Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Hawker on the Road to Perdition

Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow and a couple of Rapala X-Raps - worth about a day's wages in unemployment compensation. To put things in a Biblical perspective: 1 day's wage = a denarius - 1 month's wages = a shekel plus a pan of barley - 1 talent = 3,600 shekels or about 300 year's wages. A talent is a lot of money. Teach a man to fish...

 My new dreams seem far removed from the world of business and accounting that I used to inhabit. I’ve been forced by circumstances to reevaluate my life’s work and assess its viability in an uncertain future. It seems to me that it really doesn’t add up to much. I’ve achieved everything I’m ever going to achieve in accounting, and what I’ve accomplished so far is not even as satisfying as a grand-slam home run in an eighth grade softball game. There must be something else for me to do and it must be better than what I’ve done so far.
Although lucrative would be nice, what I do for a living no longer needs to provide as much as my past jobs. I still aspire to a nice home, a little travel, and an Aston Martin, but those aspirations are adjustable. Just last week I was thinking that I could make do with a hammock, a spinning rod, and a skillet on some random spoil island in the Indian River Lagoon. It was an interesting mental exercise, but I know it’s ridiculous to believe that I could actually do it. Besides, although my wife has stuck by me no matter what I’ve done or failed to do so far, I’m pretty sure squatting on a deserted island is beyond even her considerable tolerance for underachievement.
The important attributes of work for me now, rather than wages and benefits, are that it should be satisfying to me and useful to others. Looking back over 30 years at work, I have to conclude that very little of what I’ve done so far fits that bill, although not for lack of trying.
To pass 60 without having accomplished anything of note is worrisome to me. I’m running out of time, even though I’m not working and have, therefore, plenty of time on my hands. Lacking accomplishment puts a tremendous amount of pressure on one’s remaining time on earth—assuming that one actually wants to accomplish something. I think most of us do…to varying degrees at any rate.
My parents instilled a sense of duty in me to accomplish something notable. Mom especially liked to quote Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 or Luke 19:12-27) substituting, in her mind and mine, intellectual talents for shekels. She had determined that I had been given gifts, and she didn’t want me to come up short on Judgment Day.
I don’t know what Mom thought my gifts were. She gave me a sense of duty, but not much in the way of a sense of worth. If she thought I had talent for something—music for instance—I found it difficult and unrewarding. If I found something interesting, challenging, and exhilarating—writing science fiction stories for instance—she didn’t think it constituted talent. To Mom something like that was a waste of time, a refusal to mature, a failure of purpose. Although most of the time I did well enough in school to satisfy her, she was most disappointed in me when one of my teachers commented that I had “quite an imagination.”
Mom thought I was smart, but that I ought to be applying myself to developing smartness in traditional, nose-to-the-grindstone ways. She didn’t approve of my more creative inclinations. She was naturally suspicious of anything that seemed like fun and anything that provided as much enjoyment as it did pain. “God did not put us here to have a good time,” she said to me whenever my proclivities seduced me off her idea of the path of righteousness.
I dreamed of being a cowboy when that was an appropriate aspiration. Mom was okay with this because I was still young and wanting to ride a horse, carry a lariat, and punch cattle was still a child’s dream. Besides, a dream like that made selecting Christmas and birthday gifts a snap for a busy young mother. When I grew old enough to realize that the cowboy life as it was depicted on the family Zenith didn’t really exist anymore, I began to fancy that I might like to be a stand up comic. Mom found this an appalling notion.
My heroes were Myron Cohen, Alan King, Victor Borge, Shelly Berman, Jackie Vernon, and Buddy Hackett. I thought they were tremendously funny and insightful. I thought there was a lot of value in the ability to make people laugh. Laughter seemed like a lot better way to deal with the threat of nuclear devastation than building bomb shelters or cowering under desks. To me being able to make people laugh was a noble thing. It was more useful in the grand scheme of things than being able to make people think or pray. Of course Mom had other ideas.
Mom’s main idea about comedy was that it was frivolous. She thought it detracted from spiritual pursuits. She thought it was a distraction from working out our salvation. She thought it would lead straight to hell. The last thing she wanted was for me to become a hawker of jokes on the road to perdition. She didn’t want me doing the devil’s work…no matter how much I thought I might have a talent for it. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fresh Dreams

