The Large Man Chronicles
Long Island , NY
From January 2009
This is an early Large Man story based on an experience that first put the writing bug in my head. This is probably the first LMC that was sent out to more than just a couple of email friends.
I travelled through Long Island today, Jones Beach, Fire Island, Massapequa …not that Massapequa is all that remarkable, I just like saying M a s s a p e q u a a a a… It’s almost as fun as Sacagawea. I could say Sacagawea 100 times a day, and never get tired of it….plus, I love ethnic women.
Anyway…I worked. I had a good slice of pizza for lunch. I went to a Target, and bought floss, spray starch (`cause that’s how I roll) a nice pair of navy blue Champion sweat pants for $8.99. (AWESOME!!) Then, I crossed the Long Island Sound into Connecticut on the Port Jefferson Ferry.
The Port Jeff Ferry system is a pretty impressive operation (even though it’s not particularly fun to say).It takes people from Long Island to Bridgeport CT – and back – several times a day…each and every day, and it’s been doing what it’s been doing for a long time. It’s significant to me because the last time (and the first time) I was on the Port Jeff Ferry was September 11th 2001. The Port Jeff Ferry meant a lot to me that day, it was my $48.50 ticket home to my family, when I wasn’t completely sure when or if I would see my family again.
I stood in silent awe and terror, on the East River in Queens NY shortly after the planes hit the World Trade Center. I was with a customer – completely out of harm’s way, but not sure about that fact at the time. I didn’t see anything happen, but I saw the smoky aftermath, I saw the throngs of pedestrian traffic walk across the Williamsburg Bridge…I saw things (like all of us did) that I would have rather not seen.
I saw other things too. On the Port Jefferson Ferry, on September 11th 2001, I saw people being kind to each other, I saw people helping each other out. I saw stock brokers and retail workers sitting together talking about what they had just escaped – in the nick of time. I saw Hasidic Jewish men complete with the “peyot” hair helping the children of veiled Muslim women get safely to a seat. I’m sure there were a few Republican men buying drinks for women that were pro-choice…I can’t really confirm that – it’s so hard to tell these days, but I’m sure it was happening. I saw humanity, or at least my understanding of what humanity should be.
I waited for over four hours in line to get on the ferry. I met a wonderful human being that was in line behind me…he was a fresh bait salesman… he didn’t smell like he sold fresh bait, but he promised me that was his trade. He sold worms, cut squid, and ballyhoo (almost as fun to say as Sacagawea) he had a 7th grade education, no money, no family, and a heart of gold. I also met a surly, judgmental ass, who was a corporate recruiter. He had the pedigree, money, power and prestige that we all think we want…what we dream of… he also had a heart as cold and careless as a crocodile. This confluence of people was one of my life’s greatest lessons… a wonderful blessing in an awful time. Because of the dichotomy of this day – the good things, and the horror that I saw, I will always ponder God’s plan. Even though I’m convinced that we can’t put it all together here on earth, I’ll never stop wondering, Why?
As I drove my car onto the ferry in 2001, I had no idea how I was going to pay for the trip. I had $15.00 in my wallet, and could get no more cash because all the ATM machines on Long Island were closed (I guess for fear of hoarding). I had ¼ tank of gas in my car and all the gas stations were closed too… (Who knows why?) I had flown into Long Island’s Islip airport the day before – on business. I was rockin` a sweet 2001 Ford Taurus rental in business white, with under 8,000 miles on it. I followed the herd onto the ferry – THANK GOODNESS they took credit cards.
The bait guy had a really good day. He took a liking to me, and had empathy for my cash position so he bought a few beers in the cocktail lounge for both of us…his business transactions were primarily handled in cash – so it worked out. Our bartender was so touched by my bait salesman’s generosity, that he bought us both a beer, walked from behind the bar and gave us a hug. Again…I saw a lot of kindness, a lot of humanity that day. The same bartender waited on me today, he remembered.
On the ferry that day, I met two women who would end up riding with me to Kansas City, where their families would meet them – coming from Arizona. It was great to have company, we all shared “best day” and “worst day” stories. I think the thing about that September journey that I will remember the most is that you can’t get in a pissing contest over discomfort or despair…we all have our crosses to bear, and we have all suffered pain, and triumph, and something in the middle. Bad things pass, good things pass too, all we can do is do our best to make the most out of today.
Today was a reminder of that day…. that awful day that changed all of our lives. I’m happy to say that while I certainly haven’t forgotten the horror of that September day, what I mostly remember about my 1 hour and 15 minute trip across Long Island Sound in the clear and cold of today, was the “kindness and humanity” that I saw on that day.
Today was a reminder that people are almost always at their very best, when things are at their very worst. That’s a good place to start.
Thanks for reading