Archive for the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

The Large Man Chronicles 



My 10 year old daughter has asked the Santa question to my wife already, and she prefaced the question by reminding my bride “the worst thing you can do is to tell a lie”.

We have had that agreement since she was about 5 years old. 

I felt that the agreement was necessary because, as a young person I was such a pathological liar – George Costanza had nothing on me. I once told my mom that my biology teacher entered my terrarium in the state high-school science fair, and that I would be away all day and night on a Saturday, and that it would cost $50. I then went to the local drive in movie with my buddies, drank Malt Duck until I puked, and missed being hit by a car by mere inches. One of many sad and shameful things about this recollection is that I more than likely could have just told my mom what I was doing, (less the Malt Duck) and she would have been fine with the activity. But with the story I used, I had to create more lies to cover the original. What place did I come in? What was the winning entry? Etc. etc. I then had to deal with the guilt of all the lies, and a $50.00 embezzlement from my poor sweet mother. 

That’s just one mildly disturbing tale of many. The BS that I conjured as a teenager and as a young adult was my full-time job. I have since learned why I did those things, and I won’t bore anyone with the psychology behind it all now. I will say that today, trust is fairly sacred to me. For my children to have the kind of teenage years I want them to have, I will have to be able to trust them completely. SO…they should expect the same in return. Right? 

So… what to do? What to do? Santa? Tooth Fairy? Easter Bunny? Wikipedia? Hooters girls are Santa’s elves in their summer job?  Believing in these things is monumentally important in our home – as they are in many homes. I’ve read so many different strategies on how to handle this, and I have listened to many more ideas from well-meaning parents, friends, and co-workers.  This is an issue that nobody can help with, mostly because I don’t want any help. My heartfelt belief is that a daughter’s relationship with her father – when it comes to trust is unique to the individuals involved. What works in some families, would not in others.


In the Large Man world, a little girl has to believe in her father, and what he teaches.  Believing that the things your parents tell you are true is a critical ingredient to creating a safe haven for a child. Will the weight of the disappointment of Santa Claus being more of a spirit in your heart than a real person that you can touch, confuse the fact that you really do need to do your homework and go to college because you won’t have a chance in life without a good education? I don’t know. 

No tooth fairy! Really? What other bullshit have you been feeding me dad? Are drugs really bad for you? Should I really wait until I’m 35 to kiss a guy? Am I really safe with you? Are there really and truly no monsters in my closet? Was the lady you were hugging at the mall today REALLY your cousin? 

These are tough things to deal with, and frankly, these things are the reason why I told my wife that wanted to raise bullmastiffs – NOT children. But here I am, too late to turn back, and too early to send her off to the college I have found for her. (I chose an all girl college on a remote island off of the Georgia coast surrounded by sharp rocks, and man-eating sharks. The administration and faculty are all heterosexual virgin women, and all the dormitories are guarded by ferocious penis eating pit bulls. She may never learn how to parallel park, and we’re going to have to pay the out-of-state tuition fees, but when it comes to your daughter’s education you should look at safety and quality – NOT the price tag). 

I remember when my mother told me that there was no Santa; I called her a lying whore, then tried to burn down our Christmas tree. “Lies! Lies!” I screamed in despair. I overreacted. I was 16 and had just failed my driver’s test for the second time, so it was a bit of an emotional day. Based on that memory alone, you can see why I’m a little apprehensive about this subject, and how to discuss it with my baby girl. 

I think we’ll be able to get through one more year. She’s still young enough to trust the grown ups without many conditions. And she is fearful enough to the adage that non-believers get no visit to completely dismiss all belief in St. Nick. But you can see it coming. You see her looking over her shoulder to see our reaction to key moments as we watch Elf, The Santa Claus, and Bad Santa. The theme of all these classic family movies revolves around the premise of adults not believing in Santa Claus. 

I blame my wife for most of this. I assumed when she agreed to marry me when she wasn’t even pregnant that she wasn’t very smart. I assumed incorrectly. My wife finished college in only 4 years! Had I married someone a little bit closer to my IQ level we would be worrying about this 5 years from now.  But thanks to my little swimmers taking a dip into the deeper end of the gene pool, we’ve ended up with a fairly smart child. What to do? What to do? 

