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Meet Pyro…

Can you identify the proudest moment of your life? Do you have a moment that currently outranks all other moments of your existence… for you?

Let’s disqualify the day our babies came into the world, or the day we married “the love of our life”. Those moments, as amazing as they are, kinda depend on someone else to make them special. I’m asking for your proudest, most special, amazing, awesome moment.

I asked my office mate this question, and she didn’t hesitate with her reply. “The day I got my degree. No question. I was working full time, raising three kids, and I did it.”

I think it’s great that she came up with it that fast. I have a more difficult time coming up with mine. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve led a life that has been blessed with so many milestones and magical moments that a “greatest” or “proudest” moment can’t be singled out, or, when it comes to things that only involve me, maybe it’s been a lifetime of “nothing special”. Hard to say…

But I know a guy…

…let me set the stage.

Flashback to Sunday, April 24th, 2016…San Diego, California, Marriott Marina & Convention Center…National Tank Truck Carriers Spring Convention & President’s Meeting

The National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) is a non-profit advocacy association that works to support the business interests of trucking companies who deliver goods via tank trailers. Most of the gasoline delivered to your local gas station is carried by a trucking company that is a member of this association. Most of the liquid and powder chemicals delivered to the manufacturing plants in our country are delivered by NTTC members. The chlorine that sanitizes your pool, and the propane that cooks your steaks to that perfect warm red center, are all delivered at some point by a tank trailer.

The NTTC has two major conventions a year, one in the spring, one in the fall. The company I work for makes parts and pieces that keep the chlorine, gasoline, propane, ethanol, and glycol, inside of those tanks, even if those tanks roll over or catch fire…it’s kind of an important thing. So, I get to go to these conventions and meet with the people who own companies that have tank trailers that use the parts and pieces my company makes. It’s a good gig. San Diego any time of year is beautiful, for a guy who lives in northwest Pennsylvania, San Diego in April is medicine.

So, it’s Sunday evening in San Diego, on the convention hall floor, and there is a “Welcome” reception, with music, hors d’oeuvres, and an open bar. Because I am the trade show coordinator for my company, and I’m a genius, the open bar is right next to my company’s booth. Patrons of the show see me and all of my company’s wares, as they wait in line for their gins and tonics, Buds and Lites, and Jacks and Cokes, and they sarcastically chide me, “Hey Large Man, did you plan this? Pretty convenient for you, Ha ha haaaa!”

Hell yes! I absolutely planned this. I get thirsty, and I crave attention. My booth needs to be where the action is. To quote ‘Hamilton, The Musical’, “…in the room where it happens!”

As my coworkers and I are meeting and greeting other patrons of the show (and the bar), I notice this one guy kinda checking things out, and he has a familiar look. A good beginning descriptor would be that he is “thick”. He has a thick barrel chest, solid, thick upper arms, wide and thick shoulders connected to a thick neck, that terminates at a beautifully shaved & shiny head. This man is a Large man.

I watched him looking at the valves and lighting products on one of my tables, and some of the trinkets on tabletops at the booth next door to mine. As he studies these products, holding them in his big thick mitts, his dark eyes stared intently…he neither smiled nor frowned, he didn’t seem to approve or disapprove of anything he examined. He just seemed to be processing…taking it all in.

I approached this Large man and asked, “Can I answer any questions for you?” (‘Cause that’s my job).

He looked up from the 6496ALB Normal Vent (it’s a thing, really), and says, “No not really. I’m a driver, and I use a lot of this stuff, but I rarely get to see it when it’s not on the tank trailer. Kinda cool. I do have one question though, where did you get that beer?”

I get excited when people ask me questions and I immediately know the answer, so I smile real big and say, “Follow me.”

The thick, Large, man returned my smile, and did as I requested. I felt this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We shook hands and introduced ourselves by name and company as we stood in line at the bar, and when my new friend spoke to me, he did so from a big wide toothy grin, surrounded by a meticulously trimmed goatee. He had these lively, dark eyes, that seemed to dance in rhythm with every word he spoke. We’ve all met people who have a presence, people who immediately seem “Larger than life”; my new friend, Darryl Ray Nowell, is the quintessential example of that essence.

Darryl is a truck driver for Eagle Transport, based in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He works out of their Richmond, VA terminal, and has been employed there for 16 years. Darryl was attending the show as a nominee, and one of eight finalists, for NTTC’s annual award for “Truck Driver of the Year”.

The bar line moved quickly, Darryl and I grabbed a brew, and went back to my booth to chat about business and life…this is TRULY the best part of my job…it’s the best part of my life. To be able to continually connect with people from all over the world, and from all walks of life, keeps me in a constant state of fascination.

 

The “Driver of the Year” award is in its early stages, there have been only two prior recipients, and this year’s group of 8 nominees had 4 drivers who were finalists in the previous two years. Darryl was a first-time nominee, and appeared to be the youngest of this year’s group…in my opinion, he was clearly the most colorful.

Let me share with you a few of the things Darryl shared with me while we had a chat:

Darryl Ray Nowell is 52 years old. He served our country honorably in the US Army for 11-1/2 years. He has done volunteer search and rescue work. He has been a professional wrestler for over thirty years…his wrestling character’s name is “Pyro”. Pyro does public safety commercials, public appearances, fund raisers in the greater Richmond area, for free, to promote fire safety for kids. He’s also starting his own chili company…so he’s a chef. In the 16 years he’s been driving a tractor & trailer for Eagle Transportation, he has logged almost 3 million (2.9 million) accident free miles. And as cool as all these things are, I truly felt Darryl’s humanity, when he talked to me about his son. Darryl is a single father of an all-star bowler and honor roll student. When this proud father told me things about his kid, the dark, lively, dancing eyes, glassed up a little bit.

This Large, thick… bad ass, Army veteran, searcher & rescuer, professional wrestling truck driver…was as sweet and gentle as a puppy when we started talking about our kids. And he listened intently as I shared stuff about my kids as well. When it’s all said, and done, Darryl…Pyro, is just a dad.

I love that stuff.

And yet, as much as I enjoyed my time with this amazing character, I didn’t like his chances for Driver of the Year. He was a first-time finalist, and he didn’t have the time or miles that most of the other nominees had.

