From Hair to Eternity

I am a mammal. I know that this is exciting news but I just felt that it was necessary to share. Now, I have had suspicions that I was mammalian for quite some time. But after analyzing the empirical evidence, I have eliminated all the other options. So, I guess you can now say that I am Team Mammal. First, let’s look at the alternatives. I can’t be a fish. While I do enjoy a nice dip in the pool, seawater dries out my hair  and that coupled with the fact that I have all of the aquatic grace of a ball of mud pretty much rules out me being a fish. I would consider reptiles but snakes creep me out so you can forget that. I would contemplate the fact that I may be an insect but the frequency that I have bruises on my body kinds of negates belonging to any group known for its hard exoskeleton. Since I can neither adhere to walls nor jump more than 2 inches off the ground, then amphibians are clearly not where I belong. As far as birds go, I think that in light of what I like to refer to The Orlando Karaoke Incident of 1995, I lack the melodious quality assigned to all birds. Yep I am a mammal and better yet, I am a male one.

The one distinction that mammals have, in addition to being the principal characters in most Disney movies, is that the male and female of each species have certain territorial and socially sex specific roles. Other lower animals don’t have some regimented gender roles because frankly the males of those species have less complex requirements put upon them. For example, if you are a salmon, your role is simple.  Leave the ocean, check. Swim upstream and over rapids, check. Do your reproductive duty, check. Go back down downstream and become Grizzly chow, check. There is no, take out the garbage, mow the lawn, hold my purse while I try this dress on and/or snuggle included in any of those requirements. However, we higher mammals have to do more than just continue the species; we have to interact with members of the opposite sex at times when reproduction is not on the agenda. Because this interaction frequently exposes both males and females to the absolute insanity inherent in the opposite gender, both sexes have developed special territories where we may seek shelter from this insanity. Historically men have had the better selection in terms of man caves. Prehistoric men had actual caves. The medieval men had the knighthood and public executions.  The colonial age gave men pirate ships and the clergy. Early twentieth century American men had social clubs and jobs not involving cooking and cleaning.

Eventually the wheels of social justice began to turn and women began to find special places where they too could be with those of the fairest sex and share the joys of sisterhood, without having to wear an apron. I think this progress is great, but then……..men began to realize that the number of women’s- only places began to dwarf the number of guys’ places. Just look around. You have book clubs, women’s clubs, yoga studios, every store in the mall other than Sharper Image and GameStop. There is also some mysterious establishment with frosted windows named Curves. I am not sure what kind of place that is but based on the fact that the women come out sweating I am pretty sure it’s some kind of lingerie tickle fight arena. Even television, once that bastion of all things male, has gone girly. In order for me to arrive at that holy grail of manly TV., the N.F.L. network, I have to pass 6 shopping channels, Oprah’s channel, the Hallmark channel and at least 4 different incarnations of the Lifetime network. Because of this intrusion into the spaces formerly dominated by those with the “y” chromosome, we men have been forced to retreat to those special places that women have no interest in going, the principle of these being the barber shop.

The barber shop as a kid was a scary place. A barber shop as an adult is ever scarier. Every barber shop had these menacing leather-bound(at least I hope that’s leather) chairs and if you happen to be a small child they would get  out the “booster”. This is basically a leather wrapped piece of plywood that would rest on the arms of the barber chair so the barber could make sure to nick up all of your head and not just parts of it. The best part of it is that the thing had neither seat belt nor handles for you to balance with. It was basically walking the plank with the added fun of scissors near your major arteries. I had a friend who went to a cool barbershop as a boy; at least he thinks it was cool because the kids got to sit on a saddle while they got haircuts. A saddle? Great, they found the one kind of the seat in the civilized world with zero flat surfaces. “Hey Johnny, what happened to your ear?” “I fell off the saddle at the cool barbershop.” “Nice going Van Gogh.”

