Thursday, June 21, 2012
Dipping a toe in the metrosexual pool
I suppose it all started about six weeks ago.  That's when I glanced down and noticed I had a big potato chip crumb caught in my chest hair.

As I nibbled on said crumb (What?  They were Munchos.  Plus, I shower. At least six days a week.) I began to ponder life.  More specifically, my life.  And most specifically, my chest.  Was it growing where I wanted it to grow, or was it out of control?  Did I need to make drastic chest changes?  Was this a sign from above,or simply a result of sloppy eating and rather poor posture?

Who can really say?  It's nebulous.

I'm fully aware it was only last year that I took a vow of shaving abstinence.  But seriously people, food was getting stuck.  And so, with the shirtless summer season upon us, I took the plunge into the metrosexual pool.

I trimmed my chest.   

Just a little!  It was like mowing the lawn down there.  Not even really a full mow, just evening it out a little.  More like hedge trimming.

OK, so maybe I only stuck my toe in the metrosexual pool.

Anyway, now that it's done, I gotta say I kinda like it.  Sure, a few more crumbs may end up on the floor, but I probably needed to vacuum anyway.  I find myself looking down my shirt at random times throughout the day, just checking it out. Which can be a little awkward when someone walks in at work.

Also, as long as I was, uh, in the neighborhood, I went ahead and trimmed my underarm hair, too.  I'm sorry, but it was a bird's nest under there.

Which brings me to my next point.  Or maybe my only point.  And that is, I get tired of all this maintenance.

Ear hair, nose hair, chest hair, underarm hair.  Now I'm sitting here looking at my toe hair.  I guess I'm gonna have to trim that, too. Where does it end?  What is it all for?  Women?

I've seen cavemen on TV.  They get women, and they're not shaving.  Granted, in most of the footage I've seen they hit the woman over the head with their club then drag her back to the cave.  I'm not sure if courts today would view that favorably, but surely there must be another way.

I was watching an old Police Story last night, and David Groh took off his shirt so they could put a wire on him.  It was like a bearskin rug under there.  Man, I would have rocked the seventies!  Chest hair, lava lamps, nobody looking at you funny when you're singing along falsetto to "Stayin' Alive."  I really wouldn't have to change that much.

OK, I've strayed off my topic a bit.  What was my topic again?  Oh, right, how hard it is being a man.

But alas, even as I gripe and wax defiant, I do so having already acquiesced to a degree.

I just hope my chest hair heroes -- the two Tom's, Selleck and Wopat -- aren't too disappointed.

"Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk / I'm a woman's man / No time to talk..."

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The cemetery trees
It's nothing grandiose.  Sitting on the littlest of hills, surrounded by a chain-link fence, just far enough away from everything so that you can barely hear the cars from the nearest paved road.  A few trees watch over irregular rows of hewn stones, and the bones of those dearly departed.

I have come here at times alone -- to think, and to talk.  To my grandma (mamaw), or maybe just to the wind.  But I have not been here in a long while.  Too long.  Usually it is quiet.  I find a peacefulness here.  But not today.

Today is Decoration Day at the cemetery where most of my mom's family is buried.  It's a day for socializing.  I speak to relatives.  Most I know and recognize.  Some I remember after they introduce themselves.  A couple I pretend to know and wait until I can grab the arm of an aunt or uncle later to ask who that was.

"There's fewer of us every year."

My youngest aunt says this to me, perhaps verbalizing what others are only thinking.  I give a resigned nod.  Though I'm not certain about every year, I definitely notice it this year.  Of twenty-nine first cousins, I only count ten of us there, including me.  Five of my mom's seven living brothers and sisters are there.  This is often the only time of the year I see my one uncle and aunt.  They have a grandson that looks to be twelve or thirteen that I probably haven't seen since he was a baby. 

Don't get me wrong, there were still a lot of people there.  Just not as many as I remember.  The sparseness perhaps exacerbated by the presence of two giant barren trees in the midst of the cemetery.  For as long as I can remember, those two trees provided ample shade near most of my family's graves.  They played the songs of the wind.  But something has killed them since the last time I was here.  And as I stand there in the unrelenting sun, I realize like too much of life, I have only come to truly appreciate them in their absence.