The award ceremony takes place during a Monday morning breakfast reception that my amazing company has been sponsoring for about 20 years. We have an opening blessing, some yellow re-hydrated protein product that’s supposed to resemble scrambled eggs, flimsy bacon, under-ripened fruit plates, a celebrity keynote speaker, and now we close the event by announcing this year’s driver of the year.

Eight finalists from eight different companies are introduced to the crowd, and as they walk up to the stage, a short “bio” video tells their story on a giant screen in the background. It’s all very Large and loud, with music and pictures of their families, and events they’ve participated in. There’s a few seconds of interview and action shots of these guys, who in many ways, are the backbone of American industry. It’s a celebrity moment for men and women who should be celebrated every day…but like most of us in the working world, they are not. They’re just a group of people who go to work in the morning, and do the very best they can to see that they get home…AND WE GET HOME, safely, at the end of our working day. Driving and delivering hazardous material, safely and efficiently, is no easy task. Darryl and the fellow nominees who shared the stage with him, had logged close to 40 million accident and incident free miles on our highways & byways. That is “job excellence”.

So at the end of the introductions, and the tribute videos, the eight finalists stand on stage and listen as the master of ceremonies announces the winner. It’s not done by opening an envelope and announcing a name, it’s done by the emcee giving us deeper details about the individual. The first sentence or two could describe any one of the finalists, then the next sentence might narrow it down by one or two.

These eight men face the crowd.

As the announcer continues down the list, you see some guys shift their body weight, some guys shrug their shoulders, and you see some guys stand up a little straighter…

 

…as it got down to the last sentence or two, I saw my guy flash that big toothy grin, and I saw him shift his weight from side to side, and I saw those dark dancing eyes glass up again. Then he put those big thick hands up to his eyes, made a nod to Heaven, and wiped away tears of pride and joy as the announcer said, “This year’s National Tank Truck Carriers, Driver of the Year Award, goes to Darryl Ray Nowell of Eagle Transportation. Congratulations Darryl!”

I was pretty sure Darryl had won the award when they described the community service aspect of the resume, and they said “…a professional wrestler who works tirelessly in the community to promote fire safety”. I don’t think there were any other pro wrestlers on stage, probably not even in the building.

After a round of congratulatory handshakes from his fellow nominees, Darryl stepped to the mic and humbly thanked the men he shared the stage with, and congratulated them on getting there. He thanked the association, and all the people standing and applauding.

As we settled back into our chairs, we could feel Darryl’s emotion. I don’t have enough colors on my literary palette to paint this picture. It was probably the most emotional scene I have ever experienced in the work place.

Darryl explained to us through all this emotion that “…other than the day my son was born; this is the greatest moment of my life. I only wish he was here to see this.” That’s the one that got me. I looked around the room at that point, and there was no doubt…it got a lot of us. There were a lot of tears being wiped away throughout the crowd.

On Monday, April 25th, 2016, I got to see a man experience one of the “greatest moments” of his life. I got to share the experience with a couple hundred people who appreciate the hard work it took to achieve that moment…Darryl worked for this “greatest moment”, he didn’t get lucky, it was earned. Maybe the best part of the audience’s experience was that we could all see that it was appreciated and valued by the man being honored.

I think it was one of our greatest moments too.

Thanks, Darryl…”Pyro”, for letting me tell your story.

There’s a comment section at the end of this post, or on the Facebook post where you opened it up… if you feel like it, I would love to know your proudest, or greatest “moment” (so far). Thanks for reading.

TLM

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Misunderstanding

This happened to me last spring, and it happened exactly as I tell it. I have embellished nothing.

***

One of my favorite places on this earth is the town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The college town has a southern charm that stirs me. The spacious downtown streets are shaded with old growth hardwood and pine trees, and lined with small shops, restaurants, pubs and coffee houses. Every time I pass through, I find another little gem that makes me grateful I went out of the way to stop. Don’t even get me started on the Shrimp & Grits and the Frozen Mint Julep at Crook’s Corner.

But every rose has a thorn, and last time I was there, I got pricked.

It was a beautiful spring morning, a perfect setting for a brisk walk through the town and around the campus. My room key, credit card, I.D. and $20 was all I thought I would need for my morning’s exercise.

Out the door at about 6:30, so the town is just starting to wake up…fresh newspapers, still strapped in their bundles, on the sidewalk outside the different shops. College professors ambling down the street carrying weathered, leather satchels, full of today’s blue prints to liberalize America’s next group of unemployable college grads. Dirty brown sparrows are eating the French fry fragments out of the vomit from last nights “full contact” partying…it’s quaint here, but it’s still a college town.

I get a solid 40-minute workout in, so I decide I’ve earned a nice breakfast to help fuel today’s revenue generation activities. I’m a superior hunter-gatherer, especially when it comes to hunting and gathering breakfast foods.

And that’s where it happened.

Only a few paces from my hotel is an unassuming, poorly marked, hidden little café. There is a chalkboard menu by a dark tinted glass front door. I had to kinda “test push” the door to make sure the place was open…the test was positive.

About a dozen or so modest tables with a variety of styles of chairs are scattered about the dining area. The college town café reminds one of a college student’s apartment – function is more important than style, so much so, that function becomes the style. There was a large counter at the front of the shop, and behind that counter stood a sturdy woman with gray hair pulled tight into a pony tail, thick glasses that magnified the size of her pale blue eyes, and a smile that made me feel welcome. The smell of their “artisan” coffee filled the air, and the whole vibe made me sure I had lucked into another “gem” in Chapel Hill.

“Good morning, sir. You place your order here at the counter, and then we’ll bring it to you when it’s ready. We make everything from scratch, so it takes a few minutes. Our menu is on the board behind me, we have an amazing homemade apple & pork sausage burrito, with egg and cheddar cheese, garnished with our house made sweet & hot salsa, as our feature this morning. Take your time.”

“Say no more,” I reply. “I’ll have your ‘special’. I’m not a coffee drinker, do you have any cold drink options?”

She looked at me with disappointment in her kind eyes, Not a coffee drinker? How sad for you. She offered me a pear flavored seltzer water. I accepted. She gave me the can, and a dishwasher spotted glass full of crushed ice. I paid her, and headed to a table in the seating area.

Nice place. I love breakfast burritos.

