Experiencing life to the fullest

Published 9:11 am Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hannibal King has yet to see it all.

Hannibal volunteers as the head hash slinger at the St. Mia Farrow Shelter for Starving Artists and Underpaid Academics. Most of the people, serving alongside Hannibal, are there to fulfill community service misdemeanor sentencing requirements. Because of this, Hannibal gets the privilege of standing shoulder to shoulder with some very interesting folks.

“Hello friend. I’m Hannibal,” was his typical greeting to every new hash slinger. “What’s your name and what are you in for?”

“I cut a man’s liver out with a mashed potato serving spoon, just for asking stupid questions. I haven’t done it in a while and I’m getting a little itchy. Got any more stupid question?” Gilmore H. Sturmhalla, a well-seasoned gentleman (read: cantankerous old man), fell into the “and the horse you rode in on” category of respondents.

“Thank you for clearing that up,” Hannibal responded quietly, calmly, and from just beyond arm’s reach. “Would you like me to show you a more efficient way to serve those potatoes?” Hannibal figured Mr. Sturnhalla’s ire might be subdued by offering a few well-intentioned tips on hash slinging made easy. In spite of the bucket load of degrees tucked up under Hannibal King’s mortar board, there are times when he just isn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.

“I’ve got no use for learning anything new, or better, or efficient, or just because it’s different. Take your potato spoon and point it north.”

Unsure of what “pointing it north” meant, Hannibal lost his chance to respond.

“Let me tell you something kid,” Hannibal was shockingly amused at being referred to as a “kid.” “I came of age during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. You know anything about them days, you little dangling earlobe?”

Hannibal might have responded, but got distracted over the “dangling earlobe” slur.

“I became a man in a world filled with dorm room posters and bumper stickers that said things like, ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,’ and ‘People are down on the things they’re not up on,’ and, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life,’ and all kinds of pabulum jibber-jabber. Solutions to all the world’s problems in fifteen words, or less.”

Gilmore H. Sturmhalla took a breath, glopped a mass of steaming something-or-another on a patron’s plate, and went right back at it.

“I did it all. I experienced everything so no one could accuse me of being narrow-minded, closed to new experiences, or (worst of all) undiverse. I hitch-hiked across this country three times, from ocean to ocean and from unguarded border to unguarded border.” At this point, Mr. Sturmhalla’s spoon was getting precariously close to Hannibal’s nose. “I planted trees on mountainsides, slept on beaches, and saw a herd of wild mustangs being ridden by Jeanne Kirkpatrick after snorting dried casaba melon rind. If I haven’t done it, it ain’t worth doing.”

Casaba melon hallucinations were just a little outside any of Hannibal’s many fields of study.

“The whole idea behind experiencing EVERYTHING was to make my life full and rewarding. Well, Mr. I-Still-Have-All-My- Hair (it’s true – Hannibal’s hair was full and bouncy – with a speckling of gray for gravitas), when do I get to quit experiencing stuff and start enjoying a few things?”

“Huh?’ Hannibal grunted, as a near-miss potato splatter landed on his right cheek.

“I’ve tried everything. So far, I haven’t liked most of it. Out of everything I have ever done, there are probably only six things I really like to do. When do I get to quit doing all that other stuff and just be me? When do I get to kick back and enjoy my six things?”

“What’d you say you were in here for?”

“Failed to return an overdue Jane Fonda workout tape from 1982.”


Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His optimistic “glass full to overflowing” view of life shapes his writing. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. Wilson touts himself as “a dubiously licensed teller of tall tales, sworn to uphold the precept of ‘It’s my story; that’s the way I’m telling it.’” He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com.