For those of you have never had the sheer pleasure (sorry I have to include at least one bad haircut pun) to spend time in a barbershop, let me tell you what you are missing. The place is never neat nor tidy. There are a collection of hunting magazines that no one has ever heard of in the waiting room. Well, it’s not really a waiting room. It is actually a collection of rickety chairs about 2 feet from the barbers. I would say it is within shouting distance but that measure of length has little meaning in a barbershop because the denizens of these fine establishments are generally shouting everything they say. The only problem with the proximity from those waiting to those getting bad haircuts, and they are always bad haircuts, is that inevitably one of those waiting will engage the barber about to cut my hair in some topic of conversation that the barber feels passionate about and everybody knows that there is nothing more fun than an enraged man with an endless supply of cutting tools. Usually, by the end of the conversation my neck looks like the cutting board at a Japanese Steakhouse. As scary as what goes on in front of the barber chairs is, what goes on behind them is even worse. Of course the requisite picture of the barber from his days in the army is there, and nothing says high fashion hair styling like a guy in a crew cut. There is the industrial sized bottle of Vitalis. I am not sure what Vitalis is but have a sneaking suspicion that it contains the same chemicals as paint thinner without paint thinner’s more pleasant smell. I swear that when the barber splashed that substance on my neck, I saw smoke. Next to the Vitalis was the giant candy jar….of combs. This container held mor combs that any human being could possibly need in a strange blue liquid. When asked what that viscous liquid was, the head barber told be alcohol. I may have been in a child and still believed in many unreal things. At the time I still believed in Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and the American political system, but even I couldn’t buy that the alcohol was blue. I knew that alcohol came in two shades, vodka clear and Canadian brown. Then to add to my chagrin, the barber would pull a comb from that bacterial frappe and attempt to use it on my head at which time I would dodge every move like I was Neo from the Matrix. Sorry Floyd( it is required that every real barber have at least one guy named Floyd on the premises at all times) but you’re not putting anything near my head that came from a vat of liquid that looks vaguely similar to the product my mother uses to remove rust stains from our toilet. Everywhere you look there is weirdness. Then I would spot the thing that set me over the edge, the combination straight razor and long leather strap. Nothing settles a six-year-old like being 10 inches away from one of the props from the SAW movies.

After all the stress, you finally emerge back into the coed world. You have a new hair cut and the world is so excited. Well, not the whole world but at least the bullies at your bus stop because all your extra hair was making it itchy when they held you in a headlock. You swear that it’s just not worth it. You aren’t going to go to the barbershop any more, you are going to the hair salon because you mistakenly think that will make it better. By the way, you are wrong. As long as I was under my mother’s dominion, I was forced to visit the same barbershop but when the barbers’ tremors finally got so bad that a quick trim may have endangered my mom’s chances at grandchildren, she agreed to let me go get my haircut at the salon. Well, it wasn’t really a salon, it was a StuperCuts.(name changed to avoid any more litigation). I know that it isn’t exactly a Paul Mitchell salon but for a young man who considered any meal not delivered via a drive through window as gourmet, it was quite a cultural change. It was like the Promised Land…with hair on the floor. The difference between the male dominated barbershop and the female domain of the salon were like night and day.

  • Men get their hair cut, women get their hair done
  • Men visit barber shops, women visit beauty salons
  • Beauty salons have actual waiting rooms with magazines from the current decade.
  • Beauty salons are staffed by people who went to school in order to do hair, barber shops are staffed by people who work there  because they dropped out of school.
  • Beauty salons play satellite radio featuring the latest hits, barber shops play A.M. radio featuring shows about gardening.
  • At a beauty shop, they will actually wash your hair for you before your styling. At a barbershop, it’s a challenge just getting the barber to wash his hands after he uses the restroom.

As happens when ever you cross that territorial line between the world of men and women, the novelty of an experience different from the one we are used to make everything seem wonderful…..for a while. But slowly, the reality is that you have simply exchanged one type of psychosis for another. Soon the glow of joy of being at the salon was replaced by the cold wind of reality. The pre-styling hair washing seems to be the entrance level exam for the position of Water-Boarder at Guantanamo Bay. Gee thanks for making my scalp bleed, I really appreciate that. Another problem with the salon is the obsession with making appointments. Now I do understand that some of the coloring and styling activities may take longer than the typical five-minute buzz cut at the barber shop but do you need to schedule what time I should show up down to the millisecond. I am trying to get a few inches chopped off the fro not trying to land a spaceship on an asteroid. I can barely show up at work at the time that I am supposed to, and I am getting paid to do that. So if you expect me to show up at the hair cut place in the strip mall at a certain then I will give you the same advice that I gave my wife on our wedding day, ”Prepare for disappointment.”

