Good girl – A dog’s Life

November 25, 2012

Poppy has left the building.  At 14 years old, our black labrador retriever filled our daily lives in a multitude of ways and now she is gone.  She came into my life by accident.  It was 2002 and I was dating Allan.  He rarely talked about Poppy or Sam (the tabby cat) and it wasn’t until a few months into the relationship that I discovered this important part of his life.  Poppy came into his and his family’s life as a happy coincidence as well but I think one could say that about most animal companions.  Poppy was engineered to be a seeing-eye dog through an organization called Guiding Eyes for the Blind.  By the time she had settled into my life, it was more like Guiding Eyes for the Blonde.  

Allan and Nancy, his wife at the time, prepped the kids for Poppy’s arrival by having shirts made with her image on them and then they travelled to NY state to “retrieve” her.  It had been determined that Poppy was one of the few of her litter who simply didn’t have the skills to meet the stringent requirements of being an aid to those who couldn’t take care of their activities of daily living.  She was unfocused with a severe case of ADHD.  Lucky for them and for me that she lacked these attributes.  Fortunately, the organization recognized that a higher calling existed for her and she came home to Maine.

Her original name was Petunia because she had been born into the litter “P” and all the dogs’ names began with that letter.  Obviously, that name wasn’t going to work and so Petunia morphed into Poppy – still a P and still a flower.  Over the course of her life, we called her variations of her name, Popster, Pops, Poppy-chongo, Luchador.  Since she resided within the boundaries of the Red Sox Nation, it was a widely-held assumption that her name was Papi as in “Big Papi” the nickname of the Dominican designated hitter, David Ortiz.  And also because she was black.  No, we’d tell inquisitive minds, and then we’d launch into her biography.

In 2003, she came to permanently reside in our house as his wife had acquired a younger, more hyper dog and probably didn’t want the vestiges of her old life around as a constant reminder.  It was a package deal – Sam and Poppy.  I wasn’t prepared and I was a little hesitant.  Poppy was not well behaved – she barked a lot at seemingly trivial matters -walkers, bikers, runners, squirrels, other dogs, leaves, dust molecules.  It didn’t take much – and the furniture close to the windows took a significant beating.  Windows were always smeared with remnants of her drool.  On walks, she’d tug and strain, eagerly sniffing whatever trace scents of other passing canines – telephone poles, piles of you-know-what…It was always as if she had never smelled such a glorious, enticing scent.  She approached other dogs with extreme enthusiasm and it was an ordeal to calm her down.  I dreaded the trips to the vet for her annual exam because a new potpourri of scents awaited as well as new dogs and cats – all in various states of stress due to illness or injury.  I wish I had known about the in-home veterinary services that I would use in the end. I also knew in the back of my mind that I would end up feeling very sad and empty when she finally left this earth.

Going away on vacation always required an arrangement for her care – whether an overnight or a week.  Among her caretakers were my parents who enjoyed their canine grandchild and referred to their home as “Camp Bridgton”.  She had a favorite rug that she would serenely lie upon. And we had to be extremely careful that Poppy didn’t run off with the dessert my mother had made.

There were definitely issues that were a constant source of frustration.  Food had to be secured in out-of-reach places as her breed was notorious for sneaking snacks.  We lazy humans would yell “Poppy down off the counter” when we had forgotten to refrigerate cheese or another desired morsel.  Poppy must have eaten at least of 3 weeks worth of cat food as we didn’t always remember to pick up the cat food dishes and always would yell.

Our favorite Poppy story deals with one Christmas Eve when the 3 kids brought a lovely gift which we put under the tree.  We went out to my aunt’s annual Christmas Eve party and came home to find the gift in a completely unrecognizable state.  They had given us a metal canister of premium cocoa.  Poppy had shredded through the paper and punctured the can enough to extract the contents, the remaining cocoa sprinkled about the room.  Yes, cocoa can be deadly for dogs, but not this one – she survived the ordeal.  

