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When Obama first ran for Prexy way back in 2-ought-8, he sounded pretty good. We’d had eight years of George II, and I was pretty much filled to the brim with the bullshit that he’d been shoveling. I figured it was time to put the leadership back in the hands of the Democrats. “What the hell,” I thought, “it would be impossible for them to fuck things up anymore than Georgie and “the hit man” had already done. I even went so far as to send a contribution to the Obama campaign, and that, my friends, is the biggest mistake that any American citizen can ever make.

I had been warned by many people never to make a contribution of any kind to any organization of any type because they will hound you to your grave. It’s true; it’s true, and I’m not singing anything from Camelot. Thankfully, I’m not in my grave…well, one foot’s in and the other’s on a banana peel, but what the hell. I did not keep track since 2008. However, I did keep track of the last four days. In that time, I have received nearly 20 e-mails from someone in the Democratic Party. The first one came from the top dog himself. It read:

“I’ve already emailed you this month. I’m emailing you again because this is important. Take 30 seconds to read this: — Republican outside groups are outspending us nearly 3-to-1. — That’s nearly 3 times as many resources attacking our Democratic candidates. — The most important fundraising deadline we’ve faced is in just 48 hours. Richard, I don’t want to lose this election because we didn’t fight Republican attacks when we had the chance.”

Who is “us?” I will make the unwarranted assumption that “us” is members of the Democratic Party. Guess what, I-don’t-care. You see, I’m one of those people who is embarrassed by a Congress that has done absolutely nothing but pass an Affordable Health Care bill that is neither affordable nor does it cover, in a reasonable manner, the health care for all Americans. Other than that, they have spent their time pissing and moaning over the fact that the passed that bill – which, by the way, leads me to question their intelligence in the first place. Therefore, where it says, “incumbent” on my ballot in the fall of 2016, the other person will be receiving my vote. He or she can’t be any worse than what we have in the various suites right now.

The next e-mail came from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and the Congressional Representative from Florida’s 23rd congressional district. Debbie said

“If I thought this could wait, I wouldn’t be emailing you. Right now, Boehner is using his corporate cash to creep into TVs across America. All told, we’re facing $30 million worth of attack ads. I don’t plan on letting Boehner win in November. But we’re coming up short of what we’ll need to fight Boehner’s smears. Our critical deadline is in 48 hours. I’m pleading with you to take a moment and step up.”

Right away she pissed me off. Congressman John Boehner may be orange in color, a member of the opposing party, and a real son-of-a-bitch, but he is still a duly elected Congressman from Ohio and chairman of the House of Representatives. How about a little professional politeness here; you could, at the very least, refer to him as “Congressman” Boehner. In addition, remember that Congressman Boehner, for all his faults, doesn’t personally prepare the smears; hell, that’s why he has a staff.

There were a few more in between but then I received this one:

“We’re running out of people to email you, Richard. “In the last two days, you should have received an email from: — President Obama — Nancy Pelosi — Debbie Wasserman Schultz  “That’s how important this is! Democrats are getting massively outspent by Republican groups. And we’re fighting desperately to turn it around. “We need 61,037 more donations in the next 48 hours if we want any shot at giving President Obama a Democratic House for his final two years.”

And it was signed “James.” Who the hell is James? In addition, I must have missed Nancy’s. Oh, sure, she’s written letters to me from time to time, but I don’t recall any recent e-mails. I felt somewhat insulted not to have heard from Nancy. She’s that Congressional delegate who’s always trying to get legislation passed that will help her husband’s business…ooh, not nice!

I won’t bother to relate the texts of any of the other please. You understand the gist of what was going on. However, the subject lines in some of these were priceless: “Richard, I’m begging.” Don’t beg; begging makes you look bad; begging is a poor choice of words. “We’ve got nothing left, Richard.” Hey, what makes you different from the average American citizen? You’ve got nothing left? Tell that to the people who have been scammed out of their savings; tell it to the elderly who must decide between pills to keep them alive and putting food on the table. Another subject heading was “Boehner stunned,” telling all of the wonderful comeback in fundraising, and that, Congressman “Boehner will scream with rage when he sees this e-mail.” I’m quite certain the Congressman has better things to do. This was followed by, “everything has failed;” “we have failed;” “we’ve never failed like this;” “pummeled,” and this you have to hear: “It’s going to take everything we have to answer President Obama’s call-to-action, beat Boehner, and hit our fundraising goal tonight.” And, finally, “Astronomical,” indicating that all is well in the world of Democratic Party fundraising. If you’ve ever heard the expression, “Figures don’t lie, but liars sure can figure,” you can understand my skepticism over this whole thing.

