Andrew Cook '15

Hey everyone! It feels good to have enough time to sit down and crank one of these out – the time since my last blog (Commencement for the Class of ’14) has been a little too hectic for my taste, but the upside of that is that I’ve got a whole bunch of material here to give you. The count stands at 46 days until move-in back at The Cross – not that I’m keeping track or anything – so there’s plenty more to accomplish still this summer, but just to give you an idea of how I’ve been keeping myself distracted until school starts back up again, here’s a CliffsNotes version of the summer thus far!

The first big occasion of the summer saw my dad Patrick hitting the half-century mark; yes, the Big-Man finally turned the big 5-0. Naturally, the rest of the family had to observe the event with all due pomp and circumstance, and so set about with the HERCULEAN effort of trying to pull a surprise party over on him. Dealing as we were with a man who got his career started in crime reporting and who is more attuned to the power of social media than his 17 and 20 year old combined (he had a Facebook and Twitter account before I’d even heard of either), this was actually much harder than you may be thinking. But after months of planning and several acts of light espionage, we were able to pull it off in the end, and the result was a better afternoon than any of our scheming could possibly have wished for.
We toyed around with the idea of inviting master red carpet photobomber Benedict Cumberbatch to the event, but alas, the man was too busy solving crimes, and more than a few of the womenfolk (hi Heather) may have been a bit distracted by his presence. The heavy, heavy burden therefore fell on to my shoulders to add a certain je ne sais pas to the photos taken during the party. As a result, the afternoon has been recorded for posterity as essentially a record of my ruining otherwise-perfect photos.
Just to provide some examples of my finer work:

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It’s a month later and it’s already been said, but happy birthday (again) Dad, here’s to the next 50!

Party preparations out of the way, it was time for some unwinding. I rang up two of my cousins, blog veteran Ben Nicholson (HC Class of ’17) and blog newcomer John Blake (son of Anne Blake, née Nicholson, HC Class of ’86), and we headed off to go catch America’s most romanticized game in its most romanticized venue – yes, it was this year’s first trip to Fenway Park!

"Sweeeeet Caroline BUM BUM BUMMMM"

“Sweeeeet Caroline BUM BUM BUMMMM”

We're all Sox fans in the family, but as the night went on we found ourselves rooting for opposing Cubs' pitcher Jake Arrieta, as he made it all the way into the 8th inning on a no-hitter.

We’re all Sox fans in the family, but as the night went on we found ourselves rooting more and more for opposing Cubs’ pitcher Jake Arrieta, as he made it all the way into the 8th inning on a no-hitter.

The Sox have fallen a bit from grace this season, but we’re all still riding pretty high on the blazing cloud of bearded glory that was last year’s championship.

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One of these two is old enough to grow hairs on his chinny-chin-chin. The other one is wishing realllllly hard.

One of these two is old enough to grow hairs on his chinny-chin-chin. The other one is wishing realllllly hard.

For the past five summers, actually, my time’s been pretty occupied by baseball. My sophomore year of high school I started working at the Red Sox’s single-A affiliate team in my hometown, the Lowell Spinners, and it’s a gig I still retain. It’s hands-down one of the nicest single-A ballparks in the entire country, and even better, it’s a FRACTION of the price of its big green brother 30 miles southeast. The last two summers have seen me in a close working relationship with the Spinners’ mascot, the Canaligator (so-named for Lowell’s expansive network of canals – the 2nd largest in the world, only behind Venice, in terms of the amount canals it has – fun fact for the day). It’s the perfect summer job, and one that I’m lucky to have!

Mr. C. Gator himself. He gets cranky some days, and takes it out on his handler. I just hope one day he doesn't send me the Steve Irwin route.

Mr. C. Gator himself. He gets cranky some days, and takes it out on his handler. I just hope one day he doesn’t send me the Steve Irwin route.

Even on some of my tougher nights, I just have to say to myself, "Hey: I'm working in a ballpark." Could be worse, I'm telling you.

Even on some of my tougher nights, I just have to remind myself, “Hey: I’m working in a ballpark.” Could be worse, I’m telling you.

But maybe the only thing more American than baseball? The 4th of July! *accepts award for best segue of the year* It’s a yearly tradition in my extended family to commemorate the birthday of America with a two-mile roadrace in the neighboring town of Chelmsford. This go-around marked the first time my aforementioned cousin Ben laced up his sneaks for the event, and I want to put it out there for all the Internet to see,  he CRUSHED it out there! Here’s to the start of a long, prosperous career of distance running Ben!
Just as cool, in a crowd of as-near-as-doesn’t-matter-to-2000 runners out there, I still managed to bump into not one, not two, but three Crusaders before the race had even started!

Representing the old guard, two of the recent Class of '14 graduates, and my roomates for the past year, HC Track stars Tom Santa-Maria and Sam McGrath

Representing the old guard, two of the recent Class of ’14 graduates, and my roomates for the past year, HC Track stars Tom Santa-Maria and Sam McGrath

And the new kid on the block, incoming Class of '18 Crusader Liv Paulo! Keep an eye out for Liv, she'll soon be making the rounds in HC's running circles!

And the new kid on the block, incoming Class of ’18 Crusader Liv Paulo! Keep an eye out for Liv, she’s soon to be doing big things up on the Hill!

Ben, you earned every hot dog, burger, and rib you ate that day. Heck, I'll even give you a pass for the day afterwards too.

Ben, you earned every hot dog, burger, and rib you ate that day. Heck, I’ll even give you a pass for the day afterwards too.

Exercise in, it was time to get all spiffy-ed up, for this year’s annual Middlesex Community College Celebrity Forum. My Dad’s been working at MCC now for nearly a decade, and Celebrity Forum has consistently been one of their biggest events of the entire year. Previous Forum alums include actor Michael J. Fox, comedian and talk-show host Jay Leno, and ex-First Lady and First Daughter Laura and Jenna Bush, just to name a few. This year, though, MCC brought in perhaps one of their highest-ranking stars ever, in the person of Hollywood legend Robert Redford. Redford’s incredible career spans four decades at this point, from earlier his iconic roles in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting (both alongside Redford’s dearest lifelong friend, Paul Newman) to his more recent roles in last year’s Oscar-nominated All Is Lost and this year’s (my favorite movie of the year so far) Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Beyond acting, Redford’s equally known for his philanthropic endeavors, founding the Sundance Institute and Film Festival to give starter film productions a venue to showcase their work in and almost single-handedly raising global awareness towards a staggering amount of environmental issues.
You heard it here on this blog first, though, that through it all, Redford could not possibly be a more grounded, less egocentric individual. It was an absolute privilege not only to meet him, but to hear him interviewed over the course of the evening (by my Dad, no less. Dad, you rocked it *taps nose*). My personal favorite of the night’s stories came in his recounting of a particularly long, expensive sounding practical joke between him and Paul Newman that involved a crushed Porsche and a block of sculpted metal – the rest I’ll leave unsaid. Anyone would be lucky to have a friendship like their’s seems to have been.

When meeting Hollywood royalty, I OF COURSE had to represent Holy Cross. Purple and white all the way!

When meeting Hollywood royalty, I OF COURSE had to represent Holy Cross (the tie). Purple and white all the way!

One of these guys is an absolute legend. The other is a Hollywood actor and philanthropist.

One of these guys is an absolute legend. The other is a Hollywood actor and philanthropist.

And finally, the Circle of Life added a new member into its midst; a BIG congratulations to our dear family friends the Vergadoses/Simoneaus on the birth of their new baby, Desmond! Knowing (and sharing) the family’s love of the TV show LOST, I couldn’t let my first meeting with the lad go past without slipping in a reference to one of the potential inspirations for his name.