Poppy was also famous for relieving the garbage can of its contents and would carry each precious piece to her bed and shred each deli meat bag, aluminum foil and sandwich wrapper to teeny tiny pieces probably in retaliation for leaving her alone.

Before Sam the cat died in 2005, we acquired two scalawag kittens – Minnie and Muffin who truly believed that Poppy was their mommy.  The three of them would share the loveseat – all three were black and in dim light it was challenging to tell which one was which.  Muffin especially loved to rub Poppy and Poppy would tolerate it – standing still enough to indulge Muffin.  If it became too ticklish, she would move.  Muffin also practically slept on top of Poppy and within her paws.  Cute doesn’t even describe it.  

We carried on with our daily routines of feeding, walking, sleeping – she stopped jumping up on the bed around 8 years old I think.  People constantly commented on how she didn’t look her age and how spry she was.  Poppy always seemed to be happy, bouncing up and down with her distinct bark if she had an inkling that we would be putting on our shoes/jackets to go out for a walk.  It was all over when she saw the leash.  Muffin even loved to accompany us on our walks and it was so adorable to have her trotting along faithfully on our jaunts.  She would come out of whatever bush she was hiding under and catch up to us – sometimes on Route 9 which scared the bejeezus out of me.

However, life with Poppy changed when I moved out of Maine to teach in Cape Cod.  I felt lost and I guess it was a rehearsal for what I feel now that she is gone permanently.  I tried visited when I could and often inquired about her health.  While I lived in Maine, she occasionally had “spells” when walking when she suddenly would collapse as if the wind got knocked out of her but then would recover and get back up.  Our vet repeated the mantra that in this breed, it was common to have laryngeal paralysis and that if she got overheated or excited, she would have difficulty taking in oxygen which could cause this phenomenon. 

When I returned this summer, these spells intensified and seemed to mimic an epileptic seizure.  I took her to the vet a couple of times and even saw a different vet.  In these episodes, she would collapse suddenly, her feet paddling, and she would lose control of her bodily functions.  This, of course, indicated something was not right.  The vet never really suggested anything and we kind of kept on thinking it had something to do with her breathing. It did occur to me that it could be more serious and may involve tumors on her brain since the vet told us epilepsy usually surfaces in younger dogs.

The episodes grew in number and also she seemed to lose interest in eating.  Her focus also wasn’t good and she approached climbing and descending stairs with trepidation.  I coaxed her up into the house on many a chilly morning.  

This past Monday, though I came home from a long day at school to find Poppy on her bed with a blanket over her.  I asked Brandon what’s wrong with the dog and he replied “didn’t you get my texts” and “I called you several times”.  No, I was in a meeting and didn’t think to check my phone.  Evidently, she had a series of seizures and was unable to get up.  I looked at her still body, her gaze was distant.  No, we have to do something.

So, I called one of the 2 in-home vets who was unable to see her.  The other in-home vet was unreachable and I ended up taking her to an emergency vet 18 miles away.  We picked her up on the bed and placed her gently in the car.  I wanted to know if she could indeed walk again.  I needed an answer and I was frustrated that even though I had been vigilant about this problem, that the professionals couldn’t give me a definitive answer and a course of action for maintaining her health.

The emergency vet, devoid of compassion, wanted an exorbitant sum of money just to monitor, run some tests and keep her overnight and adamantly stated the practice wouldn’t take a payment plan. I knew that if we could get one of the in-home vets to come the next day, that is if she made it through the night, that it would be more reasonable.  So, we trucked her back to Cumberland which probably did more damage and brought her inside.