The point is that if you intend to make a donation to some cause, do it by putting cash in an envelope and send it anonymously. Sure, it will get stolen by the person opening the envelope, but maybe it will go to a good cause. It will also pretty much assure you that you won’t get bombarded as I have and expect to until the day I die…then my heirs will get bombarded…serves ‘em right!

 

I was six years old in 1940; sixteen in 1950; and 26 and married for three years by the time 1960 rolled around. On my fifth birthday, Adolph Hitler and his thousand-year-Reich invaded Poland. Korea was on the verge of exploding and I was still a naïve American young boy, just old enough to begin working, at least according to the labor laws of the time, when I was 16. Sputnik had gone up and scared the crap out of everyone by the time I graduated from college the first time, and it seemed that the dreaded and hated Soviet Union was going to win the “space race.” As ‘they’ say, “A lot of water has passed over the dam and under the bridge since those days.

When I was in high school, there was one Black kid…Leo Kennedy. Leo was a great athlete, something of a good friend, but I really never sat down and talked with him. He was the only Black person I knew, and, well, I really couldn’t talk about him at home. Jimmy Proctor appeared in high school when we were sophomores and he made two Black kids in school. We even had our token Jew, Freddie Ferber, but all we knew was that he didn’t go to any of the churches in town. You see, I grew up in about as white bread community as you could possibly see back in the fifties. It wasn’t so much that it was a slower time of life as much as it was just a different time. Looking back, I’m happy as hell that I don’t have to be growing up today, and someday, some old fart like me will dictate or thought transfer the exact same thing onto or into God-only-knows-what, and that person will say the exact same thing…”Wow, I’m happy as hell that I don’t have to be growing up today.”

Times were really bad when I was born. It sort of makes me wonder if my conception wasn’t some big accident. There were still breadlines in some places in 1934…hell, there were breadlines in various communities right up through 1936. What kind of crazy people would want to conceive a child during times that were that tough? Accident or not, I’m rather glad that Bud and Rae decided that I was worth the making. I guess it paid off. Dad was a shipyard worker and, when war broke out seven years after that glorious September morning when I appeared on the scene, money became plentiful once more because the shipyards were so damned busy, they were going three shifts around the clock. Overtime was just one of those things of which you took advantage.

Things just seem so much faster-paced today than they were when I was growing up. Maybe, just maybe it’s not that things are that much faster; maybe it’s just that I’m slowing down. When I was younger, it wasn’t cancer that killed people; it was polio…and car accidents…and heart attacks, although no one seemed to know what brought about heart attacks. I suppose doctors knew about cancer when I was a kid, but I don’t recall ever hearing the word tossed around. Uncle Stanley dropped dead in the shower; never did know what killed Aunt Stacy or Aunt Celia – she was the former postmistress in Cohasset, you know – but it wasn’t until my Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1968 that I ever even considered the word.

Everything has changed; in many ways you – at least if you’re near my age – and I have changed with a great many of them. We have cell phones with apps and maps and cameras and so many other gadgets that I’ve stopped trying to figure out what they all do or mean. I wear head phones to listen to my I-pod at the gym. Other folks use ear buds, but I can’t get the damned things to stay in my ears. Rather than seeing only one or two people who are Black, I find that most of my friends are either Black, gay, or from a country other than America. My next door neighbor is a rabbi, and I turn to him as much for a counselor as I do to anyone else.

What will life be like in 2214 or 2314? How much will it have change? Will there still be a world as we think of it today. Will kids go to work at 16? What will that work entail? Will college still be an attractive way to further one’s education, and how will students attend college? Will they sit in front of a television screen and take online courses only? If so, how will they learn to interact on a social level? Many people, when I was growing up, believe that the year 2000 would be the age of the Jetsons. Well, that one sure blew by the boards in a hurry, didn’t it? War has certainly changed since I was a kid. Back during the days of WWII, you knew who the enemy was…and they fought like men, not using the skirts of women or children to sneak around. Today, they don’t seem to be world wars as much as they are, religious actions. At least that’s what the politicians would have you believe.

