I never really thought about Lary having his own family until recently, when he asked me to accompany him home to New York to attend his sister's wedding. OK, maybe he didn't ask me, maybe I invited my own damn self when I heard he was going, just like I had to invite my own damn self when I heard he and Grant were headed on a road trip to Thomasville because, evidently, Lary needed to get some lady down there to sign over the warranty deed on the decrepit cinder-block mausoleum he calls a home.
Seriously, you should see his home. It's a weathered old warehouse right downtown on a strip of road that used to be industrial until it got invaded by developers a few years back. Afterward, Lary awoke one morning to discover that most of his neighboring buildings had been torn down and replaced by candy-colored Victorians with wrap-around porches and loft projects with balconies that boasted "sweeping cityscape panoramas!"
After that, Lary tried diverting the frenzy by taking to the street and waving his gun like a lunatic, thinking he'd frighten away prospective neighbors, but all that did was help clear his community of real criminals -- who evidently have a better-honed aversion to dangerous maniacs -- which in turn made the place even more attractive to real-estate caravans. So Lary gave up and now there he lives, in a crumbling old ex-factory in the center of a gentrified vista just south of the Capitol. Occasionally, though, he still stands out front to growl at his neighbors like a Frankenstein refusing to be banished by the meddlesome villagers.
Anyway, I always thought Lary owned the place free and clear, having paid next to nothing for it years ago. Regarding the day he bought it, I always imagined him like that kid in the old Cracker Jack commercial, emptying his pockets on the previous owner's counter to reveal a musty pile of pennies, paper clips, hermit crabs and other sediment, then pointing to the old warehouse, "Pretty please?" Turns out that's almost literally how it happened. "Take it," the guy had said, scooping Lary's offering into his palm, but then they left it at that; a handshake deal.
So that's why, a decade later, Lary needs to make a trip to Thomasville. There was a woman there who needed to sign the actual warranty deed before Lary could call the place his own. Her fourth husband from 40 years back had lost it in a card game or something and neglected to sign it over before the cement dried around his ankles and he was tossed overboard, I'm betting. Whatever the case, the situation necessitated an actual adventure.
Hence the road trip. Grant went with him because it just so happens Grant is a notary. Grant is always pulling stuff like this out of the lovely shit basket that is his past -- he is also a licensed real-estate agent, a licensed social worker, a minister ordained through the tabloid classifieds, a landscape architect, an antiques dealer, a bartender, an ex-seminary student at Princeton, an ex-husband to two ex-wives, a loving father and, basically, the all-round ringmaster of his own psycho circus that stretches all over the Southeast. For example, it turns out his own mild-mannered father lives not far from Thomasville, and this was Grant's opportunity to drop in on him and pretend he and Lary were gay lovers.
So, of course, when I heard what they were up to I horned in on their plans like a pesky rash. "Goddammit," I shrieked at Lary over the phone, "don't you dare think you're sneaking off without me like you did to your sister's wedding. I'll be back Thursday, got that? So I'm good for anytime after that. My life is WIDE OPEN after Thursday, so don't you dare leave before then."
That Wednesday, Grant, who is gay, and Lary, who is not, both happily headed south without me. What's worse is that Lary's own ailing father had died days before, thereby robbing me of the self-appointed right to be the official shoulder Lary could cry on, in case he had it in him. I never knew much about Lary's father, except that he was a fairly productive drunk who divorced his mother when Lary was 10. It took me a decade just to get this out of the guy, because I seriously believe Lary prefers people to think he just happened onto the Earth by crawling out of a tar pit somewhere, rather than emerging from an actual family. In fact, another of his younger sisters wanted to visit him at home with her baby son, but he advised against it on account of how he lived in a run-down warehouse and her kid stood a chance of accidentally ending up with rusty fish hooks imbedded in his head.
So it's in keeping that Lary, fatherless now, tells me it doesn't feel any different than before, which makes me think I might not have been the right person to accompany him on the road trip after all. Sometimes your friends need something other than what you can give, and sometimes you've got to let them look for it. Before Lary took the road home last Wednesday, he bid farewell to Grant's father, who gave him a lasting hug. "I like you," Grant's father told him. "You and my son seem very happy together."
Hollis Gillespie's commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered." To hear the latest, go to www.hollisgillespie.com.