During the night, I had a dream of euthanasia but also thought I heard her up and about with her collar jingling and felt optimistic that she would “snap” out of it. The next morning, I decided to go to school – 50 miles away – because I was sure that the in-home vet would discover that it was a fixable issue and that Poppy would be enjoying her life once again.  Around 10 am, I found out that this problem was pretty significant and I had to rush back.  Upon arrival, it was determined that Poppy was not going to make it through the day and that it was not wise to let her continue to suffer.  However, this vet could perform the service but could not transport her.  I considered that I didn’t want to transport her to the original vet in my car as that would be a difficult journey.  So I called the other in-home vet who came promptly.  I did have a few hours with her to just sit by the fire and talk to her telling her she was a good girl and she was pretty and I loved her so much. 

He arrived and clearly was adept in euthanasia.  He explained the procedure and how the initial shot would relax Poppy and send her into a very happy state.  The second shot would be the one I didn’t want to be present for.  With the first shot, I witnessed Poppy’s mouth moving in a jerky fashion.  It was too much to bear so I said that I would wait outside while the 2nd shot was administered.  About 5 minutes later, the vet came out and we hugged. Her body was in his car and I opted not to have the ashes.  

Since Tuesday, the house has been incredibly silent.  Cat food remains secure.  Garbage pail unattended.  I haven’t had to straighten the slipcovers as much as before.  There is no more daily feeding routine and I noticed our teenage neighbor with autism who was very much attached to Poppy wandering back and forth looking for her.  The cats haven’t seemed that bothered but I did witness Minnie sitting on the cellar stairs crying in a strange vocalization that seemed mournful.  From time to time, I have found myself sobbing and wonder if I am going crazy.  My mom has gone through the same thing twice and offered solace.  I don’t want to get another dog any time soon.  


Nothing could be fine-ah than to avoid the China Dine-ah

October 6, 2012

 As we churned along Route 9 through Lisbon, Leeds, South Monmouth, West Gardiner snaking our way across the bridge in Gardiner on to Augusta and up route 3, we passed modest trailers, Mom and Pop convenience stores and church marquees proclaiming “Autumn leaves, Jesus doesn’t”, our stomachs grumbled as we gazed out into the serene yet stagnant landscape of south central….Maine.  We had been planning on trying this place out based on the legendary reviews of former and current associates. However, the experience was mediocre at best.  We were anticipating a true diner experience but the building resembled a run-of-the-mill steakhouse and the interior barnlike – not exactly a diner gestalt.  After confirming that, yes indeed, breakfast was still being served since it was now roughly 10:50 a.m., we were herded into a dimly lit booth.  I noted the squeeze bottles filled with watery ketchup and Log Cabin syrup and the customary caddy of Smuckers jelly.  I thought “did I really drive all this way for this”.

Our heavily made-up waitress approached us and predictably quipped “Can I start you off with something to drink?”  “Coffees”?  Of course we simultaneously chimed yes to which she twittered some nonsensical repartee.  And off she went in search of coffee which was delivered promptly but was notably luke warm.  We perused the plasticized menu.  Pancakes? Check.  French toast? Check. Nothing stood out except that the corned beef hash and the baked beans were listed as “homemade”.  I really didn’t see anything that looked appealing to me so I did my best to decode the specials listed on the chalkboard and asked her to decipher them for me.  Some bizarrely-named variation on eggs benedict with crab cakes for $12.95 which was a bit too rich for my blood.  So, I decided to order a la carte.  Two eggs over medium, and of course the aforementioned homemade beans and corned beef hash.  (Those two items alone should make for an interesting 2-hour ride home).

My dining companion took a chance on the formidable China Sampler which included 2 large buttermilk pancakes from a box, two pieces of eggy French toast, 2 eggs over medium, greasy homefries, and a small piece of ham steak that seemed to have been basking on a grill for a while.  And the toast.  Let me begin by saying that when she took my order I didn’t mention toast. At. All. However, after placing my order within 1 minute she was BAACK to say “I forgot to ask you what kind of toast” to which I replied “I didn’t order any”.  Sooooo when the food arrived, she hands me a plate of toast and then makes a huge deal of letting me know how much of a freak I was to not have ordered by saying “ohhh you didn’t have toast”.  But then once I saw that it was clearly baked either on premises or nearby, I regretted not ordering it.  So I guess I was a bit of a freak in the end.  Haha.  Anyways, I ended up snagging a piece off my DC’s plate.  Mmmm.  Pretty darn good.  But, the baked beans were pretty darn boring – nothing like what I had expected as usual and at $2.65, a big disappointment. 

