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Just in Case…

I’m having a little surgery this afternoon, and it’s no big deal, but, I am going to have to “go under”. Anytime someone goes under, there’s a chance that they might not come back. In movies and in the news, many people who receive anesthesia don’t come back. It’s a simple and accepted medical reality.

The patient will aspirate, or get an infection, or there is some sinister plan by one of the doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, “big pharma”, or a greedy insurance company, that will cause the patient’s demise. Then great actors like Paul Newman, Matt Damon, or Jim Carrey have go to bat for the deceased’s family.

These hero lawyers are usually a little bit down on their luck, and they almost always have a lot to lose by taking the case, but they’re such good people at their core (like all lawyers), they take the case anyway. They’re willing to face hired thugs, mountains of paperwork, and a labyrinth of lies, schemes, and deceit that sometimes can go all the way to the White House, because it’s the moral thing to do.

It’s a common tale. It’s bad stuff. And, Paul Newman is dead…so there’s one less good guy to fight the good fight. There is no reason to think this won’t happen to me. I’ve had a bad run of luck lately.

So, even though I say, “it’s no big deal…”, it obviously is. It’s no big deal, as long as I come back. But I’m only giving myself about a 10% chance of survival, so if you do the math, that’s like a 77% chance that I’ll be a cold, lifeless, Large, blob of death … by 6:00 tonight.

In light of this, I feel the need to get something off of my chest. Just in case I don’t come back, I need to say something to all of you, and as I tell the tale, it saddens me that this last ‘Large Man Chronicle’ is going to disappoint you. You won’t be disappointed in the work; the writing will be as brilliant as it ever was…you’ll be disappointed in me.

So here goes:

A very wealthy guy was interested in my wife before my wife and I were a thing. He asked me about “her situation” and I lied, and I kind of intimidated him too. On purpose.

There…I said it.

This dude wasn’t just rich, he was old money rich. He was an heir to a funeral parlor dynasty in a highly populated and affluent area in Northern Virginia. He was thin, he was decent looking, and he seemed like a nice guy. I didn’t know him, but all of my friends who did know him, genuinely liked him. We had very little in common.

On the evening of my crime, the 3 of us were at a dear friend’s post funeral reception. The man we were laying to rest was like a second father to my future wife, and a very good friend to me. He was a “client” of this rich kid. It was an emotional time. My wife and I had some sparks flying between us for several weeks, maybe even a couple of months…I’m reasonably sure of this. Both of us were recently single, both with similar sensibilities, tastes, and sense of humor. But we were not dating. I had intentions of asking her out, however, at that time, I was in an extremely negative cash position, so I had not gotten to it quite yet.

My (not at the time) wife, her brother, and I rode to the funeral home together, and then back to the family home for the reception. When we got there, Richey Rich Funeral Boy was already there schmoozing the family and friends of our lost loved one. When we walked in the door, it was immediately plain to see that Clammy Hands Funeral Douche was attracted to the future Mrs. Large Man. In fairness, she was as anatomically close to Mattel’s Barbie Doll toy as any human woman you have ever seen. Now, put that package in a little black funeral dress and…duh… EVERY guy there was attracted to the Future Mrs. Large Man, and most likely even a few of the women.

I’m an expert at assessing the mood and tone of a room. I had “spidey senses” before Spiderman was even a thing. We hadn’t been there long before I noticed the object of my desire was laughing a little too sincerely at the Rigor Mortis Kid’s witty observations, and funny little quips. I knew there was danger afoot; this Barbie Doll was my destiny, and no formaldehyde smelling, skinny black tie wearing, grave digger was going to get in the way of my destiny.

Don Corleone taught us to keep our friends close, but our enemies closer. Pretty much everything I know and live my life by was taught to me in the 70’s by Don Corleone, Don Cornelius, and Miss Covington (Jr. High English teacher). So, knowing these lessons, I moved in…NOT on the Barbie doll, but on the prospective “Ken”. The cold-eyed undertaker, with his chiseled chin, tailored suit, and prep school charm was going to get a Large dose of Large Man. It’s not my comfort zone, but I can be charming, I can be funny, and I can be ruthless while doing so.