The dining area was scattered with about 3 or 4 groups of 2 or more at tables, and 3 or 4 individuals at a table. I took a seat at a smaller table, in a corner by a window facing the street. With my back to the window, I took inventory of the room. Sitting diagonally from me was a pretty young mother of 2. The kids were sweetly taking turns playing a game on an iPhone, while mom was typing away on an iPad. Behind them, sat a man at a table with 3 women. 2 of the women seemed to be hanging on his every word, the third woman only seemed to be interested in her phone. She would look up with an accommodating, perhaps even patronizing smile whenever the rest of the group shared a laugh, but for the most part, she was disconnected from the people at her table because she was connected to her technology. These are the times we live in.

I love to people watch. I have played this sport since I was a kid. As much as I like to watch, I rarely like to “connect”. Something brief? Sure. I like to pay a compliment, make someone smile, extend a courtesy…but I don’t need much more than that. I have plenty of friends, I make work connections all day long. And here, I definitely don’t want to connect to anyone, because when this burrito comes to my table the carnage is going to be ugly. I’m hungry, this meal will not be eaten; it will be assaulted.

As I waited at my little corner table, a woman who appeared to be in her mid 30’s came in and ordered something from the counter and then set up shop at the table next to mine. This is not uncommon, especially if I have a little sweat working, what with my pheromones and all. She removed a stack of papers, a phone, and a smart pad from an expensive leather brief case, and arranged them strategically on her table. She made eye contact with me, but didn’t smile, so I made the gay assumption, but who’s to say. She held her gaze on me briefly as she sipped her halfcaffsoylattespresso, or whatever it was. I smiled and turned away.

She sat, and started her tasks in her makeshift workstation. I turned my attention to the rest of the room; watched the kids with the pretty mom, the professor and his table full of ladies, and just as I was turning my attention to the street, the new patron…the one with the work station, asked me if I would stop “staring at (her)”.

Because I didn’t think I heard her correctly, I smiled, and said, “Excuse me?”

“You’re staring at me, and I would appreciate it if you would stop,” she said.

“No Ma’am. I’m not staring at you. I’m just waiting on my food,” I replied. I was a bit shaken by the interaction, she was clearly irritated. I looked away, back out the window onto the street.

Probably 2 minutes went by, it seemed like 20. I wasn’t staring at her, but now I’m afraid to even look up. Do you know how hard it is not to look at someone when they demand you stop? Even though you weren’t in the first place! Now I’m staring at my fingernails, looking at the floor…thinking, SHIT! When is my flippin’ food gonna be ready?!

So I look back at the front counter to see if any plates are coming out. Unfortunately, the work station is directly in the line of sight between my table and the counter. And even though I tried to look over top of her, it was game ON!

Immediately she put down her phone, and placed her palms flat on the table and asked, “Why do you keep staring at me?” This time, rather loudly.

“Ma’am, I am not staring at you, or anybody else. I’m waiting for my food. I just want to be left alone. Can we please just leave each other alone?

So now the negative energy is being generated, and it’s connecting the people in the room, and connecting them back to us. The pretty mom looks at me, and the kids look up from their phone game. The table with the man and the 3 ladies became quiet, and about every third group in the room turned their attention toward us…at this point it’s just a curiosity, but only for about another minute.

Our heroine looks me in the eye, and asks, “Don’t you have a phone, or something you can look at rather than harassing me?” She continues with, “Why don’t you have a phone? You’re making me uncomfortable.”

She then turns away, and walks up to the counter and asks for a manager. The same, friendly, gray haired woman who served me came to the counter from the kitchen, exchanged words with my, (now) adversary, looked up at me and her face flushed. Not the good kind.

My sturdy host hurried over to me and quietly asked, “Do you have a phone or something, sir? You’re making my customer uncomfortable.”

“No, I do not have a phone with me, and I’m a customer too. I was on a walk; I don’t need my phone. I’m not bothering anybody. I just want to have some breakfast.”

So the lady at the table says, “Well you have to move then. You keep staring at me, and now I’m feeling unsafe.”

NOW…it’s escalating. As soon as the first syllable of “unsafe” was spoken, the guy at the table with the 3 women stood up and walked in our direction…to save the day in front of his ladies. He was very tall.

OK, I’ll admit that I didn’t have to say the next few things I said, and perhaps the story would have ended better if I hadn’t. But I did…

“Excuse me ma’am,” I say to my accuser, “I don’t want to be disrespectful, I just want my breakfast. I am not, nor have I been, looking at you. I smiled at you when you sat down, and that was it. There is no reason for me to be staring at you. You have no reason to feel unsafe….and I’m NOT moving!”

The very tall “ladies man” faced me and said, “You’re gonna have to move sir.”

The sturdy proprietor said, “Yes, (Large Man) this woman feels unsafe, and we can’t have that here. If you don’t leave I’m going to call the police.”

I hope you readers can understand why I was upset. All this happened because I didn’t have a phone in my hand. I was doing nothing but sipping on pear flavored seltzer water, and NOT looking into a screen of some kind.

My next comment was the straw that broke the manager’s back. Tall guy moved in closer and explained to me that if this woman felt unsafe, and I didn’t leave on my own, he would be forced to remove me (I’m paraphrasing). I looked him in the eye, and responded with, “The only person here who should feel unsafe right now is you, sir. Do not put your hands on me.”

My declaration backed him down, but r e e e a l l y pissed off our shop owner. “All right! That’s enough! You leave right now, or I’m calling the police”, and she walked to the counter. I could see that other people in the shop were upset. The little kids just stared at us, (how come nobody said anything to them?) and while I don’t think they fully understood what was going on, they were nervous. I apologized to the mom, and told her not to worry. I followed the manger to the front of the store, and asked for my money back.

“We have a no refund policy sir. Your food is done; I’ll wrap it for you to go.”

And she did. She handed me a white paper bag that was warm, and smelled delicious. It was a bitter irony.

I left, wanting to say something as I walked out the door about how our addiction to technology would be the downfall of humanity. But I was too upset to say anything cute, or thought provoking. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t stare at that woman. I was treated like some sort of freak because I didn’t have something in my hands to occupy my face.

In all my anger at the moment, I maintained my composure, and I maintained my dignity. I walked back to the hotel, and up to my room, almost in a daze. I was pulling things together as I walked into my room, I looked at the white paper bag in my hand, filled with food from a place that tried to rob me of my dignity, and I tossed the bag into the wastebasket by the desk. The bag no longer held food, that bag was filled with hate and intolerance…and misunderstanding.