          I want to be moving beyond mere aimlessness. I feel it’s time. This blog and all this soul-searching reminiscence started out to be about reinvention. I am as yet un-reinvented. I still don’t have a clear notion what I want to be when I grow up. Ironically this is the thing I hoped would clarify itself while I documented my aimlessness. Maybe I was wrong to think that I could get somewhere without a plan. Maybe aimlessness isn’t such a great idea in the arena of self-actualization. Aimlessness is more of a retirement strategy than it is a career strategy. Aimlessness involves too much waiting around for good stuff to happen. It is too passive. It relies too much on dumb luck and not enough on rainmaking—too bad then, really, that I’m so good at it.
          To demonstrate my singular lack of focus, here are the current irons I have in the fire:
  1. This blog, which I hope to turn into a book—it’s already long enough, but it lacks any kind of cohesion. It’s not just aimless. It’s pointless.
  2. Two…er…three novels
    1. The first, and most nearly finished except for the fact that I pretty much have to start over because most of my plot points have been undermined by—you guessed it—aimlessness, features an ensemble of characters from a ‘gentlemen’s club’ who get involved in some bad business and accidentally sink Tampa’s annual Gasparilla celebration.
    2. The second, and possibly most interesting, features a burned out community college English professor who attempts a career change into stand-up comedy and has to be rescued from his mid-life crisis by a women’s roller derby team.
    3. The third, and possibly most realistic, centers on a time-travel chase of Martin Borman to prevent him from altering history to the point of changing the outcome of World War II.
  3. A budding photography business that involves selling large metallic paper prints out of a tent at local markets and arts and craft shows as well as offering them online. I have already put some of them up at Zazzle, and you can look at them and purchase them by clicking on the Aimless Merchandise links to the right. Here are some more. 

  4. Becoming a kayak fishing guide in the Indian River Lagoon, targeting redfish, trout, snook, and pompano. This last is perhaps more fanciful than the other pursuits because I don’t own a kayak, nor have I yet caught any of these fish myself. At the moment this is more like being distracted from real goals by a bright shiny object. I have an irresistible attraction to fishing tackle. I would rather buy fishing tackle than almost any other thing I can think of. I love the bright colors and lugubrious precision of the stuff. It seems a shame to muck it all up by taking it into the proximity of salt water fish. This video will get your heart pumping. When your respiration returns to normal, you will be left with some appreciation of my particular problem.

So how am I to decide among all these too attractive alternatives? How do I pick one to focus on to the exclusion of the others? Do I need to do that? Do I need to pick one thing to be or can I be everything I want to be. Can I be okay at several things, and not be very, very good at any of them? I remember an old method for making up one’s mind between two seemingly equal alternatives. Just choose one. If you immediately regret not choosing the other, you chose incorrectly.
In my experience though, this only works if you then remain firmly committed to the wrong choice. Changing your mind when you think you’ve chosen incorrectly only makes you regret not staying the course with the wrong choice. If you’re introspective at all, you never figure out which choice was, or would have been, the right one. Only by committing irrevocably to the first choice you made, and only when in so making you realize that you have chosen incorrectly, can you know with any certainty what the correct choice would have been. Unfortunately you didn’t make it. If you don’t regret your choice, or if you don’t remain committed to the wrong one, you will never know with any certainty what the right choice was. So the only true path to certainty is to be wrong and to remain wrong. Regrettably, this also may be the one true path to failure. Or I could just do everything at once and hope for the best. There's really no escaping that my true talent is for aimlessness.


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Accidental Decedent: Untimely Death and The Law of Attraction

While I wonder if my mother holds herself accountable for devoting several of the last seconds of her life to shooting the skunk eye at a hapless volunteer because he interrupted us, I also wonder if she blames me for attracting the interruption.
          Like I said before, I’ve been interrupted so many times in my life that I’ve begun to believe that it must somehow be my fault. I don’t know if Mom shared my view on this, but she never in her life hesitated to take me to task for whatever she thought I had done wrong. It was not in her nature to allow flawed behavior to go unmentioned or uncorrected.
          She gave me a lecture on her 90th birthday for something I did 45 years ago. Personally I didn’t believe that I had that one coming, but I wasn’t about to deny her this small pleasure on her birthday. Nor would I have denied her the satisfaction of one last scolding from her deathbed.
          The concept of attracting unpleasantness is one for which I must thank the disciples of the Law of Attraction. Principal among these is Dr. Joe Vitale, who, because he loves me (really...he says so repeatedly), sends me an e-mail almost every day telling me how I can clear my mind of negative notions and begin to attract the success and possessions that I so richly deserve. Usually finding the key to this abundance involves first sending Dr. Joe or one of his affiliates some money. I imagine that if I did this, Joe would love me even more than he already professes.

