Charlie’s Tap

Charlies tap

I grew up in a town with a lot of bars.  This particular one is tucked behind Central Square, Cambridge and was called Charlie’s Tap, a gritty workingman’s tavern.  I hated the place as a kid…. because my mother worked there as a barmaid…. a fact I was not proud of as a kid growing up.  I guess I wanted more of a stay at home “June Cleaver” type mom than one that had to work 2 to 3 jobs to raise five boys.  A few days a week I’d sit in a booth in the back and have my dinner listening to the men talking about their day.  A kid can learn a lot, very quickly about life in pub….but nothing that I could repeat in class the next day at the Blessed Sacrament School.

The old building is still standing but bears a new name and ownership, updated brick-face and new clientele. It still has that casual, and inviting feel of a local Tap which draws you up to its very long, narrow, dimly-lit bar.  My mom held court behind that well worn barricade and took no guff, gave her fair share keeping the boys in line…. She stored a miniature baseball bat behind the bar and used it liberally when persuasion was required….

Most days it was shoulder to shoulder workingmen all the way to the bustling open kitchen at the back …..The sound of pots and pans clanging, dishes clinking preceded the cook’s barking out Order Up! That steamy kitchen was always hot as hell and the cooks white T shirt and apron looked like he had served a company of hungry Marines. The cook was my brother Charlie… he was one hell of a comfort food cook….but the Camel cigarette that hung while cooking at times from his lips always took the comfort down a notch for me…. I guess you could say it was an original Charlies Kitchen..

At “The Tap”….my mom served whiskey shot’s with a beer chaser on Friday’s ….an especially busy day as most locals stopped to have a pop, cash their checks on their way home for a fish dinner.  I guess it kinda took the edge off the week and helped many settle into the weekend.

Seemed like everyone walked to where they needed to go..  We burned shoe leather rather than fossil fuels back then keeping “Jimmy the Greek” Papalambros the local cobbler / shoe repairman piled high with work.  Man he could make an old pair of shoes like brand new with soles and heels…  My mom always had him put taps on my heels to slow down their wear…. I was Fred Astaire for a few weeks until the taps wore down…

Everything smelled…. both good and bad…each fragrance imprinting on your memory. The Tap smelled of Camels, Lucky Strikes and Stogies… Whiskey, Urine and Beer. The Italian men smoked Parodies …dark black sticks of tobacco….one puff could send a swooping bar fly into a death spiral.

The butchers, fish mongers, plumbers and garbage men all smelled from work and BO. Business cards were not necessary… you knew what they did all day.  Cologne was the popular antidote…High Karate, English Leather, Canoe, Old Spice for the men and upstairs Chanel #9 and Jean Nate for the ladies all available at the local Rexall Drug Store.

The best smells of my youth came from the Frank’s Barber Shop….Every haircut started with a funny story moved to the sound of his razor slap sharpening against the leather strap….then to the smell of  hot shave cream while he trimmed your neck and sides, the sting of Clubman aftershave and ended with a brush full of talc powder that would choke a horse….  If you didn’t feel like a million bucks after all that you don’t know good living.

When I pass by the old “Charlies Tap” these days I remember how hard my family worked to make a buck.  I remember that we walked everywhere because we didn’t have a car, we smelled after a hard days work….but we cleaned up nicely…looking and feeling like a million bucks….Somehow we made life work and like Charlies Tap we are a few bricks short but still standing…





Brick walls that talked and made pictures

1280px-Cambridge_telephone_call_2There’s an old brick building on the corner of Main and Osborn Street in Cambridge Massachusetts that arguably could be considered the birthplace of the modern day smart phone.  An unassuming structure as historic buildings go, for years it looked like an abandoned warehouse but inside the beauty of innovation has blossomed for years.  What makes this building unique is that it hosted the workshops of both Alexander Graham Bell the inventor of the 1st telephone and Dr. Edwin land the inventor of the Polaroid Instant camera.

Image result for orsborn and main street cambridge alexander graham bellOn the Main street side hangs a bronze plaque which was its only adornment on an otherwise plain building, aside from the chicken wire that used to cover the 1st floor windows for years.