Oh and by the way, when she asked if we wanted anything else, I replied hot sauce to which she asked, is Tabasco okay and internally I fumed as I specifically avoided saying any brand because usually when I do, I get “is Pepsi ok” so I just tried to be as neutral as possible and it bit me in the ass. AGAIN.  So back to the food.  The beans came in this darling little bean pot and yes, they were cunnin’ but filled with blobs of salt pork which really could have been extracted prior to serving.  I reluctantly squirted the Log Cabin syrup on my beans as well as a healthy dollop of ketchup to give them the flavor they were clearly lacking.    Everything else was pretty uninspiring and our conversation turned to memorable eating experiences in the south where there is more variety on the menu and the food is really top-notch.

So, now the clock reads 11:00 a.m.  And yes, the food arrived really fast. Remember that we arrived at 10:50ish. So from sitting down to beginning our meal 10 minutes had elapsed.  Then our waitress comes over to present us with our check at 11:05.  And she says the standard waitress line “Take your time, I’ll take it when you’re ready” as we glanced at our nearly half full plates of food.  It wasn’t that busy and they had plenty of open tables.  So, a few minutes later, I get up to use the facilities and I come back to find my plate gone even though there was still food left (at least I didn’t have to endure the groan-inducing “Are you still working on that?) and my DC relayed to me an overheard conversation between another waitress and her customers where they asked her why they got their check so quickly to which she replied “We like to keep things moving” meaning that there is clearly some unpublished time limit to which you are expected to adhere.  Hmm. 

Well, we paid the check half-heartedly including a 15% gratuity and as we were exiting, a couple of young dine-ahs who preceded their parents remarked at how dark it was to which I silently concurred.  We avowed that it would have been 10 times better to have stayed within our geographic zone of Portland or even fry up some eggs in our own kitchen to spare us the agony of parting with hard-earned money and a forgettable experience.  Oh well guess we’ll chalk it up to experience and really lower our expectations in the future.

A few things to ponder:

Nothing could be fine-ah than to avoid the China Dine-ah

And….furthermore, if this restaurant is in China….is the fare served here known as Chinese food?




Maybe it’s just me….

July 1, 2010

Ok so I get upset at the little things in life. I admit I might talk to myself when things don’t go the way they should. And maybe it appears a little odd to the casual observer. But I know that I’m right and in my mind I’m not that crazy. Maybe i’m inner crazy but then I look at my family and think that that explains a lot of my issues.

So without rambling on and on with no apparent point – I’ll just get to the point. (ok here’s little thing “a”. The cover for my “e” button on my laptop was pried off inadvertently about a month ago. And it’s driving me bonkers to have to hit it extra hard and frankly wearing me out). Anyway, there I am after an incredibly successful voice lesson (I hit a “money note” – same thing as a “money shot”?) Gas light is on but I know I can make it to the discounted gas at BJ’s in Portland so not to worry. I pull up to the same pump that I had difficulty with a few months back but decided to give it another chance to redeem itself. I efficiently bang on the gas door (needs a hard whack to open), unscrew the gas cap. Having whipped out both my club card AND my credit card, I’m up for any challenge that damn pump is ready to give me.

I scan my BJs card and the red light blinks that I’m ok to move to the next step which is insert my credit/debit card. I glare at the clock and suddenly realize that my expectations of a carefree transaction were to be quickly dashed. And then without warning, the words “transaction cancelled” stare me down. Ok, WTF I muttered under my breath. I kinda was hoping it was noisy and no one heard my cussing. I tried it again, same process and the same damn thing happened. It wasn’t a card declined issue, I had followed the instructions to the letter and there was plenty of fundage in my account. There was a lot of beeping on both sides of the pump island so I thought maybe my partner in gas guzzling was wrestling with her inner curse words.

