In acknowledgment of St. Patrick’s Day â€“ a holiday arguably bigger than Christmas for many people in Eastern Massachusetts â€“ I want to go back in time to the early 1980s when I was the statehouse bureau chief and political editor for the gritty Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, a mill city PM daily with a circulation of 60,000 and a reach into southern New Hampshire. I do not recall my days at the Eagle-Tribune fondly. It was an amazing underpaid stress-fest only made interesting by the lunacy of the subject matter.
Last month, on the day of the New Hampshire primary, I blogged about my days chasing the 1984 presidential campaign through the Granite State, but that was nothing compared to the St. Pat’s tradition of the political lunch at the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Lawrence. Every alderman, mayor, state representative and senator, congressman and ex-congressman, party official, attorney general, judge, even presidential candidate would cram into the AOH and roar with well-greased laughter at the patter and jokes of Billy Bulger, the leprechaunesque president of the Senate (brother to Whitey Bulger of the Winter Hill Gang, and the fugitive the Jack Nicholson character in Scorcese’s The Departed was loosely based on).
I was a minor leaguer, the home town guy in the grand scheme of things, an anomaly due to the perception by most local pols that I must be a closet Republican due to my very detestable English middle name, my prep school and Ivy league ties, and my incurable shyness and propensity to blush when made fun of, which most of my sources delighted in doing constantly and in public. But â€¦ I was the grandson of Kenneth McKiniry, who had coached a local town’s football and basketball teams to several state championships, and once I dropped that name I was given a hug, a mug of green beer, and that paragon of Bay State cuisine: the boiled dinner (corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes).
I was also bartending a few nights a week in Boston to make ends meet and attempt to pay down my college loans. Boston bartenders live in utter dread of two days every year â€“ St. Pat’s and the Boston Marathon. St. Pat’s because every suburban amateur drunkards floods into Boston for a day of public intoxication and micturation, and Boston Marathon because bulimic mid-life crisis cases would stagger into the bar in their running shorts and Nikes wrapped in a silver mylar space blanket and celebrate their four hour ordeal from Hopkinton with a Sam Adams which would invariably lay them out on the floor.
I don’t think working for a global PC company would have crossed my mind in those days of bare knuckle reporting and bartending. The smell of cabbage, sour beer, and the sight of the Celtics logo will always bring such memories rushing back.