Archive for November, 2011

Places of Refuge

The geek posse at table 3, here at the Sly Fox Tavern, are working their waitress pretty hard – not from a service standpoint, but from a patience standpoint. I watch her pretend to be flattered; but the body language is all there…Dudes! Look at me, look at you…get a clue. She’s not letting them get to her, she brings these guys their beers, food, and a size small t-shirt.  Size smallI think I was 11 the last time I wore a size small T-shirt.

I’m not working my hot waitress though, Gina is only 18. She’s a beautiful 18, but still 18. I am immune to 18. Gina is a great waitress, and a knowledgeable beer wench for someone who doesn’t drink beer. I asked Gina to bring me an Odyssey Imperial I.P.A., a cup of Minestrone, and a blackened salmon Caesar salad – she did these things with a smile. What else could you ask for? If you ever find yourself slightly north and west of Philly, check out The Sly Fox in Royersford PA. It’s a very friendly and fun place. It’s a warm refuge on a cold November night.

Finding places of refuge in this cold cruel world is a must if you travel like I do. I’m always up for trying something new, but tried and true will usually win out if I get a vote. Places that give us comfort or people who give us peace of mind are  more valuable than the finest jewelry, the fattest wallet, the skimpiest bikini, or the most skillfully crafted beer.  The key is knowing when you’re there.

Because I had the advantage of some age and experience, the first time I kissed my wife, I knew that life as I knew it was over – it was the very last thing I wanted or needed, but I knew what it was the minute it happened. It was magic. The first second I laid eyes on my daughter, I knew I was hosed for the rest of my life – in the eyes of this little angel I saw my heart, not the heart that I thought I had, but my real heart. The first time my son fell asleep while laying on my chest, I knew that I could never hate myself again. I could never hate anybody again. This boy took all the hate out of me. If you spend time with this kid, he’ll do it to you too. This is what my home is like. This is why I look so good in all the pictures my wife takes. I’m not an attractive man – at all, it’s just that I’m (mostly) at peace…a peaceful nature looks good on anyone.

My home is a refuge. It’s a place where you can relax and be comfortable. This was really evident to me last night when I had a couple of out-of-town customers stop by for some pizza and a few beers. These guys are customers, but our relationship is one of friendship, and I loved having them in our home.  I think they had a good time; they sure jumped at the chance to go there when I offered choices for the evening. It was a great feeling.

We have a nice house, but it’s nothing fancy. Our furniture is old, most of it from when we were first married – still probably a year or two away from being replaced. We’re very proud of some artwork featuring our kids from my friend Margi, and our cousin Stacy. Our BFF Becky sculpted our dog in a circus setting, this artwork sits proudly on a bookcase, and there is sketch of a cowboy on a horse done by my friend DJ that would be a coveted piece of art by anyone. But other than a few personal treasures like these, there isn’t much in the way of material value. But anybody that would take the time to read a Large Man Chronicle would be the kind of person who would know that “material things” don’t make a home. The spirit of the house is what makes it a home. I think my wife is the spirit of our home.

Before I got married I never really had a home; I just lived in a house, and most of that time I wanted to be somewhere else. All of the houses I have lived in had heat, but most of them had very little warmth. They had electricity, but very little light. There was nothing wrong with these houses they just weren’t home.  It never felt great to get there.

But I also remember going to homes where it felt nice as soon as you walked in the door. Like the house could give you its own little hug. Some homes have warmth and light no matter the time of day or month of the year you visit.

I’ve mentioned my friend Rachael and her younger sister Carla in a Large Man tale or two. I have remained close to these chicks for over 30 years; time and distance apart have had no influence on our connection. As I look back, I think it was the sanctuary of the kitchen and dining room of their childhood home, and the gentle spirit and nurturing company of their Mom that forever connected me with these girls.