My collection of bicycles, which I bought with money that I worked for rather than manifesting through attraction. Dr. Joe Vitale has a collection of very nice cars that he manifested through attraction. For $5,000/person you can take a ride with Dr. Joe in his Rolls Royce Phantom, have dinner, and discuss ways to get rich. For a mere $500 you can ride my road bike (the blue one above on the left that was designed by Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada) and accompany me to a Starbucks drive-up window for a delicious espresso beverage while we discuss ways to avoid attracting collisions with Rolls Royce Phantoms.

          The gist of the law of attraction can be found in a slim little book titled The Secret, written by Rhonda Byrne. Dr. Joe is quoted in it with some frequency. The Secret was made into a movie, and now there is a sequel publication called The Power. Their website is here in case you are overwhelmed by curiosity about how to make yourself a magnet for all the good things you think you want. Many of these people also believe that Jesus was a prosperity teacher and lived a life of opulence and ease. You can read my take on this incredible twist on Christianity here. If you are not overwhelmed with curiosity—enough to click on the link at any rate—I will tell you the law of attraction in a nutshell. This is easy because it is a nutshell concept.
To get anything you want you only need do three things: 1) specifically wish for it, 2) believe and expect that you will get it, and 3) accept it when it comes. If you do those things the universe will hear you and provide you what you ask. Nothing could be simpler. It's a law of nature. It's scientific. (for a look at the real science behind the law of attraction, click here)
          The truth is that it’s not simple at all. It’s extremely simple to say, but it’s quite difficult to do. If it were easy, Dr. Joe and his affiliates and compatriots, imitators, fellow disciples and co-conspirators would not be making money selling secret keys to facilitate the process. It doesn’t stop with wish, believe, and accept because there are very specific and yet incredibly nebulous adjuncts to each of those steps. There are any number of outs that all work in favor of the people who are selling programs to make the simple accessible to simpletons. Here are a couple of examples:
          Didn’t get what you wanted? Well, you didn’t wish for it specifically enough. Your wishing needs to be very concrete and definite. You need to visualize yourself enjoying what you wish for with great regularity. We can help you with our special program of exercises, word cues, and self-hypnosis techniques to make specific wishing integral to your daily existence. Just send $89.95 to…
          Didn’t get what you wanted? You probably weren’t believing enough. Maybe you have a nagging doubt in the inner recesses of your mind that is blocking your access to what you want. Maybe you don’t believe that you deserve it. Maybe you think it would be wrong for you to get what you want. Maybe, horror of horrors, you think that what you want is an evil thing. We can help you clear yourself of these impediments to self-realization. For just $119.95 we will show you how to eradicate guilt from your psychic make-up and change your inbred attitudes about what it means to be rich and famous and privileged. We will put your sense of entitlement on steroids. When we are finished teaching you to remove all moral and ethical constraints on the accumulation of wealth and the artifacts of leisure, you will free yourself to amass an epic collection of homes, cars, yachts, and companions.
I’m sure you get the picture. Near as I can tell, the only people who are succeeding through the law of attraction are those who are selling the law of attraction. The rest of us are failing, one way or another, to apply the principles correctly. Shame on us.
          One danger in trying to use the law of attraction without adequate guidance is that you will accidentally attract the opposite of what you want. Dr. Joe and his like-minded friends are happy to tell you this much for free. They talk about it at length in The Secret. They like to give a lot of information away for free. They make a big deal of this. For instance, Joe’s book is available at no cost through his website.
