I got behind the wheel of my beautiful blue Buick today, and I headed west on I-90, bound for the great state of Michigan. Michigan is great for many reasons, but for me the greatness is because it’s the home of Bell’s Brewery, and Elderly Instruments.
Bell’s Brewery is the brewer of the very best seasonal beer ever made – Hopslam IPA. Hopslam is loaded with bitter citrus hops, sweet hints of honey, and a pineapple finish that is unlike any other potion on this earth. All these amazing flavors hover around every sip of this brew, it’s as complex to your taste buds as a three-ring circus is to your eyes…but you never forget that you are drinking a beer. It’s a very hoppy, very grown up, craft made beer, but in the end…it’s just a beer. It’s only available in the late winter months, and sells out immediately everywhere it goes. Every year, when I open the last bottle from my personal inventory, I put some in an atomizer and make my wife wear it as perfume for the entire month of March. I don’t really obsess over it though; like I said, it’s just a beer.
Elderly Instruments is a music store, not really that different from other music stores. But I guess what Hopslam is to the taste buds, Elderly is to the ears (and eyes). There are hundreds of guitars of every make, model, and vintage. You can walk in there and put your hands on guitars that were made when every single piece was carved and shaped by hand, but you can also plug-in a brand new “mass produced” Fender Stratocaster. This place shows you the entire spectrum of what a guitar can be, and everything is under one roof. It’s great…it’s amazing. It’s one of the few music stores that I’ve visited that feels more like a museum than a store.
Beer and guitars – I think I’m beginning to feel like my old self again. I need to visit a strip club to be completely sure, but I think I’m on my way.
I’ve spent the last few months working with muscles that I am not accustomed to using – emotional muscles that cover the entire human experience. I’ve experienced some of the worst sadness that I could have ever imagined. The meaning of the words, “I’m sorry for your loss” will be forever changed for me. The muscle of deep sorrow hurts to the depths of your soul when it is exercised.
You will almost always find me wading into the deep end of the pool of reflection and personal inventory when I face adversity, or loss. This time in my life has been no exception. As I reflect, I have some regret. I think about the way I have treated people who I care about and I wish I had done things differently. The “regret” muscle is heavy. Regret may be the heaviest load one’s soul can carry.
When I take that “personal inventory”, I realize how much I am still a work in progress. The personal growth muscle is kind of tricky; it gets sore from very little use. It gets sore because it’s simply easier to not make changes, and just stay who you are.
The other muscle group that seems to have me a little bent is the “Day Job, Sales Guy, Revenue Generator” group…this is the most boring of the muscle groups, so we won’t over analyze here, but I (just like most of you) need to find some balance. For the first time in years, I am tired and sore from the stress and strains of the day job. This never happens to me. The love of what I do is always the heavier part of that scale. But lately, revenue generation has required more heavy lifting than I’m used to. I have always fancied myself a maximum pay for minimal effort kinda guy – what I have done lately actually feels like work. The work muscles are really starting to ache.
I feel like I am beat up. I need a large hot tub, and a handful of emotional ibuprofen.
But, we can stretch these muscles the other way too.
As I shared in the last few Chronicles, I joined a team that did a little fundraising…so I have some charitable muscles that have been worked – trust me here, this was not a muscle that I even knew I had. This group did a good job raising funds, so I have some pride muscles working too.
I watched my brother get married last Friday. He married a wonderful woman, from a really cool family, in one of the nicest weddings I’ve ever been to; so the joy muscles just hit the gym.
My nephew just became a Dad for the first time. Mom and baby are healthy and well, and I think my sister’s kid is going to be a good Dad, and a good man… so relief, joy, pride, happiness, and hope are getting put through their paces.
New muscles, unused muscles, emotional muscles…it’s been a workout! But that’s life, isn’t it? Life is a workout.
All this (or that) being said; as I head down the highway today, things seem to be getting back to normal. (Whatever “normal” is) I’m traveling; going to see some customers that are really more like friends…I’m by myself, in my car, listening to my radio stations. I might get to try a new beer. If time allows, I’ll get to visit an awesome music store, and I can make time allow if I so choose. I have choices and options, and I am aware of all of my possibilities. This is a great feeling.
Early on in today’s journey, a guy with New York tags was following way to close for the speed we were traveling, and as stiff as I was with all this “emotional soreness” , I summoned the strength to flip him off. As I raised my middle finger and pushed it out the window, something seemed to snap inside of me. It felt like the warm embrace of an old friend. It felt so good. I felt like me for the first time in months. It seems like ages since I have given someone the finger. I missed that a lot.
Fresh off of the great feeling from the morning road rage, and after a delicious Chipotle lunch, I was completely boxed out of a lane change in very heavy traffic, just outside of Detroit. I had my signal on in plenty of time; just the slightest bit of courtesy from any one of several scores of drivers would have gotten me into the lane I was seeking. But no, there was no room for me, or my beautiful, ice blue, Le Sabre. I missed the exit and had to go on about a fifteen minute detour. I imagined myself choking the motorists who were so thoughtless. That was a nice feeling too.
I’ve been so caught up in sorrow, personal growth, regret, pride, hope, and overall emotional exhaustion; I’ve forgotten who I am. I am The Large Man. I am sarcastic, I rally against the buttheads of the world, I like wings, beers, guitars, my Buick, lost causes, coolers full of ice, beers, new-born babies, women, my kids, generating revenue, good books, my wife, funny stupid movies, being a smartass, strippers (but only the responsible ones – just the strippers who are working their way through medical school), old pictures of good friends, a fire pit in the middle of a gathering of my neighbors, long slow wet kisses, the smudge of newspaper ink on my fingers, and beers…that’s who I am. I am The Large Man.
I have no idea for sure what tomorrow will bring, but today, and for the first time in months, I felt like The Large Man again. Today, I was thinking it might be funny to write a Chronicle making fun of men who wear black socks with sandals. Ridiculing people who I don’t know, and who are different from me seems like a good “new beginning”.
I’m back baby!!
To be continued…