One highlight of the day is my 86-year-old great uncle.  He is the last one living of his siblings, the last link to my mamaw's generation.  And he has no kids, so it has been left to my mother and a couple of her siblings to see after him.  On this day, my youngest uncle has gone by to get him and rolled him out to a shady spot.  There he sits in his wheelchair as people walk up and talk to him.

I get into a conversation with an uncle and a cousin about my great grandmother, who was half-Cherokee.  My uncle did some genealogy research a few years ago and tells us that during the Indian Removal my great-grandmother and her family identified themselves as "black Dutch," denying their ancestry in fear of being sent West.  These are the stories I love, and crave.

But it's a hotter-than-normal May morning, and with the lack of much shade, we are not long at the cemetery.  After maybe an hour, several of us head over to fave aunt's for a cookout and more family time.  My great uncle is there, too.  I watch him eating and I wish all his days were this good.  He was recently diagnosed with cancer and decided against treatment.

Later I see that he has just about dozed off.  One of the kids runs by and bumps his chair, jolting him awake.  He smiles at her and nods.  And in that instant -- the kind eyes, the almost sad smile -- I see my mamaw, so clearly it scares me.

Eventually, after everyone has eaten, another uncle sits down at the piano.  My mom and two of my aunts join him to sing, mostly old gospel hymns.  Like so much of the rest of this day, this is a family tradition.

During one of the songs, I start to feel overcome with emotion.  Maybe it's thinking about my aunts and uncles getting older, or maybe it's just the culmination of the entire day.  Whatever it is, it hits me out of nowhere.  I hurry to the bathroom so no one will see, close the door, and I sob.  For thirty seconds.  Then I'm OK again.

I get a moment away from the others to speak to one of my older cousins.  I tell him I wonder what will happen to Decoration Day once our parents' generation is gone.  He says it will be up to us.  I know "us" may only mean a few of us.  But I feel better knowing it matters to him.

Tradition, family, the future -- I ponder these things often the next several days.  And I decide I should see about planting a new tree.

"On the other side / Do you ever see me cry / Do you know how much I miss you / Wish I could have said goodbye..."

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Sunday, June 03, 2012
Christmas comes anew
There are several "Christmases" throughout the year enjoyed by the avid college football fan.  Dates, games, and events we all look forward to with near-deranged anticipation.

There's National Signing Day.  There's New Year's Day -- though it has lost a bit of its sacredness in the past several years with the proliferation of the number of bowl games.  And there's the national championship game, if your team is fortunate enough to be in it.  

Then there's the day when the preseason college football magazines hit newsstands.  *rubbing hands together*  (Do they even still have newsstands?  It just flowed so much better than "the day they hit the Kroger shelves," which is where I bought my two.) 

That day was Friday.  The first of June.  At once, I had weekend plans. 

As I hurried out of my friendly hometown grocery store, it was all I could do to keep from giggling.  (There's no way to make that sentence sound manly, is there?)  Anxious to get home and unwrap my new treasures -- the shiny, glossy covers; that "new magazine" smell; and of course, the information!

Four hundred forty-eight pages in all.  Schedules, rosters, rankings, statistics, analysis, predictions.  Because how would I survive without knowing how many returning starters Boise State has (it's nine, if you're curious) or who was rated the 8th best offensive guard in the nation?  You're right, I wouldn't.

I'm giddy as a schoolgirl backstage at a Justin Bieber concert.  And just as vulnerable, by the way.

Hopefully, this will be enough to get me through until the next "Christmas" -- the first Saturday of the college football season, which is exactly 90 days away.

It has been said that football is religion in the South.  I suppose that could be debated.  However, I can testify that our lower-case messiah was once greeted with a not-so-holy kiss.

Mainly, I just try and enjoy each of these special days as they happen.  Because as we all know, Christmas only comes a few times a year.

"So I'm moving to New York / 'Cause I've got issues with my sleep / Looks like Christmas came early / Christmas came early for me..."

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