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Restraint

I don’t know where I lost that switch. The switch that gets flipped when I get mad or get threatened…the button that gets pushed when I get pushed.

It wasn’t a normal Sunday. It was kind of a sad and lonely Sunday.

On the Saturday before, my wife and I picked up her mother at the Burn Unit at West Penn Hospital. My wife’s mother (my mother-in-law), who I affectionately refer to as Mrs. Lupner, had been residing there for the previous 4 weeks. The poor girl had a cooking accident and burned herself badly. We are lucky Mrs. Lupner is still with us.

Maybe, subconsciously, I was considering how lucky “we” were, and that’s why the switch didn’t flip. Maybe, but that’s not like me.

As a family, we decided my wife was going to be the major caregiver for her mom while she recovered at home for the next several weeks.  I was kinda bummed about that situation, as I like having my wife home to do all the things I hate to do…mostly cooking, lawn care, snow removal, linen laundry, shaving my back, dog maintenance, grocery shopping…I could go on, but you get the gist. She’s also really funny and a joy to be around…she is what you would call, “good company”.

Bummer, yes, but I was also very proud. While my wife was certainly going to be doing all the so called “heavy lifting”, it was going to take a team effort from our entire family to make it work. …and nobody questioned it for a second. Mrs. Large Man was going to stay with Mrs. Lupner until she could get back on her feet, and that was that. The Large Man family unit was proud to do it.


So, feeling lucky, feeling proud, feelings of goodness, may have been residing deep in the cracks & crevasses of my hypothalamus when I was attacked, but they were certainly not in the front and center of my thoughts when it happened. I don’t know what I was thinking; I was probably just thinking about groceries.


I like grocery stores on the weekend, Mrs. Large Man doesn’t. Grocery stores at 10:00 on a Saturday morning, Walmart on Black Friday, and convenience store gas stations when there is a BOGO sale on Slim Jims are awesome! I find the bedlam exhilarating, and I always have.

Now that I’m more of an internet shopper, I really miss going to shopping malls at Christmas time. I have always loved the hustle and bustle of a shopping crowd. It’s great people watching drama; fist fights over parking spaces, two sets of hands belonging to two different people grabbing the last Cabbage Patch doll on the shelf, and the violence and hysteria that ensues. All the unruliness is the true magic of the Christmas season. My Christmas joy is watching people who celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior and the peace that His Holy Presence brings by beating the shit out of each other so their child can have the last Play Station XXVII (or whatever one they’re on now). When there is one toy left, and there are 3 Christmas shoppers looking at it, I guarantee you NONE of the 3 potential purchasers are thinking, “WWJD?” Joy.

***

So, I pop into the grocery store on this chilly Sunday afternoon with no inkling of trepidation. I grab a couple of steaks, some tots, and a bag of salad – the salad is just for looks. My wife ain’t home, there’s no way my son and I are eating salad on “steak night”. But if I buy a bag of Very Veggie, I can feel good about the effort. I check out, load the bags in my truck, and take the cart back to the parking lot cart corral. I will often launch my cart into the cart corral chute from a small distance as kind of a target competition with myself. I probably do this because my mom smoked and drank when she was pregnant with me, but nevertheless, it gives me joy. On this particular day, this particular shot, was right down the centerperfect shot. This is important because of what I’m going to tell you in the next paragraph.

I leave the cart corral very pleased with myself, and head back to my truck, as I’m walking I cross paths with a smallish man with and even smaller young boy accompanying him, as they are walking towards the store. The man was dressed head to toe in green tone camouflage clothing, and the young boy in sweatpants and a plain white short sleeved tee-shirt.

“Right down the middle of the street, huh?”, the man sort of barked at me as we passed each other.

I assumed he was talking about my excellent grocery cart shot, so I smiled and nodded.

“F-ing asshole!” he growled as he continued walking.

Except he didn’t really say “F-ing”, but I’m giving a concerted effort to stop using the F word in my Large Man Chronicles, I’ve been told by people whom I respect that I say, “Fuck” way too much. Shit! I did it again! Damnit!

I digress…

Anyway, the guy calls me an “f-ing a-hole” in front of a small child, and it kinda stops me in my tracks.

I reply, quite startled, “Excuse me, sir, what? Is there a problem?”

“Yeah there’s a f-ing problem, you f-ing a-hole, piece of s#!t! I’m driving through the parking lot looking for a place to park and you’re pushing your empty cart back right down the middle of the f-ing lane and I gotta wait for you like the whole f-ing world revolves around  you.”