While it’s been the case since time began, I don’t believe the division between the “have’s” and the “have not’s” has been so great since the late 1800s. Conspicuous consumption or “keeping up with the Joneses” has put many a family in ruin. The idea of having a new car every so often; sending the kids to a prestigious college, even if it means refinancing the house; having the newest of this or the very best of that seems to be the downfall of too many people in this country. Job uncertainty doesn’t appear to be holding people back from this idea of wanting everything without the means to provide it. Juli and I have adopted the philosophy of, “The Joneses are in debt and we don’t care to join them.” I wonder how that will be playing out in a couple of centuries. No one seems to be too concerned about these questions, and I’ll be pretty dusty by the time they come along, so I guess I shouldn’t worry a whole hell of a lot about them either. They do, however, intrigue me.

When I was teaching a workshop in creative problem solving, I would often open with some icebreakers. The class would be split into random five-member teams…strangers getting to work together. They would be given a problem similar to the following: “The year is 2375. You and your family are spending your two-week vacation on a beautiful tropical island, once known as Massachusetts, in a country once known as America. What happened to make this a reality?” Every member of the team had to speak; the story they told had to be cohesive…and they had only fifteen minutes to come up with their scenario. To me, this kind of thinking is what we need today if we are to ensure that there will be kids growing up two or three centuries from now. My life was so simple and today’s life seems so complex. I wish you well, those who are not yet conceived. To those of us nearing the end of our time on earth…have we done the job right? Will our kids do the job right? Oh, how I hope we haven’t messed up everything!

Me and my big mouth!

There is good news because I have found humor about which to write!

Yesterday, I forgot a luncheon appointment with an old friend who is the comptroller at a private secondary school in the area. We generally get together every three or four months to discuss…nothing  of great importance, but we enjoy each other’s company and swapping yarns about “the old days,” whatever the hell that happens to mean. However, being my responsible self, I forgot to put the appointment in my telephone calendar, on the printed calendar that hangs on a closet door in the kitchen, or on the calendar that is on the kitchen table – we try to cover as many bases as possible here: after all, wouldn’t want to miss an appointment.  Ed, my friend, kept the appointment; we generally confirm the day before, but we did not. Upon entering the restaurant, he inquired after an “elderly gentleman” (what a bastard on both counts…I’m not old and hardly could be called a gentleman). “We did show a gentleman to a table a few minutes ago,” he was told, “and said he was waiting for another party.  I believe he went to use the men’s room.” The hostess showed Ed to the table at which the elderly gentleman {her words…the bitch!] had been seated. My friend sat down, ordered a drink, and began munching on the hot bread that had already been served, and believing that I would return from the men’s room momentarily. A few minutes later, an elderly gentleman [hate that stuff] appeared and sat down at the table adjoining my friend’s. Ed continued to drink and munch until the gentleman sitting at the adjoining table said, “I didn’t know you would be joining us today.” Ed said nothing, finished his drink, stopped chewing on the bread, got up and left the restaurant [cheap bastard probably didn’t even pay for the drink], thoroughly humiliated and embarrassed! He e-mailed me in the afternoon, omitting no detail from his encounter. Reading it, I knew that humor had come back into my life, and also knowing that I had to, at all costs, share the story.

After sharing the above story with my companion, she reminded me of another event that occurred recently which, in retrospect, was rather funny. You see, she is an avid gardener, and this has been a nearly perfect growing season in New England. From six crook neck squash seeds, we probably received over 20 squash. From three jalapeno plants, I wouldn’t even care to count what we have received. From out four tomato plants, plus the volunteers, we’ve hardly been able to keep up with the harvest. What are the “volunteers,” you may be asking yourself. Volunteers are those tomatoes that somehow cast their seeds. According to all of the farmers with whom we’ve spoken, tomatoes don’t survive New England winters. However, someone has forgotten to tell our tomato seedlings this, and for the past several summers, we generally find six or eight “volunteers” growing around the yard. They are gently transported to beds and often produce a fine crop of Early Girl tomatoes.

