Friday, February 10, 2023

Moving on through February


    My hair guy maintains a chair in a salon in the Westchester complex in Northwest DC. 

 He needs to talk and I need to listen while he does his work. This most recent encounter took place in  the first half of the month  on a Friday as usual, five weeks or so since our last encounter. He bustles around, he challenges the norms of his profession. I help with the foil squares that contain a poison (dye) to give me the low lights disguising more or less the lethal white strands of hair. "You don't want to touch it. You can't deny its danger."  Which is why his wife never tried  and instead cuts her white hair short. Today's conversation went from the wife who took away his motorcycle long ago after she found their 14-year-old had made a key and went off on a wild ride. She did it when her husband was away. 'I was mad at her for about a day but what could I do." He never bought  another one.  He is a wonderful guitar player and a cancer survivor now down to138 pounds so he can at least can get back to running..if he dares. 

Our conversation: He tells me about time he had his long dark shoulder length locks cut by hair product emissary Paul Mitchell; how today's parents are not doing their job; how he always stands up when an 'elder person' comes into the Metro (or a room I suppose);  he banters with other clients coming and going and a colleague who has the chair next to his in this low ceilinged outpost. "You've got to drink water, drink eight glasses a day," he implores. He says this is necessary especially for older people, for health in general. 

And he sweetly reassures me that I need not worry about my ever increasing age, which continues to baffle me - why so well so long. "Because you are getting god's reward for being such a good mother when you were younger."

Always a sermon and then a pat on the back.

Friday, January 6, 2023

new year to cheer or fear: January

     Time to take stock, whether in facts or feelings.  Much news comes out of census reporting - if you are statistical minded - now that the past decade's assessment has been (mostly) tallied. Of national and rural/urban living. It seems the urban population in the US has - no surprise - increased: we are now 79% urban vs 20.4 % rural. Definitions have changed, too,  so that an urban area is now 5,000 people and above and there are now 2,646 urban areas in the US, Puerto Rico and US islands. 

How this matters, of course, is how much federal support - in funds and services - is given to different areas. That's a fight at the national level by and large, where elected representatives and agency heads are critical.


    On a less sweeping scale, my thoughts  focus on yet another periodic conversation with my hair care specialist . While I sit covered in plastic sheeting and a towel, he cuts and talks, sprays and enlightens. We gossip a bit over another woman client whose feud with yet a third client means he cannot really keep up a relationship with both since they both live in the same residential complex where he works. The two women have had a spat over a job that is apparently the reason for their existence, as relatively useless and unimportant it would seem to be. The one cannot stand to be in the same room with the other. Then there is the ultra-rich client who confesses her facial makeover at age 38 cost $23,000 and made it look like a 16-year-old. The problem with the botox-plus-surgery for yet a fourth woman is her total self-absorption as she must be constantly reassured of her good looks. Her droopy mouth has gone but not her fear of its eventual return. How she must be constantly on guard.

    He is a trained musician who recently joined a group performing what he calls Peruvian waltzes, folk rhythms he now  hums to me when I ask. And his wife the accountant who would like to retire but whose boss begs her to stay on until his cancer treatment is over - and longer, too, just in case.  His treatment has left him a thin man without much taste for food and a perilous weight for a tall man of only 140 pounds. He sees a trainer once a week to learn how and whether certain exercises will improve his body, to grow muscles - which he finds ridiculous since 'the age thing' never can be overcome. 

    I'm the client but perhaps am I also a therapist of a kind - sitting in front of a mirror, welcoming the ministrations of a professional whose hands are flitting back and forth, chop chop, while I am embalmed in his chair. He likes someone who can respond to his talk. We go back and forth:his wife (always), his grandkids, the ways of a diminishing world. He is diminished - he should be 20 or more pounds beyond 140 and he worries about this. He worries about the price of a personal trainer - $85 a session, he confides as though it were a secret shame - helping him in some way to sustain - not quite build - muscle.  His style has changed since the chemotherapy. He applies the same low lights (not highlights - I don't know the difference), I hold the 4 inch square foil while he bends hair strands around them.  This is a coloring job that will blend with the gray and not let gray get the upper hand. I sense a weaker yet obliging hand. We are really four people: two bodies and two mirror images.


Thursday, December 8, 2022

After A Long Lag.....


In reflection in mid-December:

        Staying  quiet on the page can be interpreted in many ways. The best excuse is having no excuse, except - perhaps - using full bore silence to reduce the noise in the world.

    What has a period of silence (metaphorically speaking) meant for those of us lucky enough to enjoy such privilege I wonder?. I recently came across this line:

    "The list is the origin of culture,”  the writer Umberto Eco said - a quote I picked up in the New York Times food column, and lists exist “to make infinity comprehensible.” 

