This is a blast from the past, courtesy of some much-needed blog archive housekeeping. Thanks again, NaBloPoMo.
AUGUST 28, 2012
The last few days have been particularly rough at the hotel. Summer is beginning to fade away but the truly “special” guests continue to emerge from the trailer parks, the hospitals, the projects, etc. It is a challenging time to serve the traveling public – to say the least.
I should be used to the routine by now, but every day brings a new challenge and thus new headaches. And so it was that on this day I retreated to my usual hiding place, my “Fortress of Solitude”, the local casino’s food court, conveniently located a short walk away from my personal Thunderdome.
Yes, believe it or not, you can actually find some solitude in a casino – if you know where to look. I have a little corner I hole up in for a half-hour every day and it is glorious. There, the crazies can’t find me.
But there’s no hiding from fate. In this case, fate dropped a quiet, unassuming, man named Larry into my life to serve as a reminder of how little we truly understand about our very existence.
And how fragile and brief it can be.
LARRY: That sure smells good.
His simple observation roused me from my usual routine of scanning The National Post while chomping away at two slices of pizza. I looked over my shoulder to see a white-haired man in his golden years with a wide grin on his face and plenty of life in his eyes.
Or so I thought at the time.
THE HOOK: Yeah, it’s pretty good. You can get some just around the corner in the food court..
LARRY: Oh no, I’m not allowed. Do you know what a brain aneurysm is?
You have to admit, Larry knew how to employ a helluva ice breaker.
THE HOOK: Sure.
LARRY: Well, I have one.
Obviously, I was set back but I soldiered on.
THE HOOK: And you have to amend your diet in order to deal with something like that?
LARRY: You have to amend your whole life!
He pointed out his medic alert bracelet and informed me of his “Do Not Resuscitate” status. I really didn’t know what to say, but that didn’t matter; Larry wasn’t finished…
LARRY: They told me I had three months to live.
I really didn’t want the answer to my next, oh-so-obvious query, but I had to keep going.
THE HOOK: And how long do you have left?
LARRY: Three days.
What the hell do you say to that? I wanted to point out that Niagara Falls, in spite of all its wonder, may not be the ideal place to spend your personal End of Days. A casino definitely isn’t suitable, unless you’re going to go out enjoying all the usual vices a casino contains, but this man didn’t seem the type. He seemed honorable and decent; the kind, funny neighbor or the shopkeeper at the end of the block.
Larry came to my rescue again and kept talking.
LARRY: A bunch of my buddies from Waterloo brought me here on the bus, They’re upstairs gambling.
It seemed strange to me; a dying man’s friends bring him out for one last adventure and then abandon him to gamble, but I had to take Larry’s account at face value. Besides, people are capable of anything and are easily tripped up when dealing with such grim matters, so who can judge a man’s last wish? Certainly not I.
Larry excused himself abruptly, having spotted his friends. He joined them and together they walked off, out of my life forever. Almost.
I lingered for a few minutes, pondering the surreal events of the previous few minutes. I immediately realized the inescapable truth: These things happen every day to me. Why should I be surprised at all?
And so I returned to the hotel – and my life as usual… which is far from usual. Coincidentally, I’ve been to the casino many times but I never returned there for lunch again.
This post has been sitting in my archive for years. I don’t remember why I never published it. I think it may have been too much for me to process at the time. Years later, I would watch the greatest man I’ve ever known leave this world for whatever, if anything, that lies beyond. That experience changed me profoundly.
Now I feel I can deal with anything, and so I’ve been reading this post with a sort of emotional detachment. I’m finally ready to publish it.
Wherever you are, Larry, sorry for the delay.
See you in the lobby, kids…