Archive for December, 2011

This is something that happened this past summer; just a story to tell…

It’s 6:00 in the morning and I’m standing in line at a McDonald’s in Canada listening to a group of older gentlemen discussing the events of the world, the shortcomings of each other, and several morbid or vulgar reasons as to why their friend Paulie hasn’t shown up yet.

“Maybe he’s getting laid!” one of them says, and they all cracked up laughing.

“Jeez, maybe he died!” another says, and two of them laugh hysterically, while another of the friends scolds over the laughter, “Hey, that’s not funny!”

There was a little more laughter, but it was less enthusiastic, then there was kind of an awkward silence.

Then the first guy says, “Maybe he got laid, AND IT KILLED HIM!”

BAAAAHHHH HHHHAAAAAHH HHHHHAAAAAHHHHH! Belly laughs, all in unison, like this was the funniest joke ever told.

This seems like it might be a regular rendezvous for this group; some coffee, some laughter, and some fellowship, for a handful of older guys who maybe don’t want to hang out in a bar. A friendly bunch of guys, wearing their “old guy” uniforms:  plaid or khaki shorts, tee shirts, sandals, and black socks. I imagine they get together a couple of times a week – their wives shooing them out of the house to get some peace and quiet. They probably tell the same stories over and over again, and they laugh at every tale like it’s the first time they heard it. I suspect these things, because I find myself trending in this general direction too. It feels like I’m watching an un-official meeting of a support group for getting older.

Things move a little slower in Canada, so I eavesdropped on the conversation for a few minutes as I waited in line for my sausage McMuffin. I envy these guys. As I watch and listen, I wonder how long they have known each other, who the leaders are, who organizes these get togethers …I’m 2,695 miles away from home, (I Googled it for the sake of literary accuracy) so I know nothing about this group. I envy them because even though I am just a distant observer, I can see the closeness and the camaraderie of the group. They are best friends, and they care about each other…they are taking care of each other, and that is admirable.

But this is where it got interesting…

As I’m staring and listening, one of the guys in the group notices my staring and listening…and he doesn’t like it. He looks up from the table where he’s sitting and watches me for a moment, and I see the puffing of the chest and the coldness of the stare, and while I do not immediately make eye contact with him, I feel his need to make eye contact with me.

Shit! This is not what I need at 6:00 AM in a foreign country. This guy is 70 years old if he’s 20, and he’s 150 pounds of weary, aged, skin and bones. Soaking wet he meets my 150 pound estimation. By contrast, I am a rather Large Man. I have a shaved head, a full beard, and steel blue eyes that can cut you like a razor when they have to. I look like a lot of things; somebody that a 70 year old man would randomly pick a fight with is not one of them. This isn’t a smart ass teenager who is showing off in front of his friends or a 20 something year old “boy” who caught me staring at his girlfriend’s ass. This guy has an issue with my interest in the group. I’m sensing a protective thing… from a man. In these situations, the difference between a man and a boy is that a boy will fight you, a man will hurt you. This is not a good set of circumstances for anyone.

I make the eye contact that he is looking for, it’s unavoidable. As soon as our eyes meet, he points a shaking finger at me and asks, “You got a problem?”

His right hand points and shakes with his index finger and thumb forming the shape of a pistol, his left hand is holding on to his coffee cup like it’s an anchor. He is not shaking from nervous fear, he is shaking from the ravages of age and from the adrenaline of anger…he is a grizzly protecting his cubs. He has some steely blue eyes of his own, and they lock onto mine. He has mistaken my interest as amusement, my admiration as maybe some kind of mocking. He is wrong, but he doesn’t know it, and he needs me to explain why I’m so interested in their private gathering in this public place.

