Monday, September 10, 2007

Good luck, Sully

Good luck.

It was always what I remember Paul Sullivan saying at the end of a conversation - light or heavy or in between: “Good luck.”

It’s what he said after we first met him for what I later figured out was a job interview back in 1998. It’s what he said when he finally hired me. It’s what he said when he offered up any of thousands of news tips when he was political editor and I was State House Bureau Chief of The Sun (“Lowell’s great newspaper, 15 Kearney Square.”)

It always seemed a strange way to end a conversation. Luck? How much of this dance we call life is really about luck, anyway? But for Paul Sullivan, you had to believe in luck.

He would hide behind luck as one of his many masks. It wasn’t hard work and good reporting that got him this great news tip, it was luck. It couldn’t have been hard work and performance that landed him his dream job at WBZ radio, it was luck. It couldn’t have been his magnetic personality, quick wit or charm that gave him a great family and friends, it was luck.

I always liked to be in the room when someone “important” met Sully for the first time. It was kind of a blast watching them try to figure this guy out. He wasn’t your typical pol and he wasn’t your typical media blowhard. As he said in a clip I heard replayed today, when he hit, he tried to hit with a pillow, not a nail. That’s rare, in media and in politics.

I met Paul Cellucci with him, met John McCain with him, even George W. Bush with Sully. All were immediately wooed by Paul’s sense of Everyman. They felt like they had an ally in Paul, even if they didn’t (and would soon learn in print). For Sully, sort of like luck, charm usually won out.

We shared many meals, typically breakfast up in Lowell or on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. Sometimes dinner, once even with wives – of course, the wives loved him more than even we did (he and Heidi had some bizarre connection over Three Stooges episodes).

As when anyone dies who you know and love, I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days of the last time I saw Paul Sullivan. It was in July, on Charles Street in Boston. He had a scar from the top of his head to his neck and a smile still plastered on his face. He was full of cheer, eager to hear what was up at the State House and in Massachusetts politics – probably looking for a story.

He told me what he told everyone. He was doing great, he had the easy part compared to doctors and family. He said it wasn’t fatal but couldn’t be cured. I think he, and we, all knew better. But this was Sully, after all, anything was possible. And he was lucky.

“Good luck,” he said, walking down Charles Street toward MGH as I walked up toward the State House.

Sully, it was good knowing you and I’m lucky to have had the friendship, the mentorship and, more than anything, the laughs.

You are on your own path now, entertaining those in the great beyond and, finally, feeling no more pain. Thank God for that.

Those of us whose lives you touched are thankful, and will eternally be thankful. I’m certain I speak for his friends, family, listeners and admirers when I say, good luck, Paul Sullivan.

Good luck.

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