Anyway, back to the story. The excess of our garden I take to the gym. Juli has a special tray that we use. She lines it with parchment paper; I load it into the car, and, after my workout I set the tray on a table at the exit and slide the parchment paper carefully onto the table. In that way, I can return the tray and not have to wait around until all of the produce has been snatched away. Recently, a fellow gym rat was asking me if we would be interested in some really how peppers. “Sure,” I said, and he promised to bring some in for our salsa. He brought in a bag which contained the peppers, but which also contained summer squash (oh no!) and a zucchini. That night, my partner noted that I would have tomatoes to take to the gym the following morning. Understand something very clearly: When I’m driving to the gym at 4:30 a.m., I’m not fully awake. This is said not to justify what happened but to justify what happened! After the workout, I went to the car, recovered the tray, laid out the produce, took the tray home and put it in its storage spot, i.e. the oven.  When my companion arose, she came into the kitchen and asked, “Where’s the tray?”

“I took it to the gym.”

“Why?”

“You told me last night that you’d have tomatoes on the tray for the gym.”

“Not that tray. That one had the produce on it that your ‘buddy’ gave to you. Was he there?”

“Omygod! No, thankfully, he was not there.”

“Weren’t awake, were you?” she asked

“Nope.”

“Damned fool.”

When I saw the other gym rat a few days later, I felt obligated to tell him the story. We both had a good laugh, but I was still embarrassed by my faux pax.

The moral is that humor is where and when you can find it. I think that now I’ll just start looking for humor in more places. I hope you can do the same.

Finding humor

There is nothing humorous about which to write!

Some believe that the “ice bucket challenge” is funny, and yes, watching Ethel Kennedy and several others of note get drenched is, momentarily, quite laughable. Then I think of the cause behind these viral “I must be seen doing it” videos, and I think back to reading Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom and suddenly the challenge doesn’t seem to be quite so funny. I also think of my friend “The Colonel,” as Professor Ed McGee was known when he was teaching at Babson, who was diagnosed in his early sixties and who opened the door for me to begin teaching creative problem solving, team building, and goal setting for a variety of groups because he was no longer able to do so. It makes me happy to see all of the money that has been raised for ALS research, but if you’ve ever watched someone deteriorate and die from the disease, there is no humor.

There is certainly no humor in the drought that has hit parts of the Southwest, nor is there anything funny in the horrible floods of the Midwest.  Since the Napa Valley has just been hit by a 6.0 earthquake, I guess the grapes shaking off the vines may be humorous to some, the wine makers aren’t laughing…at least, it will ease the job of the pickers. Speaking of pickers, can anyone find something to chuckle about with these kids who were crossing the border in hoards? If you can, your mind is even more screwed up than my own…and that is really going some!

Robin Williams’ death was tragic, but even in death, his legacy gave us something to laugh about. Oh, we’ll never see him on stage or in film again, but it brought back some of his wonderful humor, if only for a brief moment. I have seen clips that I’ve never seen before…and I’ve laughed. I have a sister-in-law and a dear friend, both of whom are suffering from Parkinson’s. I’d rather remember Mr. Williams as he was in his crazy days. It’s not humorous, but when the media and the police first announced that Mr. Williams was a suicide and that he was found with a belt around his neck, the attitude of several reporters appeared to be, “That cowardly bastard.” It was quite amazing how quickly that attitude turned around when it was later announced that he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s.

There is nothing humorous about the arrest of a freshman in South Carolina or a 13-year old in Albuquerque, New Mexico being arrested for burping in a physical education class. As they say, “better to urp a burp and bear the shame than squelch a belch and die in pain!” There is a line here which students, teachers, and administrators have to learn not to cross. Criminalizing a student for burping or for carrying a writing assignment too far indicates a certain degree of paranoia that is far from funny. If a student is a perpetual trouble-maker, get the parents involved and don’t tolerate any bullshit from them about their child being perfect. We’re all aware that the news media will rarely, if ever, take the side of those who “have had enough.” We also know that teenagers can be little shits, but criminalizing them will only turn them into heroes among their classmates. Try embarrassing rather than arresting.