But as I sat on the bed, the aroma of that bag full of intolerance and misunderstanding started filling the room…and as it did, it seemed a little less hateful. It was then that I realized something…my dignity was hungry. My dignity and I knew we were alone in that hotel room, but we still looked around to make sure nobody saw us dig that bag out of the trash can.

It was delicious.

Thanks for reading.

TLM

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Mrs. Large Man and I have raised two great kids. They’re not better than your kids…they’re not better than anybody. Well, they’re better than me, but that was the plan all along…it was what I hoped for from the start. Please remember “…what I hoped for” as you read the rest of this story.

A lot of people (including me) will insert the barb, “You mean Mrs. Large Man raised two great kids.” Then we follow with “…you were gone all the time playing golf, traveling to exotic lands, like Greensboro, NC, and Rehoboth, Massachusetts”. Well, just so ya know, my well-meaning and beloved friends; no, we both raised these kids, and we both made them who they are…good stuff and flaws.

Mrs. Large Man gave them manners, a work ethic, their pretty faces, and a little bit of class. I gave them curiosity, passion, courage, and belief. It may not seem like I’ve been around… but I was, and I am, and I gave them good things. Not “store things”, just good things. I don’t spend a lot of time boasting on my contributions to society, but I’m unapologetically  (it’s a word) proud of the two people Mrs. Large Man and I are about to donate to you.

I’ve written a tale or two about the magic I felt the day my kids were born. The very first “official” Large Man Chronicle was ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’ written about the day I met my daughter. I can’t wait to finish and share the story of my son’s first day here with us. He came quickly, and quietly, with a little bit of humor, and just a touch of intrigue, and he’s spent the last fifteen years living pretty much that same way.

I explained once in a Large Man story about how I didn’t want kids, and how stupid I was for thinking that I didn’t want kids, because I think kids have ultimately defined who the Large Man really is.

I love being a dad.

When my daughter was born, after the original scared shitless days, I remember the bliss that came after “bath and boobs”, just holding that little bundle of hope, and staring into those little blue eyes full of potential, and thinking about all the things she was going to be able to be. This baby girl was going to be the “fix” to all my flaws and failures, and she was going to make me a better person. It was no longer about me, it was about her.

Then I remember thinking, Didn’t I say that same shit about my wife when I decided to ask her to marry me? Yeah, I did.

My wife was going to straighten me out, and here was the theory:

I knew she was a good person, and for the first time in my life, I also knew, and trusted, that she loved me. This was the first time someone who wasn’t required by birth and bloodlines to love me, actually loved me…not because she had to, but because she wanted to. If somebody this good, this beautiful, and this amazing, could love me, maybe, I didn’t need to be “straightened out”. If someone like her could love someone like me, then there simply had to be good and beautiful and amazing things inside of me.

Yeah, no… I was wrong there…way off. Turns out, great, amazing, intelligent and beautiful women fall in love with assholes almost every day.

But, somehow, holding my daughter, kissing those little cheeks, and nibbling on those tiny little perfect fingers, and gazing into those perfect little eyes that gave me hope, I trusted that she was going to be amazing, and I was still going to be flawed, and that it was all going to be okay.

The day I found out my son was coming, I experienced two extreme and opposite emotions. My wife and I were on our way to The Virginia Wine Festival and as I was getting ready to manipulate her…I mean convince her, into being the “designated driver”, she came out of the bathroom with one of those sticks in her hand, and a smile on her face, and a twinkle in her eye.

My initial reaction: YES! DD baby! Daddy is gonna get his drank on! Because this is what people with goodness inside of them do at wine festivals when they find out they have another child on the way.

Then, like 10 seconds later, I thought, Damn, another baby? I’m just getting used to the idea that I’m not gonna break the one I have. I love my little girl more than anything I have ever loved. I didn’t even know you could love like this. How on Earth will there be enough of me to love another one? They’re both gonna be cheated.

I share these very personal thoughts as support data for my earlier statement that women fall in love with assholes all the time. But I’m an asshole that can learn.

Wanna know what I learned?

Okay…

I think if you love, and you love unconditionally, love becomes infinite. I could have ten kids, and I would love each one as much as the other. That’s what I learned the day my son showed up. I didn’t know it until the day he came, but it happened the second I saw him. I owe him for that one, that’s a lot for an asshole to learn in one second.

I think loving someone, and ALLOWING SOMEONE TO LOVE YOU, allows you to change, and evolve, and to develop the good things inside of you. And I think most of us have good things inside us.

So now these babies who taught me and my wife (but mostly me) these great lessons on love and life and goodness, have grown up. We have laughed and learned together, been on great adventures together, and we have experienced intolerable sorrow together. Our storms of life have been much more bearable because of this bond…a house full of love and kids can do that to you. It’s what I hoped for.

I’ve bitched and moaned so many times as I grabbed a jacket and boots and sat through the rain sleet and snow at soccer games, band performances, football games and track meets. I’ve whined and complained about “FOUR NIGHTS IN A ROW AT THE THEATER?! REALLY? ARE WE ON F-ING BROADWAY NOW? I’M RUNNING OUT OF BLAZERS!” And at the time of my protests, there was always a little truth in my ranting, but I never regretted going. There is always something that amazes me, or tickles me, or makes me proud. Watching one of my kids do something  I can’t do, and something  I didn’t teach them, has been one of my life’s greatest joys…there is an emotion there that I’m not skilled enough to explain in a Chronicle.

But things are changing. My daughter is driving, she’s been accepted to college, and I just watched her march with her marching band for the very last time. My son is riding in cars with buddies, he’s talking to the ladies, and he’s making decisions for himself. Just in the month of August, both of my kids showed me strength of character, maturity, and courage, that would make the most disinterested and detached parents on Earth beam with pride. They did these things on their own, as their own people…kinda like grown-ups.

It’s the nature of things, and these are things to celebrate…and it’s what I hoped for.

