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Good Is Good: A Summer List of Manly Fun

Friday, July 13, 2012


Tom Matlack is the former CFO of the Providence Journal and is the founder of The Good Men Project, a non-profit charitable corporation based in Rhode Island and dedicated to helping organizations that provide educational, social, financial, and legal support to men and boys at risk.

I was walking down the beach today with my 7 year-old son Cole and his buddy after they had caught 17 blue crabs, when the boys decided to body surf.  The water was a clear greenish blue and the beach fine white sand. My wife and I sat there (somewhere near the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border in Little Compton or Westport depending on where exactly we were) and I literally said I couldn’t imagine it getting any better than this.

At that moment it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to count my blessings and put together a man’s man list of the shit that has already happened to me this summer for which I am grateful. Here goes.

Wes Delivered My Cigars.  I have given up all my vices save for coffee and a cigar once in a while.  My wife has come to see my cigar smoking as a positive since it does loosen me up in social situations when everyone else is verging on drunk.  And I really do like it, especially since a friend introduced me to the pleasures of a good cigar from a certain island nation. Fact is I am smoking one on the back porch right now.

Anyhow, my wife Elena decided to buy me a supply of these finest cigars for Father’s Day.  This is not an easy thing to do since they are not available at your corner smoke shop.  But a friend of a friend seemed to have a source and the cigars arrived via FedEx at this friend of a friend’s house. Elena went to collect the goods before we took off for a vacation.

Elena rang the doorbell and who came to the door but Wes Welker.  She was a bit flummoxed, but was able to get the necessary words out of her mouth. Wes, who was in the midst of contract negotiations and getting married, went inside and dug around for a while, eventually emerging with a box of  cigars with my name on it.

I really do love the cigars.  But I also love the fact that they came by way of Wes Welker’s hands.

Friday Night Lights. Elena and I enjoy watching some good TV together before going to sleep. It’s how we relax and shut off the stress of the day. So we are always searching for a good series that will keep us engaged for a while. We like Blue Bloods, The Good Wife, Mad Men, and most recently became addicted to Downtown Abbey. But there were not enough episodes even across the two seasons to keep us satisfied for long. A friend suggested Friday Night Lights.

I have no idea where I was when the show was actually on TV but I never watched it before. From the pilot we were totally hooked. We are half way through season two (who makes 22 episodes a season anymore?) and still look forward to our next installment each night.  With three and a half seasons still to go, I feel more relaxed just knowing that I have 45 minutes with the Panthers ahead of me each day.

Cole is a Cowboy. My family has taken to riding horses every summer. I grew up in Western Massachusetts riding so it always feels like coming home to me. I just love being around these massive intuitive beings. I find it soothing in a way that pretty much nothing else is. My big kids have been riding for years but the place we go has a rule that as a 6 year-old you ride in the ring and at 7 you are set free to ride the trails. This was the first year that my son Cole was old enough to ride with the rest of the family. He walked, then trotted and then even loped his horse with the rest of us. That was just good, clean fun.

Vintage Marquis. I am a pretty big Celtics fan. I was still licking my wounds from game 7 in LA (I know that was two years ago, but still…) when the playoffs rolled around. I got sucked in when friends started inviting us to go to the games and particularly when they started playing the Evil Empire Heat tough. During game three of that series, at home on a Friday night, Elena and I had quite good seats and my 16 year-old son Seamus was sitting with one of my best friends well behind the basket.  Seamus is perhaps the most knowledgeable sports fan that I have ever met. He goes deep.

Seamus had elected to go with the throwback Marquis Daniels jersey for the game, despite the fact that the MD had played sparingly and awfully throughout the playoffs. He was originally number 7 but then was traded only to come back after another player had taken that number so Marquis was wearing number 4 for the game but Seamus was wearing his original number 7 jersey.

Out of nowhere the man with the dread locks came off the bench and shocked the world with a huge game. By the end I looked up and saw Seamus with the jersey off and waving it madly with excitement.  That memory was worth even the eventual loss in the series.

Brothers in Tights.  As I push 50 my middle age verging on old man sport has become road biking. I’ve become a modest fan of the pro sport, definitely gotten into all the cool gear you can buy, and the online community of riders swapping workouts and stories. My older brother and best friend from college, who lives in Los Angeles, have become even more involved in the sport than I am. What that means is that I get to ride with them, hang out with them, and talk online about biking like it’s the new crack. I know that perhaps there is a dark underbelly to wandering around in spandex all the time with a heart monitor that looks like it’s out of 50 Shades of Grey, but I have yet to discover it. If you have never gotten on a bike I recommend it. No pounding, just guys in tights and beautiful scenery--an excuse to connect the men in your life.

My Daughter Took her Road Test (Again). My girl Kerry turned 18 in April so she is a late bloomer as a driver. I really should mention her senior prom and graduating high school, both of which went great despite plenty of evidence that they might not come off at all. But she had this problem getting her license. She failed the first time, she says because it was the test was the night after prom and she didn’t sleep.  But I am not so sure…anyhow, she somehow convinced me that she needed to take the test again before summer really kicked in. And to drive her to the only available time slot in East Hampton, Massachusetts, which is a good two hours from our house.

On the appointed day we got up early and drove out to the DMV in East Nowhere. We were early so did some practice parallel parking then went inside to wait our turn. Only problem was when the officer came out he had a clipboard with names but Kerry’s wasn’t on it. She asked, I asked, she cried, I started to raise my voice. No dice. The officer went back inside and came out with the news that Kerry had made the reservation online but then canceled it 15 minutes later. We had driven 2 hours for nothing.

It wasn’t until we were about to get back on the Mass Pike that I decided that I wasn’t going to go without a fight. “You wanna raise some hell?” I asked Kerry. She nodded through her tears. We went back in and asked for the manager. I stretched the truth saying how my daughter needed her license for a summer job. She showed the confirmation she had received on email (on her cracked iPhone) and that she had never received notice of a cancelation. That’s when the miracles started happening. The manager of North Bumfuck DMV was actually very professional and pleasant. She made some calls to a regional manager and discovered that there had in fact been a computer glitch and we were not alone. While her tester was busy they could accommodate us in Watertown, right near our home.

A couple hours later I was riding in the back seat as my daughter took her driver’s test and performed under enormous pressure (after all that if she had failed I think we both would have cried) with grace and confidence. I had my eyes closed the whole time saying a little prayer. And it worked out just fine, even if all it took almost 12 hours to achieve ten minutes of glory.

The fact that Elena had spent the whole day in the ER with Cole (he ended up being fine) didn’t even dampen my pride in my daughter’s new found maturity as a legal driver even though I wish like most parents that I could have been in more than one place at a time that summer day.

For more of Tom's works, as well as other pieces on related topics, go to The Good Men Project Magazine online, here.


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