After the third attempt I coerced cooperation and began removing the nozzle from its protective sheath. I figured the reason it worked this time was the fact that my one-sided conversation had subdued the savage beast of the malfunctioning microchip. As I turned to insert the nozzle, my gas buddy came ’round the other side and asked if I needed help. “I heard lots of beeping and it sounded like you needed help”. I was mildly relieved to see that she seemed intelligent and nice and genuinely concerned for my mental health. Of course, where were the actual gas station attendants who monitor these transactions and should be brave to confront frazzled customers who have endured such nonsense to save a mere .02 cents a gallon?

I replied that I had managed but relayed to her that during the first attempt my transaction was cancelled without warning and that I was frustrated. She said something similar had happened to her and that was the end of the conversation. But as she was driving off, I noted her license plate that read curiously “Dr. Big”. And it was the pink ribbon license plate that benefits the breast cancer society. My mind wandered to the thought that perhaps her husband or she was a plastic surgeon specializing in breast augmentation. or better yet penile augmentation! That random thought bubble was quickly pricked as I saw her saying something to her daughter (whom I didn’t know was there) followed by her daughter craning her neck to see me. And then I realized that maybe her daughter heard me use the F word and Mom said that big people should watch what they say in public because they should be role models for children etc. or “God feels sorry for that crazy woman, let us pray to Jesus for her eternal soul”). I felt guilty for having soiled the little one’s earspace. So while feeling bad and imagining conversations that actually didn’t take place, I popped back into my car, carefully slid the two cards back in the wallet and felt satisfied with the knowledge that it would be another 378 miles before I would have to endure this humiliation again.

But then I looked up and caught some critter that slid out of the confines of his double-wide gassing up his car. I thought he was reacting to my shutting the door or something but he continued to stare. Then he did one of the things I hate the most in life – he shook his head at me in disgust. At that moment all the good things that had happened this week were reduced to dust with this stranger’s assessment that, I a woman and apparently a “dumb blonde” couldn’t manage to conduct the simplest transaction. Of course I have no idea what he was thinking but he clearly was able to communicate nonverbally. Not to mention his car was festooned with at least 2 bumper stickers that preached his dislike of drivers who engage in cell phone chit chat during the act of driving.

So that is my story for today. There is no end or moral. But what I did I get out of it? Hmm. Let me think. Ok here’s something – I assumed I knew what he was thinking and I let it bother me. Yes I could have done something clever like challenge him to a duel or say defensively what are you looking at? But I did let it bother me enough to write almost 1000 words on the subject. See I told you it’s the little things that drive me mad and I’ve got to get over peoples’ perceptions of me but also – don’t swear in public!


Jonesin’ for Joni

April 22, 2010

Joni Mitchell

It’s nice to be home for a week and muse about the things that are important to me. Let’s talk music. Of all the people/styles of music I appreciate, Joni Mitchell has to take the number one spot. As a matter of fact, my favorite show on WMPG which is being hosted by a guest DJ is playing lots of vinyl and the song I’m listening to now is a 70’s jazz-lite version of “Woodstock” probably from her live album “Miles of Aisles” (clever title ;))

Joni’s voice is incomparable. Her warm, soaring alto never gets tiresome or overwrought – her creative and playful spirit shines. She really needs to be reintroduced to America’s youth perhaps through American Idol… American Idol is so repetitive now -every year contestants are forced to wade through a catalogue of songs by the same artists who were relevant when I was born. Don’t get me wrong I love the Beatles and the Rolling Stones but they are so overplayed. Why not have a focus of singer/songwriters or even better a Joni night. Joni exemplifies what it means for an artist to “know themselves” and was consistently relevant. Ever since AI allowed musicians who played instruments to compete, it seems like many more musicians align themselves in the folk/blues traditions. Why not have a Woody Guthrie night or a Bob Dylan night? Since the name of the show is “American” Idol then these singers should adhere to American musicians. Motown night? Sure.