“So, Biff, you grew up with this crew?” I asked with a smile.

“Yeah, we’ve all been friends since grade school.”

“That’s nice, “I extended my hand, “I’m Large Man, I moved into the area about 8 years ago. They’re a great group of people, it’s nice to meet you.”

“Same here”, he replied. To be honest, it was a rather delicate handshake. Just sayin’.

As we shook hands, I couldn’t help but think of all the intestines, livers and gizzards he had handled just that day, and I quickly released my grip. We looked around the room, and we noticed the Barbie doll talking with her neighbors, and noticed everyone not involved in the conversation was kind of noticing her.  Barbie Doll (my destiny) has always had a way of creating a presence, and you never know if she’s trying or not.

We continue with some idle chat, talking about different dudes who were mutual friends, the passing of our friend, the funeral business in general, when simply out of nowhere, the Death Merchant says to me rather bashfully, “I don’t remember (Barbie) being so beautiful. I thought she was married? Is she? Is her husband here?”

“Oh dude? Where have you been?” I asked with phony surprise. “I thought you were connected to this clique. She’s married, yeah, but it didn’t take. She’s in the process of becoming unmarried.”

“Well, that’s lucky for the single men of Northern Virginia” he said, with some genuine enthusiasm.

“Oh yeah? Why do you say that?” I ask.

“Well look at her, dude! She’s…she’s gorgeous! She’s funny…SHE’S GORGEOUS! I don’t know how else to answer you.” He replies, again, somewhat bashfully.

He continues, “I’m recently single myself, and I haven’t really felt like dating with the newness of it all, but Barbie is kinda making me ‘rethink’ the whole single life thing.”

Even though this hearse driving stooge was wealthier, better looking, and more polished than me, and would have given my wife a MUCH more “comfortable” life than I ever could have; bashful little Ken dolls just wouldn’t do well with this Barbie. While my next comment was technically wrong, deceitful, and slightly immoral (being that it was an outright lie), I think I might have done this guy (and my Destiny) a favor. That’s the way I look at it, or at least it’s how I get myself to sleep at night for these last 25 years or so.

“Well, umm listen,” I replied softly as I leaned in a little, “and don’t feel bad about this, because you obviously didn’t know. But I’ve actually been seeing her for the last couple of weeks. We’re trying to keep it quiet while she’s going through this divorce thing, so we would appreciate it if you didn’t say anything to anyone.” I continued, “Now I’m not saying you can’t call her; I’m just saying I wouldn’t if I were you.”

I said these things to this 30-year-old trust fund punk as if they were completely true. I spoke while looking directly in his eyes, my words were as cold as the bodies he had stacked up in daddy’s office. “…we would appreciate it if you didn’t say anything to anyone.”

And he didn’t. So that was that.

As far as I know, until today, nothing was ever said to anyone. My ruse created some urgency on my part, I scraped together enough cash to take Barbie doll out for a couple of beers and a hot pretzel the following weekend. I don’t really know what happened to the Cremation Kid, but I never saw him again.

He wasn’t invited to the wedding, that would have been gloating on my part, and that’s just poor taste. I may not be honest, I may not have any integrity, and I may be poor…but I’m tasteful.

The Barbie doll and the Large Man have been together ever since. Not rich with money, but rich with love, and rich with problems that having lots of money would easily solve…so I feel kind of bad for her.

Nothing I can do about it now. (Put a Large smile emoji right here!!)

So that’s this entry to ‘The Large Man Chronicles’, most likely my last. Just in case I don’t make it back, thanks to all of you for reading, and thanks for giving me a voice. I love being The Large Man.

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?Lucky?

I love my home.

I love my hometown.

My Christian friends tell me all the time, “God never gives you more than you can handle…”.

If my Christian friends are right, God must think I’m some kind of badass.

Welcome back to The Large Man Chronicles…it’s been a year since my last confession.

Before we start, I would like to set the table by sharing a few of my Large Man truths. These are things that I sincerely believe, you don’t have to…but you would be wrong if you don’t. (Just kidding…except not really).