Mrs. Hopun was an art teacher living in a nice townhouse in the suburbs of D.C. She had a son in college, and two hot daughters in high school; she drove an orange Ford Maverick, spoke with a soft and deep feminine  voice, and I’ll never be able to explain that “something” about her presence that soothed me like a warm blanket on a cold winter night.

Her pretty daughters made me want to behave and be cool, but Mrs. Hopun and the sanctuary of her home, the priviledge of sitting at her dining room table, made me want to behave and be nice. There’s a big difference between cool and nice. It’s the first place that I remember as a “refuge”. Sometimes I think it’s funny that I remember it that way, because Rach and Carla were no strangers to sibling rivalry and a little bickering now and then…so it wasn’t always a place of peace, but it was peaceful for me; somehow, it all just seemed to settle me.

I remember storming out of my house as an 18-year-old, half boy/half man; pissed off about something (who knows what)) needing someplace – any place to go, and winding up at the Hopun home. I would knock on the door, walk in and simply say “Hi” and Mrs. Hopun would look at me through those great big 1979 “Mom” glasses and it would calm me down. She seemed to know.

Carla and Rachael’s Mom didn’t have to be nice to me; she chose to be nice to me. Rachael and Carla didn’t need a “big brother”… they had an awesome older brother who they both admired and looked up to. But they all still made room for me – I will ponder, “Why?” until the day my ponderer no longer ponders. I was, and am today, so lucky to have them as friends.

When I’m full of piss and vinegar, and someone is “testing” my peaceful nature… sometimes, it’s Mrs. Hopun’s spirit that calms me down. I hear her voice, I see her smile, she looks at me through those glasses and I can dial it back.  As much as I love Carla and Rachael, and I know that they love me, their Mother is the stronger influence in my life.  Sadly, Mom Hopun passed away a few years ago, not so sadly, her kindness has stayed with me. I wish I would have known how fondly I was going to remember that wonderful lady – I would have given her a few more hugs.

But, as we all know, times change, situations change, and hot girls find other boyfriends, or they go off to college, or they find boyfriends and go off college. Friendships remain, but that open door policy at Mom’s house changes – or you think this anyway. The mind of a 20-year-old half man half boy is a wreck in the best of circumstances. When that mind is terrified of its future, you can’t count on the rational process of thoughts. You can count on mayhem in some form or another. Had I written a blog in the late 70’s or early 80’s, it would have been called The Mayhem Chronicles.

Enter Kim, and a humble little efficiency apartment tucked in the middle of suburbia; another refuge. Kim’s place was an example of what I might aspire to in terms of a dwelling, when, or if, I ever decided to grow up. It was so cool! Kim had a job in the city; Kim had this sweet place – of her own! It was everything I thought a person could ever want.

At Kim’s you could listen to music as loud as you wanted, or sit quietly and watch TV & eat pizza on a snowy night, even if you had to walk miles to get there. You could sing along with the records on the stereo at the top of your lungs without shame, you could dance without a partner, and you could laugh until it hurt – all night long.

Sometimes our gang met at Kim’s place before a night on the town, most of the time we crashed at Kim’s place after a night on the town. Sometimes we would rendezvous at Kim’s in anticipation of a big night on the town and end up just staying there. We were having too much fun to leave! I wonder how many times Kim had to step over smelly stinking man-children on her way to work in the morning.

None of us dated Kim, she was a little too smart for that – she was a big sister. She was a fun person to be around, and she was always there: there for me, and there for her other friends too. As with my time with Mrs. Hopun,  I didn’t realize back then how those evenings with Kim would become memories that were going to be treasured by all of us,  and how her place of refuge forged friendships that would last a lifetime.  Though I didn’t give her enough hugs and appreciation back then, I never pass up a chance to give her one now – and I never will.

I’m gonna finish my beer, here in tonight’s temporary refuge, and then I’ll brave the cold and the wind and the couple hundred yard walk back to my hotel. Then I’ll dream about what it’s going to feel like when I walk into my nice warm home tomorrow night. It’s good to have something to look forward to.

Thanks for reading.

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