As will happen in these situations, the vibe sort of spreads over the crowd; there comes a silence that feels like a gasp, but it’s just the collective holding of breath and the turning of heads towards the energy source. It is felt in the air because while we spend most of our time in our own world – our own bubble, when the electricity of an intense moment becomes bigger than what our bodies can contain, it is felt by everyone in the immediate area.  I believe this happens because we are all connected. There may be some other scientific explanation for these phenomena, but it would be wrong.  We are all connected. When a moment becomes big, we all notice, and we all become a part of it.

Because I have such a profound command of the English language, and I know how to stay cool under pressure, I responded the only way anyone could expect me to:


He stands up and says in a raspy voice of age, “You heard me Kojak! I’m asking if you have a problem.”

“No sir.”

His buddies are looking at me almost in pity, they apparently think I’m about to take the ass-whipping of my life. Fortunately, my respectful reply of “No sir” disarms one of the more jovial gang members; he looks at his finger pointing friend and says, “Lemmy! What’s your problem? The guy just wants a biscuit!”

“Well he should get his biscuit and be on his way then” Lemmy replies to his friend, never taking his eyes off of mine.

“Is there something on your mind young man? Do you think there is something you should be concerned about at this table?” Lemmy asked.

“LEMMY!” the friend shouts with a scolding tone. “WHAT IS HE DOING?”

“He’s staring at us and… and he’s smiling like he thinks something’s funny or somethin’.”

“Maybe he’s gay”, says another of the friends, trying not to laugh. This gets a chuckle from two of the other guys in the group who are just watching. “Maybe he just likes you.” This generates a little more laughter. They are like school kids cutting up in class.

At this point I regretfully have to say that there is another conflict starting up, it’s inside my head. The Dumbass Male gene is engaging me; there is just the slightest tickle in the back of my brain that wants me to say, “Sit down and shut up old man before I bust your 150 pound ass. I’m not bothering you, and you have no idea what you’re stepping into”. That gene is wrestling with the Fear gene. The Fear gene is saying “Look at this dude, Large Man! He has NO fear! This is intense! You haven’t been in a fight in over thirty years, man…and you lost that one. This dude could be some kind of war veteran or something. He’s gonna fuck you up in a foreign country, get your clothes dirty, and you’re gonna miss your 8:30 appointment. Mess with this geezer and you’ll end up in a Turkish prison (yeah, I know, it’s Canada) like that dude from Midnight Express. Turn around and ignore him. Save yourself! You are a coward, and there is nothing wrong with that; jail would be difficult for a guy that looks as good as you!”

The Common Sense gene (a fairly dormant gene for me) stepped in and pushed Fear and Dumbass Male aside, and forced me to say out loud to Lemmy, “Sir, I was just admiring you and your group of friends. I was probably staring and smiling, but I promise you I wasn’t laughing at you. You look like a close-knit group, and I was just admiring you. I’m no threat to you.” I said these things while keeping eye contact with my challenger. I was trying to send a message of no threat, but no fear…so my message was only half of a lie.

The guy who was trying to be the peacemaker says, “See Lemmy… He admires you. Now sit down and drink your coffee.” Lemmy just stares at me.

Total silence takes over the McDonald’s in Surrey British Columbia. As we stood on that terra cotta floor, the smell of conflict hung as heavy in the air as the smell of the McHash Browns in the McFryers. It looked like somebody was about to get into a McFight and nobody knew what to do. The citizens gathered at this fast food emporium in this peace loving nation were waiting for the next McMove.

What will happen?

Will the old guy attack?

Did the bald guy say enough to quell the situation?

Will the McRib ever return to Canada?

“Just leave us alone.” Lemmy says, and he sits down.

“Sure” is my reply, and I turn around and wait my turn for a Sausage McMuffin and medium Diet Coke.

At that moment you could feel the air start coming back into the room. Crisis averted.

By the time I got my meal, Paulie, the absent friend whom they were so concerned about earlier shows up. I’m not sure if he was late because he was getting laid or not, obviously it wasn’t because he died. I got my sandwich and drink “to go”, and as I grabbed some napkins and a straw, I could hear the friends filling in Paulie about the potential rumble, while razzing Lemmy about what a “badass” he was.