So Joni entered my life with the album “Song to a Seagull” which my dear Aunt Betty gave me one Christmas. Little does she know how much she influenced my life with that one gift. At first, I was unwilling to give it a try but it eventually got the best of me and after a few listens, I was hooked forever. I never actually realized that was the name of the album since the font Joni used was, in fact, “seagull”.

That’s another surprising fact is that Joni is also a visual artist and many of her albums featured her artwork. This album was folk to its core. Songs with many /stanzas lyrics which I eagerly memorized in the confines of my bedroom. And her lyrics and arrangements are not for the faint of heart – they are complicated and winding and just when you think you know where she is going musically, she takes you down another sisotowbell lane and you have to double back to keep up with her. Jumping off my bed to flip the record over, I nearly missed many meals, term paper deadlines just to listen to her records. Of course more records were to come into my life – Clouds featuring Chelsea Morning I bought with my friend Mary (coupled with a Clash-Combat Rock purchase) when we went to the Mall and rushed back to her house so we could share our musical acquisitions. However, I have to admit I wasn’t as thrilled with this one as her first.

I found Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter in the cut-out bin at Bean’s Music Store in Norway, Maine as I lingered waiting for my dad to pick me up after my voice lesson (of course all I wanted to sing were Joni songs but was stuck with Streisand’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”). I’m not sure if I had listened to “Court and Spark” yet but DJRD really jumped ahead many steps in the evolution of Joni’s musical style. At this point she was experimenting heavily with orchestration and latin rhythms as evidenced in “The Tenth World” However, I was most drawn to side two which featured only one song “Paprika Plains” and was pure poetry. Joni in fact wrote lyrics that she never sang and most of the song was a musical dreamscape with moving orchestration. The song evokes the image of the wild Canadian west in which Joni grew up – Saskatchewan and the heartbreaking condition of the native people as a result of imposed Christianity. Perhaps the most telling lyric of the identity crisis of these people is:
But when the church got through
They traded their beads for bottles
Smashed–on Railway Avenue
And they cut off their braids
And lost some link with nature

Joni flits between her past growing up on these desolate paprika plains and her current state where she comes back from her dream facing the reality of her LA mid-70’s existence when she greets a friend whose “eyes are on fire from J&B and coke”. She always manages to step back lyrically from the crazy scene of LA in its excessive heyday where bands like the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon were all making music that was largely influenced by drug culture. However, I never got the feeling from her that she indulged as much as others and for that I admired her.

Another album that I didn’t get to know until college was Blue and this perhaps was her best album that showcased her piano playing and moving from a naive folk past to a stronger songwriter who was extending her musical big toe into the world of Jazz. From the heartbreak of having to give her daughter up for adoption “Little Green” to the best Christmas song ever “River” we travel through Joni’s past, present and future”. Her decision to forego motherhood allowed her to focus exclusively on her career and many of her contemporaries followed suit with the exception of Emmylou Harris who did have a family and continued to make great music. (But more on Emmylou in another post).

Joni’s later albums I have to admit don’t do much for me in the 80’s and beyond but I think her focus became more as a visual artist and her music reflected this change. I did enjoy the live album “Shadows and Light” and her cover of her own song “Both Sides Now” on the album of the same name shows how she has come full circle as an artist.

On a last note, my discovery of Joni, though enabled through that one gift, was something I consider entirely my own. As much of an influence as my father had on my musical tastes and I do owe him big for introducing me to a variety of American styles before there was even the term “Americana”, my relationship with Joni is constantly evolving and is like a favorite movie that I can constantly rewind and watch again and again. Thank you so much Joni for being in this world and helping me appreciate your music and creativity.

So, I would like to ask you, dear readers, who was/is your musical hero? Why do you feel a connection to them? What is your first memory of hearing their music? Who were you with when you first heard their song? I wanna know!