"See ya in anutha' life, brutha."

“See ya in anutha’ life, brutha.”

Even more importantly, I think I started Desmond’s initiation into Red Sox Nation. Coming as he does from a family of Yankees fans, I figured I’d make a claim for Desmond’s fandom early on, and so save his soul. Desmond, we’re glad to have you buddy!

DesmondSimoneau

That about wraps it up; if I continue on, this blog will stop being a mid-summer check in and become instead a summer send-off! It’s been a lot of work and some pretty sweltering heat so far, but as you can see, I’ve hardly been idle, and the next month doesn’t seem like it’ll be any slower by any means, so until the next post, stay cool, and have a nice summer!!!

 

Hey again, all! These blog posts have been coming fast and furious lately, but hey, it’s been a productive start to the summer – it’s so unlike me, it’s weird. Wanted to talk a bit about the big event that just happened down on Fitton Field last week, which I was honored to witness – commencement 2014! With the doomsday calendar ticking down to my own graduation in less than a year now, I figured it was time to go and see what I’ve got coming my way. Even just sitting there in the stands (with my awesome friend Colette Houssan ’15 keeping me company), I got premonitions as to what’s coming next May, and I can already tell… it’s gonna be a DOOZY.

With the Fitton Field stands packed to bursting – I had to park all the way up the mountain on the Hart Center lawn, it was so crowded by the time I got there – we all watched as the graduating seniors and Holy Cross faculty processed in full regalia onto the field.

They clean up nice, huh?

They clean up nice, huh?

NO time was wasted before Fr. Boroughs dived right into distributing 675 Bachelor of Arts degrees to an outstanding group of men and women, who are all headed off to do some BIG things in the world. Keep an eye out for these guys, I’m telling you!

Fr. Boroughs handing out some pre-tty impressive stationary

Fr. Boroughs handing out some pre-tty impressive stationary

Even to my friend Karina O'Friel, one of HC's BEST long-distance runners, the walk across the stage probably felt a little longer than it should have

Even to my friend Karina O’Friel, one of HC’s BEST long-distance runners, the walk across the stage probably felt a little longer than it should have

Diplomas taken care of, it was time for the speeches to begin. The first was from Class of ’14 valedictorian Jeff Reppucci, featured recently on NBC Nightly News for his extraordinary service project, Working for Worcester. A member of the varsity Men’s Hockey Team, Jeff’s done some pretty amazing things in just his four short years at the Cross, and his speech – about how community service can be done by anyone, anywhere, even after they’ve left school – gave absolutely no indication of his cooling down anytime soon. Go get ‘em, Jeff!

Jeff Reppucci 14's valedictorian speech

Jeff Reppucci 14′s valedictorian speech

"Two's company"

“Two’s company”

Next came one of the headlining events of the day, something that set the bar SERIOUSLY high for my own graduation next year: the commencement address, delivered by none other than Jon Favreau, Class of ’03. For those unfamiliar with what Jon’s been up to in those eleven years, go find one of the speeches that have come from the Oval Office since a certain Barack Obama (you may have heard of him) took office, and you’ll get your answer. The amazing talent behind those historic speeches was on full display last Friday, and all I have to say is – wow. Favreau offered advice on professional life, personal life, & the world at large, and I was leaning further and further forward as he went along. One particular chestnut that stood out: “There are two kinds of people – people who want to BE something, and people who want to DO something.” Well, Mr. Favreau, just let me be one among many to say you DID an incredible job, and I thank you sincerely.

I have a whole new understanding of the President's oratory skills...

I have a whole new understanding of the President’s oratory skills…

And after a singalong “Alma Mater” that I’m sure brought out a few purple and white tears, it was up to Kimball Dining Hall for a reception with the newest members of the Holy Cross Alumni Association. Two in particular I want to give a special shout-out to (and coincidentally, the very two I was able to snag pictures with).
1) The aforementioned Karina O’Friel! A fellow English major, I got to know Karina really well this past year after taking a Shakespeare and a detective literature class with her. She’s actually been featured on this blog previously for her prowess as a long-distance runner, and the streets of Harrison, NY, should be excited as she blazes new routes from her new place of full-time employment!

Karina, I hope the only mysteries coming your way in the future involve deciding what races to enter!

Karina, I hope the only mysteries coming your way in the future involve deciding what races to enter!

2) Sam McGrath! I’ve known Sam since I was a freshman, he’s been my RA for the past two years, and he was a roommate for the past two semesters. Besides being a school record-holder for the Men’s Track Team and 2014 recipient of the Varsity Club Norton Prize, Sam’s the biggest Springsteen fan I’ve met at Holy Cross, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the Boss’ history has fueled many a discussion. A true gentleman, an all-around nice kid, and someone I’m honored to call a friend!

"Blood Brothers"

“Blood Brothers”

Sam, Karina, and many, MANY others who I unfortunately don’t have the time or space to single out here, will be sorely missed on campus now. I know they’re each headed on to change the world in their own individual ways, but they’ve left some mighty gaping shoes to fill on campus as a result. I’ve got a whole summer in front of me to prepare for that gauntlet, but sitting in the stands at Fitton Field, I was struck by the discomforting realization that it won’t be long AT ALL before I’ll be witnessing commencement from a ground-level perspective. Here’s hoping I can live up to the potential of my senior year the same way these men and women lived up to theirs!
Good-bye, good luck, and CONGRATULATIONS to all of you!!!

When last we left our Tramps, they were spending the night in a hotel outside Newburgh, NY. These are the continued adventures of SPRING(steen) BREAK, 2014. 

After just a short night’s sleep (to me, anything less than the recommended twelve hours is a short rest), we were back on the road again. The NY Thruway and Rts. 287 and 78 fell away as my Dad and I powered through Jersey and Pennsylvania en route to the house of my Dad’s friend on the outskirts of Allentown, PA. The Beaupre family couldn’t have been more gracious or hospitable hosts, and if any of you are reading this: thank you again!
Stopping like this meant that we only had about an hour’s drive to get to the second venue of our Springsteen Pilgrimage – Hershey Park, PA! I’d been to Hershey once before, back when I was seven, and my only memory from that prior trip was a feeling of disappointment that the chocolate factory had neither an all-edible display room or oompa-loompa workers. This second venture was a much more satisfying experience, because instead of Loompaland residents singing Roald Dahl songs, the music on tap for the night was hardcore Jersey rock’n'roll.

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Like I said, I’ve been to my fair share of Bruce shows, but out of all of them, I’ve never seen stronger attendance from the 25-under crowd as there was at this one. From our ground-level seats facing the stage, Hershey could have been mistaken for Coachella or one of those other big festival crowds. There’s some young blood moving onto E-Street, and it’s about time!

We were in the back posing for kisses. Hershey's kisses, that is.

We were in the back looking for kisses. Hershey’s kisses, that is.

