Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stubble Trouble...

Note:  This blog entry is dedicated to Jarret Lobb, my uncle.  After two serious operations, he's recovering with a new artificial heart in Rochester, New York.  God-willing, Jarret (he's never let me call him "uncle") will continue to progress and be healthy enough to accept a second donor heart.  He will always be my favorite uncle.  And, even though he's my only uncle, I suspect he'd be right at the top of the list, even if I had fifty of them.  Keep fighting Jarret!

The other day my wife noticed that both Matt Lauer and Al Roker of NBC's Today Show were growing beards.  "What's with the beards?  Everyone is growing one these days."

I pointed out that neither Savannah Guthrie or Natalie Morales had beards to prove that not "everyone" was doing it, but I understood where she was coming from.

I'm not certain if it's Duck Dynasty or the Boston Red Sox who spurred this full beard trend, but it's starting to bother me too.  Don't get me wrong, I like beards.  In fact, I love beards.  The problem is, I've never been able to grow one.  It's the single most frustrating thing about me that I've had to deal with since I started shaving thirty or so years ago. 

I've tried growing a beard even before it was the popular thing to do.  Usually, I'd start it on vacation or prior to beginning a new job.  Unfortunately, beard growing is not one of those things you get better at with experience or the more times you try it.  I always start out strong, with a full face of stubble in a just a few days.  Week two looks a lot like week one, with the added element of itching.  Then I hit the Facial Hair Wall.  Nothing works, no matter how much I try to coax more length out of my follicles.  Week three is when I usually throw in the towel and think about what could have been - that maybe next time I'd do it right. 

Not being able to grow a full beard is a huge hit to the male ego.  When I do give up and shave it bare, I feel like I'm removing a layer of testosterone.  I may as well just give back my man card and sign up for electrolysis.

As I'm shaving, I'm reminded of how well I grow hair in other areas of body.  My back, nose, ear, eyebrows and arms are all flourishing with thick swaths of hair - those areas are like follicle savants.  Similar to weeds that won't go away even if pull them out by the roots, hair in those unwanted places keeps coming back for more.  When the most important feature of my Mangroomer is the warranty, I think you can start to understand what I'm dealing with here.

Last night I spoke with a friend after my son's seventh-grade basketball scrimmage.  Of course, he was growing a beard too.  Go ahead and kick me when I'm down.

"So, what's with the beard?" I asked.

He chuckled.  "I don't know.  I stopped shaving for a week and it started to fill in."

"It just started to fill in, huh?"


"How long have you been growing it."  I would have guessed a month or two.

"Two and a half weeks."

"You sonofabitch!"


"You heard me.  I know you're Italian and that gives you an unfair advantage over normal people, but that's only two and a half weeks?"

"Yeah, I kind of like it."

"Do you have any compassion?  You come out here strutting around, showing off your precious two-and-a-half-week-old friggin' mountain man beard and you can just be so casual about it?  Do you know what people like me would do for a beard like that?  Do you?  I'd kill for a beard like that."

He quickly responded.  "Now, hold on just a minute.  I didn't think I was strutting."

"Well, one thing's for sure, you didn't think."  My friend is much bigger than me.  I should have probably stopped there and just walked away.  But I kept hammering the poor bastard.  "You're like a damned bearded peacock saying 'Oh, look at me and my amazing new beard!'  Well, I think you've crossed the line my friend."

"Well, I'm not going to shave it just because you can't grow one."

There it was.  A low blow and I let him know it.  "Okay.  I see how it is now.  You think I can't do this?"

"That is kind of what you told me.  You said you'd kill for a beard like mine."  I hate when people use my own words against me. 

"Yes...yes, I did.  But, I didn't say I couldn't grow one myself.  In fact, I'm starting on my beard today."

"Okay then, good luck with that.  Sheesh."  He walked away.

I have no idea what I'm going to do.  I may have just bitten off more than I can chew.  Pride says just stop shaving for a year and see what happens.  Maybe week four is the magical week my face has been waiting for.  What if it's longer?  Can I hold out that long?  One thing I can count on is that my beard will be better than anything the women of the Today Show will be able to grow.

When I got home it occurred to me that I may have been a little hard on my friend.  It also occurred to me that despite the harsh words and beard-growing threats, once week three rolls around I'll be shaving off another layer of my manhood.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Senior Moment...

If you know me, it's understood that old people and I don't get along - we're like oil and Metamucil. 

My distaste for the elderly stems from three major arguments. 

First, I've carried a grudge against them for their irresponsible use of recreation centers and grocery stores.  I've even gone so far as to petition local and state politicians to ban the retired from these facilities  during the hours of 6-8 a.m. and 5-9 p.m. during the week.  They can work out and buy groceries all they want from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  That's when I'm working.  But, before and after I'm done working, I expect to not have to wait for a treadmill or hear about Lou's bowel obstruction from across the room.  And, I shouldn't have to be subject to a grocery store check out line filled with old women who feel it's necessary to pay in cash using exact change.  Getting the money out of the pocketbook takes almost as long as putting everything back in place after they're done.  It's mind-numbing.

My second major issue with old people is in how they've hostily taken over all McDonald's dining rooms in this country.  Sure, many McDonald's now have indoor play areas for small children, but even then you have to pass through a maze of intimidating and awkward stares as the geriatics take a pause from their pointless conversations about prescription dosages or hearing aid battery life to see what young family has infringed upon their domain.  You don't think McDonald's built all these fancy drive-thrus to make ordering more convenient do you?  They built them because anyone under 55 is afraid to walk into the restaurant to order food.

