Years ago I read a man’s maternal grandfather’s state of hairiness or hairlessness genetically is linked to um…him. In my case – me. My mother’s father was bald in his early adulthood so I have been on scalp patrol for a long time. Every day for decades I checked my pillow for hair. Every day for decades I have checked the shower drain for hair. All was looking positive. I am forty years past his onset time of baldness so I figure I am doing pretty good – if, in fact, he really was my Pop-Pop.
Yesterday I got a haircut. I’ve been going to Cheap-O-Kuts out on the highway because what is left emerging from my scalp is not worth much of a fuss or serious investment. But nonetherless, my thin and thinning hair occasionally needs the attention of some shortening.
This morning when I got out of the shower I looked into the mirror (please, for your own protection, erase any mental image from your mind), the person I saw staring back at me looked like a peach with a mouth, nose and eyes. No further description is necessary. Can hair evaporate?
Hair? Yes, there definitely is some – in fact, in the big picture of things, a lot. However, it seems my follicles are getting farther apart from one another. Lonely, each one. I concluded, “It’s not the amount of hair that seems to be the problem, I think it is the volume.” I need volume…’er VOLUME!!!
I am determined to avoid the carpet game – you know, getting some refined roadkill and plunking it atop my pate. I refuse to go the weave and implant route, and a comb over? Hah!! You gotta be kidding!! And I don’t think I’ll go to the other extreme of the head shave. I’d look like a pink bowling ball with glasses. Mr. Clean on steroids. Bluto.
Pop Pop’s genes are becoming more obvious. There is certainly some in my DNA so Nana’s story is ringing true, “After we got married, he took me to the Burlesque and then to a hotel. He draped his pants over the back of a chair and nine months and ten days later, your mother was born!” Romance at its finest. For most of my early childhood, that story trumped the stork version of human reproduction.
So what’s a feller to do? Just deal with it, I guess. I’ll follow his sage advice…“Dance with what you showed up wit.” Shakespeare, he was not.
But then again, how about trying something I have often recommended to others in similar situations? Around Christmas time, I could go to Walgreens, get a Chia Pet, toss out the clay pot and spread some of that pasty stuff on my scalp and sit under a grow light. It’ll give me quick volume, body and as natural a look as some we see who tremble whenever the wind picks up. Instead of a rinse, salad dressing could be used.
Life with Lovie continues to be an epic adventure. After months of spirited debate, we found ourselves at the lighting supply store to pick up an order for a post light to be installed at the end of our long driveway. That, in itself is one story. But wait! There is a sidetrack in need of telling.
The lighting store is about 40 miles away in Grand Rapids. It is a magnificent store – very customer oriented with thousands of lighting fixtures on display. The store also has lots of “extras” like small pieces of furniture, knick-knacks and framed “art”. While the clerk was in the back room looking for our order, Lovie spotted a pair of bookends. Nice ones. Expensive. But what the hey, I was in a jovial mood – engaged in charming banter with the staff. While Lovie was otherwise occupied (trying desperately to avoid being identified with my joviality) I quietly took the bookends to the counter and snuck them onto our purchase ticket before she could protest the extravagance.
In retrospect, I think the government should mandate the attachment of warning labels to such things. “Warning, the Decorator General has determined that purchase of this product may cause unresolvable upheaval in matters of the constitutionally protected precept of domestic tranquility”. I keep forgetting what challenges new items of décor cause when brought into our home but it only takes a New York minute to be reminded once the items arrive.
Since those bookends have joined our abode, they have been placed in just about every conceivable place and configuration one can imagine. Considerations were given to what kinds and sizes of books should be supported by them. Should they adorn books that highlight our eclectic interests? Should they support books of certain themes like travel? Cooking? Health? Philosophy and religion? Entire rooms have been re-arranged and there was even talk about new carpeting and wall colors. Perhaps a room addition? Of course at each juncture of this journey, I am asked to come out of my cave and pass judgement on a proposal. They all look fine to me and if it was not to my liking, it wouldn’t matter anyway.
Back to the lighting:
Our driveway is on a quiet street that is shrouded by 80-foot pines. In the dark of night it is really dark in spite of a few streetlights placed far enough away to not be a distraction. When friends visit and leave at night, backing out of the driveway is a real time and skill consuming challenge seasoned with a large dose of dumb luck be it good or bad.
