It’s difficult to describe Larry in terms so people might understand him, mainly because I didn’t. He was a few years younger than me, and light-years smarter, and by that, I mean off the charts intelligent. Larry was one of those people when you first met him you assumed he was some sort of brain-damaged alcohol-fueled pothead, and he was. But then there was the satellite dish, and that’s where things got really, very, impossibly strange.
Larry was good with electronics, and this was all back in the ’80s before everything had to have a computer in it. He repaired televisions and radios, as well as anything else that had juice flowing through it. But Larry drank, a lot, and he smoked a lot of pot. Living in a single-wide trailer on a patch of land just big enough for it and a small shed, Larry was also a bane to his neighbors, and none of them were much better off.
Some people lack an understanding of boundaries and that would be Larry. He walked into any house if the door was unlocked and take anything he could pick up. His tiny shed was filled with tools that belonged to people he knew, and people he didn’t know. Larry didn’t seem to understand ownership and privacy. But that man knew electricity and how to make it work.
About the time his neighbors were planning to burn him out of the community, Larry came up with a satellite dish, yes, one of those big ones. How he got it to his trailer, no one knows, and he never said, but suddenly, he was snaking cables and lines to anyone who wanted three billion channels of television, and coming up with those huge satellite dishes, all for free. Larry helped set up a dozen more dishes, and all was forgiven. There was a chip that connected each dish with something way up in the sky, and Larry discovered computers, and how to speak to them. But Larry also discovered porn, a thousand channels of porn, and that was a very bad thing.
Larry watched porn like he drank cheap beer and smoked homegrown pot, which was all the time. To go over to ask him to help set up a dish was to walk in with porn on his television. People could put up with the missing tools and Larry just wandering into their homes, but when kids started going over to Larry’s to watch porn, things got weird and illegal.
Larry was arrested for stealing cable from the power company. He pedaled his bike to the Gold Plate restaurant on Patterson Street and sawed off ten feet of cable from a truck parked in the parking lot. The guys inside watched him, called the cops, and Larry was arrested. When they searched his trailer, they found the illegal dish, some pot, and three kids in his living room watching X rated television.
There’s no evidence, really, Larry ever touched a kid, or was interested in such a thing, but simply having kids over to watch that stuff was enough to get him locked up. Larry wasn’t capable of sticking to a cover story; he never lied about the tools he took or anything else. But people were happy to see him go, and after he was gone, they lived in peace again, albeit without free television access to a billion channels.
I helped his sister and her boyfriend clean out his place, and found a stack of technical manuals and a lot of books on electronics, and of course, porn. I never did figure out the connection. I never understood why electronics and people having sex were connected in Larry’s mind, but they were. I always wondered if there wasn’t some way to get that man into a shop of some sort, where he had everything he needed to work on, all his mind could handle. I wonder if that might have been enough to burn through the beer and the pot, and the porn.
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.