I didn’t get a haircut or shave for roughly two years. Yeah, some circumstances in my life changed…whatever. But the best answer I could muster, the truest, when people would ask me why I’d let things go is that I’d kind of always thought about trying it and, well, for the same reason dogs lick their balls.
The result, depending on your perspective, was not necessarily pretty. I’ve definitely gotten some comments. There were plenty of the obvious ones: ZZ Top, Jerry Garcia, The Unabomber, and Santa Claus (one lesson learned: waiting until being mostly gray may not have been the optimal choice). But then there was no shortage of far more creative, and amusing, “observations”: A guy stopped me in a restaurant in Maine and asked me if I was a local schooner captain; While wearing what turned out to be an unfortunate western-style shirt, a Vegas casino pit boss approached me at a blackjack table and dubbed me The Homeless Cowboy; An old work associate, Budd, referred to me as “Colonel Beauregard from the South Carolina Fusiliers” (I’m not even sure what that means, but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t complimentary); My son described me to some of his friends as looking “like Saddam when he was pulled out of the hole”; Friends saw my picture at a gathering and asked if I’d arrived by raft; My friend Messiah insisted I looked like Doug Gray, hirsute lead singer of the Marshall Tucker Band; While I was staying with my friend Duck, he felt it necessary to text his son, Connor, a new cop arriving home late, not to shoot at what he might see as a hobo squatter in their house; And, I guess the low-point, I was involved in a minor fender-bender, burst out of my car shouting obscenities at the perpetrator, and he shot back calling me a “country bumpkin-looking motherf*cker” (I guess I knew then it might be time for a change). Maybe I was going for what David Letterman has self-described his own new appearance to be, “the aging vagrant look,” but my sister-in-law, Nancy, asked my wife with legitimate concern if perhaps I needed an intervention.
And through it all I had David Crosby’s voice from this song in my head. “Almost cut my hair / It happened just the other day / It was gettin’ kinda long / I coulda said it was in my way.” But, of course, Crosby didn’t. He was a righteous ‘60’s counterculture bad-ass, and so he continued “..Letting his freak flag fly” and to “Separate the wheat from the chaff” (however the hell that applies here). The truth is, in my case it had long since been ‘gettin’ kinda long’ and it really had become ‘in my way,’ and so last week I did cut my hair. And trimmed (not shaved) my beard. My freak flag is now flying at about half-mast. The schooner captain/homeless cowboy/colonel Beauregard/Saddam-in-the-hole/raft-traveling/Doug Gray/hobo squatter/country bumpkin MF-er has left the building.
But as soon as my man Letterman brings this aging vagrant thing fully around, I may well be growing my wheat, chaff, and all kinds of other sprouting grains right back again. As Crosby defiantly sings in the chorus, “I feel like I owe it to someone.”