.  A leader amongst us.  The proprietor of this famed Lowellian water hole.

“Hey….I’ll buy Nuggets and let’s give it a test run.

(Collective gulps).

He continued, “I saw a deal they (McDonald’s) are running right now on special.  40 nuggets for $10.”

The crowd now silenced like the spectators at the Roman Colliseum following a Gladiator death match.

Nods and hesitant (Boston accent) “Shahs” followed his proposal.  And then, he was off like the childish Red and Yellow Clown Ronald himself.

Our bravado soon turned to healthy fear of a Weekend at BURN-ies with a side with a vomitous chicken collision.

I’d like to tell you how we had the greatest eat off since Lard Ass in the Pie Eating Contest in Stand By Me.  I’d love to brag how eating giants Joey Chestnut and Kobayashi were weak shadows of greatness compared to what we were about to take in during this stomach stuffing for annals of history.

But, I can’t.

The real legend in this story is the Fearless Leader and Procurer of the above stated magnanimous amount of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

He mosied in to the nearest Mickey D’s and laid it all down…and they didn’t know how to pick it up.

Calm and confident he stated his demands….

Can I have 200 Chicken McNuggets, please?

Pimple-Face Paul on his first day at the Golden Arches nearly collapsed.

One moment, sir,” Paul choked, “I need to see my Manager.”

No problem,” our fearless faux-chicken-buying General responded.

As poor Paul raced to the back and tracked down Second Shift Manager Scotty, the hollow echoes across this grease pit began to stir.  This was happening.  The day this staff had all been preparing for since they launched this value-friendly coronary offer to the general public.  Scotty attempted to compose himself and visited the counter to confirm this unprecedented request.

(stuttering and disheveled) “Hello, sir.  Um, did my associate get that straight?  You would like 200 Chicken McNuggets?

“Yeah, that’s right,” retorted our hero.

“OoooooK, then, ” Scotty replied in a shear state of disbelief and turned to head back to the kitchen to simply digest (giggle) this magnanimous confirmation.

Reluctantly, Scotty turned back to the counter made the mistake of asking…. “Do you want that for here?  Or to go?”

And this is where this silly tale of processed meat became epic…

“I’m going to have it here.”

At this stage, every single employee, patron and bystander stood petrified in awe, amazement and fear.

And just when you thought our Champion could not make this scene any funnier, he uttered his final words before he let these Soldiers of Preservative-Filled Fortune off the hook with a laugh.

“Oh, and a small diet coke.”

History.

P.S.  I knocked back 30 nuggs without breaking a (meat) sweat later that day.