As I walked out the door I heard, “Look Lemmy – you scared him off! He’s so afraid of your left hook that he got his biscuit to go!”

BAaaahhhhhaaaahhhh…they all laugh. While they laugh, Fear and Dumbass Male continue their debate inside my head, and Common Sense is keeping my legs moving in the opposite direction, and I’m good with that. I made my 8:30 appointment, with clean clothes…and it’s much better telling you this story from Ray’s Place in Kent Ohio, than from a Turkish prison in British Columbia.

Happy New Year & Thanks for reading…

Big Love,

The Large Man

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Tim Tebow

Today’s Large Man tale is likely to upset some of you. It might offend those of you who hold a strong Christian faith. I’m quite sure it will bother a few of my friends who are extremely anti-evangelical. Also, those of you who read The Large Man Chronicles to hear me talk about the comfort of the loving home that my wife has given me, the joy and satisfaction of my job, the sweetness of my children and the peace that they bring to my soul, and all the wonder and magic that I discover as I turn over another stone on this cobbled road we call “life” …yeah all that stuff, you guys are gonna be pissed off too.

What’s the deal with Tim Tebow? How does such a simple young man create such polar passion? Everybody except my football and common sense mentor, DJ, either loves him or hates him. I get the love, I LOVE watching this guy play football (well, if we exclude the first 51 minutes of every game he plays), but I don’t understand the hate.

It’s not that I’m above hate. I’m very capable of feeling and expressing hate. Hate is an ugly, ugly, awful word, but I hate. In the right context, I think it’s perfectly acceptable for a human to hate something. I hate any kind of cooked cabbage. I hate the way it smells, I hate the way it looks, I hate the taste, and I hate the way it feels in my cabbage – hating mouth! I hate the way I feel when somebody has invited me to their home for dinner, and only after I accept do I find out that they are having corned beef and cabbage. I hate it.

I’m not a theologian, or a teacher of the Gospel, and I’m only a casual student;  but I don’t think Jesus hates, and I don’t think his Dad hates…probably not even cooked cabbage, but I don’t know these things, it’s just what I think. I don’t know exactly what the Bible teaches about this stuff either.(I am not currently a church goer) So much of it seems to be subject to the interpretation of the man or woman – the human, who is delivering the message, and I have trust issues with some of the messengers . I have some belief, but I don’t have a lot of faith in most messengers. This is tricky, but it’s mine, and I don’t care if you agree or disagree with my position on this matter. It’s mine.

However, I have faith in your faith. I believe in my friend Diane’s belief that Jesus is the path, an amazing chick named Natalie once told me that the easiest thing she has ever done was to turn her life over to her Lord; I believe Natalie too. I trust these messengers. Don’t get me started on Karen and Marty…I absolutely trust their faith; I enjoy being around them and seeing the peace that this faith brings. I believe all these people when they talk with me about their God because they believe; they’re not just hoping that it’s all true. There is some power in that for me.

I don’t know Tim Tebow, but I believe him too. Also, I don’t care. “Praise the Lord until your heart explodes with the glory of amazing Grace”, is what I say. I mean, if that’s what you want. But if you don’t, that’s cool too. I DON’T CARE. I can’t remember a time when someone else’s devotion to God has hurt me. I have no recollection of any interaction with a non-believer who has caused me harm based on their lack of faith either. Some of you readers may have a different story.  The debate on where we should, or should not, display a manger scene could probably be inserted here…but it’s my blog, and we ain’t goin’ there. We’re not going there because both sides of this issue have a valid point.

A customer showed me a website today called “I Hate Tim Tebow” or some such nonsense. Hate? Really? I wonder how someone would hate another person for winning, for being an inspirational leader, or for looking good in a blue and orange football uniform.

Is it the whole Gator Nation thing? I kinda get that I’ve never been a University of Florida fan, but only because I always liked Bobby Bowden (FL State head coach 1976 – 2009) and I thought Steve Spurrier (Gator coach 1989 -2002) seemed like kind of a dick. Or, is it the faith thing?