Over the two nights, Bruce and the band played forty two songs, covering a span of releases from 1964-2014… that’s fifty years’ worth of material. Not too shabby. And my Dad, who reached show #59 at Hershey, leaned over after one song (a solo number by Bruce on the piano), and said, “I’m gonna say it. That’s the best vocals I’ve seen him do. Ever.” Totally ignoring the rain that was pouring down by the end of the night, everyone had a phenomenal time, and we were still grinning by the time we had reached the car afterwards.
We slept the night at the Beaupres, and left early the next morning to beat the highway traffic. It was onto the last stop of our road trip, the Canterbury Cathedral of our Chaucerian pilgrimage (you’re welcome, Professor Kee). Yes, we went allllllll the way back to the beginning, the spot where Springsteen got his start… Asbury Park, NJ! There are a lot of HC people from the Jersey area, who know Asbury Park for its mainstream purpose as a beachside resort. For E-Streeters however, this place takes on mythic proportions; Bruce got his first guitar at this store, played his first concert in this park, met wingman Clarence Clemons down this alley, so on. The Boss tells tall tales of Asbury Park at all his concerts, so I figured it was high time to see what lay behind all the mystery.

Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ (it's an album title) !

Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ (it’s an album title)

A thick, thick fog had descended on the Jersey Shore by the time we arrived, so that feeling of ghost stories was enhanced quite a bit.

"Kids are huddled on the beach in the mist"

“Kids are huddled on the beach in the mist”

"The pier lights our carnival life on the water"

“The pier lights our carnival life on the water”

 

"Did you hear the cops busted Madam Marie, for telling fortunes better than they do?"

“Did you hear the cops busted Madam Marie, for telling fortunes better than they do?”

I don’t know whether it was just off-season, or if the area is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, but many of the structures were closed for repairs, and only skeleton remains of the architecture were left standing. It was kinda really cool, actually.

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And then it was a stop by the Stone Pony, perhaps the most famous bar in rock’n'roll. Bruce and the E-Street Band, Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny, they all got their start at this one venue. While it’s still a fully functioning barroom and concert venue, it’s really more like a museum inside; the walls are papered with pictures and newspaper clippings from the different times some of rock’s biggest superstars have come back to visit their humble roots, and it was like discovering Eden for someone like me who’s grown up on Springsteen’s music.

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Of course, I couldn't resist the temptation to jump up on stage and do some Dancing in the Dark

Of course, I couldn’t resist the temptation to jump up on the stage and do some Dancing in the Dark

It was back in the car, then, to wage war against the traffic for another 5 hours, eventually pulling back into good old Lowell, MA, just around dinner time. Get this: as the car turned onto our street, the mileometer reached 1000 miles EXACTLY, and the gas light came on. Freaky, man. Don’t believe me? HA.

PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE

PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE

By the end, the car was running on sheer power of rock'n'roll. The collected Springsteen discography is good like that

By the end, the car was running on sheer power of rock’n'roll. The collected Springsteen discography is good like that

After three days of driving together, we haven't spoken since

After three days of driving together, we haven’t spoken since

So that was it! To those uninterested in Springsteen or rock history, these last two posts were probably as interesting as a black and white movie through the prairies of Nebraska, or a sparse, acoustic folk album. To me, though, it was, as I’ve said, nothing short of a pilgrimage. I was listening to Springsteen literally in the womb, and I’ve grown up going to his concerts with my Dad. Bruce concerts aren’t just filled with great moments, they’re filled with great bonding moments, and this road trip offered just some of the latest in a long line of them. People scratch their heads as to why we follow the E-Street Band around the northeast like we do, but I hope this blog has given them an answer. If your dad was cool enough to do crazy stuff like this with you, wouldn’t you be doing it too? Yeah, I thought so. Will we ever stop doing it? Will we ever get to a point where we say, “ENOUGH SPRINGSTEEN ALREADY?” Someday, girl, I don’t know when, we’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go, and we’ll walk in the sun, but till then, tramps like us, baby we were Born to Run.

 

Sometime late last year (I don’t really know when, I never saw it, to be honest), a black and white movie called Nebraska hit theaters, and it made all the rounds during awards’ season. Wikipedia has just informed me the plot runs something along the lines of a 21st century Don Quixote, with a father and son embarking on a cross-country journey to pursue a madcap scheme of the father’s. With all the free time I have now, this one’ll probably be on the Netflix cue before long.
September, 1982 (I’m told, I wasn’t born yet), the music world produced its equivalent of a black and white movie, a Bruce Springsteen album called Nebraska. It’s only ten songs long, the whole thing is just Springsteen himself with a microphone, a harmonica, and an acoustic guitar, and it was all recorded over the span of just one afternoon in Springsteen’s living room. It was originally intended as a series of demos, there wasn’t ONE single from it released to the charts, and it’s one of The Boss’ most lesser known works – and music critics now agree that it’s some of the most astonishing songwriting ever done.
Remember these two facts, they’ll come up again in the future.

With junior year at Holy Cross now OFFICIALLY in the rearview mirror – holy mackerel – it was time for summer ’14 to begin. That meant – SPRING(STEEN) BREAK!!! Yes, the lesser known E-Streeters you’ve been reading about on this blog here went on an epic journey this week to go see the genuine article. We’ve all of us been to plenty of Bruce shows in the past, but I’ll be the first one to unashamedly admit it – we’re addicted. Explaining a Bruce Springsteen concert to someone who hasn’t been to one is like trying to explain how the Mona Lisa smells – you just can’t do it (and it’s weird when you try). The 64 year old legend radically changes his concert every night, and literally no two shows are even close to being the same. For most other bands, I grant, that’d mean swapping a song or two in the encore; elaborate special effect gimmicks usually limit the amount of randomness in a set. But when you’ve got nothing but a flatbed stage and the tightest band in the land backing you, the sky’s the limit. That makes it not only worth it, it practically makes it necessary to go back again…and again…and again…
The guy’s got 40+ years and eighteen studio albums’ worth of material to pull from, so you’d think Bruce would  have enough to work with in terms of song selection, but NO: the Clash, the Rolling Stones, ACDC, the Bee Gees, Lorde for Pete’s sake, have all had their songs covered by the E Street Band in this latest tour. No-one, and I mean no-one, has nothing short of an amazing time at a Springsteen concert as a result of all this fun, so I hope you can understand why all of us follow him around like we do. They don’t call him the Boss for nuthin’.

Since Bruce wasn’t making any stops in the Massachusetts area this time around, that meant my Dad and I had to go to him. The scheme was hatched a few months ago, and so began our first ever father-son road trip. First stop: Albany, NY! Besides a family vacation a few years ago that included a stop in Cooperstown, I’d never really been anywhere in NY north of the Sleepy Hollow area, so this was all uncharted territory for me. There are a lot of people at Holy Cross from the circa-Albany area, and now that I’ve been, let me say: it’s beautiful up there! We arrived a few hours before showtime, and took advantage of the opportunity to check out the Empire State Capital!

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The HUGELY impressive NY state capital

The HUGELY impressive NY statehouse…

Ruined, sadly, by these two schumcks outside.

Ruined, sadly, by these two schmucks standing outside.

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It's just like Abbey Road! Except without the Beatles. Or a road. Or anything.

It’s just like Abbey Road! Except without the Beatles. Or a road. Or anything.

The Eye of Sauron

The Eye of Sauron?

I don't get this modern art nonsense

I don’t get this modern art nonsense

After a quick bite, it was showtime! My Dad and I took our seats directly behind the stage, and strapped in for three hours of pure rock’n'roll. Opening with a cover of INXS’s “Don’t Change,” Bruce sprinted headfirst into – I’m saying it here and now – the best concert I’ve ever been to, and he never looked back. Sitting in with the E-Street band this tour is Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, whom we sat directly behind, and the man is a shot of adrenaline into a full tank of gasoline. In a word, he’s also a wizard; human beings just can’t do what he does with a six string. My hands were sore, my feet were sore, my ears were ringing, and I had entirely lost my voice by the end of it all, and it’s a good a time as I can remember having in recent memory. And then I did it all again the next night!!