Thanks for reading, this one actually will be continued… 

Merry Christmas, 

The Large Man

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Large Man Chronicles

November 11th, 2009

Silver Linings, Tragic Beauty…Remembering Our Veterans

Last month I went to a service at Arlington National Cemetery for the parents of one of my best friends from high school. After the service I went to my friend’s home, I joined him and another of our high school buddies over cigars and a few drinks… and (thankfully) even some laughs. My friend, Kirk, is a great guy – one of the funniest people you will ever meet. His sisters were the object of many a crush when we were all in high school…30 years later these women are still beautiful. This is a great American family and my heart just ached for their loss.

My friend described to us the silver linings that he had been able to find since the tragic passing of his parents. It was good to see, good to hear. I love this dude; I love a lot of the people who attended the service with me. I was sandwiched in between two homecoming queens from my high school. I stood next to the men that stood with me the day I got married. We all saw and spoke to friends that we had not seen in years. We all wish we could have gathered under different circumstances.

Deep reflection will usually haunt my days after things like this. This time it was more so than usual. The events of the day, October 6th 2009, the things that I saw and heard were very powerful and so moving to me – tragic and beautiful. I asked Kirk if he would mind if I wrote a story about the day. He flattered me with his response. I hope with all my heart I convey it well.

My friend’s parents, Jack and Adele Kightlinger, were laid to rest after a car accident took them from us in early September. They were laid to rest in a field of honor because of their service to our country: Jack, for his 22 years in the U.S. Army, and being a combat veteran of the Korean War, and Adele, as a loved one that waited for her soldier to come home. They were both 77 years old when we lost them, they were both from a small town in PA, and they had been together since they were in 8th grade. They were a great American love story… we’ll get to that in a minute or two. 

Arlington National Cemetery 

Like most people in our country, I had never been to a service at Arlington National Cemetery before. The terms “place of honor”, and “hallowed ground” are often heard, but I believe seldom understood. Go and you’ll understand. Stand amidst these rolling hills and stare at the sea of white markers…almost 300,000 Christian crosses, Stars of David, Crescent & Stars of our Muslim service men…Hindu, Sikh, Mormon…every faith, and every walk of life has been laid to rest here in this hallowed ground; this field of honor.

When the chaplain spoke at the service, and he mentioned how my friends parents “answered the call of their nation” it started making sense to me. When the rifles cracked, and I saw the flag being folded and presented to the children “On behalf of a grateful nation”, my heart ached with sadness and soared with pride at the same moment. It was then that I understood. As I stood there with the children and grandchildren of Jack and Adele Kightlinger, I was one of them, we all were. We were all proud Americans that were touched by those who served our country.

I stood with pride and stared at all these white markers, small in stature yet enormous in meaning. These markers are eternal monuments to the heroes that answered the call, and to their friends and their families, and to you and me. This place of Honor, this hallowed ground honors us all. I look forward to a time when my children can understand these concepts and I can take them there and (hopefully) explain to them what it all means. I hope they will be able to understand the pride that accompanies sacrifice. The images of that day, October 6th 2009, will be permanently etched in my memory.

 A Love Story…

After Jack served his country in the Army, he spent the next thirty years serving his country (and the world) as a White House photographer. From President Lyndon Johnson to President Ronald Reagan, Jack Kightlinger captured the history of our country’s highest office one snapshot at a time. Obviously a career like that is not a 9 to 5 gig. It was not unusual for Jack to be away from home for 20 days at a time – sometimes longer, sometimes over holidays. I know a little about what it takes to make that happen. Mostly, it takes a special partner. Almost always, it takes a woman. Adele served her country (and the world) as the wife and partner of a man who chronicled history. She raised three cool kids, she kept a warm and welcoming home (I know – I had been there), and she built a solid family, and she did it all with one hand behind her back. Adele Kightlinger was a cool, tough, chick.

Jack Kightlinger discovered this cool chick in Jr. High School. Adele Elway sat in front by the pencil sharpener in one of Jack’s 8th grade classrooms. After a conversation or two, Jack became a little desperate for Adele’s attention. Necessity is the mother of invention, and Adele became a necessity to Jack. Just about every day, he gathered all the pencils of his buddies sitting in the general area of his desk, marched up to the front of the room and sharpened pencils to a surgical precision point so he could rap with the cool, cute chick. Some pencils probably had to be sharpened twice. Now THAT is game my friends…add the fact that young Jack was in 8th grade when he devised the plan, makes it that much more impressive. Jack got Adele’s undivided attention for 8 to 12 minutes every day in the guise of performing needed service for his buddies.