                    Who gives a book away for free? Someone who has written a book that is a cover-to-cover sales pitch, that’s who. Joe’s all about making you a believer. When you’re a believer you won’t mind paying Joe a little money to get access to the super secret stuff that's not available in the free program—the stuff that you need to make the incontrovertible law of the universe actually work once you realize that you have somehow controverted it.
          The absolute worst way you can controvert the law of attraction is to sidetrack yourself into the negative law of attraction. This is accidentally attracting the opposite of what you are trying to attract.
          Here’s the way negative attraction works. Say you notice a little lump under your armpit. You go to the doctor. The doctor says it’s probably nothing, but he takes a sample to send to the lab just in case. Better to err on the side of caution. It’s a pretty sure thing that you are going to worry about this until the lab results come back. You turn to the law of attraction. The Secret says you can attract good health. You can use the law of attraction to heal yourself. This is excellent news. You just have to visualize yourself as completely healthy. BUT, if instead of just wishing yourself to be healthy you start wishing for the tumor to go away or for the lump to be benign, that will only attract what you fear most.
You have to be very careful not to think about that tumor because the universe is not capable of differentiating between what you want and what you don’t want. The universe is only going to bring you what you are thinking about. So you have to think about being completely healthy without thinking about the potentially malignant tumor at all. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT SHIT! I mean really, do you honestly think it will be possible not to think about a malignant tumor until the lab results come back. This instruction is fraught with peril. There is no way to not think about what you fear most in a case like this. It would be better for you not to know anything at all about the law of attraction because, knowing it, you are screwed.
Of course you could pay a law of attraction guru to teach you how to forget all about the fact that you are now dying of cancer. You pretty much have to do this at this point. If you are a believer you are going to attract cancer unless you can figure out how to stop thinking about cancer. Unless you pay someone to teach you this little secret, you are going to die.
There is another way out. You just need to stop believing in the law of attraction. Believing it is killing you. You need to quit. It’s just that simple. If you quit believing bad stuff is going to happen, bad stuff will stop happening. If you find that you are having difficulty suspending your belief, I believe I can help.
My amazing new series of CDs, Turn off the Magnet and Survive: the New, Super-Secret Guide to Becoming Unattractive, provides a guaranteed step-by-step program to eradicate pesky beliefs in the law of attraction. My mind-blowing program will elevate your unbelief to monumental proportions or you get your money back—all of it. I’ll even pay the return postage.
Here’s what you get for the incredible introductory price of just $49.95:
1.     6 CD set
a.     the 1st CD contains my personal experiences becoming an unbeliever and thus liberating myself to die in my own time…instead of by some accident of attraction action
b.     the 2nd through the 6th CDs each begin with a different meditation, led by me, on a variety of topics that point out the futility of wishing for stuff you only think you want and the perils of thinking in general
c.     following the led meditation each CD then goes on to repeat a specially composed mantra, tailored to that CD’s particular meditation, and backed up by a custom mixed soundtrack of alternating heavy metal music and Barry Manilow songs calculated to elevate your inner nihilist
2.     A companion book, beautifully bound in 200 lb. recycled card stock, and suitable for display on the finest glass and chrome or pressed board coffee tables
3.     A lifetime membership in The Faithful Unfaithful, my super secret survivors club, entitling you to a daily inundation of e-mail appeals to purchase whatever new hair-brained idea I come up with to separate you from the money you attracted when you still believed
Trust me. This stuff is the real deal—just the kryptonite you need to render even the most super-charged faith limp and useless. When you are finished with my program, you won’t even be able to attract a cold in a day-care center.  $49.95 (plus shipping and handling) is a small price to pay to avoid being killed by The Secret

