REAL MEN: TOM MCKAY

Every gentleman I write about is special for one reason or another. 

They are all in my Hall of Fame of Human Beings. 

All for different and unique reasons. 

This chapter is about, perhaps, the funniest.  My late friend, Tom McKay.

Yes, I certainly considered Tom a ‘friend’ as I aged into adulthood but he was truly a member of my late father’s “Rat Pack”. 

Tom, Dad and a whole other consortium of sordid characters spent decades having fun and laughs.  They had an incredible group of old school dudes that simply had a ball; led by Mr. McKay.  If their crew was the Rat Pack, Tom McKay was Frank Sinatra. 

Tom was the most electric, dare I say iconic, person you could imagine.

Tom could have you dangling on a string listening to his stories.

Tom could make a story about the DMV funny.

Tom could make anything funny.

The most devilish laugh you could envision, Tom always made your day better. 

And here is the best part, Tom’s life was dedicated to showing us all a good time.  A saloon owner for many years then evolved into the city’s ultimate party planner as the head of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Tom was the guy you looked to when you needed some fun in your life. 

Tom brought musical acts, comedians, and legends of stage and screen to the Mill City. 

Tom brought Sesame Street to Lowell for Christ Sake! 

Tom flirted with Dolly Parton and teased Bill Cosby (ya know, before we knew what a giant sicko he was {Cosby, not Tom}!).

Tom made the Golden Gloves feel like a heavy weight championship bout in Las Vegas.

Whether it was a Broadway show or just a private conversation, Tom made everything an event.  Tom made everyone that graced his presence feel special and loved.

Kind, generous, and absolutely hilarious. 

I loved Tom.

Real Man.

Below is the tribute I wrote to Tom just after he passed away.  No prouder words written.

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LIGHTS IN LOWELL A LOT DIMMER

2.10.2014

The City of Lowell is a darker place today. This week we say goodbye to one of its brightest stars, Tom McKay. Tom McKay was one of the most recognizable, active and socially responsible citizens in this city’s history. I could write a whole lot of words outlining all of Tom’s professional accolades as a businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist over the past 50 years, but I want to tell you about the man.

If you did not know Tom, I honestly feel bad for you. Tom was one of the most electric personalities you could ever meet. When Tom McKay walked in to a room, you knew it. He lit it up. I am not sure whether it was his big Irish smile, his always dapper appearance or that unmistakable voice? I am not sure it was any of those things. Tom just had “presence”. And when you had the great fortune of being in Tom’s presence, you knew you were about to be entertained.

Tom had an uncanny ability to make everyone around him feel welcomed. As one of my family’s closest and oldest friends, I had the luxury of being around Tom my entire life and I can say with conviction; it was always an ‘event’.

“How ah ya, buddy?” was one of Tom’s signature greetings when he reached to shake your hand. Many have joked that Tom called everyone ‘Buddy’ because he could not remember your name. The irony is Tom McKay was everybody’s buddy. He really was. Tom lured followers and friends like the Pied Piper. Perhaps the greatest story teller I have ever known, Tom’s charisma was captivating and you did not want to miss one minute of his wit and banter. Tom had a story (some may have been exaggerated) for every occasion and every audience. All of them were priceless. If stories can be considered gifts, then Tom was Santa Claus.

A devout Catholic, Tom was always one to give his time, energy and resources to those in need. When it came to charity and giving, Tom never said the word ‘no’. Both personally and professionally, Tom gave to any worthy cause that crossed his path.

While Tom led a very busy professional life, he was a family man to the core and they were always his first priority. His devotion and affection for his wife Lori and daughters Jennifer and Meredith were unwavering and always obvious. Tom was blessed with two beautiful granddaughters and in his last days another blessing came in to Tom’s world; his first grandson, James THOMAS. Oh the stories you will hear, Little “T”.

Yes, the city of Lowell and beyond is a darker place, but the Kingdom of Heaven is surely brighter with Tom in it.

Rest easy, Buddy, we all loved ya.

The future of Bicycle Advocacy.

Don’t be confused by the language, as this isn’t actually in Lowell.  The tell is the pristinely painted bicycle lane and the vehicle itself isn’t a massive Tahoe with a “Re-elect Mayor Elliott sticker” on it.  But that’s neither here nor there, because what we’re watching here is the future of bicycle advocacy.  Brute force.  This gentleman will not only single handedly improve the cycling experience for his community, but no longer will the stereo type of cyclists be one of ill-fitting outfits, and a build that requires all altercations be settled through tersely worded, anonymous notes left on peoples cars.  Wherever this guy is, we need to hunt him down and make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Only in Lowell: The Cities

 

lowellcitytournament.com

The City of Lowell Golf Tournament celebrates it’s 90th anniversary this year. “The Cities” as it is more commonly known started in 1923 and is the oldest known local amateur golf tournament of its kind in the country. Members from Mount Pleasant Golf Club, Long Meadow Golf Club, Nabnasset Lake Country Club and Vesper Country Club qualify at their home courses to play in this unique 54-hole medal play event. Each club fields a team of 12 with three alternates. Both individual and team titles are up for grabs. This year’s tournament will begin at Vesper Country Club on Wednesday, June 24. The second round will be at Mt. Pleasant Golf Club on Friday, June 26 and the final round will be played on Saturday, June 27 at Long Meadow Golf Club.

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To quote CBS golf analyst, Jim Nance, ‘A tradition like no other... ‘  Of course, Nance is referencing the famed Masters  not the nearly 100 year old Lowell City tournament.  But for my money (which is about $2.75/beer), The Cities is far more entertaining.  Local golfers play in three competitive rounds  in June each year from 4 local clubs.  And while these players are considered “amateurs” The Cities has spawned the golf lives of many players that went on to professional careers.  In my opinion, this is one of the greatest traditions in this city and it continues to thrive almost a century later.