Sort of…

All my dreams somehow had me and their mom in the same picture with them. When my daughter was fighting for justice in a courtroom, passionately speaking the truth as she stares over her glasses into the eyes of the judge, I was sitting on one of those hard wooden benches watching with pride and admiration. And in that dream, when the bad guy spoke harshly or threatened her, I stared him down with my best Clint Eastwood stare and he sat his ass back down. (I’m talking ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘Unforgiven’ Clint, not Republican Convention Clint)

When my son rescued dogs from puppy mills, scored touchdowns, hit home runs, and pulled women and children from burning buildings, in the dream, I’m driving him to all these activities. As he crosses the finish line, covered with sweat and grit and blood, I’m handing him the Gatorade and his mom is handing him a cold washcloth to wipe away the hurt.

My daughter and my son are going to stare down life’s bullies, bad guys, and “storms”, because they can. They’re better than me, and that’s what I hoped for. I just didn’t think it was going to happen so fast, and I didn’t think they were going to do it without me.

I didn’t think about that part.

 

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Vertigo

Have any of you ever suffered from Vertigo? Well I have, and it sucks.

Today’s tale is dedicated to my bro, Patrick. Patrick and I are co-workers, and once upon a time I must have shared this story with him while we were traveling together. I tend to tell lots of stories to people who travel with me. People usually only travel with me once.

Anyway…Patrick thought the story I’m about to tell was funny, interesting, and just “messed up” enough to be shared with the masses, so he suggested I should write it as a ‘Chronicle’. I told him he should mind his own business, and not tell me what to write, and to go fuck himself. Upon reflection, I realized my initial response to his suggestion may have been a bit course. I can’t really apologize to him, because apologizing would be admitting I was wrong, and even though I was wrong, I can’t go around apologizing to people every time I’m wrong about something.

  *****

A long time ago, in an airport far, far away, I was waiting for my terminating flight to Hartford CT, and my ears would not “un-pop” from my previous, connecting flight from Kansas City. I was uncomfortable. I was suffering from a minor sinus infection, nothing debilitating, but certainly unpleasant while flying. I made quite a spectacle of myself walking around the terminal, pinching my nostrils together and blowing into the blocked off nasal cavity with all my might. It made me dizzy, and frustrated…and it didn’t work. Passersby watched and judged as I stood in line to board the plane, and turned my pale winter face a deep crimson as I continued my pressure relief attempts. It still didn’t work.

 

I was not excited about getting on another airplane. I wondered if my ears would double pop on the next trip. And I wondered if my ears double popped, would my head explode? It seemed like a possibility, even though I had never heard of this occurring before. So then I imagined if my head did explode, it would suck for my fellow passengers what with the mess and everything, but since it had never happened before, I would probably have a story written about me in ‘People Magazine’…and that would be cool.

My wife’s dream is to be in ‘People Magazine’, so maybe she could be in the article as well:

“…he is survived by his wife and children in Kansas City. When we spoke with Mrs. Large Man, she said ‘His head looked fine when he left that morning. He talked like he was a little stuffy, but that was it. It’s all so shocking and hard to process. Do we get any money for this interview? You know, the Maury people want an exclusive, and they’re talking deep into 4 figure territory. Just saying. I’m probably going to have to raise these two children on my own for a few months.’”

Even though I wondered about these things, we never made it to ‘People’, because, obviously, nothing exploded. Well…technically.

So I hop on the plane, and we take off, and I feel the pressure build as we climb. I expected it, so I just took the pain as the air pressure in the cabin grabbed two metaphorical ice picks and jammed them mercilessly into both of my ears. Pain isn’t really a big deal to me. I took it like a man…like a Large Man.

Then, the bell chimed, indicating we had reached 10,000 feet…and my ears un-popped. For about 2 seconds, everything felt great. Such relief…for about 2 seconds.

 

So I hear the chime, the ears clear, and as I exhale the sigh of relief, the plane appeared to turn upside down. As the plane turned upside down, my body became completely drenched from sweat (I hoped). I felt a total body tremor, and within another second or 2 a wave of nausea completely overtook me.

I’m on a Southwest Airlines flight, about 3 rows back from the forward lavatory, but we were still in our ascent, and as far as I could tell the plane was still upside down, although now it was spinning in circles while we were upside down. I pressed the help button, and a flight attendant announced over the intercom that the flight attendants were not available until we reached a safe altitude. There was an empty seat between me and the dude sitting by the window. I remember looking at him with pleading eyes and he smiled at me. At that moment, I assumed that he assumed he was going to heaven after our plane crashed. The flight attendants were calm as well, and as I looked around the cabin at all the other passengers, no one was afraid. They were calm, some were sleeping, some were talking, others were listening to iTunes, on their iPhones or their iPods, completely at peace with our impending iDoom.

At that point I realized while I have been a bit of douche bag most of my life, I couldn’t be the only person on the plane not going to heaven. I looked behind me, and quickly determined that the asshole in 7F had no shot at “ascending to the light”, based solely on the fact that he was wearing a blue seersucker jacket with a tan button down oxford shirt, brown slacks, RED socks and black lace up cap toed shoes. Five different articles of clothing, and couldn’t match two? Yet he was calm.

I don’t know if it was 7F’s f-ed up apparel, or my own malady but I could no longer keep the contents of my stomach contained. I grabbed the airsickness bag and even in my state of panic and confusion, I deftly unfolded it just in time to release the morning’s sausage, egg & cheddar on everything bagel mixed with diet Coke, into the bag.

Well, that was the plan anyway. However, I still thought I was upside down, so instead of tossing my bagels downward into my emergency puke container, I held the bag above my head as I leaned my head back. The vomit percolated out of me, upwards… like one of those old style water fountains that would shoot straight up and then fall back into the basin. Unfortunately, the “basin” in this situation was my bearded chin.

This was unfortunate.

The dude sitting next to me, the one going to heaven, looked at me in horror, and asked in a rather unsympathetic tone, “What the fuck are you doing?”

I replied calmly, wait, no…I mean hysterically, “I don’t know. Is the plane upside down? Are we going down?”

He just smiled and said, “No, you have vertigo, and you just got puke all over your clothes.”

And then the smell hit him and he covered his mouth and his nose and his gag reflex started tickling the back of his throat, and he almost puked as well. His body heaved a couple of times, and then he just turned away and faced the window…like a little baby.

About a minute later, the plane leveled off and a flight attendant brought me a handful of paper towels and a plastic bag, looked at me with utter disgust and said with a totally phony smile, “Just do the best you can, sir.” Then her hand went over her mouth and she did the “body wretch” dance as well.