Large truth #1:
If we spend too much time trying to wrap our heads around all the “what ifs” and the “what could have beens” that we face in our daily lives, it’s easy to become paralyzed and trapped by all the scenarios we can imagine. It would keep us from swimming in the ocean, riding roller coasters, learning to drive, singing karaoke, or asking out girls who are out of our league. This would be a terrible existence.

Large truth #2:
Someone always has it worse. AND…someone will always tell you who it is or was, especially if it was them.

If you have your arm in a cast, someone will ask, “How did that happen?”. Then they will tell you about the time they broke their arm…and it will always be worse. If your arm was broken while falling down the stairs at an apartment building, their arm was broken while falling down an elevator shaft at the Empire State building. I once had surgery for a torn ACL. I spent 6 months in a knee brace of some sort or another, and I heard every knee surgery story there was. I was lucky, because they were all worse than mine.

But here is why it is a Large truth…it’s accurate. There is always someone who has it worse.

Take the most extreme suffering you have ever experienced, and someone will have been through, or heard about, something worse. I won’t give examples in this Chronicle, because I can be overzealous with the morbid and macabre…and this is a family show.

Large truth #3:
Although it’s true that someone always has it worse, you can only relate to what you can relate to.

If you are in a car accident, and you’re in the hospital for 2 weeks from the injuries, your level of suffering is not diminished because the person in the other car was hospitalized for 8 weeks.

You’re not lucky, because it could have been worse. You’re not lucky at all! You were in a horrible car accident. You’re gonna miss work. You’re gonna miss Christmas. You’re gonna walk with a limp for a long time. Girls won’t sleep with you because of your temporary lameness.

Oh sure, at first, everyone will be sympathetic and helpful (except for the girls you want to sleep with). But after the novelty of their goodwill and charitable hearts wears out, the help with your crutches and your briefcase will disappear. It’s just a matter of time before they start asking you to “hurry up”. Then they’ll start calling you, “gimp”, or “hop-a-long”. Then DJ will think it would be hilarious to put petroleum jelly on the tips of your crutches so they’ll have no traction on linoleum. Then you fall. People laugh. Friendships are destroyed… Yes, someone always has it worse, it just doesn’t feel that way when you are splayed out on the linoleum floor at the Smithsonian, in front of your “friends”, in a puddle of your own urine and a few dabs of Vaseline.

***

My house was hit by a tornado last Sunday. My home…my place that I love.

Here are the sterile numbers of the story:

At 8:20 PM EDT, on Sunday, April 14th 2019, an F2 tornado knocked a 106-foot-tall, 44-inch wide, basswood tree, (heretofore referred to as “Big Daddy”) into my 90 some-year-old, brick home. The event took less than 30 seconds. We lost power, phone service, and internet. The tree took out 5 other trees, and a large portion of my roof. Big Daddy fell across my driveway taking a 30-year-old, 30 ft tall, beautiful Holly tree (heretofore referred to as “Holly”) with him. Big Daddy and Holly, missed my son’s car by 8”. (Yes, I measured all this stuff) Finally, an 80-foot-tall white pine tree (heretofore referred to as “Piney”) was split by the storm winds. Half the tree stayed erect (hee hee…erect), the other half fell into my neighbor’s yard and on top of her covered porch. It continued to storm after the tornado left, and gallons of water leaked into our master bedroom, and our son’s bedroom. We could do nothing but put down buckets, lay down for the night in other rooms, and pray to God (who apparently has as much faith in me as I have in him) that everything would be taken care of in the morning.

It was a real mess, but I was lucky.

Houses get hit by tornados all the time. In fact, according to Statistical Twisters, a storm chaser website, the odds of a house getting hit by a tornado are 1 in 10 thousand. (Can’t be accurate, but it was on the internet, and it makes for a better story) However…and here’s the good part…the odds of a house being hit twice, is 1 in 100 million.

LUCKY US!!! This is our second hit! We’re 1 in 100 million. What could be worse than that?

The first time was also on a Sunday. Sunday, June 5th, 2016, at approximately 3:00 PM EDT, an F1 tornado knocked several branches off of a Bradford Pear tree (we won’t name these) and an extremely Large maple tree in our yard. Those branches slammed into my house, and between the wind, and the branches, we lost about a third of our roof.