Even arriving at salon, there are other issues. First of all, all the salons I have ever been to (that would be three) have an extremely loud door alarm to alert everyone in the zip code that the door has been opened. Nothing breeds hair styling success like startling the people with the razor-sharp instruments. I understand the reason for the alarm on the door. It is to give the employees an auditory prompt fo them to throw down their cigarettes and come back in the salon, because they smoke….they all smoke. Maybe it is the constant inhalation of hairspray or maybe it is the occupational stress one would feel from having to pretend not to notice when the client in the chair passes gas. Whatever the reason, the employees usually have more tobacco than the state of North Carolina. The last time that I got my hair cut, the lady that did it smelled like the lovechild of The Marlboro Man and Joe Camel.  Aside from the cigarette stained fingers cutting my hair, there is another problem I have with the salon employees. It is not the physical contact that takes place when you are cutting my hair, I understand the barriers that having short arms places on your ability to respect my personal space when styling my ‘do, it is the verbal contact that I mind. Let me put this delicately,  “ STOP TALKING TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!” We are not family. We are not friends. Heck, we are not even casual acquaintances. If I could cut my hair, I would. But I can’t and that is why I come here. So, let’s please stop pretending that we need to catch each other up on what’s been going on in since the never when I was here before. I don’t want to talk about the  weather. I don’t want to talk about my job. I don’t want to participate in your conversation about when your boyfriend’s”band” is going to hit it big. I don’t want to join in you and your co-workers’ version of an amateur  The Maury Show. You are a professional and I expect you to behave as one. You are under no pressure to be neither social nor chatty. In fact I want the same interaction with you that I would expect from a prostitute:

  • Don’t tell me your name.
  • Don’t look me in the eye.
  • Perform your duty well and you will be tipped well.
  • Perform it poorly and I will claim that I am a cop and then run away.

That’s’ it. It’s just hair. It really shouldn’t get complex. Of course there is another alternative………maybe I will just wear a hat.

 

THNKS FR TH MMRS

“Thank you India, thank you terror, thank you disillusionment “-Alanis Morrisette

I was raised in a southern house. The food was generally fried and featured a meat product in every dish. It was a house where you cleaned your plate before you had dessert. You learned that you could live without a heater but not air conditioning.  You had grits instead of hash browns, you called them sweet potatoes not yams and the only tea was sweetened and iced. You never took yourself too seriously and you learned more lessons at home than you did at school.  The most important of these lessons was a rather simple one: Mind your manners.

You addressed adults as mister or misses. You blessed people when they sneezed. You patted them on the back when they coughed. You looked someone in the eye when you shook their hand. You wished them a good day. You said, ”Yes sir” or “No Ma’am” even if the person you were addressing was the same age as you. You said,  ”please”. But most of all, you showed your upbringing was proper by saying “thanks”. Thank the waiter who was just doing his job. Thank the stranger that said   ”God Bless you” after you sneezed. Thank you for not smoking. Thank you for your business. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  It becomes so routine to thank people that the actual concept of gratitude becomes lost in what become nothing more than empty words. I would like to think that I have a strength of character that the words mean something to me but know that the reality is that just are a vacant gesture. The question is how to put some gratitude back into my thank you’s. I guess Thanksgiving is a good day to start.  So here are the things I am grateful for:

·         I am grateful to my wife for not killing me in my sleep although I often deserve it.

·         I am grateful for having the patience to extend the same courtesy to my children.

·        I am grateful for friends that treat me like family and relatives that treat me like strangers because they both prove that it is the bonds of affection that bind us not genetics.

·        I am grateful for sci-fi and sports for giving me something to occupy my time with because otherwise I would be spending it making myself a more productive human being.