So the debate ensued. More lighting? How far from the street should the light be placed? How high should it be above the ground? Should it match the one we already have that is closer to the house? Should we have one or two more lights installed? If it is only one, on which side of the driveway should it be placed? As usual, we each had or own ideas of answers to those compelling questions. And as usual, just like in our esteemed Congress no decision was forthcoming for months until (cymbal crash and fanfare salute), a compromise was reached where one side prevailed. So at the lighting store we picked up a new light that matched the one we already have and it will be placed on the same side of the driveway, closer to the street.
The electrician is coming in a few days to tell us exactly where to place the light, dig the hole and trenches for the wiring.
The lighting will be improved and those bookends? They’re still a placement in progress.
There is nothing more anticlimactic than a eulogy ten years after the fact but since this is my space, here is one:
With baseball season under way, thoughts drift to the “Boys of Summer” in the pre-steroid, pre-million dollar contract era – back to when pro baseball was a beautiful pastoral game with its façade of innocence protected by the press.
It has been nearly ten years since newspapers of December 29, 2004 reported the death of former ballplayer, Rod Kanehl. He was 70.
I doubt many readers far from New York would have known about him.
Please allow me to remember.
Sometimes we define people, be they athletes or salesmen in quantitative terms and in Rod Kanehl’s case there were many numbers associated with him.
He wore number ten on the 1962-1964 New York Mets. He was defined by a low number of hits compared to a high number of at-bats. He was further defined by a high number of errors for a low number of fielding chances.
In a splendid metaphor, his date of birth was April Fool’s Day in 1934. Yet, some considered him the most appealing player on a team that was called, “America’s most lovable losers.”
What was it that endeared him to his loyal fans?
Rod Kanehl was no ordinary ballplayer. He personified the misadventures of his team. Moderately unskilled for the major leagues of his day, he tried to make up with for it with hustle ala Pete Rose. But he did not seem to have the luck of Pete. He plunked his chips down on each position he played and usually walked away from the table empty-handed. Every time he was dealt a hand of cards, they were the wrong ones. Rod was the quintessential jack of all trades, master of none. He played all positions on the field except pitcher and catcher – each with an equally displayed level of mediocrity yet his enthusiastic abandon caught our affection even if it missed the ball.
He did not get 4256 hits as Rose did. In his three seasons, Rod got 192. Such was his plight, he could have hit into a double play even when the bases were empty. He did not play in a World Series or even in Yankee Stadium, for that matter but he did play in the old Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan.
Outside those Polo Grounds on its plot of land called “Coogan’s Buff” one could look across the Harlem River and in the distance see the outline of Yankee Stadium. That was where the real baseball was played.
The closest Rod ever got to the House that Ruth Built was to languish in the Yankees’ minor league system for eight years before his flirtation with glory in the Mets’ (and formerly the Giants’) crumbling old ballpark.
A lot of us regular guys identified with Kanehl; guys who could not find their keys, guys who fumbled around the bedroom floor each morning looking for socks to wear….again. These were the same guys who, with all the best intentions in the world, went out on Valentine’s Day and bought their girlfriends sets of socket wrenches and clung to boyhood fantasies of becoming superheroes but instead, they ended up operating punch presses on assembly lines.
Rod Kanehl was a guy just like them but one who got to wear a major league uniform, spend good meal money on road trips, sign autographs and line up alongside immortals like Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Richie Ashburn and even the not-so-immortal Clarence “Choo-Choo” Coleman.
Rod Kanehl gave his best effort out there for all to see – even if it wasn’t pretty and that is what we loved about him.
At first, I thought she was having a super-flashback, meaning a flashback to a previous life. But after decades together, I have come to realize otherwise.
This time every year, it seems Lovie goes into her wistful stare out the window mode. Even though the ground is still covered with a blanket of snow and the average daily temperature is 38-degrees the wistful stares begin. It is usually accompanied by sub-vocalizations in a strange language.
This language is not alarming for Lovie spent the first 11 years of her life immersed in a different culture. But the closer I listened I realized it was something different than the refugee German I’ve become used to. Instead it reminded me of the times I attended mass with a friend who was Roman Catholic. Oh yes… Latin – you know, that language our beloved and worldly former vice president, Dan Quayle, thought was spoken in Latin America. THAT Latin. Lovie was mumbling in Latin! Could she have been a priest in a former life? A (OMG am I going to burn in hell!) nun?
