REAL MEN: BEAKER

In the past few months, I have been receiving a lot of mail, email and social media reminders of my 25th reunion from college. As with any reunion type event, it reminds us how time flies (and that you are getting old!). After digesting that fact, I was reminded of an important day that would ultimately play a part in choosing to attend my Alma Mater, the College of the Holy Cross.

In the summer of 1992, about to enter my senior year at Lowell High School (do you believe that place is still standing…could probably use a fresh coat of paint or maybe even a BULLDOZER! Sorry, tangent.) I was invited to visit with the football program at HC. Very exciting invite that I happily accepted.

However, in the days leading up to the scheduled visit, my sister got sick. Really sick. Courtney had a long fought battle with major G.I. problems since she was a young child and she took a bad turn at age 15. She would be hospitalized in Boston for nearly one month that summer. My parents, not surprisingly, refused to leave her side for any extended period of time; except to be sure I didn’t burn the house down in their absence, of course. This was fine by me and I managed just fine. (I’d like to tell you it was like Risky Business….and it was. Well, except for the parties, beautiful women, sex, drugs, and wild fun. Other than that, exactly the same. I did dance around in my underwear once…alone. I digress)

But as the days turned to weeks at Children’s Hospital for Courtney, my big day out on Worcester was quickly approaching. And so Dad and Mom had to make the decision to how to manage. This was a parent/student invite. I could not go alone and I certainly could not decline this opportunity. So, we decided to enlist the help of an old friend.

Enter Brian “Beaker” Barry

Brian was yet another close confidant and council to my Dad. Golf buddies, neighbors, occasional business partners, they were quite the odd couple. Conservative Attorney Barry coupled with Often-Off-The-Rails Frank made for a head scratching friendship; but one that seemed to always work.

Brian eagerly agreed to lend a hand to our family and chaperone me out to the The Cross. Leaving behind his own large brood of young children on a Sunday, Brian stepped up. I was quite nervous that day – and a bit unsure if this was a even a good idea. Brian could sense my jumpiness as soon as I got into his little lawyer-mobile Volvo. He made light commentary (and terrible jokes) the whole ride down. I remember it really did help me and the nerves. Brian delivered what was needed. Basically, to serve as the parent that could not be there to help navigate me through this interview of sorts.

Long story short, it was a very successful trip.

Flash forward a few months.

After visiting many more schools and weighing many confusing options I knew I wanted to be a Crusader and could not have been more proud to receive that letter of acceptance. And it was a great ride I have always cherished.

May 1997, Brian and I celebrated “our” victory the day after I graduated.

In hindsight, looking back almost 30 years since that visit to Mount St. James, Brian’s support on that day was so critical. It was the first step in making arguably the largest decision in my young life. We still joke about it whenever we bump in to each other.

Remember that day I got you in to college, Frankie?“, Brian will rib me.

Sure do, buddy.

Outside of his quirky wit, Columbo-like interrogations if he wants the scoop on some sordid subject, Brian is just a great guy and family man. Proud husband to Katie, father to five superstar kids, grandfather to a whole gaggle that’s still growing in size, Brian continues his life well lived over on Clark Road. Pretty damn good golfer, too.

Thanks for that day and for the many years of true friendship.

REAL MAN.

(P.S. Beak was also the co-conspirator of the infamous “Dr. Pleasure 40th Birthday Caper“, but I’ll save that for another chapter.)

REAL MEN: PAUL

I have been really excited to pen this chapter of REAL MEN.
The subject: Mr. Paul Dubuque.

Adding to my list of guys that were near and dear to Dad, but have always meant so much to me; and continue to do such. Paul is no exception.

Product of the Acre section of Lowell, Paul came up a poor French neighborhood kid in the 1950s and 60s. A veteran, Paul served his country well before settling back in his beloved hometown with his (saint of a) wife, Jackie, where they raised their five great kids.

I obviously did not know Paul way back then, but middle age (and now “quasi-old”) Paul has become an amazing friend and confidant to me.
Another member of “The Pall Bearer Squad” (I suppose he was a PAUL bearer! Rim Shot…tip your waiters and waitresses, I am here all week!) for Big Frank, Paul is as close as it gets to my heart and that of my family.

