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  • Here are a few of the many things you should know about Larry:

    We were close friends for 35 years. I was a member of the Beatles Generation. He hailed from the Beat Generation. We met in Cambridge, where he had gone to college and I where I was a young grad student in the school where Larry then worked as a clerk. One of the first things he told me about himself was that he had recently been released from Wormwood Scrubs prison in Britain after serving time for importing hashish into the kingdom, and oh yes, that he was a member of the Massachusetts Bar. Despite having no professional ambitions, Larry distinguished himself as a people person. However, one had to meet his idiosyncratic standards to be worthy of his love (which meant leveling with him), and then be prepared to tolerate his bad behavior (especially when either or both were under the influence).

    Many of us remember Larry as a party animal, but there was more depth to him than that. Beyond socializing with the aid of controlled substances, his life revolved around:
    • Cooking for large crowds
    • Thrift shops and yard sales
    • Females, the younger the better
    • Cars, vintage, particularly Packards
    • Regifting used merchandise to friends
    • Reading every book he could find cheap
    • His funky retreat on a New Hampshire lake

    His fetish for haunting thrift shops led me to dub Larry The Sultan of Swag. He called himself a pack rat, and indeed the longer he lived, the more small objects he had squirreled away. His apartment bulged with thrift store booty, so much so that clearing out his dining room for a party wasn’t possible; guests navigated around of stuff stacked against the walls and under his custom-made butcher block table featuring a big square hole in the middle. His third bedroom served as a giant closet, stuffed with stacks of tubs packed solid with every conceivable domestic item: bedspreads and comforters, toasters and blenders, shirts and shoes, bowls and boards.

    Without getting too psychoanalytic, my sense about why Larry burdened himself with finding, buying, hauling, and stashing all those superannuated items is that he loved:
    a) Household goods that could be recovered from the curb or bought for a song
    b) Haunting thrift shops and charming the various ladies who worked there
    c) His friends, with whom he wanted to share the very best that life had to offer

    In Larry’s mind, most of this stuff wasn’t his anyway; it was earmarked from the day of discovery for certain people; he was just holding it for them until the proper occasion arose. Many did arise over the years, but apparently not often enough, because his mountain of swag only grew more precipitous. Under his close supervision, a gang of his friends carefully dismantled it for a giant yard sale when he was forced to vacate his apartment after his landlord suddenly died. Naturally, we all got dibs on the best stuff.

    That was the best thing about him – his genuine thoughtfulness and unbridled generosity. When Christmas or birthdays rolled around (give or take a couple of weeks) Larry was there, bearing gifts. They were generally lumpy objects wrapped in white or colored tissue paper, decorated sparingly with pipe cleaner curls. Things like
    • Cast iron cookware, slightly rusted
    • Old butcher knives, resharpened
    • Mixmaster bowls, sans mixer
    • Food processors, beat-up and sticky
    • Cookbooks, classic or offbeat
    • Children’s books, classic and well-worn
    • Pendleton shirts, nice and right-sized
    • Flapper dresses for the young ladies
    • Slippers, sometimes mismatched

    He usually penned a to/from message on each parcel, never using a label or card, which rarely included any personal sentiment. What was special was his mark; instead of scrawling his name, Larry would doodle an impish image of himself, which always recalled for me his hipster visage from when I first met him.

    Larry sank to his bedroom floor on December 13, 2006 and did not wake up, one day shy of his 73rd birthday. Ironically, he had always said that 13 was his lucky number (he had 13133 for a license plate and 666-1313 for a phone number). Noticing that phone listing prompted strangers to ring him up and ask “Is Satan there?” Recently he had been bouncing in and out of hospital to balance his electrolytes, which his Crones disease and too much vodka kept throwing out of whack. He had already become quite reclusive, and when his youngest brother died days before, it further depressed him. I don’t think he wanted to die, but he wasn’t afraid to either. We knew he was frail, but his passing was still a shock.

    It took a good while for word about Larry's death to filter out to his network, because Larry never owned a computer or an email address. Nevertheless, a few months later, about 50 of his old friends assembled to drink champagne and pay tribute to our beloved Sultan. Now we were on our own, and it felt weird.

    @image: Larry keeping bar at a party c. 1975
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