 

I cleaned up as best I could, I threw the paper towels into the plastic bag, wrapped it up tight, and tried to hand it to the flight attendant. She looked at me with the disdain that someone might have if they watched someone else puke all over their self. I couldn’t blame her for that one…totally MY bad in this situation.

She said, “I don’t get paid enough to handle that bag. Please just keep it under the seat in front of you until we land, and find a wastebasket at the airport, sir.” She was very polite, with all the “sirs” and everything, but I didn’t get the feeling that she liked me.

We landed. I did as she instructed. And the horrifying and shameful experience was over…

…until the next time I flew on a plane.

Vertigo sucks.

Thanks for reading. I hope Patrick was right, and you found it to be a story worth reading.

Tell someone you love them today.

TLM

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Sweet Dreams

So, here I am…living the dream. Since I have always been sort of a hopeless, romantic, dreamer, it’s worked out pretty well.

I remember as a small child, I would lay in the stiff and crunchy straw grass at “the short cut” and stare up at the autumn clouds on a sunny October day, and I would imagine that if I could just get up there, I would have a blast bouncing from cloud to cloud. Free from gravity, free from tonsillitis, free from runny noses, free from arguing parents, free from uncertainty, free from fear. No bullies, no bullshit, no restraints. I dreamed about flying all the time. I would jump out of a plane from above the clouds, and just drop down upon them…as soft and gentle as my grandma’s hug. The clouds were landing spots, and launching pads; it was real, and possible… and it was just a matter of time.

And then, in fifth grade, back when they taught you stuff instead of how to take tests, we had science as part of our curriculum. And when you took science class in fifth grade, they loaned you a text book, AND…in this particular Houghton Mifflin text book, there was a chapter on weather… and THAT fucked everything up.

Turns out cumulus clouds are not spongy, springy cotton balls, basically they’re just water. If you tried to jump on one, you would fall through it, crashing to the earth. Then you would land on the sidewalk or the street (because back then the world was made mostly of sidewalks and streets) and you would break an arm or a leg. So then, you would still have tonsillitis, a runny nose, bickering parents…bullies & bullshit, but you would have to add whatever broken bones you acquired from the fall to that inventory of earthly misery. I probably should have deduced all that when I saw planes fly through the clouds.

So that sucked…

The lesson here is that a good education is a spoiler of dreams.

However, it’s still a sweet memory, and it was a sweet dream. A little boy imagining a trampoline world up in the clouds…free and peaceful, special and safe. Nothing wrong with that.

Later, I dreamed of being an athlete. Mostly a pro football player, but I could have been a baseball player, a swimmer, or a track star. Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Carlos Palomino made me want to be a fighter. Bruce Lee and David Carradine made me want to be a martial arts master, but a Robin Hood type; a protector of the innocent and downtrodden. (And the cute!!)

I kicked a LOT of imaginary asses at first. After I became a more skilled imaginary ass kicker, I daydreamed of taking on real life bullies. I usually kicked those thug asses while protecting some of the girls who were my seventh and eighth grade crushes. These were very James Thurber, ‘Walter Mitty’, type daydreams.

Imagine, if you will…

Laurie, the seventh grade captain of the cheerleaders, and prettiest girl in the school, is walking down the hall, making eye contact with me from twenty lockers away, and smilingat ME.

So with a cool twitch of my head, I shift my poorly trimmed hair out of my eyes, and I walk towards her. (We’re moving in slow motion, because that’s how daydreams work, this allows the joy to last a full, one third, longer…this is always true. You can Google it.) As we get closer to each other, it seems like it’s a foregone conclusion that she’s going to ask me to walk home with her. Of course I will, and I’ll carry her books for her. Maybe she’ll ask me go to the Sadie Hawkins dance, and if we go to the dance, maybe I can kiss her goodnight. I would kiss her so gently and sweet, right on the mouth…and she will taste of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine, and everlasting love.

But Oh No! Just as we are mere inches away from each other (and everlasting love) Rick Bluto steps in front of her and asks her if she wants some of his Big Buddy bubble gum. He’s very suggestive and ungentlemanly in his offer. He startles her, and scares her, and I see the pleading in her eyes…asking me for help. But Bluto is much larger than me, and he’s strong, and hairy…and in seventh grade you avoid confrontation with hairy guys at all costs. So I turn and start to walk away in shame. But as I look over my shoulder I see that he’s grabbing her arm to try to hold her hand, and I can stand no more. So I walk back – with the determination of a grown man in love. And even though I’ve never had any “formal” training, I’ve watched enough ‘Kung Fu’ episodes to have a basic understanding of martial arts, and I bust Rick Bluto’s large and hairy ass for him. Of course, it was for Laurie too, and for me, and for everyone else in America. The kids all gather around and start chanting “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” It’s practically over before it starts, because I’m so quick, noble… and martially gifted. 

I win the confrontation, and the girl. Rick Bluto learns a lesson, and starts getting better grades, and stops picking on all of us, and becomes a congressman. Laurie and I get married and have a couple of kids. And teachers, school administrators, and everyone in our community agrees that THIS seventh grade class was probably the best ever. Everybody wins.

No shit. I really dreamed like that, all the time. I even wanted to start my own street gang, but we were going to be a nice and noble gang – good Samaritans – we would defend women and children with “…the fiery passion of a thousand suns”. We were going to get denim vests with sewn on patches. We would be called “Feminine Protection”, and the mean streets of Woodbridge VA and Washington DC would be safe to walk again – any hour of the day! That was my dream.

One day, in the summer of ’72, I shared my dream with my mother. I asked her if she would buy me a Levi’s denim jacket, help me cut off the sleeves, and find a way to embroider “Feminine Protection” on the back.

So being the amazing mother she was, she explained some things to me. “Oh”, I said in response to another science lesson. After the trauma of the lesson on feminine protection,  I couldn’t come up with another catchy name for my noble gang, so just like the clouds, another dream was dashed.

I had a rough childhood, full of disappointment and failed dreams.

But eventually, I started to put those childish dreams away. When it became clear that I was not going to be the president of the local chapter of a noble street gang, or the next Lynn Swan, Muhammad Ali, or even Kwai Chang Caine, I started imagining a different future, one more reflective of who and what I really am.