Is there humor in the world? Sure, there is, but it seems to be so far outweighed by the horrific, nasty, and downright terrible that one really has to search to find laughter.  In order to laugh out loud, I find that I must watch Big Bang Theory re-runs or Two and a Half Men [before Charlie Sheehan went off the deep end].

Well, I guess it’s time for me to go watch my reruns. Tonight, I’ve picked a couple of really funny shows, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and Grimm…wow, those should be hilarious!

The murder of James Foley proves once more that Islamic extremists place little value on human life…any human life, including their own. It also demonstrates the degree of cowardice to which these people will go, as they cover their faces to do their horrific deeds.

My initial reaction to Mr. Foley’s beheading was, “Let’s go bomb the bastards out of existence,” but that would kill too many innocent civilians. These arrogant sons-of-bitches don’t give a damn about who gets killed whenever and wherever they choose to fight. In fact, much of the video that I have seen shows them terrorizing and killing civilians who don’t practice religion exactly as they do. My questions are simply, “Does every soldier in your group carry a prayer rug and turn to Mecca five times each day? Do you respect the Quran and follow its teachings precisely? If you form an Islamic state, how will you keep other religious fanatics from overrunning you and killing you for their beliefs? I would imagine that the idea of prayer has gone out the window right about now since killing is what these people seem to believe in. As far as the Quran is concerned, there is probably not one hafiz in the entire fighting group. As far as a separate state for this type of warlord is concerned, I have some news for these people. It won’t be external warfare that will bring down their state; it will be civil unrest that will be its downfall.

James Foley becomes the second American journalist to be beheaded by radical Muslims. The first, the video of Daniel Pearl, was shocking. The murder of Foley is shocking, but this public execution is no more or less than what these homo sapiens do to their own. Khalid Sheik Mohammed is the name of the man who killed Daniel Pearl. It took time to identify him and to catch him, but the last I heard he was still at Gitmo. We don’t know who “British John” is…yet. We know he’s the head of a British foursome called “The Beatles;” we know several other things about him, including the fact that he is a coward who has to cover much of his body to hide his identity. Don’t worry, John, analysts today are very good at picking up on small things. Knowing, for example, that you’re left-handed will be a big help in identifying you. I’m not certain you’ll get to Guantanamo Bay, however, because Jim Foley was a very popular guy, and strange things often happen to animals twixt the barn and the pen.

ISIS or ISSL or whatever they’re calling themselves on this particular day has indicated that it has additional American captives that it will kill. I offer my condolences to the wives, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers of those captives, but I have no doubt they will carry out their threat. You see, human life is cheap in the eyes of these homo sapiens {please note that I do not call them other than by the genus by which other humans are called], and human life from another country is cheapened further because they believe that it is tainted in some way. Their thinking is different; they are wired differently from human beings. They are a throwback to the hunter/gatherers of eons ago. When they are encountered, the only treatment of them is a quick death. They understand that. It’s unfortunate that they still exist, but they’ve left their aeries in the mountains, and it is now incumbent on real people to eliminate them.

Am I trying to be funny? Absolutely not! I find the assassinations of Daniel Pearl and James Foley revolting. War is war, and combatants are meant to kill one another. Innocents like Pearl and Foley are to be left alone. “What about our wives and children that the Americans have killed with their bombing?” they ask, to which my response is, “You hide behind their skirts and expect to be protected?” How stupid can you be? That is just another example, first, of how cowardly they are, and second, how little regard they have for human life.

I abhor violence, whether it’s a cop beating a homeless woman in California, a Black kid in Ferguson, Missouri shoving and then threatening a clerk after the kid and his friend have robbed the store, bullying by anyone whether physical, psychological, or through texts and e-mails, or some coward in the Middle East cutting off the head of an innocent civilian…I cannot stomach such behavior. I wonder how “British John” would feel if put in the same situation as Jim Foley. My bet is that he’d cry like a baby and piss all over himself. Sorry, but if that’s the way you wish to live; it’s probably the manner in which you will die.

