Thursday, April 25, 2013

the whisker on my earlobe

My Dad and I, circa 1960.
My dad would have been 97 years old today. To remember him, I'm posting a piece (more an anecdotal memory than a story) that I wrote several years ago before his death. Happy birthday, funny man!

This morning while plucking a hair from my earlobe as thick as a chin whisker I recalled my childhood visits to the barber with my dad. Saturday mornings belonged to my dad and me during my grade school years. He and I got out of the house, where my mother and six sisters ruled the roost, not to go fishing or hunting or do little league or some other typical father-and-son activity, but to do the weekly household grocery shopping.

In a family as large as mine, we each had our household chores and the weekly grocery shopping was one I shared with dad. He and I would climb into the big empty nine-seater Greenbrier van, vacant of its usual full load of passengers, and head for the Henhouse, a giant farmers-market-like grocery store with fresh produce, a real butcher with a meat locker, and beehived sample ladies with seasoned sausage on toothpicks and cheese on Ritz crackers. To me we weren't doing a weekly chore. This wasn't the job of housewives. My dad and I were on an adventure. This was man’s work. We would over load a giant shopping cart full of canned baked beans and peas, chicken and burger meat, gallons of milk, and large boxes of breakfast cereal and Modess, a popular brand of "sanitary napkins" in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

tall > small

I once had a therapist ask me what was the one thing I would want to say to all the tall people in the world, if I could.

“Trim your nose hair,” I said, which was the first thing that came into my head.

I had indeed, just that morning, stood beneath the looming presence of my six-foot-something Jesuit superior, distracted from whatever platitude he recited for my own good by the several long gray tentacles curling out of the dark cavity of his nostrils like some underwater creature.

It only confirmed for me that he had no confidant in his life, no secret mistress or attaché to whisper quietly over tea or their pillows, “I’ve been meaning to tell you: trim your nose hair.”

Of course, if you’re not in that trusted position, it’s impossible to say anything to someone whose nose hair is out of control. Yet, it’s just as impossible to look away. It’s human instinct to stare, especially if you’re shorter than the rest of the world. It belongs in the same distracting category with things like spinach in someone’s teeth, or a car pile up, or the surprising number of startlingly well-endowed homeless men I’ve glimpsed over the years in New York exposing themselves publicly. (At the latter, I’ve first been shocked, not as much by the nudity as the size, and then thought, “good for you. You deserve some leg-up on the rest of us.”)