Michael “Slim” McGarvey is big hearted and friendly, the guy who always stood in the back row of class photos because he towered over his classmates, often wearing a goofy grin. If he were an animal, a cross between a giraffe and a Beagle puppy might come to mind.
For the past 11 years, this still-lanky man has dispensed advice in a 100-word blog published daily on Facebook. Unlike “Ann Landers” or “Dear Abby,” Slim doesn’t typically respond to specific questions from the heartsick and disgruntled. He tosses out encouragement and ends each post with his signature, “Good On Ya!”
“He genuinely tries to help people out. He knows everyone and everyone knows him,” one of his friends says. “That blog is his life.”
Slim’s musings probably won’t land him in the literary hall of fame, but they appear to touch the hearts of many—especially women—who are moved by his unvarnished and authentic thoughts about life’s ups and downs.
“He’s talking to himself as much as he’s talking to everyone else. He never comes off as holier-than-thou,” one woman says. “That’s what makes him so refreshing, especially on Facebook where everyone is trying to project an image.”
When I mentioned I planned to write about Slim, people who know us seemed surprised. “Why did you choose him?”
Slim isn’t my best friend. He’s someone I know. We’re from the same town in northern Montgomery County, Maryland, then a backwater compared to the encroaching suburbs farther south. Fast-food chains didn’t exist in Damascus then, and neither did stop lights until Slim was maybe in the first grade.
It was small-town America, where everyone knew everybody, where the Future Farmers of America was one of the high school’s biggest clubs and tractor-pulled Homecoming floats rumbled down Main Street.
Slim stood out. He was a couple of grades ahead of me, yet he made a point of talking with everyone even though he hung out with the cool guys. He was never too full of himself to say hello.
When you consider why I started this blog, spotlighting Slim isn’t as weird as some might think. After all, doesn’t this column highlight ordinary, often colorful people who find hope despite adversities they face? As I soon discovered, the gangly Slim fit the bill.
Getting the Details
Slim’s Facebook ponderings initially drove my interest in profiling him. I’d only a vague idea of his life’s story. I didn’t know he sold real estate and cars, worked for a butcher, sawmill, and liquor store, owned a pool hall and video store, painted houses, cut firewood, cleaned golf clubs, and drove a taxi.
He filled me in a few weeks ago. He’d just moved from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, to Mount Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith’s hometown and the inspiration behind the fictional Mayberry.
“I was stupid as hell,” he says, while parked outside Lowe’s to buy stuff for his new home, the first he’s ever owned. “But God takes you on amazing trips. You may be a fool, but God still uses you. I’m in a wonderful place now.”
You weren’t before?
As it turns out, the happy-go-lucky Slim had battled his demons. They emerged shortly after the self-taught bass guitarist co-founded a rock-‘n-roll band in the mid-1970s. The group had a following—a mix of normies and rough, violence-prone bikers who loved to brawl.
“I started taking drugs. I was drinking. Pretty stupid, but as the saying goes, my best thinking got me into the worst problems of my life.”
At one point, Slim figured he wouldn’t make it to age 25, so severe his craving for Angel Dust, or PCP, had become. He started asking questions, reading the Bible. Something had to give. Though he experienced a spiritual awakening, he still straddled the line.
The bottle beckoned.
In 1992, hope did arrive, literally in the form of a woman named Hope. He met her while performing with another band at a bar in West Palm Beach, Florida. Within two months, the “rock star” and the bartender married, and together with Hope’s 7-year-old daughter, they became the “McGoofies.” Life was on track.
It didn’t last.
Seven years into their marriage, Hope’s severe back problem started getting worse. Weeks after surgery, she went into cardiac arrest and fell into a coma. She lasted 10 days. On April 1, 2000, a scan indicated no brain activity, and the family removed life support. The most amazing woman Slim had ever known was gone.
Throughout it all, Slim sought God, but a war waged within his spirit. “I was drinking a liter of liquor every day, especially after Hope died.”
The Awakening and the Jottings
In 2009, Slim gave up his last stronghold. “I look back and thank God every day. Drinking was the last hold on my life.” And within a year, he started writing, drawing on his own personal experiences to encourage others.
“The more I think about what I’m doing and where I’m going, the less I think about what I’ve done,” he wrote recently.
Has he ever contemplated shelving his daily jottings? Once, he says. He’d been living in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in an old, log cabin. One night, he found a mouse in his bed, and was so riled he couldn’t get back to sleep. He pulled up his Facebook page.
A woman had written a message: ‘“Please help me. How do you get over the pain of a daughter dying?”’ He told her to write down what was on her heart. To pour it out, unembellished, raw, and to “give it to the Lord.” At that moment he dashed all thoughts of retiring the “Dear Slim” blog.
He figures God wants him to show compassion to the hurting. “There’s no way you can tell me God didn’t put that little mouse in my bed.”
At Home in Mayberry
His move to Mount Airy is akin to going home, or at least the hometown he knew growing up. “People are so nice here,” he says. “The Lord led me here. This is where I need to be. When I feel the spirit moving, I move.”
Good on ya, Slim.