Saturday, March 17, 2012

Éirinn go Brách

Tom Kelley:  Faithful "domestic" to Miss Emily, and her lead pallbearer

Growing up on Crow Hill in Amherst in a single parent Irish Catholic household a couple generations ago, St Patrick's Day was more than a spring milestone--and much more than simply a day to wear green, or an excuse to consume beer for breakfast.

It was the only time I ever remember my mother hosting a formal party for friends, family and neighbors, and one of the few times the Kelley household looked more than presentable for an entire day and night. 

My mother always accented the positive traits of being Irish:  loyalty, gifted storytelling, determination, hard working, although stubborn was a trait that could go either way.  One of my favorite sayings I heard often enough was "get their Irish up," meaning to anger.

So I've always tried to use St Patrick's Day positively.  In 1991, over a ten consecutive year date with Mt Washington for the grueling bike race in late August, St Patty's Day commenced the first formal day of road training.  Over the following five months, and thousands of miles logged, I could count on one hand the days missed being in the saddle.

Five years ago today (2007) I started this blog to reestablish my voice.  I had lost a bet with an online Anon commenter on Masslive Amherst Forums (2004) about whether Amherst Regional High School, after the monumental national pounding they were taking for scheduling a performance of "The Vagina Monologues," would actually happen (it did).

I also resigned my monthly column after 14 years with the Amherst Bulletin because Editor in Chief Jim Foudy censored me from writing a follow up column (the first had sparked an international debate) on that same shameful incident.

Since founding, I have shed light on the truth--especially in places where powerful forces wished it stay hidden, given voice to the voiceless--when they spoke the truth, broken countless stories, and led the charge on a dozen important crusades.

A 19th century journalist using 21st century technology.

You may have noticed the sudden appearance of advertising last week.  Although my traffic reached a point of commercial viability years ago, I held off selling ads because I did not want to deal with the natural conflict of interest that oftentimes hamstrings newspapers--especially now with print ads down dramatically. 

Do you hold back investigating/reporting a story because it shines negative light on one of your few remaining advertisers? 

For instance, I'm tempted now to make a snide remark about Gazette reporter Scott Merzbach grilling Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tony Maroulis to elicit negative feedback about McMurphy's and Stacker's embarrassing "Blarney Blowout" bar promotion last Saturday.  But, Tony's an advertiser (who, hopefully, has a sense of humor).

Last year, this special holiday marked my most important milestone of all:  giving up alcohol.

The painfully slow demise of my health fitness business combined with painful arthritic degeneration of my joints combined to overwhelm my fine tuned sense of control.

I thought I could not live without my business or being able to kick people in the head on an almost daily basis.  Soon enough, I thought I could not live without consuming 10 beers a day.  Now I live without both.

Because I came to realize the ultimate truth:  I can't live without my family.

May those who love us love us. And those that don't love us, May God turn their hearts. And if He doesn't turn their hearts, May he turn their ankles, So we'll know them by their limping.


Anonymous said...

And happy St. Patrick's Day to you too! That was a particularly moving column and I appreciate the sharing.

However, the School Marm in me says, "He LED the charge, even though he was out of lead bullets."

Have a great day drinking tea and eating Irish soda bread.

LarryK said...

Thanks. I have to start paying you for copy editing (almost wrote "gotta").

Anonymous said...

"Director Tony Maroulis to elicit negative feedback about McMurphy's and Rafter's embarrassing "Blarney Blowout" bar promotion last Saturday."
Errr...Rafters didn't even open until 11:30am, did not take part in any "Kegs and Eggs" and is not in the habit of serving those who already are intoxicated. Could be another bar in the CENTER of town.

LarryK said...

Sorry, I meant STACKER'S of course.

Mr. Jolly is way too professional for such nonsense.

Anonymous said...

You have always been a good guy ,Larry...even back at St.Mike's..oh so long ago....
Congrats on giving up alcohol...and putting your family at the top.
From another Irish family..the Dowlings...........
your friend,Debbie

LarryK said...

Thanks Debbie! Maybe I should have taken up ballet instead of karate.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on 1 year Larry. Keep up the good work.

LarryK said...

You can count on it.

Wondering said...

I'm lucky to be able to enjoy alcohol in moderation. Not everyone can do that. It's good to know your weaknesses and mitigate them. Best wishes and sincere encouragement on that.

A wonderful column. You should write a memoir of your childhood and get your share of fame and royalties. I'll definitely buy a copy and even read it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Larry. Is Tom Kelley buried in Wildwood? Congrats on your sobriety. Richard

LarryK said...

Hey Richard,

No, the entire Kelley clan--all four generations--are buried at St. Brigid's Cemetery, Rocky Hill Road Hadley.

Tom actually helped to build St Brigid's back in the day.

Ed said...

There is a different lesson here.

The Irish were treated very badly by the WASP Protestants of Massachusetts -- they were second class citizens the way the UM students are now.

People tend not to forget such things, and when the tide turned, the Irish turned around and extracted their pound of flesh too.

The oppressors often become the oppressed when the tide turns. Amherst has been doing this stuff long enough that there are probably 100,000 people who detest what happened to them as students out here, some not that far from real political power.

Learn the lesson of the Irish Larry. Learn from it.

Anonymous said...

Glad to second, or third, the cheers for your sobriety. Keep it up and congrats.

LarryK said...

Considering how SOME of the Cowardly Anon Nitwits have treated me over the past year (like disruptive party students however, only a small minority overall), I figure if THAT did not drive me back to drink nothing will.

Michael H said...

I applaud you Larry for having the courage of your convictions in defense of our threatened 1st Amendment freedoms and liberties. Sadly, "the pillars of the liberal class [the press among them]..have collapsed as effective counterwights to the corporate state."(Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges)

Cowardly Anon Nitwit said...

I gave up smoking on St. Patty's day, a much better reason to be happy than a belly full of beer.

LarryK said...

Fortunately I never smoked (turned green from a cigarette when I was 8 and that ended that).

I've heard experts say it's harder to quit smoking than it is to kick heroin.

Good luck.

Shelley Timberlake said...

I have fond memories of your mother, Larry. I still have a teacup and saucer she gave me, predictably adorned with shamrocks. Be well. Putting family first is a good #1 priority. Congratulations on sobriety, as well.

LarryK said...

Thanks Shelley. Mom was nothing if not thoughtful.

Perhaps that is why the thoughtless rude behavior of a small minority of party hardy students really gets my Irish up.