710_Main_Street,_Cambridge,_MA_-_telephony_plaqueAt this site on October 9th 1876 Thomas A Augustus Watson and Alexander Graham Bell  made the 1st long distance telephone conversation over wire.  Bell became a professor in elocution at Boston University was working on transmitting sound using an electrical current.  In 1876, Bell had advanced his work to the point where he was able to transmit sounds using a method that involved a needle vibrating in water, which caused the electrical current to change. The change in current was what transmitted the sound. It was this water-based device that Bell used to utter the words “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you” to his assistant, Thomas Watson, who was listening in another room on another of the same device.

Image result for dr edwin land osborn streetDr Land’s Polaroid Company started out making Polarized sheet materials used in sunglasses, camera lenses, and many military applications during the war.   He needed a way to expand his company’s product line into something that could extend its reach into new markets.   While on vacation with his family an idea came to him.  The “high-tech” camera Land was using that day was a Rolleiflex box model. The film would have to be unloaded from the camera, taken to a pharmacy, and shipped off to a laboratory to be painstakingly developed before being shipped back. Land’s daughter was disappointed when she learned that it would be weeks before she would be able to see her photographs. “Why can’t I see these pictures right now?” she asked. “I don’t want to wait.”

Inside this building two inventors worked their vision and history was made.  Their legacy has endured and converged into a single device that enables people to communicate and make images that Edwin and Alexander would be proud of.

I guess it is fair to say that brick walls cannot hold back great inventions if the right people are inside. 




New Message, Same As the Old Message


I sent this message to all of you in 2010 to inspire us all to use that winter wisely and to promote a healthy 2011 race season.  We may be a few years older but the message is still a good one… USMC Motivation Sgt. Ferguson

Messages from the past:
A 2010 Season Winter Statement:

Team, Once again we find ourselves at that point in the off season where we make the choice about what kind of year we want 2011 to be.

The old phrase the more you sweat in Peace Time the less you bleed in War fits the current situation well.

I know we are not where we want to be right now but given it’s winter we have plenty of time to get there.

Let’s keep pushing one another to get off the couch and into the gym or on the road. The messages I receive from all of you help push me a little harder.

I am going to try to keep this blog going again this year to track what each of you is doing. I hope this will serve a a motivational tool for you as your notes and pics have been for me.  Fergy

2011 Great Race Big Steve Brings It HomeBattle GroundFighting Bulldogs2011 ReunionWarrior Dash 2011Who will Run this year?2010 Josh Billingsly Runabout2010 Josh Billings RunaroundLeftyLee4292f-ingyboat-tiff

Cigars, Blue Birds and Black Bush Whiskey ….


Big Mike “Cheeks” Paquette…a Marine Corps brother of mine retired yesterday.  He’s 2 days older than I am…. I am very happy for him …..and wish him all the best,  but I’m envious of his new retired status.

At the end of his last day, I received the following text message from him:  “Just had a Ferg moment”.  Retired today came home and am enjoying a nice cigar ( I know he enjoys Romeo and Juliet’s brand) and some Black Bush Irish whiskey.  Then he says… three blue jays came into to the yard and it reminded me of your three swans blog story.  (The reference was actually about a post I wrote a while back where I mentioned three ducks… but no matter, I knew what he meant and am flattered he read and remembered it).

jaysHe went on to say…..Two birds together tells the tale of the 1st two parts my his life that are now passed…. And the third represents the start of the my next “enjoyable” part….

I’ve never been a cigar smoker but there are times when I wish I could reap the reward of a celebratory cigar.  Being from Boston I grew up watching the Boston Celtics Coach Red Auerbach, Red-Auerbach-smoking-a-cigar-300x300the architect and mastermind behind one of the most dominant franchises in professional sports history light a celebratory cigar after every victory.  Everybody knew it was a special day when “Red” lit up his stogy…  Mike and Red are what I call stogy men…  Stogy Men light up to celebrate life!

Triathalon 2008 001


Mike also likes a spot of Black Bush Irish whiskey when he’s dragging on his stogy.  The combination to me seems a bit overwhelming but leads to their mystique, like the most interesting men in the world… Cheeks is no man of mystery …but he does have a secret.  He’s found a way to enjoy his days with style… He has an ability to promote a smile on the faces of people he meets…  He makes me laugh…and helps me to laugh at myself… I guess I’m envious of more than his retired status…  I envy a guy who loves the things I don’t….but makes me yean to love them as he does…  I will be watching his retirement with interest… I know he will take something I think about as overwhelming and make me want to love it…  When that day happens I’ll sit on my deck, light up a Juliet, swig on some Black Bush and push out a smile from the Cheeks….