Our seats!!

Our seats!!

Jake Clemons, "The Little Big Man," KILLING it on saxophone

Jake Clemons, “The Little Big Man,” KILLING it on saxophone

The Boss

The Boss

We were honestly this close. This close to an icon.

We were honestly this close. This close to an icon.

Tom Morello!

Tom Morello!

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We done good.

We done good.

After the show, Bruce came back and said good night to his adoring public. "What more do you want from me???"

After the show, Bruce came back and said good night to his adoring public. “What more do you want from me???”

We booked it back to the car and drove an hour south to Newburgh, NY, where we spent the night, dissecting the epic-ness of what we had just witnessed over the last three hours, and preparing ourselves for the next night. And what happened the next night? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
STAY TUNED TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ON SPRING(STEEN) BREAK 2014!!!

HOLI7

Feliz cinco de mayo, amigos (and happy quatro de mayo, for those who know about it)!! Shockingly, this is very likely to be my last blog post of junior year. If you’re having a hard time believing it, imagine how I feel. It’s a very fitting final post, though, and one that I’m happy to head into the summer with. In the midst of writing a Hercule Poirot murder mystery, compiling a writing portfolio, and so on, now is the only time I’ve had in this week or the last one to take some time aside, and I want to use it to tell you all about Spring Weekend!

Perhaps as a send-off present, perhaps as compensation for the horror of finals, I don’t really know, but Holy Cross always does an AMAZING job putting together Spring Weekend festivities for its students. Some of the various ones will be shown here, but seriously, we were treated from everything to a pig roast to a HOLI festival of colors, from an outdoor carnival to a Nelly concert tonight. With the exception of the concert, ALL OF IT was free to the student population, and this writer just wants to take the time to thank Holy Cross for its amazing generosity – I can’t think of many other schools that cares about its students as much as HC does, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

HOLI1

We’ll start off our pictures with the HOLI festival, which took place on the lawn of Figge Dorm Saturday afternoon. As I approached, a big plume of color just erupted out of the crowd, and I was able to snap a few pics before diving headlong into the fray myself. There were bags of (we’re told) launderable paint dust that anyone could pick up and just pour on unsuspecting bystanders, and at the end of the day it looked like we were all victims of a Crayola drive-by. Beneath all the paint and the dust, I think I ran into and took some pictures with my friends Nick and Michaela, my soon-to-be-roomate Joe, and my cousin Ben; the key word there is think, because I really couldn’t tell who was who beneath all the colors. So if I didn’t know you, thanks for taking a picture anyway!!

Proud future residents of Williams 506

Proud future residents of Williams 506

Michaela? I think you have something in your hair

Michaela? I think you have something in your hair

Dude... What happened....

Dude… What happened….

BRING IT ON

BRING IT ON

I can't recall EVER getting this dirty at family cookouts

I can’t recall EVER getting this dirty at family cookouts

There was then, as  I mentioned, a fantastic cookout up at the Hart Center, catered with BBQ fare by Kimball Dining Hall. Maybe it’s just been so long since I’ve had them, but it was pretty amazing having some “straight from the grill” burgers and dogs, with all the fixings . If I needed any more sign that summer’s on its way, that was it! Once we had eaten, there was also a giant inflatable obstacle course, a shooting gallery, a hoops contest, a mechanical shark (a mechanical bull, but a shark), and a bungee trampoline, among other things.

The view from the top was great, but my stomach (with dinner in it) never really got off the ground

The view from the top was great, but my stomach (with dinner in it) never really got off the ground

And from there we were treated to Holy Cross’ annual year-ending fireworks display! We’re so high up that I feel Worcester as a whole is treated to this spectacle, and the school spares no expense in making sure it’s a cracking (see what I did there?) good one.

Firework1

Firework2

My own personal highlight of the weekend was on a much smaller scale, though, to be honest. Two of my best friends who’d been away in Washington DC for the semester – doing big things in the Attorney General’s Office and U.S. House of Representatives, I might add – came back to visit for the weekend, and just to see them back on campus was more than the price of any fireworks display or pig roast. Meeting up in my other friend Adam’s room after the fireworks, we just chatted for over an hour and caught up on life. I smiled to myself about halfway through and thought, for the first time this semester, “it’s just like the good old times.”

OutdoorEdge

Junior year was a great one, undoubtedly: I’ll never have a schedule this sweet ever again in my LIFE, my room and roommates were incredible, and I’ve made some really unforgettable connections on campus that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. It was tough, though, too. The school itself remains as great as it ever was, but it’s really the people in it that make Holy Cross what it is for me. Over 2/3 of the friends I’d made as an underclassmen were abroad this year, and I’ve missed each and every one of them dearly. Selfish as it may be, I’m super excited they’re all leaving their host countries one by one and heading back to the States, because it means Holy Cross will become whole for me again. Having some of them come back for Spring Weekend was the chance to simultaneously both think back on my freshman roots and look ahead to my time as a senior. It felt nicely full circle, and it only added to the great time I’d had the rest of the day.

Before I keep rambling on, though, I’ll just end it here by saying that Spring Weekend was a great way to wrap up my 3rd time around at Holy Cross, and I’ve never been more ready to see what Senior Year has in store. Good Lord… where’s the time going???? 3 down, 1 to go!!!!!!

 

My Lord… where to begin? You know when you look forward to something for so long, you have no idea what to do once it’s over? Welcome to aftermath, population me! My legs are still cramped, my toes are too sensitive to even put bedsheets over at night, and just walking from class to class has become a HERCULEAN effort on Holy Cross’ stair-filled campus. But the 2014 Boston Marathon, the reason for all this discomfort, is in the rearview mirror now, and it was one of the most unforgettable experiences I’ve had during my 20 years. Here’s how it happened.
As I shambled to my car last year, my legs in even more pain than they are now and with the ringing of two explosions still buzzing around my skull, I think I was already formulating my return to Boston. I could barely stand for a week, yet I knew that I didn’t really have a choice – I’d be running the Boston Marathon this year. As President Obama himself said, “BET ON IT.” 365 days of “Boston Strong” reminders later, I found myself back in Hopkinton yesterday morning – and 36,000 of my closest friends showed up with me.

The 2014 E-Streeter Boston Marathoners, pre-departure

The 2014 E-Streeter Boston Marathoners, pre-departure

Barry and Tommy Scanlon wearing matching t-shirts to honor their sister Sue, who inspired their running

Barry and Tommy Scanlon wearing matching t-shirts to honor their sister Susan, who inspired their running

The Athlete's Village in Hopkinton, the resting place for runners before the race. Notice the security on the high school rooftop

The Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton, the resting place for runners before the race. Notice the security on the high school rooftop

Never was there a hardier, more battle-tested band of brothers (and sisters) ever assembled

Never was there a hardier, more battle-tested band of brothers (and sisters) ever assembled

He's fallen, and he can't get up. I'm just scratching my head

He’s fallen, and he can’t get up. I’m just scratching my head

Due to the increased amount of runners this year, the B.A.A. added ANOTHER starting wave onto the preexisting three. This meant that, by the time we even crossed the starting line at 11:25am, the elite leaders were already thundering past Boston College (at a guess). I’m not saying that’s why they beat some of us E-Streeters, I’m just saying I think it’s an unfair advantage on their part…

This was the line TO GET TO the starting line

This was the line TO GET TO the starting line

Dad and I before the starting line. We're both doing our star-spangled duty in Captain America gear

Dad and I before take-off. We’re both doing our star-spangled duty in Captain America gear

AND THEY'RE OFF

AND THEY’RE OFF

I can’t describe the rush you get crossing that starting mat – any injuries you’re nursing (and we all had them) simply fall away, and the surge of pure adrenaline you get feels like it just might carry you straight through to Boylston Street. A half-mile in, my hands were already sore from high fives!