My first memory of Paul goes back to the late 80s when I was pre-pubescent teen that cared not for the opposite sex, but only sports and video games. Early Sunday mornings, Paul and another legend would pack a gaggle of us kids in to the car (seatbelts optional because there were not enough of them to go around) and take us to play basketball at a local high school. I thought it was so cool. We had private gym time. Paul and the others Dads played in our full court games. Despite his girlish figure, Paul actually had some sick hoop game back in those days! Always easy, fun and kind to us youngsters, Paul was an “adult” I surely respected.

Flash forward a few decades, and the relationship changed drastically. The respect remained, but the relationship dynamic certainly evolved from Sunday morning roundball many years back.

Now, all of a sudden, I could matriculate with Paul and the rest of the Merry Band of Mad Men my father hung around, like peers and not ”fathers and sons”. I was Junior Scout seeking full time membership to the Whacko Pack, this was a new chapter for me. (Read previous REAL MEN entries and you will see what I mean). Yes, this new segment was surely more interesting than sweating it out on the bball court on the Lord’s Day.

Translation: golf, cigars, maybe a bourbon, dirty jokes and the like!

Which brings me to a not-to-be-overlooked component of knowing Paul Dubuque; THE JOKES.

Paul must have been a Court Jester in Medieval France in a previous life because he can tell a joke like no other and can certainly “hold Court”. Masterful in his delivery and timing, Paul can capture your full attention when you foresee a 1-liner or a 30-minuter coming out of that beautiful ,quasi-large, jovial, cologne-wafting cranium he has somehow managed to operate for over 70 spins around the Sun. And the only one laughing louder at the punch line than his audience? Paul himself! That fact always makes it more the funny.

A true friend, Paul calls me often and opens with a kind, genuine ”Hello”, a earnest inquiry about my life and happenings to follow, a quick hilarious quip or story for sure, but always closed with an “I love ya, pal“.

And that’s no joke.

That’s just Paul.

REAL MAN.

REAL MEN: “The Boys”

Ironic title given the nature of the series, I know.

The subject of this chapter is about a very special and unique collection of REAL MEN; the collection of students I have had the privilege to teach the past couple of years.

The Boys” is the term I always affectionately used referring to this cluster of exceptional young men that I spent all of my professional time with during my brief, but incredibly meaningful chapter, of my professional life at Lowell High School.

After nearly twenty years in the private sector of the business world, I was at a crossroads in my career. Uncertain of exactly what I wanted to do next, I was afforded the opportunity to teach in the Life Skills program within the Special Education department at my alma mater. With a teenage son impacted by autism, I understand this population quite well, but by no means as an educator. Nonetheless, the fine folks on Father Morrisette Boulevard took a chance on me and I am eternally grateful for that confidence.

And the next thing you know, I was off. All of a sudden, I was a “teacher”. I was surrounded by a wonderful and supportive team guiding me through my early days and in the relative short term, I found my groove in the classroom.

What I quickly learned was what an amazing, kind, considerate and diverse cohort of young men (yes, my crew was comprised of all boys for the majority of the school day) I had the privilege to spend my work day with each day.

Ages 16-21, I was responsible to help prepare these “boys” for the next steps in their lives. While most of these students are not equipped with the tools for a college career, they are certainly capable individuals with so much to offer the world.

The Boys” and I covered a lot of ground during our days at school. From the basic lessons of daily living, to self-care and health to pre-vocational and career preparedness.

We were the “Job Gang” of Lowell High School.

We delivered the mail around the campus.

We cleaned up cluttered classrooms and offices.

We cooked and delivered meals when needed (including a Thanksgiving dinner and St. Patrick’s Day feast for all comers).

These individuals are forever enthusiastic and eager to impress and please their teachers and peers alike.

You will never walk by The Boys without being on the receiving end of a genuine smile, a hard high five (or a fist bump in Covid Culture) and a very energetic “Hello“.

While each labeled with a “disability” I can confidently proclaim that these gentlemen bring so very much to the proverbial table each and every day.

They love coming to school.

They love to learn.

They love to be a part of this nearly 200 year old institution.

These “Boys” make Lowell High School, our community and the world-at-large a better place.

They are a gift; certainly have been to my life.

Although I am moving on to a new chapter of my professional journey, I can’t imagine a more meaningful time.

I was blessed to teach, and LEARN from, them.

Thank youfor everything, fellas! You’re truly the best.

REAL MEN.

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.