Believing in Signs




Some believe in signs from the universe and others believe in coincidences… I think it is more fun to believe that the universe sends signs to us… and I often get the feeling that something or someone is sending me messages. A few weeks ago I kept hearing references to Stoicism. You must admit that Stoicism is a pretty random topic for anyone to hear about but even more so from three different sources in the span of a week. So it grabbed attention enough so that I had to go and look it up to see what Stoicism really meant….

If you are like me when you hear the word “Stoicism” or “Stoic” you think about someone who displays little or no emotion when it comes to enduring pain or hardship.

And in some respects you’d be correct but that isn’t the only definition. In a nutshell the other definition of Stoicism describes “a philosophy based on a belief that we can’t control the things around us in life, we can only control our reaction to them.

I don’t know much about how the universe works…it’s just too deep a topic for me at this point in my life but from what I have learned is some people believe the universe speaks to us. It could be in the form of a quote, a conversation, something that you witness….

In my case a specific topic like Stoicism that through coincidence or not, keeps hitting me in the face for a few days.  So what can you make from these signs? I choose to take them as the universe is sending me a message to embrace and in a way asking me to consider embracing the Stoic philosophy: can’t control the things around you in life, so control your reaction to them.   I think that philosophy has merit and I’ll take that as a message received.

Triathlon – Signs and messages from nature

Triathletes spend a lot of time in the outdoors.  Tuning in enables me to be more aligned and at harmony with my natural surroundings.  I feel it also positions me to be more receptive to messages.   The trick is to focus out beyond yourself, extending your connection to what surrounds you.

Mark Allen a Champion Pro Triathlete spoke to his connection to Kona in the book Iron War.

Mark: As much as I loved Hawaii, and I did, the Big Island was just intimidating to me. The wind, the heat, all of that stark black lava… When I went to Nice, everything there just seemed so easy for me, and Hawai’i was so completely opposite. But I had no way to confront it, no mechanism for turning it around. So when I got to Kona, I went to a quiet spot down by the water on the run course, and I had a little conversation with the island. I said, “Hey, just let me be at peace and feel that same ease and grace that I feel everywhere else, but have never felt here before, and let me have a great race.”

Mark was keenly aware of the power of the island.  He tapped into it as an energy  resource that he later drew on when his resources were low.  I don’t want this blog to become a “Deep Thoughts” From Jack Handey episode … but more to state that we have the power to see and react to whatever we want to.

If you can believe the universe or nature is saying something to you, bend its message to fit your desire.  Our minds have a way of turning pain and suffering into comfort during the long hours on the swim, bike and run course.

file1Yesterday I participated in my 1st triathlon this year… The Cranberry Trifest in Lakeville Massachusetts.

I am always freaked out, stressed and cranky before a race and expend a lot of energy trying to calm down. My coach told me once to think of it as the body’s internal mechanism readying the body for the explosion of effort. Kind of like racing the engines ……

swim-at-cranberry-300x200The swim was one of those crazy zig-zag pattern races that tries to fit the overall distance within a smaller Pond/Lake courses. The race director cautioned us to beware of the “shallow” regions near the pinch points which meant that if you swam wide right you may end up running on a sandbar.   The deepest route was close to the buoys but as one might expect everyone wanted that route making it very crowded.

My plan was to stay the center, try to calm down and get relaxed… I knew I was risking the shallows a bit to avoid getting wacked in the head by slower age groupers in the wave before mine… Typically this is when I need to tune out the gitters and tune on “the flow”

turtleThen I saw it……….What the hell is that???   Is that a turtle? Wow ….now that’s cool….Then I start to wonder what else might be floating out here (snakes, piranha)…then it does a quick maneuver downward and heads quickly toward the bottom of the pond.

I’m now totally aware of everything around me… I don’t freak out but I do spend a few minutes thinking why mother nature sent me a turtle.

I reasoned that … I had a choices to make about this race…I can either pull my head back into the shell and hide in fear …..or dig hard and go deep…

Today you will not be fast…but like the rabbit and the tortoise …The tortoise will finish…and based on your spotty training regime this year that should be considered a win.