Marathon11
Marathon12

Dad with MCC and LPD buddy (and hardcore marathoner) Joe Patuto

Dad with MCC and LPD buddy (and hardcore marathoner) Joe Patuto

Runners are all about stats and numbers; what was that last mile split, what’s the weather gonna be like, how many people are in that line for the porta-potty, so on. Not a single guess could be reasonably made as to the number of spectators out along that 26.2 mile distance yesterday. Up into the millions, no question, without breaking a sweat. Not an ounce of ill-will to be found, just an entire state turning out in unadulterated support for this year’s marathoners. You’ll notice in most of these pictures I don’t have headphones in – I genuinely didn’t need them, the soundtrack of cheering from the crowds was so uplifting. You keep your running playlist on Pandora, give me a Patriots’ Day crowd in Framingham or Natick.

All the way from the North Pole, even Santa came to watch!!!

All the way from the North Pole, even Santa came to watch!!!

A superhero reception

A superhero reception

Dad stops for a second with his friend, Natick Police Chief James Hicks. Thinking about it, why do you know so many police, Dad??

Dad stops for a second with his friend, Natick Police Chief James Hicks. Thinking about it, why do you know so many police, Dad??

Marathon18
As I was prepping myself for the Wellesley College scream tunnel, coincidence and luck found me right smack dab next to another Holy Cross Crusader, Class of ’06 alum Bryan DiMare. It was great seeing another member of ‘Sader Nation out there, Bryan (and wishing the rest of your race was successful)!!!

We're 'Sader Nation AND Boston Strong!!

We’re ‘Sader Nation AND Boston Strong!!

Next came what was UNDOUBTEDLY the highlight of my day. There’s a blog’s-worth of material on my Dad’s phone from my exploits over the next mile planting kisses on screaming Wellesley girls, but in the interests of time and a PG-rating for this post, we’ll just skim. The enthusiasm from the girls is always an enormous boost, but this year especially it was particularly *ahem* unforgettable. Special shout-out to my best friend growing up, Nicole Hatem, a Wellesley senior who closed out her scream tunnel days with an exclamation point!

Marathon20

Marathon21

I'm told this is the favorite day of the year on the Wellesley campus. Bless them.

I’m told this is the favorite day of the year on the Wellesley campus. Bless them.

A glute injury blossomed into something pretty terrible from this point on, so the rest of the race went by in a bit of a haze. The crowds and their enthusiasm never let up, but I just put my head down and soldiered on as best I could. Apologies if I ran right past anybody reading this – I swear, I didn’t mean to offend you, I was just confronting all my inner demons at the moment and the outside world became kind of secondary.

A much-needed stop with Mom and Heather at mile 16.5. I wouldn't have finished the race without you two, and I mean that.

A much-needed stop with Mom and Heather at mile 16.5. I wouldn’t have finished the race without you two, and I mean that.

Dad with Holy Cross bud Karina O'Friel, Class of '14. Heartbreak Hill has NOTHING on Mount St. James.

Dad with Holy Cross bud Karina O’Friel, Class of ’14. Heartbreak Hill has NOTHING on Mount St. James.

I thankfully start remembering things (regained consciousness?) around Kenmore Square in Boston, and found that I was blessedly only about a mile from the finish. My Dad and I could actually HEAR Boylston Street before we ever even got to it. It was tough to judge while we were running past (the fact that we were 26 miles into our run may have had something to do with it, too), but I really don’t know how deep the crowds lining the home stretch were. A dozen deep maybe? Twenty? However many there were, they made one heck of a lot of noise! Running down to the finish line with telescope vision, it was hard not to imagine the plumes of smoke that had arisen there last year, and that added even more solemnity to an occasion that can already bring people to tears. But as we ran past block by block of happy, cheering faces, I had a realization. Last year, two cowardly scum had attempted to mar this sporting event with their evil, had tried to crush the spirit of a city and make a damning statement about human nature. Blessed as I was with a view from the trenches, I’m here to announce to the world, once and for all, definitively… BOSTON WON. Boston won, its people won, the people who come from around the world to run its streets won. Boston has expanded beyond a geographical location or a collection of stone buildings into an idea known around the world. Boston now means strength, means toughness, means tenacity, and my GOD it was on display yesterday. You can try to scar us, but you’ll never scare us. Not by a long shot. We’ll just keep on running.

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Powering down the home stretch

Powering down the home stretch

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People wonder why we do marathons. They ask (reasonably), “why do you submit yourself to that strain, voluntarily?” My answer: for the feeling I get crossing the finish line. It’s achievement, it’s success, it’s completion in its most un-distilled form. I threw my hands up and SCREAMED a victory shout, and I could feel all the muscles that hadn’t been burned away bulge. It was a pretty cool feeling, man. I turned, then, and just hugged my Dad.
Anyone who knows him will understand this perfectly, but he’s just the most rock-solid, inspiring, AMAZING guy I’ve ever known. He POWERED through the Marathon course Monday, there’s no other way to describe it. The man ran another marathon just three months ago, down in Disney, and he’s had a really bad calf injury ever since, but I swear to God he ran like a man possessed. I’m not even sure he felt the injury at all, he just took his resolve and determination to such a higher level. It’s no different than any other day of my 20 years, Dad, but when we crossed that finish line side-by-side I was just reminded how privileged I am to be your son. You made the whole thing possible in the first place, and I mean it when I say you carried me through to that feeling of victory.

Marathon Men

Marathon Men

A heavenly reunion

A heavenly reunion

Christmas card? We'll photoshop out the sweat lines and grimaces

Christmas card? We’ll photoshop out the sweat lines and grimaces

We trudged from the finish area to pick our capes and medals and over to the family car parked a few blocks away. We both sunk right into our seats, and I gotta say, I never knew Ford chairs were that comfortable before.

I'm modeling the silver cape look 14. "Real heroes wear silver capes."

I’m modeling the silver cape look 14. “Real heroes wear silver capes.”

The first and only selfie I've ever taken. I did it for the bling

The first and only selfie I’ve ever taken. I did it for the bling

So… that about covers it. Hopefully you’ve gotten a sense of my Marathon experience this year; truthfully, I’m not even sure if I have it nailed down myself yet. It’ll take me some time to work it all out, and sitting here now I’ve actually just realized that this is the first time in over two years when I don’t have a training goal marked on my calendar. It’s a brave new world for me! But I want to thank, DEEPLY, the E-Streeters who ran with me to get here – Mary-Jo Griffin, Donna Corbin, Sean Kenny, Nick Laganas, & the Scanlon Brothers – and my amazing family – Mom and Heather – for all your support. MVP, though, obviously is saved for Big Man. It was an unforgettable time we had together, and it’s something I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Boston Strong? You’re looking at it.

Marathon5

Expo14

Good morning everyone! Here’s the first of what will probably be several posts over the next few days, chronicling my own humble part in the historic 118th running of the Boston Marathon! A little secret – I may or may not only do the Marathon so I can go to the expo that takes place the weekend beforehand. It’s fairly Runners’ Mecca: a gathering of every imaginable sporting brand, from official sponsor Adidas to Saucony to Under Armour, and everybody in-between. They all show up with incredible gear unique to this weekend (plus all kinds of free giveaways) and a year’s worth of bank account savings is usually blown by the end of the day.

