By Tommy Clarkson from the May 2014 Edition
(Most everyone can relate as we all have met or are well aware of this sort of individual. He is the guy who knows and has – purportedly – done it all.
Everything you’ve experienced, he’s done it better and all too eager to tell you all about it. Recently while flying home, trapped at an altitude of 39,000 feet, one such individual sat next to me. . . . or so this story goes! The following is a continuation of this, seemingly, unending experience.)
With more than a little pretention in his tone, the unrelenting – all but wholly cacophonous – boasting emitting from my seatmate continued with “Not to brag, mind you, but I could’ve gone pro, ya’ know.”
He mistook my somewhat stupefied, stunned and “deer in the headlights” expression (a result of his ceaseless harangue of outlandish claims since first he sat down beside me) for interest . . . or at least acquiescence.
“Yes,” the oral freight train rambled on, “as a multi-sport All American in college, I seemed somewhat gifted in virtually anything athletic, playing both American and European football, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, field hockey – and as in all of those athletic activities – I additionally set NCAA records in track and field in the pole vault, shot put, long jump, hammer throw, 100 yards dash and marathon.”
“But one must give credit where credit is due,” he said as with an unsuccessful attempt of badly feigned humility, “It’s my genes, you see.”
“Why my father – a gifted spelunker of ice caves in the Antarctica, world class mountain climber and ice dancer himself – could teach a penguin to fly! In football alone, my father was the training genius behind Walter Payton’s running abilities, Jerry Rice’s catching prowess and Peyton Manning’s quarterbacking skills.”
I actually choked in disbelieve at this assertion but that slowed him down not a whit.
“And who think you that it was that taught Michael Jordan his hoop moves, Tiger Woods his perfection on the links, Miguel Cabrera his magic on the diamond, Sidney Crosby his ultimate panache on the ice?” (He paused for what, I suppose, was his idea of dramatic effect.) With supercilious aplomb, he stated simply, “Dad, of course!”
“And, concerning women’s tennis, who do you suppose crafted the training regimen for the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova? None other than my mom!”
“In fact, my father’s father was the first man to swim the English Channel with a 45 pound anvil on his back; his wife, my grandmother, the first to climb the Matterhorn in Bermuda shorts, tank top and sandals; my mother’s sister the first to parasail around Australia; my mother’s father could hold his breath for fifteen minutes at a depth of twenty fathoms . . . .”
(My immediate and only thought at that moment was this this was not the only thing getting deep around here!)
“. . . and my cousin the first human to do the Olympic slalom with butcher’s meat cleavers strapped to his feet in lieu of skis!”
He paused, turned his head toward me and then with a snort and a loud chortle said, “You might say he was on the cutting edge of the sport!” As he smacked my shoulder with a beefy fist in camaraderie, his face turned nearly beet red with his gales of guffaws that followed, as he thoroughly enjoyed his own joke, repeating several time, . . .”cutting edge, get it?”
Finally, tears streaming from his eyes as a result of his sustained, roaring horselaugh, he brushed them aside with the back of his hand and clearly prepared himself to continue, “Now my Great Uncle on my mother’s father’s side . . . .”
I strove to find some manner of escape. But now, mind numbed, all around me seemed surreal. The entirety of my situation seemed like some sort of out of body experience, transcendent of time, space and life that I had – but some time ago – accepted as normalcy.
Somewhere in the back of my heard I swear that I actually heard Rod Serling’s unique and clipped voice stating, “You have now entered the Twilight Zone!”
And we were not one tenth of the way through our flight!
Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation - Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.