Why do people of extreme faith scare so many of us people who are unsure, or “not of” faith? Based on the body of work we’ve seen so far, Tebow isn’t Jimmy Swaggart. Tebow isn’t Jim Bakker. Tim Tebow isn’t a priest who molested children, he hasn’t burned or drowned an accused witch in the name of God, and he hasn’t made anyone wear a scarlet A on their sweater when they banged their psych professor (is that how that story goes?). Tebow hasn’t committed any of the atrocities that have been inflicted upon mankind in the name of Faith and God.  In fact, in all my Tim Tebow research, I haven’t heard of him casting a single “stone” or judgment outward towards anybody…he doesn’t even complain about refs or the balls that his below average receiving corps consistently drop. Tim Tebow doesn’t go on TV and ask you for money so he can line his already well lined coffers, he does raise money for Christian based charities…and he gave like a gazillion dollars of his own money to help build a hospital for critical care and needy kids in the Philippines; I guess some people might think that’s kind of a dick move.

Also, and this is kinda funny, based on the body of work we’ve seen so far, he isn’t a very good NFL quarterback either. He isn’t able to consistently decipher a zip read, and he seems  to have difficulty with accuracy on most of the timing routes – like a 15 yard out. Tebow’s “Mike” or blitz recognition is suspect to say the least, this has him forever fleeing the pocket prematurely, and he seems to suffer from a brain freeze at the sight of a Tampa 2 defense. This is funny because no player that I can recall has been as consistently bad as Tebow…I mean it; this dude really sucks as a quarterback…most of the time. For three 15 minute quarters, and for 10 minutes of the fourth quarter you wonder how he was ever even successful in high school. And then the magic happens, down by 13 points against a top NFL defense…with only 3 minutes left in the game, Tebow somehow turns it into a Denver Broncos overtime victory 16 -13.

Can I get an AMEN! Or a HOLY SHIT!

I love magic! I love watching magic acts; I don’t care what the trick is – it’s MAGIC! I don’t think that because God knows that Tim Tebow is going to thank Him for the victory after the game, “First and Foremost…” that He forces Marion Barber to run out-of-bounds or fumble. I don’t think God makes Miami or Detroit kickers miss field goals so He can hear Tim Tebow give Jesus credit for his good fortune. I think God is comfortable enough in his own image that he doesn’t really care if Timmy brings Him up or not. That’s what I think, but I don’t know. I wonder how Tebow will start an interview after he loses a game. (IF he ever loses again – that’s a big IF) Will he thank “Jesus Christ his Savior…” for the…the loss? I don’t know how he’s going to handle that, but I don’t care. It’s fun to watch.

Here is what I do know; true leaders, wholesome heroes, and genuine articles of any kind are rare. Tebow seems to be all of these things. Tebow has a strong faith in God, but he has a strong, non-arrogant faith in himself too. This is a nice lesson for our youth – shoot…this is a nice lesson for ME! In every conversation about his shortcomings, he humbly expresses how his teammates “lift him up”, and how he will “work hard” to improve his game. I don’t know about you people,  but I think I would like to work on a team being led by someone like that.

I got a mini lecture from a Facebook commenter when I posted on my page that Tebow was a hero:

(Paraphrasing) “Heroes don’t play [sports]…heroes save people from burning buildings…fight for our freedom overseas”

Yes they do – I couldn’t agree more, but heroes are not limited to only those roles. Heroes inspire people; heroes tell you that they know you can when you think you can’t, heroes can be people who hold themselves accountable in the face of adversity, and heroes build hospitals for kids in underdeveloped countries. I don’t need someone to tell me what a hero is; I’ve seen more than a few, and I know them when I see them. Tim Tebow is a hero; a big, good looking, Christian, non-quarterback playing, Florida-friggin-Gator, winning, hero…I love this kid.