Expo1To start off the day, a truly amazing program that I want to give the attention it deserves. Since the attacks last April, Boston’s Old South Church has been knitting thousands of hand-made scarves for marathon runners. They’ve accepted donations from all over the world, and people from far and wide have been sending in every imaginable pattern of blue and yellow for the church to give away. With the qualification that you “Be swift, be safe” when you wear it, the Church’s volunteers wrapped people in both scarves and hugs over the course of the day, and I’m sure many a tear of emotion was shed.

Our Hogwarts House colors are blue and gold!

Our Hogwarts House colors are blue and gold!

Expo1.1

Expo3With the expo starting at noon, my dad and I, along with my dad’s co-workers and first time marathoners Mary-Jo Griffin and Donna Corbin, headed into BeanTown at 12:30, thinking the opening crowds would at least have dissipated a little. Yeah right. I’ve been coming to the expo for a few years now, and I’ve NEVER seen it as busy as it was yesterday. There was a thousands-long line just to get in the door and get our numbers!

Expo2.1

Expo4The magic number this year’s 31360, and for anyone who wants text updates from the B.A.A. as to my progress can just type that into their runner tracker program (which you can find at this link:  http://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/participant-information/att-athlete-alert.aspx ). Dad’s number is 31359, so follow him too!

GO-TIME

GO-TIME

Sader Nation meets Boston Strong

‘Sader Nation meets Boston Strong

Ladies, eat your hearts out

Ladies, eat your hearts out

From there, it was into the John Hancock Expo Center, where all those aforementioned treasures were waiting for us. It was so packed inside it was difficult to simply try on merchandise, there was that little room to move. We still managed to pick up some incredible swag though! Superstition prevents me from wearing any of it until I’ve actually crossed the finish line, but it just serves as a little extra motivation, that’s for sure.

This year's race colors, orange and blue! I'm still waiting for Purple and White... maybe next year's

This year’s race colors, orange and blue! I’m still waiting for Purple and White… maybe next year’s

 

Self-explanatory. At Holy Cross, it's a fact of life

Self-explanatory. At Holy Cross, it’s a fact of life

So that’s it – I’ve put in the training, I’ve got the number, I’ve got the jacket… as my high school track coach used to say, “the hay’s in the barn.” After a whole year of build-up, the Boston Marathon is finally here again! Thank you to everyone who’s supported me and my extended running family as we’ve prepped for this year’s running, in 48 hours it’ll be done and you won’t have to hear us go on about it anymore. Especial thanks, as always, to my mom Jackie and sister Heather, the best cheering section in the world! Can’t wait to see you guys out in Newton on Monday! That’s it for now folks, see you on the other side! WISH ME LUCK!!!!!!

I can't wait to be represent some Purple Pride!!!

I can’t wait to be represent some Purple Pride!!!

And P.S. – Happy Easter to everyone!

 

 

AmazingRaceLogo

On your mark – get set – GO! I usually don’t go in for reality TV (there’s always a noticeable lack of zombies), with one giant exception. Even though the show’s been going for over 20 seasons, I’ve never yet tired of CBS’ the Amazing Race; whether because of the fantastic exotic locales we follow the contestants to, or the crazy challenges they’re required to do once they get there, the Amazing Race has always remained fun for me.
Imagine, then, my excitement when I learned of one being held right here on campus! Put on by CAB (the Campus Activities Board), this year marked the 2nd Holy Cross Amazing Race, and I had the crazy idea of, “Hey, know what, let’s do it!” So I rang up my cousin Benjamin Nicholson, Class of ’17, in his room in Wheeler Dorm, he said “YES,” and the rest was history! As cousins, you see, we both possess the same insanity genes, so we jump at stuff like this. And, both of us being Marvel geeks fresh off a midnight premiere of Captain America, there was only one team name for us to choose – so Sunday afternoon, the Uncanny Pecs-Men were at the starting line, ready and rearin’ to go!!

Ben's got his game face on. I'm his partner, and I was terrified

Ben’s got his game face on. I’m his partner, and I was terrified

We met with the other teams on the Hogan 2nd floor couches, and took off at a pre-arranged time from the starting line. I told Ben, who’s never seen an episode of the CBS show, that the key rule to winning this thing is to RUN. EVERYWHERE. When our first clue pointed us straight up the hill to the Hart Center pool, that rule didn’t sound so good anymore. Ben was a trooper though, and we picked them up and put them down!
From a decryption code involving the Hart Pool record board, down to a scavenger hunt among cars in the parking garage, we were led onto an empty Fitton Field. We got our best parkour skills on, and many fences and walls were scaled and/or vaulted to give us the straightest line to our destination.

A high school football superbowl champion, Ben's right at home on a football field

A high school football superbowl champion, Ben’s right at home on a football field

People have been telling us to get a clue for years now, so we finally took their advice

People have been telling us to get a clue for years now, so we finally took their advice

From here, some more parkour skills may or may not have been utilized to get us to the Loyola Ballroom, where Ben showed off his truly impressive mini-golf putting skills. Ben’s brother Joshua played golf a few years ago, and I’d wager some things rubbed off from one to the other. At the next challenge in Campion House, I discovered firsthand how many shortbread cookies I’m able to fit in my mouth simultaneously. And then another discovery: shortbread cookies get really dry when you’ve got three of them packed into one cheek. After a generously-provided glass of water unclogged my alimentary canal, we ran up to Figge Dorm for some trash-talking (and sorting) before heading into Smith Hall for a video message from headmaster Fr. Boroughs.

2nd place gets a thumbs-up from Ben

2nd place gets a thumbs-up from Ben

"I'm Benjamin Nicholson, and I endorse this race"

“I’m Benjamin Nicholson, and I endorse this race”

An unscrambled message on the ROTC quad led us into Dinand Library, and here I have to stop and make an apology. To the perplexed librarian – to the poor students in the reading room trying to just get their work done on a sunny Sunday afternoon – Ben and I are so, so sorry. We really didn’t mean to come sprinting into the library, literally dripping sweat and gasping for air. People walking past as we hunted for the book that held our next clue must have thought to themselves, “Wow. Those two are really passionate about learning.”
Years of playing ladderball at Nicholson 4th of July gatherings got us through our next challenge with ease, before we were led to one final maddening challenge that matched up CAB leaders with their respective events. To watchers of the show, it was perhaps the single worst case of “the bad taxi driver” phenomenon that I’ve ever seen, not helped by the fact that Ben and I were the victims of it. It was a dead sprint from there to the finish in Williams, where volunteers, applause, and most importantly PIZZA awaited us!!

The Dynamic Duo!!

The Dynamic Duo!!

The two of us had an absolute blast over the course of the afternoon, and we’re already looking ahead and planning for next year! A big shoutout to CAB for organizing this event, and staffing it so excellently. The clues and challenges were both complicated and fun, and we pretty much never stopped laughing the entire afternoon. Ben, thanks for doing this with me bud – you thought you were gonna have a hard time keeping up with a marathon runner, but I assure you, you kicked some serious butt!
Just another one of the excellent events put on by Holy Cross and its organizations, and one that we’re already anticipating again in the future! Thanks also to all the other racers, I hope the rest of you had as much fun as we did. Amazing!!!