Finally, I can't stand it when old people feel it's important to tell you every last detail of their doctor visit or a recent ailment.  I've never been compelled to tell anyone about the time I got food poisoning and spent two straight days on the toilet while previously digested things came rocketing out of both ends of me.  I'm convinced that the first thing to go isn't your memory, it's your empathy.  Old people have no ability to filter their thoughts when it comes to sickness - and, it's directly connected to not being able to understand how the person who is hearing the disgusting narration feels about it.

There are other more sublime reasons that I don't enjoy the aged, but these are the Big Three.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard that Cleveland had won the rights to host the National Senior Games in 2013, kind of an old people's Olympics.  Well, I'm not sure if "winning" the rights is the proper way to describe it.  Nothing as depressing as the National Senior Games could ever be awarded to a city - more like forced on the city.

I've tried to steer clear of downtown, to avoid the hordes of adreneline-filled seniors.  Who knows what they are capable in such large numbers.  No way am I testing those boundaries.  But now I'm seeing them in the suburbs, in my hometown.  Lots of grey-haired men and women with jerseys.  In real life, people older than 55 don't wear jerseys.  But this is my version of hell.

The only thing I can do is avoid and discredit.  I'll avoid it by staying in my house, under the covers for the next ten days or so.  I can discredit by pointing out that no true athletic event can include activities such as shuffleboard, horseshoes and something called pickleball.  Pickleball?  Really.  Look it up.  Hey, why not paper football or yatzee?  Those are games that have been around a lot longer and there's actually a chance humans might want to watch.

Unforunately, there's really nothing I can do about it.  The 2013 National Senior Games are here.  They will go on with or without my consent or blessing.  But what I would hope for is that the planning committee for the next National Senior Games would consider the following events...

Synchronized Dying - This would be a closing ceremonies event.  I'm sure they're going to a few participants that kick it while the games are going on, why not coordinate and judge it.

Mallathon - Why set up an elaborate course and close down streets for a senior marathon when you can have it at the local mall?  Instead of grabbing cups of water, runners grab Auntie Anne's pretzels for energy.

Pill Sorting - A race against time to see who can fill up their weekly pill box the fastest. 

Crazy?  Maybe.  But I'm 46.  I have to start training for something.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Coal Miner's Daughter

I remember the first time I picked up the microphone.  It was 1991 at the Winking Lizard Tavern in Twinsburg, Ohio.  I was young and brash.  Chicken wings had just become popular and they were my food of choice.  I was in my early twenties, too foolhardy to understand how many WeightWatchers points were in two dozen of the cholesteral-infused poultry pieces.  And, I drank cheap draft beer by the pitcherful.  That's when drinking was fun, not just a way to avoid giving the kids baths.

Something in that beer, possibly the alcohol, triggered a desire to jump up onto a tiny stage, and read a teleprompter set to music in front of a roomful of strangers.  It was "follow the bouncing ball" for grown-ups and I loved it.  Finally, there was a place for young drunks with bad voices to go and to feel like they truly belonged.

In those days, the list of songs available to choose from was sparse.  I think you could either go with Louis Armstrong's Mac the Knife or Funky Cold Medina by Tone Loc.  Because of my natually hip and cool personality, I chose the Mr. Loc standard for my karaoke debut.  I was a bundle of nerves as I drank and ate and waited for the karaoke DJ to call my name.  Amazingly, as soon as I was handed the microphone and the music started to play, my nervousness melted away.  I was in another world.  A world where you were accepted, even if you couldn't sing, or had a permed mullet, or drove your mom's Chevy Cavalier, or...okay, you get the picture.

As other establishments in and around northeast Ohio started to offer Karaoke, playlists expanded...and so did my personal karaoke repertoire.  In fact, I had quite the karaoke following, even if they were my brother and three or four of our friends.  I took my talents to places like Gatsby's in Mentor and Tommy's in Rocky River.  I even played the Clarion Hotel lounge in Eastlake.  I was two cities away from being a regional act.

Then, one night in 1993, I decided to shake things up.  Tone Loc was getting stale.  I stepped out of my hip hop confort zone and turned my name in for a little Loretta Lynn.  "Coal Miner's Daughter" to be exact. 

And, when I began..."Well, I was born a coal miner's daughter...," I knew there was no going back.  Some found it humerous.  Some appalling.  Some didn't care.  Others thought I was some kind of fruit loop. 

I suppose it served its purpose - it generated a reaction from the crowd.  Funky Cold Medina was dead.  Coal Miner's Daughter was now my signature song on karaoke nights.  Sure, I'd mix in some Johnny Cash or Led Zeppelin or The Doors...but, one thing hasn't changed for me over the many years.  My first song of the night is always CMD.

Well a lot of things have changes since way back then.  I got married, had kids and decided to start taking my career seriously.  Not my karaoke career, the other one.  It's been almost four years since my last karaoke night.

Some day I'll get back out there on that tiny stage.  I don't know when.  But, I've been preparing for it for a few years now.  In my car I carry a list - I keep it hidden in my glove box..  Its a karaoke song list.  Of songs I haven't tried before.  If I hear something on the radio that requires limited to no vocal ability to pull off, I write it down.  I'm currently at 18 songs and counting.

Some day I'll find a nice bar.  I'll order some wings and a pitcher or two of cheap beer.  Then I'll turn my song request in.  It's what I do.  And when I do, I hope you're there.  You can't keep this coal miner's daughter away from the microphone forever.