·        I am grateful for the bad job I no longer have and the good job I do.

·        I am grateful for free Wi-fi.

·        I am grateful for one hour lunches.

·        I am grateful for the cafe at work because it gives those lacking the culinary skills to work at a public school lunchroom gainful employment.

·        I am grateful that I have not yet eaten at that odd smelling Indian restaurant.

·        I am grateful for baseball games with my son and concerts with my daughter.

·        I am grateful for my wife giggling when she reads what I write.

·        I am grateful for Facebook for letting me see the psychotic ramblings of the people I know.

·        I am grateful that after 20 years, I sometimes still refer to her as my girlfriend.

·        I am grateful for kids that act their age and adults who don’t.

·        I am grateful for chocolate, marshmallows and gummi bears.

·        I am grateful that I live in a Navy town because when I talk about “the men in uniform” , they are real people.

·        I am grateful for Moon River and Dahlia’s.

·        I am grateful for good coffee and great beer.

·        I am grateful for Saturday mornings at Edgewood Bakery and Sunday afternoons at Dreamette.

·        I am grateful for my kids’ good public schools and the teachers that actually care.

·        I am grateful for the strength certain people show when faced with illness because it reminds me how easy I really have it.

·        I am grateful that the seventh grade girls on the bus like my boys hair.

·        I am grateful that the 20 year olds at FSCJ haven’t noticed my daughter’s.

·        I am grateful for Family Guy, Regular Show, and Walking Dead for proving that quality t.v. shows still exist.

·        I am grateful for the word “swag”, because it just sounds cool.

·        I am grateful that I still believe that things will get better.

·        I am grateful for Target for giving me somewhere to go when Wal-mart pisses me off.

·        I am grateful that the bruises healed.

·        I am grateful that our Krispy Kreme is coming back.

·        I am grateful that Krispy Kreme left because if not I would weigh 600 pounds.

·        I am grateful for the morally upstanding people I call my role models and the morally questionable ones that I call my friends.

·        I am grateful that they haven’t “Baker Acted” me, yet.

·        I am grateful that my bank doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement.

·        I am grateful for the people who give a damn.

·        I am grateful that I work for a company that gives to charity.

·        I am grateful that I have a job.

·         I am grateful for my imperfect family at my messy house, on a lousy street, in a crappy neighborhood, in a boring town.

I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

No Apologies

 

“Not this time.”

It’s usually just about low self-esteem. I don’t think I am really as good as I want to be. This feeling, this illness, this utter lack of belief in myself has found its way into almost everything I do. It is an illness with no known cause but it does have one very clear symptom. This symptom manifests itself on an almost daily basis. The condition has become come cancerous to my sense of self. I suffer from a terminal case of “I’m sorry.”

If you happen to spend more than a few minutes with me, you will hear it. I’m sorry that I’m late. I’m sorry that it’s raining. I’m sorry about that completely insensitive joke someone else just told. I’m sorry that I laughed at it.I’m sorry when we win and I’m sorry when we lose. I’m sorry that the waters too wet. I’m sorry that the sugar’s too sweet. I’m sorry. I’m sorry . I’m sorry. Hell, I just realized that I am even sorry that I am sorry…..Oh, wait that sounded stupid and I’m sorry for that too.

It’s not that I don’t believe in myself at all. It’s just that I get so tired of living in a world where far too many people only care about themselves. I know I am not the only one who sees it. There are those of us who try to quietly live our lives in a way that tries to show that we value the goodness in others and try our best to make the world just a bit better by the help we offer, the smiles we give and the feeling that everybody deserves a better life than the one they now live. And far too often we feel outnumbered by the bastards in our midst. The guy who thinks he doesn’t have to wait for the traffic to clear so he drives around us on the sidewalk. The lady who thinks the “ten items or less” doesn’t apply to her. The teenager who thinks that we really want to hear the music from his car blasting away at the stoplight. They are everywhere and are a function of a society where it’s about “me getting mine” instead of  “let’s do what’s right”.