AmazingRace7

CaptainAmerica

Welcome back everyone! Great to see you all again, March was a CRAZY month that began to tease both the end of Junior year and the beginning of Senior year next August. Madness, I say, madness! Also, transitioning now from March into April, I find myself flying at what seems like 100mph towards this year’s Boston Marathon; it’s exactly three weeks away, and for the life of me I can’t tell you where all that time went. In the days and weeks heading up to it, there are a LOT of thank-yous I want to make, so I figured I’d just start them early and lay them all out here! To do it, I’ve drawn inspiration from one of the other things I’m most looking forward to in the month of April: the release of the new, upcoming Captain America movie! Yes, we all know I’m a comic geek, that’s old news. Hold off on judgment though, till you see what I’m doing with it. See, just like the majority of these Marvel Studio one-shots, the general public considers running to be an individual sport. Just like Cap, though, individual runners become a thousand times better when they’re assembled into part of a larger team. Here, then, are just a few of the running “Avengers” I’ve had the absolute privilege to run alongside during the last 365 days!
Before proceeding, I want to warn: I can already tell this’ll be on the longer side, but they all need to be said, so bear with me. And there’s even pictures to break it up!

To give some context, first, this has been agreed upon by runners and meteorologists alike as an absolutely hellish winter to train in. Even for New England, we’ve seen more subzero temps and blinding blizzards than normal, and it was challenging to get out the door even for a quick 3-mile jaunt, let alone some of the longer distance runs necessary for marathon training.

Thankfully, we're all a bunch of certifiable psychopaths!

Thankfully, we’re all a bunch of certifiable psychopaths!

The lonely life of a winter runner.

The lonely life of a winter runner.

My frozen eyebrows can attest to how tough the conditions were. It's taken until about now for them to thaw.

My frozen eyebrows can attest to how tough the conditions were. It’s taken until about now for them to thaw.

Luckily, though, it’s much easier to get out and pound the pavement when you’ve got a person (or people) to share the time with. Like they say – “misery loves company!” I want to start out first with some of the people who are crazy enough to run around the slopes of Mt. St. James with me on a daily basis. I’m talking about good ol’ purple-loving Crusaders, and it’s been an absolute joy logging miles with each and every one of them.
First off, the roommates: they’re all star members of the Men’s XC/Track team, and they could each of them run circles around me.

Sam McGrath '14 - school record holder in the 1000m run (and fellow Springsteen fanatic)

Sam McGrath ’14 – school record holder in the 1000m run (and fellow Springsteen fanatic)

Tom Santa-Maria '14

Tom Santa-Maria ’14

Alex Cicchitti '15 - next year's XC captain

Alex Cicchitti ’15 – next year’s XC captain

They’re not roommates, but they’re all incredible guys AND fast runners to boot. Ladies, they’re the full package…

Joe Seebode '15

Joe Seebode ’15

Trevor Dutton '15

Trevor Dutton ’15

Chris "Feast" Conley '16

Chris “Feast” Conley ’16

Over the last few months, I’ve had the special privilege to lead these guys on loops around the Greater Worcester Area; take a good look at the best looking club sport on campus, the Holy Cross Running Club! It’s the first year the club has ever really had this kind of strength, and it all boils down to the enthusiasm these guys bring to practice every week. Running as part of a team with you all has been one of my greatest pleasures while at HC!
Here are just a few of them, from left to right, top to bottom: Derek Keough ’16, Evan Farrell ’16, Anthony John ’16, Donny Conn ’16, Shannon Kay ’16, Lauren Tilmont ’16, Lauren Reidy ’16, Adam Millham ’17, Jack Peterson ’16, Brian Hannon ’17, Bryan Dextradeur ’17, Michael Held ’16, Grace Chmiel ’15, Emily Sama ’16, Meaghan McGeary ’16, Sinead O’Connor ’17, Nadia Hassan ’17, & Ashley Fairbanks ’17. Not pictured, but who I’d be remiss not to mention, are Michaela Carroll ’16, Brian Patrick Hayward ’17, Brian Toner ’17, Nick Parsons ’15, Abbey DeNorscia ’17, & Nina Batt ’15. HolyCrossRunningClub

One of the people who I’ve infected most with this darned running bug is actually pretty far away right now, but she was one of my very biggest supporters around the time of last year’s marathon, and she got so caught up in the fever that she laced up the old running shoes and trained all the way up to running her first 1/2 marathon last summer. She’s in the land of the ORIGINAL marathon right now, travelling the world as part of the Classics Department’s Athens program, but Shea Maunsell ’15 – I’ve been thinking of you this entire time! Also, while I’m overseas, I just want to give a quick shoutout to Harry Crimi ’15 (who volunteered at last year’s Athens Marathon) and Martin Florimon ’15 as well. They may both be chowing down on their respective native cuisines at the moment, but they both couldn’t have been any more excited as I took to the streets of Boston last April, and I miss both of them pretty much every day. All three of you guys need to hurry up and get back to the States, pronto!

Shea's demonstrating lesson one at Andrew's school of running: always know where the camera is!

Shea’s demonstrating lesson one at Andrew’s school of running: always know where the camera is!

Show off that hardware!

Show off that hardware!

Also, this year, while toiling away through pages of Shakespeare last semester and the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes this one, I’ve gotten to know one of Holy Cross’ only other extreme long-distance runners very well, and we talk and compare notes on a regular basis. I’m talking about Karina O’Friel ’14, who ran her first marathon last Fall over in Cape Cod! She’s been logging up crazy miles just for the fun of it, and just yesterday the two of us completed a 20-mile trek down the Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts coastlines in a gale straight from a 300 movie. We’ll have lots to talk about in Prof. Sweeney’s class this week, Karina!

Spartans!

Spartans!

This HAD seemed like a good idea back when we brought it up.

This HAD seemed like a good idea back when we brought it up.

There are plenty of other Crusaders who I’ll probably remember as soon as I finish writing (and I apologize to any of them), but I’m gonna move now into the people who have stupidly bravely been plugging along in the marathon trenches with me. Same as last year, I’ve had the experience again of running with the E-Streeters, the informal group of friends my Dad’s had since college and who’ve led some pretty illustrious running careers over the past few decades. They’re a familiar sight on main streets and backroads far and wide through the Greater Lowell Area, and (in their minds anyways) they’re running royalty! I don’t know exactly what kind of royalty, but I digress…
Here they are assembled in full-force, and never such a motley crew was seen.

We do it only for the meals after the runs, if we're honest

We do it only for the meals after the runs, if we’re honest

They're a colorful group, at least

They’re a colorful group, at least

Returning to take Boston again by force, the tag-team duo of the Scanlon brothers, Barry & Tommy. They CRUSHED the race last year, and indications so far point to them coming back for seconds. See you out there, gentlemen!

Scanlons

Also making a return journey, speed demon Nick Laganas. He served his country overseas, he keeps the city of Lowell safe as a police officer, and during the tumultuous events of last year’s marathon bombings he was one of the first to go and help the wounded – after already finishing the 26.2 mile distance, I might add. Yeah, go ahead… be as impressed as I am. He was also there for yesterday’s 20 miler down the coast, and I hope our performance together is a precursor of what’s to come in 3 weeks time.

Nick showing his true colors as a superhero

Nick showing his true colors as a superhero

As I said before - know where the camera is

As I said before – ALWAYS know where the camera is

If it looks like we've seen 20 miles of bad road, the answer's self-explanatory

If it looks like we’ve seen 20 miles of bad road, the answer’s self-explanatory

New to the marathon game this year, but no less spectacular at it, we have Mary-Jo Griffin and Donna Corbin, co-workers with my dad Patrick at Middlesex Community College. Neither of them had ever really run a step before, but they’ve been so dedicated about it that they’ll be among the 40,000 in Hopkinton on the morning of the 21st. See you out there ladies!

