I met my friend Larry M. when his junior high closed down and combined with my junior high in 1980. I had broken a finger that first week of school, injured while playing basketball. Larry, who I didn't know at all at the time, approached me in the lunch room and asked about my finger. Soon afterwards we were running down the hallway laughing while throwing stink bombs. We got into all sorts of trouble, always laughing. Larry was the unofficial leader. Thirty or so guys would regularly swarm his house and in his massive backyard we would have epic football games -- until one day in high school when our friend Doug broke his collar bone.
I spent a few summers in that backyard -- that's where I learned his dad was just like him when on one particular 4th of July his dad threw cherry bombs at us, laughing hysterically.
In addition to having a funny dad and being incredibly funny himself, Larry was a great athlete. He played every sport well. Oddly, I remember the way he ran. He never pumped his arms when he ran. His arms were always down like he was getting under a high pop fly or something. I always thought that was an odd way to run. Though, he never looked odd when he played hockey. Hockey was his sport of choice, his passion, and he was a member of our high school hockey team when it won the state championship in the 1980s.
I was a lot smaller than Larry and he sort of treated me like a kid brother. He was always looking out for me. When he was around I might mouth off a little more knowing that anyone who would mess with me had Larry to contend with. As adults, he still looked out for me. When I was in law school, he was trying to get me clients. I tried to tell him that I couldn't have clients as a law student, but that didn't stop him. He always wanted to help me.
I didn't see him much during the 1990s. Though I remember he worked the door at a night club and I would hang out there on occasion and catch up with him. We truly reconnected about 10 years ago. We both lived on the Northwest Side of Chicago and got together on occasional Sundays to watch NFL football. There was a bar near his house where it was junior high and high school all over again. Larry was the king of the bar. Everyone knew him and stopped to say hello while we sat at the bar and watched a game. He had a special gift of bringing people together. During these past 10 years, I got to see a lot of people from high school thanks to Larry. Like most people, I get caught up in my own world and forget sometimes about all the great people I've had the pleasure to call friends over the years. Not Larry. He never forgot you and he always tried to get a group of old friends together.
His funeral was surreal. At the service, I kept expecting him to get up, laugh and tell us it was all a joke. Just about all our old friends were there. Others were there in spirit. Once again he brought everyone together. One of the many thoughts that crossed my mind that day was that without Larry, I don't know if I'll see these people ever again.
I've had the misfortune of attending many funerals over the years. This was the only one where I kept saying to myself "get up, get up, get up." He never got up. I take solace knowing he left us for a better place. I'm going to miss him. Rest in peace my friend.
I'm sorry, my loyal readers, to stick you with such a downer of a blog. But I know my readers are all sports nuts, and Larry was a guy you would have wanted on your team. Thanks for letting me grieve here a bit. Better days ahead! Stay healthy!! If you're currently unhealthy, i.e., drinking, smoking, couch potato, whatever, the time to change is now. I have. I drank with the best of 'em. I even wrote a book about it. Not a drop now, though. I want to be around a long time. I also much prefer writing about baseball cards. Don't give me something else to write about!!
Pictured below is me and Larry in 1980.