“The world is divided into ‘givers’ and ‘takers.’ If you’ve never heard the expression, invite me over to your cave sometime, and we can discuss philosophy 101. However, I never heard the rest of the statement until today. It goes, “The takers eat well, but the givers sleep well. What a wonderful expression when combined. I wonder if it’s true. I began to do a bit of research on the subject of givers and takers, only to learn that there is a third category, “matchers.”  The takers take with no thought of how it might affect others, rather like, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine…and if I want it, screw you, I’m going to get it.” The givers just give without thought other than it will help the team, organization, or whatever. The matchers, however, are those who will give but expect to receive something from their giving…a favor later or some kind of quid pro quo that will benefit them.

I never realized the amount of study that has gone into this subject of givers and takers…and even matchers. I also never realized that this entire thing could be turned into book after book after book. It made me realize that no matter how obscure, shadowy, vague, or downright weird, there is always some smartass who is able to take advantage of it and turn it into a profitable book, workshop, or lecture tour.  In addition, if one is really good, it can be turned into an entire semester-long course for guinea pigs who will supply an endless amount of raw data so that more books can be published and more money can wind up in the author’s pockets.

As an undergraduate, I was forced to take a course entitled Advertising Production. It was a required course. This was in the 1950s when textbooks were relatively inexpensive. Therefore, when I learned that this text was going to set me back nearly a hundred bucks, I was really pissed. The man who taught the course was still living in the 1930s. The course was as dull as dishwater; the book a piece of crap, and if you turned in a smoke and mirrors project and did well on the tests, you were pretty much guaranteed an ‘A.’ Several years after I graduated, this same faculty member was taking a year-long sabbatical, and I was asked if I’d be interested in teaching the Ad Production course for a year. Hey, what an opportunity to put a few bucks in my pocket, so I said, “Yes.” I was given something that was supposed to be a syllabus, told the name of the book that had been ordered, an “atta boy,” and left to my own devices. The book was the same one that I had as an undergraduate. It had not changed…one iota. On the first day of class, I asked how many had purchased the book. The answer was zero. They were waiting to see what the instructor was going to do; how would he teach; would the book be required, etc., etc., etc. I told them not to buy the book. I’d be damned if I was going to put royalties in the pocket of some lazy son-of-a-bitch who hadn’t bothered to change his book in nearly 20 years.

You have to understand something clearly. Advertising Production entails many things. There is the creative process, the production process, budgeting, and a whole pile of other ‘stuff’ that goes into what you may read in Time or U.S. News, listen to on your favorite radio station, or watch between segments of NCIS or Grimm. The classroom is great but not for this particular course. Back then, you took students to an ad agency for the creative process as well as cost figures. You took them to a commercial printer if you wanted them to see the complexities of a print advertisement. You took them where things were actually happening, let professionals spend an hour – I had a lot of friends in the business – telling them the facts of life [as you took notes to make up exam questions], and showed them firsthand what they might be facing after graduation. From the owner of a commercial printing company, the students received a spiral-bound printer’s handbook. In class they were told that this was their Bible and to be prepared to be tested on what it contained [I had probably ten different editions of the same book and had found it to be invaluable in producing bulletins, brochures, and catalogs]. They learned early on that their projects would be judged by real world standards and not by how much BS they could shovel.  Of the money I received from teaching that class, nearly half went into transportation, publications, and ‘honoraria’ for speakers. I’m not that giving a person, but I would be damned if those kids were going to suffer through the bullshit through which I suffered. Funny thing is that several stayed in touch for years; one stays in touch to this day. I’m not certain who the giver was and who was the taker. I probably learned as much from them as they learned from me and the people to whom they were introduced.

Frankly, I don’t think we should go through life as takers or givers or matchers, or whatever. According to some of the data I’ve seen, the three categories aren’t necessarily a measure of success. Oh, boy, there’s another word that’s worthy of an entire essay! Some givers achieve greatness as do the other two. Other givers, takers, and matchers are at the bottom of the achievement list. Perhaps this is why I question the idea of trying to make so much psychological gobbledygook out of who is what in this world in which we live. When I started this piece, I had no idea where it would take me; no idea that it would rekindle my very first college lectureship experience; no idea that it would begin to make me think about my own family and who were the givers, and who were the takers.