Monday, September 6, 2010

Death & Taxes

Patriotic to her last breath, Mom used these to celebrate Independence Day on her deathbed.

          I watched two people die last year. I don’t mean I watched them become gradually overwhelmed by terminal illness, although that was certainly part of it. I mean I was in the room with them at the moment they died. The most recent one was my mother. Both deaths were remarkably similar in their physicality—the urgent, rattling gasps, the arched neck, the open mouth—all suggesting a desperate clinging to the last shards of life—the final opacity of lifeless eyes. It is a moving experience for the survivors, and one that seems to resolve itself in peace at the end, possibly just in the knowledge that a loved one is no longer suffering, and possibly because, on balance, dying seems such a natural thing.
          In the aftermath, of course, we still living are left to confront our own mortality. This too is natural. How could it be otherwise? One needs to prepare for one’s demise. There are many paths to this preparedness, and they all have to do with the degree of self-absorption involved.
Mom was prepared. She was 90. She had been getting ready since my dad died 15 years ago. She did it for her heirs. She took care of all the arrangements. She prepaid everything. She left explicit instructions, and even included a few choices for her children to make us feel involved in the leave taking—involved, but not burdened.
          She also saw to the disposition of her soul. I think it was that she had taken care of this that she was able to take care of us. Her faith was a primary thing in her life. In twenty years I have not had a conversation with her in which she did not mention prayer, church, scripture, or the Lord. In that time and to my knowledge she never watched anything on TV that wasn’t broadcast on EWTN, the Catholic cable channel, or read anything that wasn’t primarily Roman Catholic in origin. (For those prone to doubt the connection, this includes the Bible.)
Mom was a woman of unflagging faith, and she had professed her willingness and desire to pass into an eternity with God on numerous occasions. She was ready to go. She stayed ready. It was a good thing that she did, because even though she was 90, no one expected her to go the way she did.
          She had a stroke on a Monday morning. My sister’s husband was with her when it happened. They were at the checkout counter at her regular grocery. EMS was dispatched almost immediately, and arrived within 10 minutes. She was stabilized and rushed to a nearby hospital—the hospital where my sister works, a hospital that is famous for its stroke unit.
She got the best possible care in a very short period of time. By Monday evening, she was alert and responsive. The prognosis for a complete recovery was pretty good—right up until the time that it was very bad.
          The doctors determined that they should give her an anti-coagulant—something to bust up the clot in her brain. They have tests they administer to determine the feasibility of the anti-coagulant. Apparently it’s not an easy assessment. There is considerable risk with the drug, and a lot of factors have to be balanced to determine whether or not the risk is warranted. Mom scored a 20 out of 22 possible points on the efficacy charts. She looked like a good candidate for the procedure. She was not.
          The drug caused multiple bleeds into Mom’s brain. This was the risk—the one the doctors thought was acceptable, but which was not. When the seeping and swelling finally stopped sometime on Tuesday, half of Mom’s brain was gone. I saw the scans. The medical staff was amazed at the amount of tissue involved. They had never seen anything quite like it. Mom had set some kind of record for a medical “bad beat.”
          “Bad beat” is a poker term. Mom didn’t know anything about poker, and probably wouldn’t appreciate the analogy. A bad beat, at its simplest, is a hand that should have won but did not. It is a hand that started out with a statistical advantage, and was correctly bet, but was subsequently beat as more cards were dealt—usually as the result of the winning player making a statistically unsound call and then sucking out a winning hand with the final card.
This is the equivalent of what happened to Mom. She had the statistical advantage on Monday evening, but fate sucked out a spade flush on the river. Mom got screwed. Well that is until you consider that what she really wanted to do was cash out her chips and go home to Jesus. In that regard she made out pretty good.
There was an incident of sorts right at the end. I hesitate to say that it was miraculous because I’m sure there are any number of logical explanations for what happened. Whatever it was, it was special to me. I’d like to think it was special to Mom too, but that would depend on whether or not what happened was actually miraculous.
We had moved Mom to Hospice after the doctors at the hospital determined that there was no chance of recovery. I rode over there in the ambulance with her on Thursday evening. She had not been alert, responsive, or even opened her eyes since Tuesday. She had not acknowledged anyone’s presence in any way although we all talked to her as if she could tell we were there. The doctors felt that was a waste of time, I’m sure, but they had the good sense not to say that to us.
By Friday afternoon it was clear that the end was near, although I think that most of us felt that she would probably last until Saturday. There was a shuffle of family around lunch time. My youngest brother went to pick up his daughter who had got a ride in from college. My other brother went back to his hotel to catch a nap because he had spent the night with Mom in her room. One sister had left with her family to get some lunch. The rest of the family trooped down to a central sitting room to listen to one of my nieces play piano. I took advantage of the moment to have Mom to myself.
I sat next to her bed, held her hand and stroked her forehead. I have no idea if this was a comfort to her or not. It was just something that felt right. Mom would have done it for me.