They're already practicing their victory pose

They’re already practicing their victory pose

Speaking of my dad, by the way… Of course, I’ve saved the best for last. He’s a coach, he’s a mentor (not exclusive to running), and he’s the scheming mastermind behind most of this insanity. He already ran the Disney Marathon this January, and in a few weeks time he’ll have finished his TENTH running of Boston. I only hope I’m still in as good a shape at his age. He’s been battling an otherwise-crippling calf injury this entire training season, but sheer grit has kept him in the game, and he’s further proof of that old thing about mind over matter: if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter! DANG proud of you, Dad, keep up the good work.

It's DC, not Marvel, I understand, but you get the point

It’s DC, not Marvel, I understand, but you get the point

Show-off

Show-off

He’s also, coincidentally, THE comic nerd of the family, which brings us back around full circle. This post may have been long, and heck, some might even see it as being too pre-emptive, but it was all stuff I wanted to say – and really, what’s the point of a blog if I don’t use it for purposes like this? So to all of you: man and woman, young and old(er), fast and faster, my biggest thanks. Marathons are not an easy business, and there are plenty of days when you’re struggling through a blizzard when you can lose sight of the end goal. All it takes to get you through, though, is some hope and inspiration. Like I’ve said, I run with superheroes, and they certainly get the job done. Talk to you all in a few weeks, and if I’m not back before then, wish me luck!!!

Avengers ASSEMBLE!!!!

Avengers ASSEMBLE!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve had the opportunity to work in some pretty amazing positions during my time at Holy Cross, but I have to say, giving weekly tours through the Admissions Department has become somewhat of a favorite activity of mine since I started last semester. We’re heading into some peak tour season now, with seniors bringing their application/decision process to a close and juniors just starting their own ordeal journey. I wish you all the best of luck, and I’m here to answer any questions you might have! Over the months, I’ve noticed one question in particular that comes up pretty regularly from touring families: what really sets Holy Cross apart? Email me and I’ll give you the full answer in its Game Of Thrones-length novel form. But for now, I thought I’d just focus in on an area that many people seem to overlook: the city it’s located in! Worcester (that’s WOO-ster, to all you out-of-towners) is the 2nd biggest city in New England, only behind Boston in size, and that means it offers all the great things you’d expect from such a big city.  Even Worcester itself, with all its museums and theaters and such, is too big a topic to cover in a single blog, so I’ll instead concentrate on answering yet another question I’m frequently asked at the end of tours, by the people I’ve tired out climbing the campus’ hills: what’s there to eat in Worcester? You can’t get any better than Kimball Dining for on-campus food, but where can you go if you’re looking for some off-campus cuisine?

Well fear not, faithful reader – in terms of the food it offers, Worcester is second to none (a fact for which I am constantly giving thanks). I’ve done some extensive research on the matter, and here are just a few of my findings that I can offer up in the way of recommendations. The real question isn’t so much, “what is there to eat?” as it is, “what am I hungry for?” I’m leaving out all the generic fast food places; come on, those are boring. No no, this is all uniquely Worcester fare, and hopefully you’ll be drooling over it by the end. Dieters, turn yourself away; some of this is strictly Atkins and South Beach unapproved. But man, is it tasty.

We’ll start with a good old American classic: hot dogs! Fortunately, there are not one, but TWO can’t-miss hot dog joints in the near-Holy Cross vicinity. I’m in no position to prefer one over the other, so the only advice I can give is… try them both!!!
The first restaurant, literally about a four minute drive down the road from the college’s front gates, is Coney Island Hot Dogs. FANTASTIC franks here, and I especially recommend the chili dog with onions, washed down with the restaurant’s chocolate milk. One of the great things about this place? It’s probably the most “poor college student”-friendly budget I can think of. It’s a date night for two with all the fixings for well under $15. I can’t comment on the authenticity of its name (I’ll leave that to those of a New York State of Mind), but boy, the real Coney Island itself can only be missing out if its dogs aren’t like these.

Coney Island Hot Dogs
For our second helping of everyone’s favorite ballpark food, we have Hot Dog Annie’s in the nearby town of Leicester. This one’s a bit more of a Sunday afternoon drive away, but the trip takes you through the awesome small town of Paxton (I’ll bet my tuition this is the first time you’ve even heard of it) and past some of Paxton’s beautiful forested reservoirs along the way. The go-to entree here is the special BBQ dog with a side of root beer. I was in Paxton every weekend growing up visiting my grandparents, and had many a meal provided by Hot Dog Annie’s grills. Between this and Coney Island, it’s the Sophie’s Choice of frankfurts!! Hot Dog Annie's

Moving on now to other fare; we have Water Street in Worcester! This is an area perhaps better-known to college kids for its night-life scene, but it’s a crime that most people don’t take advantage of Water Street’s phenomenal restaurants. Truly, there are few better lunch locations in the entire city than Weintraub’s Jewish Deli. Some places will give out bread or maybe chips in the way of an appetizer before the main-course, but Weintraub’s goes one better and serves out sliced-up kosher pickles! The personal pick here is the corned-beef sandwich on a bulkie roll, with a dollop (or two, or three) of mustard on top. Delicious!

Weintraub's
After lunch, head straight across the street to Widoff’s Bakery for some dessert, and make sure you bring back some of its fresh-that-day bulkie rolls for the “roommates.” My guess is they’d also probably want you to bring back some of Widoff’s cannolis or shortbread cookies, but hey – you know them better than I do.

Widoff'sBakery

And now we come to perhaps the most distinctly-Worcester stop on our culinary expedition: the diner! A fun fact about diners; they, along with the rocket, the yellow smiley face, and many, many other incredible things, were invented in Worcester! This being the case, diners in Worcester are as easy to find as a Starbucks in Seattle (and a lot less pretentious). Arterial health be darned, I maintain there’s no better place to eat for breakfast than at a diner with bacon grease as the preferred cooking oil of choice, and Worcester has such fine establishments to offer in spades. Two in particular I’d like to single out, Miss Worcester on Southbridge Street and The Boulevard on Shrewsbury Street, would both merit top marks from any self-respecting diner connoisseur with a set of taste buds. You can’t really graduate from Holy Cross without first patroning a genuine Worcester diner. In terms of a meal at any of these diners - you can’t go wrong!

MissWorcester
BoulevardDiner
And to end, I’d be remiss without at least MENTIONING Worcester’s golden mile of food that is Shrewsbury Street. This is most likely the recommendation you’ll hear from a Holy Cross student; it’s not even a specific place, we’ll just point you in the general direction and allow you to pick from the frankly embarrassing wealth of choices there. Want sushi? 7 Nana’s got you covered. Mexican? Head over to Mez-cal, or stop by its brand new location in downtown Worcester. Italian? You’re on your own here. If you can’t be satisfied by any of the incredible Italian restaurants situated on every other block,  there’s probably no hope for you. Two personal favorites over the years have become Leo’s Ristorante and Dino’s Ristorante (a Crusader hangout of yesteryear). With this kind of selection, the slopes of Mt. St. James certainly have their work cut out in preventing the freshman 15, although, in fairness, they still seem to get the job done anyhow.

So – did I miss any? I’m always looking to further my “research”, so if anyone’s got recommendations or additions to make I’m all ears. I’ve been familiar with the Worcester area my entire life, so I can tell you the food scene is constantly changing and expanding for the better. This, among an immeasurable amount of other things, is just another reason to love Holy Cross! Happy winter break to all the high school students, and I’ll see you on campus for tours. Come hungry!