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.

 

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Resume for your consideration

 You have to keep your options open. Although I have a stable job with a multinational corporation, I continue to peruse the job market in my quest to find an even better position than the one I currently hold. The problem is that as soon as soon as I see an employment listing, the position is filled before I have a chance to apply for it. I guess it’s true that the greatest ingredient to success is timing. It seems that there has to be a way to get ahead of the job search system. I have an idea. I think the answer is to apply for a job before the general public ever knows that it is available. There are two ways to do this.

The first, and far more morbid, way is to just cruise the obituaries with the thought that every name that is listed is one more job opportunity. However, there are a few problems with that system. First of all, for some unknown reason, the numbers of elderly people who are now deceased are greater than those of any other demographic group and the elderly tend not to have the most covetous jobs. Even worse, most of them don’t even work. Oh yes, they have some great excuses like, ”I am 90” and “I just retired six months ago after working double shifts for 53 years in a coal mine”, but to me it just sounds like they are being lazy. The worst of it is that those employed at all  work only as greeters at Wal-Mart. I am sorry but having to sling shopping carts at the dazzling human specimens that frequent Wal-Mart does not sound very appealing. An addition flaw in trying to follow the Grim Reaper into a career change is that showing up at funerals and asking the surviving family members if the deceased had a good dental plan or got holidays off leads to more confrontations than I feel comfortable with.

The other means of obtaining employment in a position that you desire is to find a job that, although currently occupied, would be a perfect fit for you. All that remains is to make the case as to why you would be the ideal person to do the job better than it is being done.  I have been looking at the various occupations around and think that I found the one that I want. The job requires a limited work schedule, a lot of fringe benefits and best of all, the current job holder has been there so long that he is not doing the job as well as someone new would. That is why I am submitting my application of the position of…….Santa Claus.

First, let’s look at why I am a natural fit to fill the position:

SCHEDULE. Let’s face the facts. Santa actually only really works one day per year. If you ask any of my former managers, they will assure you that only working one day per year is something I am accustomed to.

CHILDREN. Similar to the soon to be ex-Mr. Claus, I tolerate other people’s children once every 365 days as well.

SLEIGH DRIVING. I have been involved in the transportation of various goods throughout my professional career. And if I can maneuver a 25 foot beverage truck with bad brakes through the cobblestone streets of downtown Saint Augustine while drinking a coffee and talking on the cell phone, then landing a sleigh on a roof is really no big deal.

TOYS.  The only other adult on the planet that knows more about toys than me is Josh Baskin ( for the uninformed that was the name of the Tom Hanks character in “Big”). Proof of this is that I am the only person over the age of 10 that still includes a new Hess truck on his Christmas wish list every year.

ELF MANAGEMENT. This should be the one area where my experience should be lacking but unfortunately everyplace I have ever worked at has been run by small petty people so working with actual elves would not be a new experience.

DIET. Cookies, hot chocolate, candy, candy canes, these are the items that Santa is said to consume. Or as I call them…..lunch.

It is not enough to just show that I could do the job as well as it is being done, I need to show how I can do it better. The truth is that with no real competition, the current Santa Claus has become complacent so it’s time to bring some innovation to the North Pole. Guess who has two thumbs and some ways to jazz up Christmas? THIS GUY!!

We need to begin with the basics. I love the nostalgia of the whole reindeer pulled sleigh idea but in this day and age some changes need to be made. A sleigh? In light of the reality of global warming having a vehicle only is useful for transportation across snow seems silly. I have an invention that we should introduce, it’s called the wheel. Actually I am in contract negotiations with the Volkswagen Corporation on designing a new sleigh. First of all, no one designs autos like the Germans and secondly I love the idea of the Christmas Eve trip involving an intercontinental game of Punch Buggy.

I like the idea of using unpaid slave labor to make the toys and will continue to use elves with a few alterations. Say goodbye to the miniature toy makers with the bells on their pointed toed shoes. I am replacing them with the elves from The Lord of The Rings. I would love to see a kid complain about a toy that was made by a race of Immortals with deadly accurate archery skills. Sorry little Johnny that you don’t like the fire truck you just unwrapped. Why don’t you go tell Legolas why it is not good enough, as soon as he is done killing that cave troll with his bare hands.