Love was born; possibly in front of a pencil sharpener in the small town of Meadville, PA. True love. Love that survived the peer pressure of high school, the distance of college, the horrors of war, and a career that sometimes kept them apart for weeks at a time. Jack and Adele were together for the rest of their lives. For the next 60 plus years their hearts were together. One love for two lives.

I think about this over and over again, and I marvel at the beauty. I wish I knew more – the pencil sharpener story – charming as it is, is just one of what has to be thousands of fascinating little moments in this love story.

What touches me most can only be explained by how I relate to that kind of love. I can honestly say that I’ve been in love 5 times in my life. Five times in my life, I thought that I met the person that I could spend the rest of my life with. Obviously, 4 times I was wrong. Love can be complicated. Four times after investing my heart and soul into a love that I hoped would last forever, I woke up and faced a morning…the beginning of a new day, wondering how I would be able to cope with losing that love. I know that I’m not the only person that’s ever faced one of these mornings, most of us have.

BUT…Jack and Adele and never did. Never. They got it right the first time, and their love survived it all. War, work, life…even death was not stronger than their love. They never had to wonder how they would cope.

On the afternoon of Monday September 14th 2009 Jack Kightlinger passed away due to injuries incurred from a car accident. Adele was with Jack in the car, although she was injured, the injuries did not appear to be life threatening. But, very early on Tuesday September 15th 2009, well before the light of a new day ever touched her eyes, before she ever had to wonder what she would do without him… Adele joined Jack , due to complications from the same accident. More likely it was due to complications of one true love. Tragic and beautiful.

THAT…is a love story. 

I hope on this day, November 11th 2009, you will take a moment or two and think about the sacrifices that come with service to our country. I hope that you will think about the mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters that are in harm’s way because they believe that this country’s safety and ideals are worth protecting. I hope with all my heart you will remember the ones that came before, the ones that gave the ultimate sacrifice, and the ones that would have…ones like Jack and Adele Kightlinger. They are all heroes.

I also hope that if you see someone in uniform today, or any day, you’ll say “Thank you for your service”. There is someone out there that loves them, and wants them home safe and sound. We all do.

Thank you for reading…until next time,

The Large Man

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Large Man Chronicles

October 30th 2009

Tips for the Modern Traveler

I may have one of the best jobs in the world. My job is to fly or drive all over this great land of ours and tell people the stuff my company makes is really good. Sometimes they buy the stuff. When they buy the stuff I thank them for buying the stuff. Sometimes I thank them with dinner and drink…sometimes a tee-shirt with my company’s logo on the front pocket… sometimes a round of golf. Not a bad gig – I get to go with them for the dinner and drink. I get to go with them for golf. Unless the customer is a woman, I let them enjoy the tee-shirts by themselves.

The job is exciting, sometimes even rewarding; but the logistics of this job are a bitch. I am either on a plane, in an airport, or in a car for hours on end.  In these travels, I often feel like that little kid in the movie The Sixth Sense. Early in the film he makes a very emotional revelation to Bruce Willis, “I see dead people”. My revelation here is close, but I see dumb people. (Spoken with the same Haley Joel Osment sniffle)

Here is what I mean…On what planet does it make sense to give a verbal bitch slap to the person that has the job of repairing your travel problem? Dumb…. I once stood in line behind a woman who (along with about 100 of us) was taken off of a plane because one of the engines died on the runway. I listened to her abuse the agent at the service desk from the moment she reached the counter. The angry passenger’s reply to, “Hi, may I help you?” was, “This is F-ing bullshit!”…then she continued with the foulest tirade I have heard since I asked my father in law if I could marry his daughter.  She spewed her hate filled filth in front of families with kids that were also in line. Why? What outcome was she expecting? Yes, I see dumb people. This is just one incident…I see dumb people all the time.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I was very appreciative of the fact that they discovered the dead engine while we were on the ground. I think taking off with only one engine just so this angry woman could make her appointment that afternoon would have bordered on irresponsible. You may disagree, but I despise crashing in airplanes…especially when these airplanes are really high in the air.

For the record; Ms. Angry Cursing Lady and I were both rescheduled on the same flight later that day. I was enjoying my cocktail in first class as she walked past me to get to her middle seat in coach. Gee, I wonder how that happened.