Oh…and not for nuthin’… at 8:33 AM EDT on June 17th, 2017…the morning after my daughter’s high school graduation (GO Dragons!!), a 2017 Dodge Challenger, jet black with red racing stripes, slammed into a curb across the street from my house…the driver panicked, overcorrected, pressed the accelerator pedal instead of the brake pedal, drove through my front yard, became airborne at my flowerbed, and crashed into the northeast corner of my garage…breaking up the building, my concrete driveway, and smashing the can where we store our dog’s poop until trash day…which is Sunday…and this was Saturday. So, in addition to the damage to my house, we lost a full can of shit.

3 out of the last 4 calendar years, my house has had its ass kicked by forces beyond our control.

But…we’re lucky. That’s what I keep hearing.

The what ifs and the what could have beens are horrible to think about. These 3 strikes are events…things that happened that are now funny stories to write about on a blog page, and to tell from a barstool. Inches and seconds are what kept these “events” from becoming disasters…tragedies. But I’m not sure I would call it “luck”.

If the car that hit my house in 2017 had come in 2 minutes earlier, it would have crashed into my garage, AND my wife, as she was depositing our dog’s morning glory. It would be hard to imagine a person surviving that impact. At the very least, she would have been covered in a week’s worth of dog poop. Who would want to survive that?

When the 2016 tornado hit my house, I was driving west, and passed through the weather system that was creating all the havoc. I had to find sanctuary at a rest stop on the interstate, as the hail was so Large, I was worried that it would break my windshield or beat up my car. I called home to tell Mrs. Large Man that a storm was headed her way, make sure the kids are home, etc. She did. The system created the tornado that hit our home. The kids were inside, she was inside. All clear…all good. Lucky?

Sunday’s tornado, like the car crash, came with little or no warning. My son was just arriving home from a weekend field trip, my wife went to the high school to pick him up. As she turned south out of our driveway to get him, I took a left (north) out of the same driveway to pick up a pizza (Large truth # 4: high school kids LOVE pizza). Each task took roughly the same amount of time.

On my return, pizza and wings on the passenger seat of my truck, I drove through quarter sized hail that felt like shotgun blasts against my vehicle. I was worried sick about my wife and child driving through the same thing. The town emergency sirens were barely audible through the sound of the hail, but they were there. White knuckled, I pressed on. As I turned into my driveway, I was relieved to see the garage door on my wife’s side slowly dropping its last few feet. Thank Goodness, they were home. I pulled into my garage stall, and closed the door behind me.

Less than a minute later, I walked into our kitchen, wife and son still with jackets on, pizza in my hands, the sound of a freight train was right outside our window. We know that sound. At that second, we lost power, I set the pizza down, we called our dog, and we headed to the basement, and before I opened the basement door, it was gone. Pulling into my garage, walking into my kitchen, setting down my cargo, and scurrying 20 steps to our basement door…ALL…took less than 1 minute.

It was surreal, it was still raining hard, but it was eerily quiet after the “locomotive” left us. We were in the dark. Mrs. Large Man and our Large son grabbed some flashlights and we reacquired our bearing inside the house. The smell of hot wings and near death filled the air. Okay, we actually didn’t realize that this was a “near death” experience, because we hadn’t looked outside, I just like that line, “…wings…near death.” (The Large Man is BACK, Baby!!)

I grabbed a high-powered light emitter (flashlight), and stepped outside, and I was shocked at the level of debris in my driveway. Holly was spread all across the concrete, Piney was split in two, so there was that pine essence in the air. At first, the combination gave it something of a Christmas feel. Then I saw the beast tree, Big Daddy, laying across the entirety of the driveway. I worked my way around it, and out into the street, still not really processing it all until I heard my neighbor from across the way, Bob, exclaim, “DUDE, WHAT THE FUCK!”

It was kind of an exclamation, and a question, but very clearly the most appropriate way to address the moment. He kind of snuck up behind me, as I was trying to make some sense of it all. By the time I snapped to, Bob gave me a pat on the shoulder, asked if I was alright, and as I started to explain that, no…I was not alright, emergency vehicles were entering the area, and police and firemen were yelling at us to get inside our house.