The suit needs some work as well. Bright red with fur-lined collar? What are we trying to do, give the P.E.T.A. people a heart attack? I say we go with some jeans and a hoodie in soft muted tones. I just think it is unsafe to wear any bright colors in any state that has a Stand Your Ground law on the books.

We need to talk about what the Santa gig is really all about, namely toys. This is the area where the current Santa is really slacking. His obsession with safety has meant the too many toys have been eliminated from the inventory. Has anybody seen the toys now available? They are about as exciting as a mayonnaise sandwich on white bread. It has gotten so bad that we now have board games based on iPhone apps that were based on board games. Somebody stop this ride, I want to get off. The obsession with safety has means all the toys are now nontoxic and non- fun. I think it’s time to bring back some good old-fashioned danger into Christmas morning. I am going to bring back every lead paint based, phosphorus leaking, and sharp edged toy that I can. People can boo hoo all they want about unsafe toys, I know that if it wasn’t for b.b. guns and micro machines poor little Kevin McAlister would never have been able to fend off the Wet Bandits. There is also the issue with creating lasting holiday memories. Sure, a kid may let the morning that he received a Nerf ball fade from his recollection but nobody forgets the trip to the E.R. that was a result of the ride in the go-cart with no seat belt. Like the saying goes,” Photos are fleeting but x-rays are forever.”

The other part of the job that I am uniquely qualified for is the process of designating a kid as naughty or nice. This is the job I was born to do. I spend the majority of my waking hours observing the actions of others and making arbitrary judgment based on what I see so determining the classification of whether some snotty nosed brat as naughty or nice is just too easy. I understand that just making these judgments based on nothing more than my own internal premonitions about a kid is probably somewhat unfair so I will have to codify a few ways to avoid the naughty list. Come to think of it, I can’t believe that we are still using the designation of naughty and nice to describe behaviors in 2012. Clearly we need to come up with new labels to identify positive and negative behavior.  I am going to now refer to the two lists as “Awesome” a.k.a. the nice list and “Sucks” will be the naughty list. It is rather simple to be on the Awesome list. A child and/or adult should treat people well, take care of their responsibilities, look out for your fellow man…. yada yada yada.

Appearance on the Sucks list requires me to lay out a few rules. Committing any of the following offenses will result in immediate inclusion on the Sucks list and let me just add that I hope you like coal.

AUTOMATIC SUCKS BEHAVIORS

  • ·         Saying “axe” when you mean “asked”
  • ·         Writing “a lot” as one word.
  • ·         Farting in an elevator.
  • ·         Not agreeing that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie.
  • ·         Using off brand Band Aids
  • ·         Having to appear on Maury more than once to find out who your Baby Daddy is.
  • ·         Not liking baseball/football
  • ·         Liking soccer
  • ·         Referring to a tomato as a fruit.
  • ·         Not using turn signals in a car
  • ·         Using hand signals on a moped.
  • ·         Riding a Vespa
  • ·         Turning your mobile phone’s speaker on in a grocery store.
  • ·         Posting intimate details about your life on Facebook and then publicly lamenting that you wish people would” just leave you alone”
  • ·         Asking everyone you meet to read your blog.
  • ·         Reading this blog
  • ·         Not knowing “who lives in a pineapple under the sea”
  • ·         Letting your kids watch Family Guy/American Dad/the WNBA/ the news.
  • ·         Complaining about the weather
  • ·         Blaming it on the a-a-a-lcohol.

 

 

So I guess that is how I will submit my application for Santa Claus. References available upon request.