 Hate Tim Tebow? Really? It almost seems to me that if you hate this guy, you’re just looking for someone to hate.  Don’t hate the player, or the person, or the Faith…hate the game. Hate the cabbage.

Hopefully there will be a “next time”, until then…

Thanks for reading.

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“Why did you drive your car into a ditch?” he asked.

“I didn’t” I replied, sheepishly, not really knowing how to answer my friend.

“Then why are we in a ditch?”

“I was trying to make a U-turn and I must have misjudged where the shoulder ended.”

“Well, (pause) lots of people make U-turns, but I don’t know anybody who ends up in a ditch.” Now he’s agitated. “Why you drive in a ditch? WHY YOU MAKIN A U-TURN ANYWAY!” Now he’s yelling. “Only you man. Only you. You’re the only dude I know can make a U- turn and drive your car INTO A DITCH!”

“I don’t think it’s that bad.”

“It ain’t that GOOD! WE’RE IN A DITCH!”

“Why do you have to make everything such a big deal?” I asked. “I accidentally drove the car off of the road while trying to turn around so I can show you something cool. We’ll push the car out and be on our way.” Now I’m getting a little irritated, it really didn’t seem like that big of a deal. It was my car getting messed up not his.

“There’s nothing for me to see that’s cool enough for me to get over being in a ditch in the middle of the country on a Sunday morning. You can’t drive, man….you can’t drive. And we ain’t pushin this car out, I can’t even get out on my side, this tree is right up against the door. We’re gonna have to get towed. How we gonna get a tow truck in the middle of a Sunday morning? In the middle of the country?”

“One could drive by; we’ll just flag someone down.” I said.


He was really stuck on his point of my inability to drive. My friend yelled this last bit of his tirade while laughing at me. At least now he was laughing and he could find the humor in the situation.

He was pretty much right about everything though; in my early years – my Mayhem Years, my driving skills were not strong. I was easily distracted, I didn’t have good equipment, I was insufficiently funded, and I was usually upset, angry, broken-hearted, or drunk. But I would also submit that nobody from the Prince William Driving Academy was knocking on his door to offer him a position as a driving instructor either. My 20-year-old friend only started driving about 2 years earlier, and he couldn’t make a lane change to save his life. I thought about mentioning what a shitty driver he was as he was chewing me out, but when DJ is in this kind of agitated state it’s not a good idea to kick that hornet’s nest. Regardless of whether my friend is right or wrong, he loses very few arguments, and I did, in fact, just drive my car into a ditch.

He was also right about the fact that we had not seen a car since we (well…I) accidentally disabled this royal blue metal flake 1972 Plymouth Duster on a country road in western Prince William County. We were in a tight spot.

It was one of those beautiful fall mornings in Virginia. The air was crisp and clean and brisk. The hardwood trees were in their full firework display of autumnal color; various shades of red, and gold, and green; the air smelled like firewood and football. It’s my absolute favorite time of year, and this day was going to be a great day. We decide to go for a little cruise in the Duster, pick up some brewskis, ice them down in the perpetual cooler that rode in the fold down back seat of my car, and spend the afternoon watching football. A couple of young ladies were going to join us at DJ’s place for the 4:00 game…it was simply a great day to be an American male. Except…

…except for the fact that we were in a ditch. One of the things that I have always admired about my lifelong friend is that he rarely uses curse words. I drop an F bomb when I’m helping my kids with their homework, someone could steal his wallet and he would just say, “Dang it!” As we tried to push the car out of the ditch, and we trapped it more hopelessly, (as DJ had predicted) I was expecting a tirade of cursing. There was none. The car wedged itself tighter against the trunk of the pine tree he mentioned earlier, and he just laughed. It wasn’t a laugh of humor; it was a laugh of frustration seasoned with a little disgust.