NOW…the air smelled like near death, hot wings, and I guess a little like Christmas. A Christmas with really shitty gifts, spent with relatives you never really cared for.

Had we been maybe even seconds later arriving home, this would have been a very different story. I still would have written it because of my love for attention, but I would be a lot sadder about it all. Probably would have shopped the story to some of the celebrity & human-interest magazines. Mrs. Large Man would LOVE to be in People Magazine…even if it was from being squooshed by a giant basswood tree named Big Daddy.

Lucky? Hmmm… My house is now a bit of a freak show, all week long people have been walking by to gawk at The Large Man’s representation of Mother Nature’s power. Some people driving by stop their car in the middle of the street, get out, and snap a picture. It is amazing to think that wind could do the things it did to my yard, my home, and other places in town. We were lucky, because “…a lot of other places got it worse”.

“WOW! You’re lucky that tree fell the way it did.”

“Jeez! You have to feel lucky no one was hurt!”

“DAMN! You’re lucky you were able to get a contractor out here to tarp off that roof. You know, the lumber yard over in Starbrick was completely destroyed!”

Yes. I’m lucky…but more accurately, I’m blessed.

It’s not lucky that your house has had its ass kicked 3 out of the last 4 years (This being said, that house sure can take a punch!!) In fact, 2 tornados and a car crash would be defined by most anybody as bad luck. It’s one of the reasons I don’t really gamble. All my luck seems to be spent on survival.

I’m blessed. I’m blessed that through all this shit, my wife and kids are alive and healthy and vibrant with light and energy. I’m lucky that I get to see these life forces flourish in a world that’s both cruel and beautiful…and can display those contradictions only minutes …only seconds…apart from one another.

The lightning in the sky, and the thunder it produced were spectacular before that cyclone formed just afew seconds later. The devastation to my property doesn’t come close to the measure of kindness, support, and goodwill I received from my friends and neighbors. That’s not luck, that’s a blessing.

I don’t believe in religion, but I believe in God. I don’t really believe in Karma, but I believe in the Universe. Whether it’s stardust, or Divinity, I believe we are all connected. Actually, I believe it’s both.Because of my stardust and Divinity belief, I’m starting to believe that there might be more at play here.

I’m NOT LUCKY! BAD SHIT HAPPENS TO ME ALL THE TIME!

But maybe that contradiction of bad luck & good luck is a reminder…a nudge, perhaps, from Something, or Someone bigger than me. Maybe They are trying to get me to understand that I’m here for a reason, and it’s time for me to figure it out.

Maybe I’m Batman.

If it turns out that I’m Batman, that will be so cool!!!!!

Thanks for reading…I’m back 😊

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I haven’t done this in about a year or so, so please, bear with me…sentence structure, grammar, and tone and timbre all may suffer from some “artistic atrophy” as I start working these literary muscles after a LONG break. I’ve started a few times, but just never found the spirit or the heart the collection of words needed.  As I type out these first few lines, it occurs to me, just now, how important it is to do this Large Man thing. For me, it’s soul food.

I’m on a plane bound for Pittsburgh. Hosier is explaining to me through headphones about how he “…fall(s) in love just a little o’ little bit every day with someone new.” And then he asks “…would things be easier if there was a right way?” But then he goes on to explain, “but Honey, there is no right way.” I think he’s right, when it comes to love, there is no right way. That’s why he’s one of my current favorite philosophers, that Hosier dude.

While Hosier is teaching me about love and life, I’m in a middle seat on a 4-hour flight, with a small, polite, man sitting on my right by the aisle, and my 17-year-old son on my left by the window. My son and I are on our way back home. We had to pay extra for Exit Row seating because my son is 6ft 8in. tall, and the airlines love to squeeeeeeeze every dollar out of you they can.

But that’s all OK, I love the fact that I have a Large son, I love that we are able to take this trip, I love that these things are possible because of the work I do. So, for now, I’m settled. I have some crazy days ahead, but right now, this moment, I’m exactly where I want to be. I love being a dad. I wish I had my hat that says “Blessed” on it. (I have one…it was a Christmas present. One of my favorites!!)