Tip # 1: Be nice. I am quoting the late, great cinematic icon Patrick Swayze from his masterpiece “Road House”…but it’s so simple it’s comical. BE NICE! I see this every week in every airport, or at every rental car counter; I see it at the front desk of every hotel. The travel industry has provisions in place for mistakes. Be nice and you will reap so much more than you really deserve because there was a thunderstorm in Atlanta. Be nice, and you will fly first class. Be nice, and you will stay in the Presidential Suite because somebody at corporate made a mistake. Be nice, and you’ll drive a Caddy instead of a Chevy because Alamo Rental Car is out of mini-vans.

In a tense situation, when you are really frustrated, when you are speaking to someone WHO CAN HELP, the first words out of your mouth should be something like, “I know that this is not your fault, but I’m in a jam. Can you help me?”…and be nice. This won’t always work; sometimes it is what it is. But the odds of something really good happening go way up when you choose to be decent. 

Often when I observe these fits of hysteria because there is a thunderstorm in Atlanta, or there was a rash of late check-outs at the Hyatt Place, I hear this, “Why don’t you take a look at how many miles I have?” or, “Do you know how many nights I stayed in this chain last year?” Trust me my dear Large Man readers, the person behind the counter has to consider everybody in line…not just one person.

Tip # 2: Deep inside their heart, the individual who is in the position to help you does not care how many miles you have. They do not care how many times you have stayed at their hotel chain. The corporation that gets your travel dollars may care, but the person behind the counter mostly cares about maintaining their dignity in a shitty job. The folks behind the counter would like to feel good about themselves while dealing with people who have the kind of job or life that allows for travel on airplanes, stays in nice hotels, and eating shrimp cocktail on corporate expense accounts. The people in this profession work unreasonable hours for marginal pay, and moderate benefits. Instead of offering your resume of travel perks, offer a compliment…a little flirtatious sweet talk goes a long way.

Just so you know that I can throw myself into the mix of dumb people, I’ll share a few of my faux pas as well. These are not as much dumb, as they are symptoms of CRI (See A Large Man Looks at 50).

 I’m in a different hotel room every night, therefore a different room number every night. If I leave for dinner, or to run an errand, often I will return to find that I have forgotten my room number, or at the very least I remembered it incorrectly – either way you’re hosed. This happened about once a month until I devised a strategy. Now that I have implemented the strategy, this issue only happens about 3 times per year. A 246% performance improvement…I think that calculation is correct, but I’m a salesman & chronicler – not a statistician.

Tip # 3: Write your room number on a piece of paper that will fit in your pocket or wallet…if you have no pockets available; write it on your hand. If you do write the number on your hand be careful with your hand washing technique until you check out of that particular hotel. Always avoid using a Sharpie; if you use a Sharpie you’ll go to the room number you stayed in on Monday all week long.

Oh and another one…Quite often, if I get a rental car after dark, the next morning I can never remember which car is mine, or where I parked. I walk out of my hotel into a parking lot that is a sea of white Toyota Camrys, silver Ford Fusions or black Chevy Impalas…any one of these cars could be mine. Thank goodness they now all have the automatic locks, so you just press the lock button on your key chain until you hear your car beep. That works when you’re the only business traveler on the lot…if you are standing in a hotel parking lot with two or more people, two or more cars beep at the same time. This can be frustrating and embarrassing to all participants. But it is kind of nice to see the other weary travelers trying to find their car too. It doesn’t make you feel less stupid, it just makes you feel less alone.

Tip # 4: Leave your hotel room during off minutes of the hour…leave at 7:05 rather than 7:00…8:37 rather than 8:30. There is a better chance to beep your car in solitude.


I believe that we can all suffer a disconnect from reality in the course of our daily lives. Many of us do our jobs more by reflex and muscle memory than by intent of action. Every now and then, something odd comes up that forces us to handle a mishap, or oddity. The best way that I’ve heard this point explained is by an airline pilot. In describing her job, and justifying the substantial pay scale, she told me, “I’m not paid for what I do; I’m paid for what I can do”.  That made a lot of sense to me. Her point is that we don’t use our expertise every minute of our work day.

Any of us who work in a service related industry can sometimes lose sight of the fact that we do what we do every day, but others may not.  I understand the “ins and outs” of the travel industry – I touch the travel industry in some function every day. Most people do not. My guess is that the sweet little family that is running in panic through the airport with 3 kids under 10 years old, 5 roller bags in tow…pillows, woobies, Teddy bears, and portable DVD players, probably don’t do this every day. Probably once a year or less is more likely. A little consideration helps there too.

Tip # 5 is for the other side of the counter.

Be nice.

To be continued…

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