I gave her permission to die. This is something Hospice recommends. I have no idea about the need for or the propriety of this exercise either. For one thing, Mom was the last person on earth who needed my permission for anything. Mom was the person I had to get permission from...even now. This felt right too, however, in the circumstances, so I did it.
I said, “It’s okay for you to go if you want, Mom.”
Her right eye popped wide open, and she looked right at me. This was the miraculous part. The only thing she had done for three and a half days was breathe, and she had trouble with that. She had not opened her eyes once in all that time. She had not blinked or squeezed anybody’s hand. Now she was suddenly fully engaged in what I was telling her. It seemed I had her attention.
“Really,” I said, “You can go if you want. Go to Jesus. We’ll be okay—all of us. We’ll be fine. I love you.”
She kept looking at me with that one eye the whole time. There was an intensity to her gaze. It took me by surprise. I had not expected it. I didn’t know what to make of it, but I knew it was special. And then, right in the middle of this special moment, in another life-defining instance of incredibly unfortunate timing, a volunteer decided to come into the room to deliver a flag fan and a fact sheet about the Statue of Liberty in honor of Independence Day. He was blissfully unaware of what was going on between Mom and me, although, surely, he understood that people come to Hospice to die, and that he ought to take some pains, therefore, to see what was going on before just barging into a room.
This guy was on a mission. He wasn’t content just to deliver the goods. He felt a lengthy explanation was in order. He felt that Mom and I needed to know who had slapped red, white, and blue construction paper around a tongue depressor to enhance our 4th of July celebrations. He wanted to point out the highlights of the fact sheet. He thrust it into my hands and started ticking off the various entries on it as if I might miss them. I was flabbergasted.
I guess I should point out that I am used to being interrupted. Interruption seems to be a hallmark of my life. It is an adjunct to the unfortunate timing thing that I discussed yesterday with regard to my hair…among other things of course. Getting interrupted is a pet peeve of mine, but something I seem unable to get under control. No one seems to care what I am doing or saying. Whatever it is they have to say is almost always more important than what I have to say. This happens so often to me that I have come to believe it is more about me than it is about them. It is more than mere rudeness or self-absorption on their part. There is something about me that invites interruption. It’s not that their sense of entitlement is over-developed. It’s that mine is under-developed. My sense of entitlement is infirm and eminently trample-able. It must be my fault else I wouldn’t be interrupted with such frequency and with such unerring inconvenience. I fully expect to be interrupted on my own death bed. It would only be fitting.
I put my head down and willed the guy to go away. I tried to shrink into my shirt and disappear. I tried to fill the room with a sense of privacy. I tried to exclude the guy by sheer force of will. Mom was more effective. She gave him the skunk eye. She’d always been good at it. A withering look was one of her most formidable weapons. It is the kind of thing you have to perfect when you do not curse or swear. She could stop you in your tracks with a glance. She apparently kept this skill to the last. The guy turned and almost ran out of the room.
Mom looked back at me, closed her eye, and breathed her last. She took several more gasps, but she essentially quit breathing at that moment. My youngest sister came in the room with one of my sisters-in-law and our aunt. My sister checked for a pulse and called a nurse. The nurse checked with a stethoscope. She said there was some activity in the heart yet, although it was very faint, sporadic, and failing—not a beat really, more of a gurgle. She said she would check again in a minute. When she did there was nothing.
For some reason I have found joy in this last exchange. I am gratified that Mom had her last moment with me. I am amused and edified that she was still able to wield the full strength of her personality at the very end of her life. It is the kind of thing that defines her existence just as getting interrupted seems to define mine. I have to wonder if there might have been more between Mom and me if the volunteer had not come into the room at the most singularly inconvenient moment in the entire history of my relationship with my mother. I have to wonder what I might have been cheated out of in those few fleeting seconds of boorishness. I wonder what Mom thinks—if she’s disappointed that she wasted the last bit of energy she had for living and loving to shoot some bozo the skunk eye.


          Most of my life I’ve hated my hair. The problem is that it’s really good hair; it just would never cooperate with the fashion of the day. My hair is thick and wavy. It is not the kind of hair that looks good long, and long is what hair was supposed to be when I cared about conforming to the styles of the day. Before that, when I was a youngster, my hair was at the mercy of a couple of local barbers who understood neither my hair in particular nor fashion in general. I spent 12 years with a bad haircut, and thought the whole time that I had bad hair.
          I didn’t really come to terms with my hair until I was 40. At 40 I began to realize how good my hair was, because most of the guys I knew who I’d always thought had good hair were beginning to lose theirs. Mine was holding its own. I no longer needed nor wanted it to be long. I’d found someone who knew how to cut it. Suddenly I had the best hair on my block. This only lasted for a few weeks. Now there is a new fashion it seems. Bald is the new great hair. Bald is the new sexy head, the new standard for virility, vitality, and appeal. My lush locks are passé once again, and once again my life is defined by bad timing.