Thursday, March 01, 2018


She gave me the once-over as I sat in the cafeteria, waved her hand in the general direction of my head. “Do you ever comb that?”

Her friends laughed and I felt my enormous ears getting hot. Good thing my helmet of hair covered them; this was the ‘70s and big hair was required by law.

Big, but not unruly, and she was right — my hair was a mess. Double cowlicks meant my mane twisted off in all sorts of unexpected directions. Along my temples it got wavy and stuck out. I moussed it, brushed it, combed it. Always a rat’s nest. The only good things about my hair were the color — samurai black — and the fact that there was a lot of it. That meant I could cover my ears.

Over the years I’ve grown it down my back and had it cut to a half-inch. The woman who styled my hair in the ‘80s and ‘90s used to add strips of color. Once she braided a small bell into her creation. I somehow managed to work it out while covering a court case. The bell fell to the floor and rolled into the well of the courtroom. The judge stopped testimony and ordered me to step forward and retrieve my jangly hair accessory. I did as instructed.

Today I looked at a photo of me at 30. It's at the top of this post. Thick black beard. Full head of hair. Man, that sucker got hot in summertime. It was like being under the hood of a black car, all the heat from within and without trapped in my skull. Sometimes it felt like my brain was boiling. In that particular photo I’m covering an Elvis Presley impersonators convention. Scores of Elvi in Chicago. The fine line holding back unreality gave way there; by weekend’s end everything seemed like a Hunter Thompson dream.

But man, that hair. I can’t stop looking at it. So what if it looks like it escaped from Dorothy Hamill’s head. It’s the hair of a vital man. A guy with a lot of life yet to live.

I put my hand to my head. Thin up top. So thin. It still tendrils down past my shoulders, but it’s more white than gray now. It feels listless … unlike me, who feels restless. In recent days my brain has started percolating. Tricky bastard, the percolator. Makes a damned fine cup of coffee but keep it plugged in for too long and you get bitter brew. Acid on the tongue; not a good thing. I’d better stop now.

One thing before: Appreciate your hair. Enjoy what you’ve got (or don’t have, for the baldsters in the crowd). Try not to fret too much about the stray gray. There’ll be plenty of time for that. Revel in your moments of glad grace, so when you are full of sleep the dreams will be sweet.

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