Then I said, “Huh?”

Then he started walking quickly back towards me and yelled really loud so that other people in the lot could hear, “You’re a fucking asshole!”.

Which, by the way, could be accurate, but there is no way he could make that determination in the short time we had known each other. We had only exchanged a few words, and he did most of the talking.

As he hurled the last insult, he was walking toward me at a brisk pace. I put my hand up and said, “Don’t come any closer, sir. You are not wearing a mask, and I’m feeling a little threatened here.”

“Why would you walk down the middle of the street with a f-ing grocery cart?” He barked this time in the form of a question.

“I didn’t see you, sir. I guess I just wasn’t paying attention. I’m sorry”, I answered.

Wait, what? Where was my button? Hostile, angry words accompanied by aggressive posturing and body language, all directed at me…by someone half my size, I might add. Nothing. I apologized?

Was it the presence of the small child? Was it surprise? Was it fear? Was it the fact that my friend, Steve, (who I easily outweigh by 60 or 70 pounds) threw me around like a rag doll a couple of years ago, while horsing around on a “male bonding” golf trip, thus causing me to question my own testosterone fueled feelings of invincibility?

Was it maturity?

My follow up comment probably rules out maturity. I asked, “Did it occur to you that maybe I couldn’t see you because of all that fancy camouflage you’re wearing?”

Then he said, “Huh?”

This wasn’t exactly a battle of wits between two titans of intellect.

I looked my extremely aggressive verbal assailant in the eyes, I smiled, and I said, “Again sir, I’m sorry. My mind must have been wandering. I wasn’t paying attention.”

He threw his hands in the air, shook his head ruefully at me, then turned around and walked away towards the store. That should have been the end. My restraint and perhaps fear, maybe the memory of getting my ass whipped by an IT guy (for the record, a very young, strong and athletic IT guy…Steve, from the aforementioned golf trip), or perhaps my maturity, looked like it had diffused the situation. But if that had been the case, it would hardly be worthy of a Large Man post. 😊

As camo man and his young (and seemingly unaffected by it all) son walked to the store, and I walked to my truck, one of a handful of casually observing innocent bystanders said to me from a smoke filled pickup truck cab, “You are a real gentleman, my friend. I would have knocked him right on his f-ing ass, right in front of his kid.” For a Sunday, people were sure using the f word a lot.

Well, as luck would have it, camo man heard this, turned around, hustled back to the spot of our original confrontation and invited the commentator to, “…step out of [his] truck and give it a try!”

A few more words were exchanged, I doubt that these two guys knew anything about each other’s mothers, but they mentioned mothers and sons and body parts extensively in their exchange.

Now that I’m no longer a player in the ruckus, and just an observer, I take on the role of “peacekeeper”.

I walk back to the general vicinity and I speak:

“Guys, guys, guys. Come on guys. There’s a little kid here. This is all ridiculous. This language, this hostility, c’mon guys! I said I was sorry, let’s just leave it be.”

My speech was brilliant, thought provoking, and immediately effective. Camo man said, “Fuck you!” as he erected his middle finger in the direction of the smoke-filled truck. Smokey the Pickup man told Camo, “You’re a dick. You’re lucky this guy didn’t kick your ass”. 

Camo and son walk away. I never saw them again. Smokey looked at me, smiled, and shook his head. Confrontation over.

Full disclosure, Smokey offered up my ass kicking services without really understanding my ass kicking abilities. I’m a 61-year-old, out of shape, diabetic, husband, father, and salesman. I’m a watcher of movies, a writer of stories, an amateur beer sommelier, a singer of songs, admirer of women who dance for money, and an eater of steaks, tacos, pepperoni pizza, and things that require Large amounts of butter. Most of my “active time” is spent sitting down. I’m pretty sure I’m not in the “ass kicking” phase of my life now, but as a man, it was nice to know someone still believed in me.

I went home and shared the story with my son. He was appalled but told me he was proud of me for showing such restraint because he has seen “the switch” get flipped, he knows the ugliness of my post switch condition. Later that night I had a phone call with my wife, shared the story (with only a few embellishments so she would miss me more), SHE was also appalled and told me how proud she was that I could show all this restraint, maturity and calm in such a volatile situation. The next day I shared the story with my daughter; and SHE was appalled as well…but for a different reason. She called me a “little bitch” for backing down. But still, 2 out of three ain’t bad.


Restraint, calm, maturity…The Large Man…rarely in my history have these words been gathered together in a single sentence. I’m proud of myself too. I know a guy who looks a lot like me, who only a few years ago would have reacted so differently. The switch would have flipped, and idiocy would have followed…just for the sake of idiocy.