My son’s Christmas present was a father & son trip to the Grand Canyon. For those of you not familiar, that’s the big one that’s mostly in Arizona. The Grand Canyon has been on his, “…bucket list for several years”, or so he says. I’m not sure a 17-year-old should have a bucket list yet, but I think he’s a millennial, right? Doesn’t that mean he can have anything he wants, as soon as he wants it? Whether he’s entitled to a “bucket list” or not, I indulged him…he’s a good boy.

We did it up, BIG, I mean LARGE…

We did the helicopter tour in the canyon – AMAZING! We did the Pink Jeep Adventure in Sedona – EXCITING! On a Monday we drove about 600 miles in our rental car, just looking at the landscape in northern Arizona, and southern Utah – SPECTACULAR!

We saw the “Four Corners” monument where Arizona, Colorado, Utah & New Mexico all meet (Say Cheese!!). We went to the place where Forrest Gump decided to stop running (yeah, it’s a real place in Utah). And we walked and we talked,  and we just looked…all around us. We listened to a mystery novel on CD, we talked some more, and we made a memory that will be treasured by both of us for the rest of our lives.

I have this friend, who’s pretty much a big dope, but I remember him telling me that your kids will rarely remember the things you “got” for them, but they’ll always remember the things you “did” with them. Pretty smart ponderance for a big dope, but it made sense to me, so I’ve tried to live by that philosophy.

I have struggled with balancing family and career for the last 19 years; it’s especially challenging when you travel like I do. But if crossing something off of my son’s “bucket list” is the reward, the struggle is worth it. Seeing him experience the magic you feel when your soul connects to something Larger than yourself, something spiritual, is worth every missed flight, every shitty hotel… every lukewarm Diet Coke that washed down a cold and stale sandwich in a dirty airport.

I loved every minute of this trip. Actually, it wasn’t trip…it was an adventure.

There is a song by the band, Lord Huron, called ‘Ends of the Earth’, listen to these words: (I guess, read these words)

Oh, there’s a river that winds on forever
I’m gonna see where it leads
Oh, there’s a mountain that no man has mounted
I’m gonna stand on the peak

Out there’s a land that time don’t command
Wanna be the first to arrive
No time for ponderin’ why I’m-a wanderin’
Not while we’re both still alive

To the Ends of the Earth would you follow me
There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see…

It goes on like that.

The way it’s written is that this guy is singing to a girl about how he wants to see this wonderful world, and also, he loves her because she’s beautiful and she has this amazing body. But as much as he loves her, this world is waiting to be experienced, and she’s welcome to come because of her amazing body and all, if she wants to; but he’s going… with or without her, and her amazing body.

Take the way this man objectifies his love interest out of the equation, and the song is quite inspiring for those of us who have a wanderlust. (And I may have been interpreting the “amazing body” stuff anyway). The way it’s written and performed, you feel his need to see, and touch, and become a part of, all that our rivers and mountains, canyons, caves, and skies have to offer. I love that he’s willing to forsake his true love rather than miss it all.

Now, that being said, I think he’s making a mistake. I love mountains, rivers and canyons and shit, but true love is probably still my first choice. That’s me. If the dude who wrote the song loved the girl I love, he’d be happy to stay at home and just watch all that stuff on Nat Geo.

So, what I hope for…

I am ecstatic about the fact that my 17-year-old son has experienced a spiritual connection to our earth, and nature. I hope he can find someone who will love these things as well. But if he doesn’t find someone with that same wanderlust, curiosity, and connection to Mother Earth, I hope he finds someone who will allow and nurture his desire to see and experience, ‘The Ends of the Earth’. Above all, I hope this adventure is the beginning…the seed that sprouts into a lifetime vine of adventures for him…and his kids.

There is so much to see. I never get tired of it, and I don’t think my Large son will either.

I started this Large Man thing because I wanted to share what I saw while on this “journey”. “It’s what you see along the way…” is the tag line for these ‘Chronicles’. It’s even printed on our business cards and tee shirts!

It’s a great journey. This life we live, and this world we live in have new adventures around every corner. Even after 20 straight years of traveling just about every week, I still want to go “to the ends of the Earth”. Nowadays I prefer that there’s room service and a decent craft beer selection, but still…

Thank you for reading…I think I’m back.

TLM

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