When I figured out that I was just The Large Man, nothing more, but certainly nothing less, dreams changed to aspirations. When I realized that other than being a decent kisser, and having a knack for picking the perfect “next song” at parties, I had no special powers or talent. I was an average guy, and I began to dream average guy dreams.

Or did I?

Maybe…just MAYBE, those average guy dreams are actually bigger…and better.

I wanted a wife, and I thought it would be awesome if she were pretty, and she liked me. I wanted a couple of kids that I didn’t have to spend a lot of time in court with. I wanted a Large dog that came to me when I said, “Here boy!”. I dreamed of living in a house in a safe neighborhood, and driving a car that I didn’t hate that would get me back and forth to a job that I also didn’t hate. That was it. Well, I guess I’ve always wanted a decent stereo too.

Wife, kids, dog, house…stereo. Less dramatic than bouncing on clouds and protecting cheerleaders from bullies, but in reality, just as ambitious.

A good and simple life is hard to come by. The stars need to line up for 2 completely different humans who want pretty much the exact same things. Finding a partner who loves you, and who will love you forever is just about  as difficult as bouncing on clouds. A lot of times people think they love each other, because of all those beginning fireworks, but when the smoke clears and the ash settles, they find out that being in love, and staying in love, is much harder than falling in love. Take my word for this…I have some experience. Some dreams end a lot worse than finding out clouds are really just water.

Funny how it worked for me though. It seems like when my hopes and dreams became a little smaller, and a little less spectacular, my realities became much bigger, richer, and sweeter than I ever imagined. As a young man, I absolutely DID dream of this life, I just never dreamed that it would be this sweet.

Wife, kids, dog, house…simple when you write it out like that, but when you add them together, and take a good look at that simple, sweet dream, it’s really quite something.

Sweet dreams & Big love to you. Thanks for reading.

TLM

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Disgruntled

Do you guys watch TV? Do you ever watch the news channels? Sports channels? Presidential debates? Do you ever listen to news radio? Do any of you dear and treasured readers of The Large Man Chronicles have a Facebook account? And do you follow the thread on at least a semi-regular basis?

Does it sometimes seem like everybody in the world is pissed off about something?

It does to me, and I’m becoming a bit concerned.

One of my favorite things in the world is the NFL championship game. (I ain’t allowed to use the “S” word because of copyright protection. If this Large Man tale is ever published by an entity with intentions of profit, I would have to pay a fee for using the “S” word. Paying fees is not “super”.) As I watched this year’s install of America’s greatest entertainment event, I truly enjoyed the Denver defense’s dismantling of the Carolina Panthers team. I also took great pleasure in watching one of the game’s all-time great players (and pitchmen) win his last game, and walk away as a champion.

But as much as I loved it all, as much as I scheduled my Sunday around the event…as much as I bask in the passion of the event; it’s never lost on me that is a game. It’s a game!

It’s a game played by young men. Young human men. Young human men who have been coddled and handled most of their lives. (Also very much abused in my opinion – story for another day)

I’m not the only person who watches that big game, (I don’t pay a fee for “big game”, but the NFL tried to copyright that too) but it feels like I’m the only person in America who wasn’t disgruntled over some aspect of the game when it was all over.

White people are mad about Beyonce. Deaf people are mad about Marlee Matlin’s limited TV screen time. Peyton fans are mad that Eli didn’t show enough emotion. Black people are mad because white people don’t love Cam.

 

Now I’m mad…because it’s a football game. That’s all it is. People get worked up over the stupidest, silliest, shit. I’m heartbroken that my kids are growing up in a world so full of contempt. Contempt for difference, and contempt for tradition. Contempt for expressions of joy, and even contempt for expressions of grace and humility.

I DON’T LIKE CAM! But I don’t dislike him because he’s black and if he stays healthy he will most likely break ALL the records of my beloved white quarterbacks*. Even though that kind of sucks…I want my heroes (sports heroes) to be heroes forever. But that’s just about impossible.

*I don’t love them because they’re white.

I do not dislike Cam because he’s a joyous and talented and strong and INTELLIGENT, proud African American man, I don’t like him because he went to Auburn, and I’m a ‘Bama fan. Do I wish he handled his post-game presser a little better? Maybe. The guidance I might offer the young man is that if you are going to perform the histrionics after every first down, a little humility after you got your ass kicked would be appreciated by the rest of the world. But that’s my way…that’s what I would teach my children. Doesn’t have to be Cam’s. Cam Newton is not the first athlete to act like an asshole after a game – win or lose. Bill Belichick does it every week.

Why the anger? Why the hate? It’s a game. I don’t understand how a reasonable person would give a flying —-!

I don’t have a problem with Beyoncé’s halftime show, but guess I understand how some people might. However…controversial social expression only hurts you if you let it. And, black or white, you’re an idiot if you let it.

I do have a problem with her music, but only because it sucks. It’s barely even hers. If she didn’t have a pretty face, a nice ass, and a choreographer, we wouldn’t know who she is. You may feel differently…I come from a time when people could stand alone and make your heart soar, and ache, and dance, with just their voice and a piano. Her lyrics lack depth, her melodies are unimaginative, her voice lacks style and clarity…and her message sucks. Give me Aretha, Brenda Russell or Billie Holiday, any day…and twice on Sunday.

But that being said, it may be that she is simply not my cup of tea. I’m a 56 year old white male. Her voice is not the voice I hear when I crave inspiration, or a slow dance with pretty girl. But based on her record sales, my position on the matter is quite different than people much younger than me. She seems to reach them. Guess what…that’s ok too. It makes me a little melancholy when I think of an R & B artist who has no soul (in the way I define & recognize “soul”), but society will not prosper or face its demise based on Beyoncé’s success…or her halftime show. I’m bigger and stronger…Larger than controversial messages. I’m teaching my kids to be that way too. In Casa de Grande Hombre, we’re not counting on Cam and Beyonce to be lighthouse beacons for ships that carry our eternal souls, so it’s kinda hard for them to disappoint us.

The media, Twitter, and my Facebook page burned with hatred and disgust for 3 weeks after the game. I had a friend starting chemo, maybe that’s why I didn’t place a lot of importance on a pouting primadonna, and an over-hyped line dancer. I thought this was one of the best championship games I’ve ever watched. I totally enjoyed the halftime show too. The colors, the singing, the dancing, were spectacular. I would have preferred the Stones, Springsteen, or Tom Petty, but I’m really old.