Those of us on the other side of the selfish divide then have to make a choice. It’s the ultimate fight or flight reflex and it happens on an almost subconscious level.  Do we want to turn our heads and ignore the self-centered? Is it o.k. to just pretend that those who crush any who are between them and whatever primal or monetary need they wish to fill at the time are just misguided souls having a moment of weakness and if we give them the opportunity that they will do the right thing? Sometimes that is the best way. God knows that I believe in second chances and in the potential goodness of all . I often just play the wait and see game when it comes to whether a jerk is a jerk, or is he just one that does jerky things.

However sometimes relying on the goodness of others is too big a price to pay, particularly when you see the collateral damages that the evil can do.Sometimes it takes something more. There are times when we run out of cheeks to turn. There comes the rare opportunity when we decide to, if not give Karma a push, to at least show her the direction she needs to go. Once in a while, we are our own Gandalf. We decide to strike our staffs upon the earth and declare to the selfish and the profane,”YOU SHALL NOT PASS.” And sometimes, that even works.

But, sadly, more often than not the “angels of our better nature” as Lincoln called them tell us to just let it go. We are not the angry type. We see the drama of the world and decide not to add any more performances to the playbill. And deep down, if we really care about others and doing right, we know that taking a bad path to do a good deed is still the wrong road to take. So we acquiesce. No, we don’t surrender our values but rather choose to exemplify them by doing good and helping others instead of a constant state of confrontation with the d.b. people we see.

Not that we don’t all have moments when we just want to be a “Me First”-er. We all have moments when we don’t want to surrender the remote. Where we want to pick the restaurant. When we just want to be pampered and coddled too. Then, it rises up. That feeling of guilt that says that the last thing this world needs is for one of the givers to change teams. So we apologize. WE are sorry for the selfishness in ourselves as much as that in others. We may be branded patsies and fools, but we shall not be labeled hypocrites. So we keep saying  that we are sorry, day after day.

It was just one of those days of apologies that I saw this news story.

Boy dies in freak playground accident.( Right click to open)

Not that it matters, but I just happened to know this father, although briefly. He spend one season as a coach at the youth baseball park that I have coached for these last 6 years. He was there only a season but  both the father and the boy were genuinely nice people. He had a great team but more than that he had a great perspective on life and treated all with class and dignity. My heart goes out to him and I will be sad in knowing that the world has been robbed of another fine young man. And I am sorry for his loss..

And then I started thinking about it. And I don’t think sorry is the right word. I would like to tell this dad that  I sincerely hope  in time his pain will lessen. That in the fraternity of those who have had their children taken away too soon, there will be those that understand and can help you heal .  Most of all I want to tell him, that I am honored to have met his son if even for a moment and I pray that God, whatever God you happen to prescribe to, will send him his comfort and love.
No, I can’t be sorry this time because being sorry just doesn’t cut it.

The more I pondered this , the more it unnerved me and made me analyze my way of living. I am really looking at myself and realize that there are a lot of things that I am not sorry about too.

I am not sorry that I took a few months off to spend with my kids.

I am not sorry that it means that the credit score is a little lower and the bank account a little lighter but being here when they needed me was worth it.

I am not sorry that I laugh too much.

I am not sorry that I try to help others.

I am not sorry that I have to go with less sleep in order to do the things necessary to care for others.

I am not sorry that I make decisions based on what is right instead of what is easy.

I am not sorry that my family is the most important thing in my life.

I am not sorry that I spend hours at a baseball field with a group of kids that are genuinely good people.

I am not sorry that education is important to me.

I am not sorry that my friends matter to me.

I am not sorry that I am honest with my kids about what I know and what I don’t know.

I am not sorry that I  to play video games with my son and go to concerts with my daughter.

I am not sorry that I enjoy my life.

I am not sorry that I wait in line, say “thank you” and hold doors open for strangers.

I am not sorry that my mom taught me manners.

I am not sorry that sometimes the right answer is no.

I am not sorry that I still want to make a difference.

I am not sorry that other people’s kids are important to me too.

I am not sorry that I want to do better.

I am not sorry that I tell my kids that I love them…………….

And I know that they are not sorry too.