You never know when or where you’ll find yourself when news breaks. That’s what we all tell ourselves as journalists and over the years I’ve found the toughest “breaking news” happens when it involves my friends and tragedy.
The date August 24th has been a rough day for me two consecutive years running. Last year I was on my couch watching the Orioles play when I learned in the early evening of the death of Mike Flanagan. This past Friday night and into Saturday morning I was awakened on a summer vacation in Moncton, Canada to learn that another friend had died unexpectedly while I was asleep.
In the era of social media and via the power to propel information into the palms of our hands from anywhere in the world, I learned of the death of my friend Scunny on my mobile phone in the middle of New Brunswick while having morning coffee.
In the hours following, my Facebook and Twitter feeds exploded with condolences, memories and immense cyber sadness regarding the passing of a giant in our community, a guy who we all kind of took for granted and thought would be immortal.
I also learned about the power of love in the world — a life well lived — and the legend of a man whose death dominated every corner of my friendship, business and civic circle in Baltimore. “Smalltimore” works that way and it’s especially illuminated in our time by the internet.
I’m convinced “Scunny” was the Kevin Bacon of our city, once removed from virtually every person in town.
For those of you who didn’t know him – and I’m not really sure that’s really possible that you could be from the Charm City and not know him because he seemingly knew everyone – Patrick “Scunny” McKusker owned Nacho Mama’s (and later created Mama’s On The Half Shell) and was truly a one-of-a-kind Baltimore character, restaurant owner, entrepreneur, civic champion, charitable soul and part-time beer drinker and philosopher.
Scunny died on Friday night just a few blocks from his Ocean City beach home while riding his bicycle that collided with a bus. He leaves behind a wonderful wife and two children.
There are varying reports about what happened and there’s an investigation going on as his tangled myriad of friends, peers, loved ones, family members and many patrons are left investigating this unthinkable tragedy that we all learned about at some point in the middle of our blessed lives on a Saturday morning.
I’m not really sure where to begin but writing is my therapy at times like these.
I met Scunny at Nacho Mama’s (like almost everyone else) when I began my radio career in the early 1990’s and was recruiting sponsors.
Scunny and I had a whole lot in common. We both loved beer. We both loved the Orioles. We both missed the Colts. We both welcomed and immediately loved the Ravens. We both loved Baltimore.
Scunny was missing a finger.
I was missing a finger.
Every time we ever saw each other he insisted that we “touch nubs” before we parted. It was our bond, right along with his amazing salsa and the soft chicken tacos that I’ve tackled at least a hundred times.
The stories about his generosity have been well chronicled and it was impossible to know him and not know about his work with Believe In Tomorrow. He also hired developmentally challenged people and gave them jobs and a purpose. He was a sweet man who would’ve won any “Character Bowl” competition John Steadman would’ve