I may be growing up. What a crazy thought.

Thanks for reading…until next time, be sweet, Big Love…TLM


Where Have I Been?

The last time I sat down to write a Chronicle, I enjoyed it so much I asked myself the question, “Why are you not doing this every week?”

Then I replied to myself, “It doesn’t matter why, I’m going to start now! 20 minutes a day of writing and creative discipline…every day! BECAUSE I LOVE THIS! THIS IS WHO I AM!! IT STARTS NOW!!! Right after Sports Center.

That was 19 months ago.

Even though I stared down several computer screens with thoughts of, “…maybe I should try to write something”, until right now, not a single word or idea has been typed in service of The Large Man Chronicles. I’m not sure if I can explain to you (or me) why. But I’m going to try.

To the best of my calculation it’s been about 580 days since I posted a blog. That is 580 days without taking at least a few minutes to be purposefully creative. That’s 13,920 hours that I’ll never get back. Five-hundred-eighty… 20-minute writing sessions…that I instead donated to Facebook, or Fox, or CNN, or ESPN, or Seinfeld, rather than give to myself and my favorite craft. I’d feel better about it if those 20-minute sessions were spent at the gym, or on a bike ride…nope.

I’ve done lots of thinking though. I’ve thought about lots of things that would make a good Large Man story. I’ve spoken the phrase out loud a bunch of times in the last 580 days, “…that would make a good Large Man story.” Point A never seems to lead to point B.

I had a job that I wasn’t happy with, and therefore I wasn’t happy with myself. Loved the people, loved the company…hated the way I did the job. That’s part of it. There was social unrest at levels I have never seen before, maybe I just wasn’t paying attention before. That’s also part of it. There was political turmoil that I simply could not escape. I have never cared about politics, because I have never believed that anyone had the answers. I believe that EVERYBODY is wrong.

E V E R Y B O D Y . . . I S . . . W R O N G

That’s part of it too.

It might be that in a time when so many people are upset and angry…and so divided on the things that make them upset and angry, I didn’t think anyone would want to read my sarcastic take on things that make me upset and angry. Is my view on a self-centered traveler who’s being rude to the people around her appropriate right now? Should I be poking fun at the daily maladies and struggles that come with making a living and raising a family and navigating life? Life is hard right now, man.


I promised in my original post on ‘The Large Man Chronicles’ that I would never get political. I’m standing by that promise because as much as I would like to write 1,500 words or so on how I feel about the state of our union, I would be wrong…to someone. And while I have a right to be wrong, and you have a right to tell me I’m wrong…I don’t want the bloodshed of our ideological conflict staining the pages of my virtual book. I never mind the debate; in fact, I rather enjoy it. But the power and permanence of the written word, and the aftermath that latches on to an online argument, like one of those remora fish on a Great White shark, are more responsibility than I’m willing to commit to – even on my insignificant little blog page.

Almost 22 years ago I wrote a story called, ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’. Most of you have read it, it’s been published twice on this blog page. That “little girl”, just like the song says, got “…bigger every day”. She loved everything I did when she was 5, not so much now that she’s almost 22. That’s OK. We can disagree, and we can debate, and I’ll still love her and “thank Heaven” for her every day. We slug it out a lot…philosophically, politically, and common sensically… it doesn’t matter. This father’s love is unconditional. Always has been. Always will be.

She’s probably pretty close to the same with me. I won’t speak for her, but I know.

I don’t have that same contract with the readers of The Large Man Chronicles. Over these last 580 days, I think I may have been afraid of writing about things that were in the front of my consciousness for fear of risking the loss of my readership…all 3 dozen of you.

You see, I get a significant dopamine shot when you guys click that “Like” button on The Fan of The Large Man Chronicles Facebook page, or on my personal page, or on the blog’s website. Every click is another shot. If you share the link to my post on your page, it equates to 3 or 4 “Likes”, and the dopamine is out of my brain and into my bloodstream…affecting all my critical organs and nooks and crannies…wowsa!!

Now…if you take the time to click that Like button, share on your page, AND COMMENT… the trifecta of The Large Man Chronicle response code… a crack cocaine binge with Eric Clapton would not keep up with that endorphin rush!!

Oddly enough, even if the comment is negative, or critical (and I get lots of those via private message or in conversation) it’s still the same. It’s, super exponential dopamine, and it lasts for a few days. It’s not better than sex…but I had to think about it for a second before I committed to writing that statement.