“We are really testing our badness here. There is a very good chance that we’re gonna have to WALK for a while, and wherever we walk to, there’s gonna be somebody who will see us. Two broke ass, Sunday walking, car in the ditch, so-n-so’s…” (I think by so-n-so’s, he meant “Mother F-ers”, at least that’s the phrase I would use, but I have no confirmation of his actual meaning. He may just have meant “so-n-so’s” which I think most people would agree with me that “Mother F-er” would probably be the more appropriate phrase or term).

“So you’re really just worried about how this will look?” I ask.

“YES!” agitated again…”YOU CAN’T DRIVE, DUDE!”

“I drive better than you.”

“Oh yeah? When’s the last time you saw me drive in a ditch?”

I had no retort. He wins the argument, again.

“We are really testing our badness” he repeats.

So we lean on the side of my incapacitated ’72 Plymouth Duster for a few minutes, in silence.  Because I am, and have always been a positive, half full glass thinking so-n-so (excuse me, I mean Mother –F-er) I wasn’t really too bummed out, I just figured someone would come by and help us out…and eventually…after about 30 minutes or so, a good ol’ boy with a big ol’ truck, with big ol’ tires, and some chain stopped and asked us if we needed some help. I said “yes”.

“How much would you charge to pull us out?” I asked.

“You got fifteen bucks?” was his reply. DJ and I looked at our available resources, which was basically his wallet and my cooler, DJ had twenty –three dollars…I had twenty-four Michelobs.

“Pay the man.” I said with the confidence of 5 Star General. Then I got behind the wheel of my almost sideways leaning car, watched as they connected the chains, I turned the key and threw that blue beauty into gear. The car rolled out of its country road confinement with the ease of the birthing of a third child. There were a few scratches, a minor dent, but nothing that would need any shop work. All-n-all, it was a no big deal. We made it home in time for the 1:00 game.

At half time, DJ asked me why he was the person who had to “pay the man” when it was my car, my ditch, and my stupid decision. This was a fair question. I simply told him, that “…the reason we ended up in the ditch in first place was because I was trying to show you something cool, so obviously the situation was caused by you, and therefore your responsibility. But it’s also because I had no money; I spend my last dime on the beer that we are enjoying right now. You should be thanking me for this; you were on an adventure today, you shouldn’t be complaining.”

“Yeah, I should be thanking you. You owe me…” Just then, just at the beginning of his lecture on my driving, and my money management skills, just as he was about to start the debate and tell me what the interest rate would be on his fifteen dollar loan, the Universe intervened and put Jayne Kennedy from NFL Today on the television screen for some kind of special report. We both immediately became lost in her intensity, her intellect, and her cutting journalistic style…and her amazing rack, and her gorgeous eyes. Soon after Jayne finished, our lady guests arrived, we drank our Mich, and we enjoyed the beautiful fall day. The money issue was forgotten, and has only been mentioned since in amused reflection.

I probably owe DJ 15 dollars. I’ll catch him next time I see him.

This is but one of many stories from the Mayhem Years. It was a dangerous time, but it was a joyous time. It was a time of fear, because it was a time of discovery and growth, but it was also a time of exhilaration because it was a time of really living. I was riding on a razor edge – romance, adventure, prosperity, laughter and glory on one side; abject disaster, bodily harm and property damage…and jail time, on the other. I experienced all these things. It could be that the greatest personal accomplishment of my life was simply surviving the Mayhem Years. As Charles Dickens wrote… It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, and it was the age of foolishness…heavy accent on foolishness.

To be continued…maybe.

Thank you all for reading, it gives me great joy to know that these tales are worthy of your time. Your comments of praise or disappointment are encouraged and appreciated; this is how a writer grows. If you wish to discuss your points privately, please send an email to thelargeman@gmail.com

If you wish to become a fan on Facebook, there’s a Large Man page there too: enter Fan of The Large Man Chronicles in the search box at the top of your Facebook home page and it will get you there.

If you don’t hear from me before Christmas, have the very best of holiday seasons. Hug your kids, hug your parents, hug anyone you can.

Big Love,

The Large Man

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