OK, that is the history lesson of the Cities, now lets talk about what’s really happening here.

The Cities – for all those NOT playing – is a 3 day party.

The Cities is an excuse to leave work at lunch time.

The Cities is a place where Lowellians go who have never played or watched (or can even spell the word) ‘golf’.

The Cities is a reason to walk at a snail’s pace around a golf course, Irish whispering  to the guy you sat next to in 9th grade home room while pounding Bud Lights for no reason other than it is 1PM on Wednesday.

The Cities’ crowd is like an scene out of Happy Gilmore, minus Bob Barker

The Cities is the unofficial Lowell High School reunion for every graduating class since 1960.

The Cities is a right of passage for high school kids to sneak a few warm Miller High Life’s they stashed in the woods and responsible adults simply turn a blind eye.

The word ‘kid’ is used more times during The Cities than any other time in history. Ever.

The Cities rule…KID!

My wife is non-Lowellian so naturally had no clue to The Cities experience until she was blessed with meeting me.  “Yeah, Aim, we are heading over to this golf tournament….at Mt Pleasant…on a Friday….to WATCH.”  What tha?  “No, its really fun, trust me.”  Think of how insane that must sound to someone who has never been before?  Next thing you know I am stuffing beers in her purse and we are following around some 20 year old from Pelham whom I have never met in my life, in 90 degree heat, just because he shot a 69 at Long Meadow.  It it effin crazy if you step back.

I may sound like an insane high school hero here but The Cities is an institution and whether you like golf or not, this event is a desperate but legit argument to stand outside, whack cocktails and pretend you have even a vague interest in golf.

Who’s in?

See ya tomorrow, kid.

Ariana Grande spits in the eye of romance, and the entire City of Lowell

arianatim

Gawker.com

Lil’ Miss Ponytail Ariana Grande has an, ahem, enthusiastic fan from Massachusetts: a 29-year-old man named Tim Normandin. Tim sent Ariana a 42.5-pound pumpkin for Halloween. Ariana sent Tim the cops.
According to TMZ, “police in Lowell, MA paid a visit to the home of 29-year-old Tim Normandin after Ariana’s record label complained the guy was sending Ariana a slew of packages.” The list of gifts shows that Tim has no problem clearing out the frickin’ mall—in addition to the pumpkin, he’s sent:

• Eight (8) Yankee candles
• a 3-piece mirror set from Kmart
• a $200 anklet from Kay Jewelers
• a rock from the White Mountains of New Hampshire
• AND
• an unspecified number of dog and cat calendars

Cops told Tim that he’ll face criminal harassment charges if he doesn’t stop sending Ari all this crap. Tim says he’s not gonna stop sending her all this crap.

Hey Ariana Grande, how about showing a little appreciation for the gesture?  Out of all the guys in Lowell that could bestow gifts upon you, you got the most romantic dude among us.   Yankee Candles, 45 pound pumpkins, non-edible jewelry from Kay Jewelers…what an embarrassment of riches.  The #2 ranked “most romantic guy in the city” is my buddy Dunny, and he makes his wife bring, and carry her own cooler when they go on dinner dates to Browns.

So let’s tap the brakes on the whole calling the cops thing and maybe acknowledge the effort.  If not for the reputation of young Timmy Normandin, how about doing it for the little elves that stuff all that magic into the Balsam & Cedar and Mulling Spices tumblers, out at the Yankee Candle Factory.  Or the exhausted guy at FedEx that had to lug that dumb f’n pumpkin across the country just so you could let it rot on the door step.  Or the greatest jewelry salesman ever to walk this planet over at Kay Jewelers that must have sold his soul to convince a guy to buy the first “anklet” since Service Merchandise folded their tent.    As far I am concerned, your rejection of Timmy is a rejection of us all, and I won’t stand for it.  Fahhhhk You!

Creatures of the Lowell Line: Superheroes

fleetwood

What is this guy’s superpower you ask?  Invisibility? Clearly not.  X-Ray vision? Unlikely.  The ability to break up “six….ahhhh, actually seven” fights at Saturday’s Fleetwood Mac concert?  You guessed it.  (It was 3 fights, two stops ago, but you know how it goes with Superhero’s… you get super exaggeration too.)  Hey, we all know how it goes with those Fleetwood Mac fans.  They’re all just normal geriatrics, complaining about the weather and speed limits being too high, until they hear the base lick in the middle of “The Chain” and they lose their minds.  Its like some sort of tribal call to arms.  One would have to imagine it was a scary scene… “The ush’ahs were piss’n demselves.  Thank God I wuz the’yah.”  (Translation:  “Just went on instinct, No weapons needed.  It’s what I do.”)

And here he is two days later warming the purple seats on the commuter rail with the rest of us mortals, with hardly a scratch on him.  And unlike most superhero’s, who are all usually guarded and introverted when they’re not saving the world, he was extremely forthcoming. (To anyone who accidentally made eye contact.)  For instance, we learned that he just acquired a pet Red Tail Boa, that he temporarily named “Destroyer.” (Temporarily?  Like he’s going to come up with something better than Destroyer?)  And haven’t you all wondered what superheroes order at Dunkin?!? Well, you’re in luck.  This superhero runs on a “Great One” Hot Chocolate with a Turbo shot…which demonstrates a palette and stomach lining that is operating on a super human level.  Clearly this man has no weakness. (Save for the onset of Type 2 diabetes or the eventual wrath of Destroyer the snake.)