    Because without a doubt one of my solemn habits during enforced quiet during the worst of the Covid scare was being able to read, download, and keep lists/piles of favorite recipes from the Times' food editors and contributors. A now-heaving load laid away in a closet, having very little meaning otherwise. It exists to remind myself how the act of cooking is never the same as the art of cooking. I acted to keep myself well fed - well, enough so - and create a hobby of sorts that had great benefits.

    That same NYTImes cooking column I quote had another quote from a Japanese author/poet Shonagan:

“In life, there are two things which are dependable. The pleasures of the flesh and the pleasures of literature.”

Look her up. Yes, a woman. She wrote the witty 'The Pillow Book' about a thousand years ago.

    Not to be able to read can be equated with being unable to eat. Not to enjoy either is the end of the line...

Monday, September 12, 2022

Lo, the Equinox, etc.

A Visit

The sandwich is a clue. Only a few bites taken out of a roll filled with tunafish. "My wife puts things in it," Wsays, dismissively. It was well after noon and he should have been hungry., but instead his mouth is protesting. "My tongue is funny," he says. Understandably, since he is recovering from several weeks of chemotherapy, during which he dropped nearly 30 pounds. His voice has changed to a lower register, ("sexy," I tell him - but he doesn't warm to my comment.) He is slower in his movements now.  

I was flattered to hear from him. Byphone: to think he took the initiative to reach out when I had not thought he was up to working again. This vibrant talented man, challenged by the  prospect of cancer that may or may not have spread, he wanted to join the world again. A definitive test would be coming up in early December, he says. 

 He would work only one day a week, he says -  Friday.  I suspect he had contacted me, knowing I might be good for conversation  that would involve lighthearted banter of the kind we  had together in the past.  I don't know whether I am there for him or for my own  need to improve long neglected locks. I sense  he is hungry for public life again, for interactions with customers whom he knows appreciate his talent. He has a rare gift, being able to improve and improvise a most unruly part of the body - thinning hair.

He  has weakened considerably, relying on outsize amounts of protein and  respect for the virtues of plain water. He shows me the tubes of edible protein 'my wife makes me take.'. He holds up his arm to show me the loose skin on his under arms.   I sit in the chair while he selectively lathers some blonde dye on my head- nothing that I had asked for but he insists in his own confident manner and reasoning, saying simply  'you will look younger, you are energetic." Yes, at 86, I have an unusual amount of  that mysterious force .  My old dyed highlights were fading; the back of my head was entirely white."To have the best of both worlds," I say jokingly. He doesn't smile, so I'm not sure his humor is back entirely. I am philosophical about the process of aging and  resigned to ignoring some of the vanity involved in 'keeping up appearances.' 

Snip, snip, lather lather.

August Disappeared

 But not without traces. Summer was losing the battle with mother nature (why a mother, when father time is a more exalted title?). Across the country/countries and the world,  convulsions of sorts in terms of extreme  and unpredictable weather. September shows progress - of a kind. Stay tuned for further unworthy ruminations.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

July Joy

 Long light nights, warm life-giving sun, a reason to swim and wear as little clothing as possible.

This is the case if you are among the lucky souls, which is a relative term. To be lucky is to know how to enjoy whatever is positive in your life and that, of course, is relative to the place and time in which you live.

My digressions on being a part-time rural person (that is, living in a city or town of 100,00 or so people surrounded by landscape no sculptor could design) as well as a citified urban patriot putting up with all the detriments of place that 700,000 people call home. But a patriot to the self-serving cause of knowing how to take advantage of what a Big City offers. My Big City is a Federal District squeezed between two constitutionally registered states. My vote is practically nil because I live here; my opinion barely counts. Whereas in the rural hinterland , I can easily believe my actions can make a difference.

On a day to day level, the contrast is clear. I can live in a district and not own a car without undue hardship. This is impossible in the rest of the country unless you cling to a really big City existence like New York. The multitude of choices I have in my district are beyond compare, I believe; it takes only assiduous attention to the offerings. Today, for instance, through the mercies of a friend who alerted and then accompanied me, I attended a free lecture at the Library of Congress, open to the public though barely publicized. The talk by scholars doing research under a beneficent  grant of a donor named Kluge is a monthly occurrence and this time also included all you can drink and eat reception - standup basically. 

This takes place monthly within a half mile of my house, a freestanding mid-19th century wood structure that is almost a common sight in my environs.

What would be comparable in outlying areas, I can barely guess although I'm ignorant of possibilities in many respects. Could I compare an evening in a modern utilitarian public library with a structure established in part by one of the country's founding presidents?  How much do the surroundings in such a place influence our sense of gratitude?