When I heard of the passing of Frank McCourt I asked Stephanie if she would write a blog post about him. She responded that I should write something as she hadn’t read his books or personally known him. It wouldn’t be genuine she admitted. I did know Frank McCourt and mourn the loss. To me, Frank McCourt was not just a writer. In fact, I glossed through "Angela’s Ashes" and "Teacher Man" but couldn’t have a meaningful conversation about them. To me he was a mentor, a role model and teacher.
What I could discuss was how much life McCourt brought to everything he touched. His ability to engage everyone with laughter and thought. At Stuyvesant High School I spent three terms with Mr. McCourt- short stories, writing children’s books and high school English. We got along well. His unorthodox style meshed with my smart ass demeanor. "Class, let’s sing "I stuck my finger in the woodpecker’s hole" he’d request. We’d laugh and oblige. Monday’s were spent with his sarcastic review of the football team’s weekend score- "45 to nuthin’" McCourt would read in his Irish brogue. "Musta been trying to lose if it was 45 to nuthin’. Were you trying to lose Mr. Lacho at 45 to nuthin?" he continued. When it came to writing, his advice was equal parts insightful and challenging: "Don’t let your character die. It’s too easy."
I think most importantly, I remember Frank McCourt as a genuine man. His predictable late to class arrival due to flight issues back from Chicago performing in "A Couple Of Blaguards" on the weekends, the noticeable lethargy from late nights at The Lion’s Head. Even one day sitting on the steps of the 15th street entrance when I saw a man punch Frank McCourt to the ground with a right hook to bloody his nose. The rumor being he had gotten too close to another married teacher. McCourt lived life with gusto. The joie de vivre he passed to his students.
I’ll miss Frank McCourt as he is a significant connection to my youth and even more so someone who helped shape me into who I have become. It is no coincidence I married a very talented writer.