By nature, I am not averse to risk. In fact; I’m very risk tolerant. I changed jobs in September. Changing jobs in an election year is risky, especially in my industry. Dial up that risk ratio significantly in this contentious election year. Now add a pandemic, add 2 kids in college, and a move to a new house, then add the fact that your trophy wife (and chief editor) is a materialistic, gold digging harpy, who will never respect you, but expects a new snowblower and lawn mower every 8 years, and a new car every 12 years…add all those things up, and changing jobs almost seems irresponsible. But I did it. I did it because I wasn’t happy in my role. It was really that simple.

So, I’m willing to risk financial ruin to be happy in my job, but for the last year and a half I was not willing to risk losing the Large Man Chronicles readership for writing about the things I truly wanted to say. I was not willing to risk the endorphin rush that comes from you liking what I have to say, in order to say what’s really on my mind…to say the things that need to be said for all of us. I was willing to abandon my principles and my truth rather than risk losing the “Likes” that are clicked on a social media page – a social media page THAT… by the way… I don’t really think is all that good for us anymore.


Hmmm? When one writes it out, it all makes perfect sense. Yeah. I’m good with that…compromising my values, principles and truth, just to be liked. That would make a good Large Man story.


Thanks for reading. Love each other. Wash your hands. Wear your mask. Own your truth!

Big Love,

TLM

Just in Case…

I’m having a little surgery this afternoon, and it’s no big deal, but, I am going to have to “go under”. Anytime someone goes under, there’s a chance that they might not come back. In movies and in the news, many people who receive anesthesia don’t come back. It’s a simple and accepted medical reality.

The patient will aspirate, or get an infection, or there is some sinister plan by one of the doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, “big pharma”, or a greedy insurance company, that will cause the patient’s demise. Then great actors like Paul Newman, Matt Damon, or Jim Carrey have go to bat for the deceased’s family.

These hero lawyers are usually a little bit down on their luck, and they almost always have a lot to lose by taking the case, but they’re such good people at their core (like all lawyers), they take the case anyway. They’re willing to face hired thugs, mountains of paperwork, and a labyrinth of lies, schemes, and deceit that sometimes can go all the way to the White House, because it’s the moral thing to do.

It’s a common tale. It’s bad stuff. And, Paul Newman is dead…so there’s one less good guy to fight the good fight. There is no reason to think this won’t happen to me. I’ve had a bad run of luck lately.

So, even though I say, “it’s no big deal…”, it obviously is. It’s no big deal, as long as I come back. But I’m only giving myself about a 10% chance of survival, so if you do the math, that’s like a 77% chance that I’ll be a cold, lifeless, Large, blob of death … by 6:00 tonight.

In light of this, I feel the need to get something off of my chest. Just in case I don’t come back, I need to say something to all of you, and as I tell the tale, it saddens me that this last ‘Large Man Chronicle’ is going to disappoint you. You won’t be disappointed in the work; the writing will be as brilliant as it ever was…you’ll be disappointed in me.

So here goes:

A very wealthy guy was interested in my wife before my wife and I were a thing. He asked me about “her situation” and I lied, and I kind of intimidated him too. On purpose.

There…I said it.

This dude wasn’t just rich, he was old money rich. He was an heir to a funeral parlor dynasty in a highly populated and affluent area in Northern Virginia. He was thin, he was decent looking, and he seemed like a nice guy. I didn’t know him, but all of my friends who did know him, genuinely liked him. We had very little in common.

On the evening of my crime, the 3 of us were at a dear friend’s post funeral reception. The man we were laying to rest was like a second father to my future wife, and a very good friend to me. He was a “client” of this rich kid. It was an emotional time. My wife and I had some sparks flying between us for several weeks, maybe even a couple of months…I’m reasonably sure of this. Both of us were recently single, both with similar sensibilities, tastes, and sense of humor. But we were not dating. I had intentions of asking her out, however, at that time, I was in an extremely negative cash position, so I had not gotten to it quite yet.

My (not at the time) wife, her brother, and I rode to the funeral home together, and then back to the family home for the reception. When we got there, Richey Rich Funeral Boy was already there schmoozing the family and friends of our lost loved one. When we walked in the door, it was immediately plain to see that Clammy Hands Funeral Douche was attracted to the future Mrs. Large Man. In fairness, she was as anatomically close to Mattel’s Barbie Doll toy as any human woman you have ever seen. Now, put that package in a little black funeral dress and…duh… EVERY guy there was attracted to the Future Mrs. Large Man, and most likely even a few of the women.