Recognizing and receiving information through signs depends on ones willingness to seek and bear witness. The universe is always here to help us, so let it help, and pay attention to what it is telling you.

file3I did finish the swim in fine shape, breezed through the bike and suffered on the run.. but I am grateful to my friend “Shelly” the turtle for delivering a message to dig harder and go deep within…  I couldn’t control crossing paths with a turtle mid race, but I did control my reaction to her and used it to draw on throughout the race.  




Not a perfect parent.. and that’s OK

bumperWhen you love your kids there isn’t a mountain high enough that you won’t climb for them…but it doesn’t mean you’ll like the hike…..

I saw this phrase posted on the back of a car in the Pheasant Lane Mall parking lot today and laughed to myself…not because I felt it applied to my kids specifically but thinking it applied to myself as a parent…

I know I’m not a perfect parent…because as any kid will tell you that those two words “perfect” and “parent” rarely go together all the time, if at all.   But I wouldn’t say I was a bad parent either, just a good one I hope.

I am overly concerned with the little things like my kid’s catching a cold, so I have a tendency to ask over and over again if they need a sweatshirt…even in the summer time. I know it doesn’t sound all that horrible but over the years it can get annoying.

When it comes to holding the line on important issues is  when I question the kind of parent I am.

When everything is going wrong

When the world is spinning sideways and I’m feeling, “Okay, we are in Shit City and it is time to get out of town.

It still doesn’t mean I’m a terrible parent”  but it is time for me to take action as the Captain of this crew…someone has to right the ship and that someone is usually me…

Right or wrong I go into Parent mode… and….I’m sure I’ll not be getting the “He’s so cool” parent award.  (That would be Parent/Friend Mode)

Being a parent and at the same time a human being, means shooting for more success than failure. Trying to stay calm, but every now and then knowing you are going to melt down like soft serve on a summer day.. And sometimes just shutting down into quiet mode, even though you feel like saying more.

If I were to rewrite that bumper phrase it would go something like this:

I’m a Proud Parent of Great Kids, who sometime has to be a  “Parent Asshole”
And that’s OK…I love my kids…

Where words come from

words1I never know where some of the words I use come from.

For instance, At work this morning I got in a heated conversation about a work process that bothers the hell out of me and before I knew it…..out came  “if there is one thing that gets my balls in an uproar it is” blah blah blah…

The correct form of this idiom is, “Don’t get your balls in and uproar” which people use when trying to calm someone down a bit… It means don’t get so excited, be calm or cool it….   The visual always makes me laugh …. Which I think helps to cool tense situations…I don’t know where I heard the idiom … but I use it unconsciously, surprising myself sometimes, which I think promotes me to laugh.

words-at-workSoon after my rant a woman co-worker from a few offices over called me on the phone to say she’d heard what I just said …. I paused for a second …….and before I could apologize she belted out a big laugh and said: Gets my balls in an uproar that’s a “Classic” I loved what you said, you have a real talent for words!…I’m still laughing and I’ll be using that one as soon as I get a chance…

I thought to myself…bullet dodged…  Ok sorry about that, I said…  I think the coffee has me a little uptight this morning…   She replied.. “Well don’t get your balls in an uproar over it”… See its perfectly to the point..  I love it!  Talk to ya later…  I smiled to myself and replied …have a great one… and then I thought to myself I’m so glad she didn’t get her knickers is a twist over that one…..but knew enough to let well enough alone

malaphorI admit that maybe using slang idioms in the workplace is not the best idea…but I don’t believe we think about them before they slip…God only knows where they come from… but to be sure they are all point in the direction of our lower abdominal region……Don’t get your (panties, knickers, undies) in a (twist, bunch, knot), Pull up your big (boy, girl) pants….and sometimes idioms get combined unintentionally ways with another figure of speech producing an nonsensical result, referred to as a malaphor.  My 96 year old mother Mary is the queen of the malaphor…  Here are a few of her beauties.. fit to print

“Don’t go knocking on a broken door”…. (I have no clue what the hell this means.. but if I had to guess I’d say it means if its broken, leave it the hell alone) …..

“If you are gonna play with fire, your gonna burn your bridges” (meaning: you got what you deserve)

“Donny, you are getting really bald now, maybe you should try some of that “Viagra” stuff to cover the bald spots”  (I assume she meant Rogaine for my head here …any other hairy region is just too disturbing to consider)

I love the colors and images that words paint… nicknames, idioms and colloquial phrases make me laugh … they never get my balls in an uproar…