 

 

 

Jingle Balls

“I like Jesus very much, but he no help with curveball.” –Pedro Ceranno

If you are one who celebrates the season, then you know what it feels like. The date on the calendar tells you it’s over. All the markings that celebrate the season have been removed. The lights outside have been turned off. The particular foods that are synonymous with the season are no longer being eaten. It seems like it will last forever but it has now ended and only when you discover a discarded list or card do you come to terms with its finality. You are tired and odds are you are broke from the overspending that accompanies the daily attempt to fully enjoy it. Your house is a mess from the lack of time to clean it properly because of all the late nights and travel. All the little irritations and annoyances that accompany the season seem forgotten in the warm glow of accomplishment that you feel once it is over. The truth is that you are more than a little sad to see it end. Although you have seen this season come and go numerous times, each year it seems different and unique. It is a time for children, but you know that the adults enjoy it as much as their offspring do. And as the years pass, you realize that a time will come when your kids will outgrow it so you attempt to make each one as special as possible. As soon as this one ends, you start making plans on how the next one is going to be even better.

No. I am not talking about Christmas. I am talking about youth baseball and to those that partake in these high holy days, it is a far more spiritual experience. However, upon review it has far more similarity to that December holiday that I had previously realized. Witness the evidence:

·        Christmas is a season involving a costumed man in red, Santa, that many kids both love and fear.

·        Baseball is a season involving a costumed man in blue, The Umpire, that kids love when he calls them safe and fear that he is going to call that ball that just bounced across the plate a strike

·        Christmas is a season where parents spend $100 for a bike that their kids will leave out in the rain.

·        Baseball is a season where parents pay $100 for a leather glove that their kids will leave out in the rain.

·        Christmas is a time when people who love each other will scream at each other due to the stress of the season

·        Baseball season is a time when people who love each other will scream at each other because of the stress of watching a kid take a strikeout looking with the bases loaded in a tied ball game.

·        During Christmas there are people whose sole job is to stop people from stealing, they are called security guards.

·        During baseball season there are people whose sole job is to stop people from stealing, they are called catchers.

·        During Christmas, adults go to church and quietly say words like “Son of God” and “Mother Mary” in a voice only God can hear.

·        During baseball season, adults come to the park and quietly say things like “Son of a <bleep>” and “Mother <bleep>er” in a voice that they hope the kids can’t hear.

I guess the one thing that makes both things so similar is the way that marketing companies and commercials have completely violated the celebration of both. While Christmas has recently become a victim of the attempt by retail to push the season earlier and earlier so that it is now possible to have your inflatable Santa holding a Jack-o-Lantern on Halloween night , baseball has fallen victim to equally nefarious schemes that seem destined to separating the “volunteer” coaches from their money. Consider the following scenario: A parent decides to coach his son’s tee ball team but has never run a baseball practice before, so logic dictates he goes to the interwebs for some advice. He googles “free baseball drills” and the results display at least 50 different listings for “free” practice plans for $19.95. Apparently in the baseball world the word “free” has a different definition than in any other segment of society.

I have been involved in coaching my son’s teams for the past 12 seasons( in Florida there is such a thing as Fall baseball) and have learned a few things in the process, so if you want to coach or just pass yourself off as one at the local bar, here are a few tips:

·        If you want the mothers to come to the games, treat the kids with respect.

·        If you want fathers to come to the game, make sure the Team Mom is hot.

·        It’s only called tee ball because the term “herding cats” was already taken.

·        Every kid says that they can pitch, 99% of them are lying.

·        Use the following terms in your coaching instructions: Bend your back, follow through, back of the box, split the plate, roll a pair in the middle.

·        If you actually know what those terms mean there is no need to read this article.

·        “Take one for the team” only applies to other people’s kids.

·        If you believe that winning doesn’t matter at all and the kids only care about having fun, baseball may not be the best sport for you. I would recommend unicorn rodeo or perhaps dragon racing.

·        Baseball will remind you how much you love kids and detest their parents.

·        The players’ health and safety is important. If your star player is bleeding out of less than 75% of his orifices, then leave him in the game. If the cricket chaser in right field hiccups, then you need to give him two weeks off to recover.

·        A ball off the fascia is live…every time.

Finally, enjoy the madness.  You will never celebrate louder than you do when you see a great group of kids succeed.  It’s better than meth without the facial sores and tooth loss.  Coaching and working with the kids is the best feeling in the world and I wish ever parent could experience it.  Well I gotta go and get ready for next season.