I let it go. Letting the little things go is a practice that serves a long marriage well. I am sure she has let more and bigger things go about me and I try to reciprocate. But still I occasionally checked her closet – looking for black robes and I kept on the quiet lookout for the appearance of shrines to the Blessed Virgin in the garden or in the house. None were forthcoming. She has yet to indicate a strong desire to travel the countryside in a station wagon full of other ladies. In the ultimate test, I was still able to sneak a steak onto the menu on Fridays so I began to relax.
Then I began to put two and two together and got my usual math-challenged answer, 5. My mind started assembling a mosaic with tiles of seasonal change, those wistful stares out the window, her Latin incantations ..plant names!! Of course!! And added-in image tiles of her perusing gardening books and magazines and making note of our more frequent trips to the Skinned Knuckles Home and Garden Centre (out on the highway). “I just want to see what they have” she tells me.
The picture began to take form and meaning.
For this slow learner I came to realize it’s that time of year when Lovie goes outside at dawn and returns inside about an hour after dusk. She begins to live her farmer’s hours while expending 19th century farmer’s labors. I have come to call it, “Her domesticating of the wilderness” but, in truth, they are merely signs of spring.
There are many aspects involved in being a good reader. There is ability to see – acuity; there is tracking – the ability of our eyes to move left to right (in our culture) and top to bottom without missing a line and there is visual memory – remembering what was read – often called “comprehension”.
Of those four elements, I got one of them OK – the left to right part. My acuity was good enough to get through vision screening tests. I repeatedly aced the top two lines of the Snellen chart on the office wall – especially the “E”. But in regards to the other aspects, my eyes did not coordinate with each other or with my brain for that matter. Things got blurry as my eyes quickly tired. Words would become overlapping double images.
So what’s a guy to do in this dilemma? I developed compensatory skills – listening and observing. I also learned to toss the “bull” you know, try to bamboozle others with lots of verbiage…hence, writing. A good offense it the best defense.
Many think reading and writing are closely linked but I’m not so sure because I could do one and not the other very well. In fact I got all through high school and college without ever reading more than one complete book in each place. In high school it was “Catcher in the Rye” and in college it was a trashy novel that was not assigned but appealed to me raging hormonal levels of the time.
Reading got to be such a struggle, trying to focus and remember, personal cost-benefits analysis told me to spend my energies in other pursuits like drinking um…coffee and listening to Dylan’s poetry and music.
In college, I began as a music major but that proved to be a handicap for two reasons; first, at best, I was only an intermediate level musician and second, those black dots kept jumping all around the place as I was searching with my fingers to find the right keys to push. By the time I succeeded, the rest of the band was two lines ahead of me or had marched halfway across the football field and left me standing alone at the 20-yard line with my clarinet in hand and a forlorn look on my face.
My ears worked fine but that and a dollar would get me a coffee and an English muffin at the diner but not a degree in teaching music. So I found a field in which I could better use my compensatory skills. Since I was getting a late start, I found a place where one did not have to know a lot about one thing. It was a field where it was advantageous to know a little about a lot of things – special education.
I was finally off the races and those races provided me with many adventures and in the development of new perspectives on things.
A few days ago, having dinner at dear friend, Audrey’s house, I opened a box containing a bottle of fine spirits. In spite of the aforementioned challenges, I read the copy printed on the box. It read:
“Colour: Rich, golden copper highlights.
Nose: Delicate and refined. Soft sensual floral notes arise in perfect harmony supported by a perfect array of complex fruit flavours. Melon, pear and orange with a hint of almonds conclude this profusion of charming nuances.
Taste: Finesse and elegance gives way to a majestic assertion of pure malty flavours, drawn from four distilling regions of Scotland. Each area makes its own inimitable contribution to this outstanding pure malt – the main accent being expressed from the Highlands and Speyside Valleys. However, a subtle hint of Islay can just be detected on the aftertaste as it slowly ebbs into a classic, pleasing finish.”
Legend has it this blend of Scotch whiskey was hidden by farmers in barrels labeled, “Sheep Dip” to try to get away with a forbidden treat. It also was reported to have been Winston Churchill’s favourite (spelling in deference to his native language). I tend to believe that one since dear ol’ Winston was renowned to have sampled copious amounts of many varieties. Often.
The description above reminded me of my college days. It reminded me not because of the product it described but because of how I would try to bullshit the professors when I had to fill those “bluebooks” during exams for which I had not prepared. I could sling it with the best of them but nary a professor was fooled yet I kept trying. What choice did I have?
Whoever wrote that copy on the Scotch box is a kindred spirit and I’d bet our academic transcripts are similar.