I’m an expert at assessing the mood and tone of a room. I had “spidey senses” before Spiderman was even a thing. We hadn’t been there long before I noticed the object of my desire was laughing a little too sincerely at the Rigor Mortis Kid’s witty observations, and funny little quips. I knew there was danger afoot; this Barbie Doll was my destiny, and no formaldehyde smelling, skinny black tie wearing, grave digger was going to get in the way of my destiny.

Don Corleone taught us to keep our friends close, but our enemies closer. Pretty much everything I know and live my life by was taught to me in the 70’s by Don Corleone, Don Cornelius, and Miss Covington (Jr. High English teacher). So, knowing these lessons, I moved in…NOT on the Barbie doll, but on the prospective “Ken”. The cold-eyed undertaker, with his chiseled chin, tailored suit, and prep school charm was going to get a Large dose of Large Man. It’s not my comfort zone, but I can be charming, I can be funny, and I can be ruthless while doing so.

“So, Biff, you grew up with this crew?” I asked with a smile.

“Yeah, we’ve all been friends since grade school.”

“That’s nice, “I extended my hand, “I’m Large Man, I moved into the area about 8 years ago. They’re a great group of people, it’s nice to meet you.”

“Same here”, he replied. To be honest, it was a rather delicate handshake. Just sayin’.

As we shook hands, I couldn’t help but think of all the intestines, livers and gizzards he had handled just that day, and I quickly released my grip. We looked around the room, and we noticed the Barbie doll talking with her neighbors, and noticed everyone not involved in the conversation was kind of noticing her.  Barbie Doll (my destiny) has always had a way of creating a presence, and you never know if she’s trying or not.

We continue with some idle chat, talking about different dudes who were mutual friends, the passing of our friend, the funeral business in general, when simply out of nowhere, the Death Merchant says to me rather bashfully, “I don’t remember (Barbie) being so beautiful. I thought she was married? Is she? Is her husband here?”

“Oh dude? Where have you been?” I asked with phony surprise. “I thought you were connected to this clique. She’s married, yeah, but it didn’t take. She’s in the process of becoming unmarried.”

“Well, that’s lucky for the single men of Northern Virginia” he said, with some genuine enthusiasm.

“Oh yeah? Why do you say that?” I ask.

“Well look at her, dude! She’s…she’s gorgeous! She’s funny…SHE’S GORGEOUS! I don’t know how else to answer you.” He replies, again, somewhat bashfully.

He continues, “I’m recently single myself, and I haven’t really felt like dating with the newness of it all, but Barbie is kinda making me ‘rethink’ the whole single life thing.”

Even though this hearse driving stooge was wealthier, better looking, and more polished than me, and would have given my wife a MUCH more “comfortable” life than I ever could have; bashful little Ken dolls just wouldn’t do well with this Barbie. While my next comment was technically wrong, deceitful, and slightly immoral (being that it was an outright lie), I think I might have done this guy (and my Destiny) a favor. That’s the way I look at it, or at least it’s how I get myself to sleep at night for these last 25 years or so.

“Well, umm listen,” I replied softly as I leaned in a little, “and don’t feel bad about this, because you obviously didn’t know. But I’ve actually been seeing her for the last couple of weeks. We’re trying to keep it quiet while she’s going through this divorce thing, so we would appreciate it if you didn’t say anything to anyone.” I continued, “Now I’m not saying you can’t call her; I’m just saying I wouldn’t if I were you.”

I said these things to this 30-year-old trust fund punk as if they were completely true. I spoke while looking directly in his eyes, my words were as cold as the bodies he had stacked up in daddy’s office. “…we would appreciate it if you didn’t say anything to anyone.”

And he didn’t. So that was that.

As far as I know, until today, nothing was ever said to anyone. My ruse created some urgency on my part, I scraped together enough cash to take Barbie doll out for a couple of beers and a hot pretzel the following weekend. I don’t really know what happened to the Cremation Kid, but I never saw him again.

He wasn’t invited to the wedding, that would have been gloating on my part, and that’s just poor taste. I may not be honest, I may not have any integrity, and I may be poor…but I’m tasteful.

The Barbie doll and the Large Man have been together ever since. Not rich with money, but rich with love, and rich with problems that having lots of money would easily solve…so I feel kind of bad for her.

Nothing I can do about it now. (Put a Large smile emoji right here!!)

So that’s this entry to ‘The Large Man Chronicles’, most likely my last. Just in case I don’t make it back, thanks to all of you for reading, and thanks for giving me a voice. I love being The Large Man.