And I think Coldplay sucks too.

The people who say they represent deaf people were off the reservation pissed about the sign language interpretation of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ not being broadcast in its entirety on TV. It was shown on the big screen for the duration of the song for the people in the stadium. But that’s not enough.

It’s never enough.

There was a military fly by with F-16 jets, so now there is an entire contingent FA-18 pilots and navigators who are suing the NFL for their exclusion. Civilian Lear jet pilots heard about the FA-18 movement, so they’re getting in on it too.

Several Peyton Manning fans brought it to the attention of the media that Eli was less than excited when it looked like Peyton had clinched the game with a beautiful pass for a 2 point conversion. So now, Peyton’s father, Archie Manning, has grounded Eli until next season, telling him if he can’t support his older brother he doesn’t need to go out and socialize with others.

I don’t know where it’s going to end, but I ain’t playin’.

Big Love,

The Large Man

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Alarm Clocks

Welcome back boys & girls. From the bottom of my artistic, sarcastic, grammatically & politically incorrect heart, I want to apologize for my absence. My daytime revenue generation duties have occupied almost all of the bandwidth in my head for the last few months. When the left side of my brain is the dominant player, there’s very little space for sensitivity, humor and hijinks. I truly hope that someday I’ll figure out how to create a world of balance. For whatever it’s worth, if you are someone who misses the Large Man when he is away, please know that I miss him too. Only 2 things give me more pleasure than opening up a blank Word doc and typing out, The Large Man Chronicles.

Today’s story isn’t really a story, it’s a lament. I’m channeling a little bit of Seinfeld here:

“So what’s the deal with alarm clocks? Do they really suck, or what?”

Yes, Jerry, they really suck.

They suck like ticks on a huntin’ dawg, like distant cousins on a family trust, like leeches on a nut sack. (See Stand By Me)

I’m lucky that I usually don’t need an alarm clock. Most of my life I’ve had an internal rooster that crows sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 AM every day. You can insert some double entendre right there next to my internal “rooster” if you want, it’s taking all my literary discipline not to get sidetracked with that.

But anyway…

For as long as I can remember, as an adult, I wake up in that time slot and make a determination if I have to stay up. I have never missed a meeting, flight, or been late to work because I’ve overslept – I’ve been absent and late for lots of other reasons, but never for oversleeping.

But when my schedule changes, or when circumstances dictate rising earlier than 6:00 am, I must employ the services of my Sony “Dream Machine” digital clock radio, or the evil alarm app on my dumb phone, or the dreaded (and less dependable) wake-up call provided by whatever Hilton or Marriott property I’m currently sleeping with. As I stated earlier, I have been navigating unusually intense and treacherous waters in my day job over these last few months. Nothing sordid, evil, or unkind, just untypical…early flights to and fro, time zone changes, etc. So…lot’s of alarm clocks.

I didn’t have an alarm clock when I was a kid, I had my mom. Initially in the wake up process, my mom was very sweet. She would come downstairs to my room, and give my shoulder a gentle nudge, “Wake up, sunshine… it’s time for school” Never harsh, never mean, and never unkind… as long as I got up with the initial nudge. If a second reveille was required, it wasn’t as sweet.

As I grew older, and took a wife, the same loving and respectful treatment was always delivered in those wee hours of the morning, “Rise and shine, Handsome…time to conquer the world! You’re going to be President some day!”

I don’t think my wife really thinks I’m going to be President, she just likes for people to start the day with a great attitude. It’s one of the things I admire about her the most. Our children hop out of her car when they start their school day believing they can…whatever “can” entails. I love that.

That’s how one should start their morning – gently, calmly, and LOVINGLY, stirred into the new day. Not mechanically, electronically, or digitally shaken into it with sterile, heartless, LOVELESS buzzers, bells, whistles and beeps.

Stirred, not shaken.

Being mechanically or electronically, or even musically awoken is an assault on one’s spirit. It’s a sin against our humanity. It is a symptom of a society that has lost its way.

Alarm clocks don’t send us out into the world with confidence and security, Moms do…loving parents & spouses and partners do. Alarm clocks hurl us into the gravity of a given day and remind us that we are not in charge of our schedule, and therefore our lives.

A little internet research on alarm clocks and their inventors led me back to the mid 1800s. A French inventor named, Antoine Redier was awarded a patent for an adjustable mechanical alarm clock in 1847. There is some argument that a guy named Levi Hutchins from New Hampshire made one in the late 1700s. The Seth Thomas Clock Company got a patent on a small bedside alarm clock in 1876. Sometime around 1940, James Reynolds & Paul Schroth invented the first clock radio with an alarm.

All those guys are dicks.

I am of the opinion if employers and educators didn’t know the public had access to these soul sucking mechanical and electronic devices, they would have started office, store, factory, and school hours a little bit later. It’s the inventors of alarm clocks that screwed it up for the rest of us.

It is a known fact that a lack of sleep is detrimental to our health. It causes bone deterioration, skin irritation, digestive disorders, nerve damage, colds, flu, obesity, heart failure, whooping cough, and all forms of venereal disease. So…one could conclude, if there were no alarm clocks, we would all reside in a healthier world.

The only time alarm clocks should be employed in our daily lives is for waking up to fish, or to watch a sunrise at the beach, or to make babies (I think I read somewhere that female ovulation is at its peak when the male “internal rooster” crows…sometime between 5:30 – 6:00 AM). Otherwise, alarm clocks should be banned.

I love the early morning. I love the still and the darkness of the pre-dawn, and then listening to the world slowly wake up and begin its dance and song of a new day. Being in that moment, being able to witness that sound and motion – that symphony, is one of my most favorite things. But I love those things on my terms. I don’t like anyone, or anything, telling me what I have to do, and when I have to do it.

ESPECIALLY … with a soul sucking mechanical or electronic device.

I have 12 to 14 more years to work. You are all invited to my retirement party. If you can’t get there due to your schedule or whatever, I’ll just describe it for you here:

1. My boss will say a few words and shake my hand
2. I will say a few words about how I couldn’t have done it without all the love and support of my wife and family, and the amazing team of co-workers who allowed me to be part of their “family”
3. I will be given a nice gold watch
4. …and a hammer

I think you know what happens next…

Thanks for reading.

TLM

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