I’m reminded of a quote by the philosopher,  Kahlil Gibran,“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Certainly, it would be great to win a big lottery jackpot and give much of it to your favorite charities, but it is when you give of your knowledge, freely and without reservation; when you give of your time to help others without concern for yourself, then you will begin to realize just how good giving can feel.

You don’t need it

What is wrong with being bald? Where is the problem with having gray in one’s hair? Have you ever seen a man or woman with snow white hair? It’s singularly beautiful. I’m not talking about the dirty gray that you see on some, but if the genes are right – mine don’t happen to be, but what the hell – it seems to enhance the beauty or at least detract from the ugliness of the person so blessed. In terms of being bald, I guess the classic actors were or are Telly Savalas, Yul Brynner, Stanley Tucci, John Malkovich, and several others, none of whom appeared to be concerned about the fact that their heads were shaved because they were mostly bald.

The ads on television that push hair restoration for “that younger look,” or adding coloring to hair or beards in order to ‘score’ with women are embarrassingly simplistic and downright insulting. What, you think that by going through a process that puts hair on your head or color in your beard, you’re going to be more attract6ive to the opposite sex? My guess would be that you’re trying to look younger in order to think younger, act younger, and make a damned fool of yourself.

You are what you are, and while hair coloring works well for most women – except for the purple-headed grande dames – I’m not all that certain the same can be said for men. Unless a man has his hair colored professionally, it usually comes out as five shades of brown as opposed to fifty shades of gray.

After Joan died of cancer, I did two things to honor her memory. First, I had my wedding ring made into a heart and attached to the cross I wear around my neck. The second thing I did and will continue to do until I die, is to shave my head. Did she undergo chemo and lose her hair? No, she refused chemo because (a) it was too late, and (b) she preferred quality of life over quantity of life. So no, I didn’t shave my head because Joan had lost all of her hair. I did it as a tribute to her memory. Was I going bald anyway? That’s a tough call. I had a small tonsure on the back of my head and a couple of runways on the front, but by and large, I still had to get to a barber every couple of weeks to look presentable. Today, while I still haven’t mastered the art of shaving my head with a straight razor – I admit to crazy; not to stupid – I keep the old scalp as bare as possible. Let me put it this way: After I’ve shaved my head, it glints. That’s enough for me.

People do all sorts of crazy things to make themselves what…more attractive to the opposite gender? That seems rather shallow to me because it would appear that the person is starting out with a deception. If that’s what floats someone’s boat, beautiful, go for it, but understand something very clearly; you are a victim of the advertising community. You also probably have insecurities about how you look, and the advertisers are doing nothing but pandering to those insecurities. My personal insecurity about my looks took place when I was in high school. During the summer, between my freshman and sophomore years, I grew nearly a foot in height, all the way up to six feet, three inches. The only problem was that my weight didn’t grow with me. At 145 pounds, I could stand sideways to a sapling and disappear. I wasn’t the tallest kid in the class; I was the tallest person in the school. The most polite of the nicknames was probably “Bones,” but those days are gone forever. Looking back, I can chuckle about how insecure I was over my height as well as my weight. Today, at six, one, and 250, I’m still somewhat insecure about my weight…no I’m not; it is what is, and at 80, I just don’t give a damn any more.

The exterior of a person is really quite meaningless. When Robin Williams committed suicide, all the gory details were part of the police announcement. Zelda Williams, his daughter, shut down her twitter account because of some of the nasty comments she was receiving. Now time has passed, and the public is learning about the real Robin Williams; not Williams the comedian; not Williams the actor; not Williams who constantly battled depression. People are learning about Robin Williams, the generous man who entertained troops in Iraq and Afghanistan without promoting his tours; who taped a ‘take care’ message to a woman in New Zealand who is dying of cancer; who regularly did fund raising for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital; who was one of the kindest and most generous people in Hollywood; who was probably haunted by the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Outside, he was…talented and strange. Inside, his heart was filled with kindness and generosity.

You don’t have to add hair or shave your head. You don’t have to Botox your face or use a particular brand of skin softener. You just have to be the best you that you can be. As one quotation goes, “When you were born, you cried and all of those around you smiled. Live your life so that when you die, you are smiling and all around you are crying.” I can think of no finer tribute.

 

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