A haze lifts

April 16, 2010

Typically one vacates during a vacation. The idea being that leaving your home for a few days will awaken your appreciation for your domicile. After several forays into international and domestic travel I have decided that I will stay at home this week. Things I could do while I am home include finishing that pesky recipe book project, working on my website, continue organizing the basement, etc. But what I’ll probably end up doing is what every other hardworking teacher will do. Sleeping in, maybe reading a bit.

The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland has prevented a large part of the traveling public from continuing their journeys. Stranded in airports waiting for the haze to lift, travelers simply have no option except to wait. Complicating matters are the large chunks of ice shooting skyward from the melting glacier atop the volcano. Poor Iceland…first their economy collapses in the wake of the economic meltdown and now this. But something tells me that these teflon-like Scandinavians will bounce back and find someway to continue surviving on their mysterious island.

In the past, my livelihood was based entirely on traveling. If I had a Euro for every time someone said “oh you were a travel writer, that sounds so glamorous” I would not be working now….
On the one hand, I am glad that I finally broke free and invested in myself. However, I confess that I miss my old life just a little only because I didn’t have to answer to anyone, saw and experienced many cool things that I won’t do ever again and gained some notoriety as an opinionated travel writer. I credit my many experiences to my ability to see the bigger picture and not be limited to time and place. With the advent of Skype, Craigslist and Paypal, I can find students

But I digress. Traveling isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s exhausting and frustrating and expensive. I think I’m just going to work on attracting people to travel to me….


The Beard

April 14, 2010

I don’t know what’s happening to men’s facial hair trends but it seems that the scraggly beard is back.  Or maybe it never left…All I know is that a beard has many facets.  It can denote a religious commitment or lack of a commitment to regular facial upkeep.  Whatever the reason, men as varied as Brad Pitt to the new guy on a forgettable Fox sitcom are stroking their hirsute chins all the way to the bank. 

Some men I know sport a beard when they just don’t feel like shaving.  I always restrain myself from saying “oh you’re growing a beard”  or “nice look” for fear that they just forgot.  It’s the same restraint I use when I haven’t seen someone in a longtime but notice that they’ve gained weight or a facial tic.

In any event the new growths I’ve noticed clearly contradict the spate of new men’s grooming products that basically promise a smooth shave from now until the next millenium.  With names like Gillette Fusion and Mach 3 it seems as if these products are aimed at a generation of astronauts who need to maintain a cleanshaven face just in case they meet the asteroid of their dreams. 

I am reminded of a very funny video clip by the comedy troupe “The Lonely Island” wherein a trio of castaways are stranded on a desert island.  The camera slowly pans over two of the luxurious beards and then stops at the third, pathetic scraggly growth.  The joke being that there just are some follicly-challenged guys who just never can grow a decent beard – even when given an opportunity such one where there is a noticeable dearth of shaving implements around.

As for women, beards will most likely never be a problem but of late I’ve noticed some rather hardy barbs of hair poking through my otherwise smooth neck.  These probably started appearing 10 years ago and remain as stubborn as ever.  In my adolescent years, I was completely obsessed with the development of split endson my hair and in my boredom during class I would try to locate the hair shaft with the most feathery splits.  Now when I find my mind wandering off in staff meetings, I am pleasantly surprised to find one of these prickly hairs and work at it until it comes out.  I feel an incredible sense of accomplishment when I do successfully extract one and rejoice for at least five minutes. 

But I digress.  Beards I guess are okay in my book as long as they cover the entire jaw and aren’t trying to make a statement.  They also should not be a cache for food particles or weapons.  And they almost always should be accompanied by a moustache.  Moustaches are yet another animal altogether and bring to mind images of Dali and my father circa 1976 complete with green polyester leisure suit.  Uggh.

So my advice, dear reader, whatever you do, consult the ones nearest and dearest to you before you embark on such a facial covering.  You’ll be glad you did.