The Dope and the lunatic fringe

It seems our traditional greeting has been replaced, and for good reason.

Used to be you saw someone you knew and you said, “Hey, how ya doin?” A rhetorical question if ever there was one.

Now it’s, “So, how ya holdin’ up?” Not a rhetorical question at all.

Of course, the new greeting — like everything — involves the quarantine.

From what I’ve seen and from the peeps I’ve talked to, most people are doing their best to stay as safe as they can. Sure, some are doing it better than others — that’s a given with everything. And from what I’ve seen on the news, some jamokes are going out of their way to violate quarantine guidelines as well as common sense and human decency — coughing on others, spitting on groceries and the like — but thankfully they’re statistical anomalies.

I’d say My Home Town is on its game. Downtown looks like a scene from a ’50s post-nuclear-holocaust flicks: businesses closed, no one on the streets, a preternatural silence settled over the area. The only missing touch is the wind blowing a page of newspaper down Broadway.

But the stores that are open are doing yeoman’s work to provide safe and efficient service; plus, everyone I’ve been in contact with has been pleasant and helpful all the while.

As for me? Glad you asked.

In all honesty, my life has barely changed at all.

First, I’m a creature of routine who makes Phileas Fogg look hopelessly scattered. Second, being deliciously retired and lacking ambition of any sort, there’s almost nothing I have to do. And finally, my hermetic lifestyle for the past 40 years or so has insured that most of my time is spent in the company of dogs and cats.

So my days PQ (Post Quarantine) are pretty much the same as my days AQ (Ante Quarantine). I get up too late for the working man, feed critters and drink shameful amounts of coffee. Then I walk the dogs, come back home, read a crappy mystery, catch up on my emails and drink more coffee. Thus fortified, I go to town and do any shopping I must, walk around a bit, come back home, drink even more coffee and take the dogs for another walk. This is repeated as necessary, with some food noshed in between, until I go to bed too late for the working man.

Of course I miss shmoozing with the usual suspects, as I miss going to the library. But I can catch up with friends by phone or email, and as for the library? Well, one of my besties, also a compulsive reader, refers to my home as “a book bordello.” My stash of either unread books or books I can reread is big enough to see me through a quarantine that could last till Xmas, Gawd forbid.

But all that said, there is one thing that’s driving me nuts. And it’s the same thing that I’m sure is driving everyone else nuts — haircuts. Or more exactly, NO haircuts.

Side issue

While the top of my pate is as bald as an egg, I do have a healthy fringe ’round the sides. And when it comes to that fringe, I’m a real fussbudget. But this isn’t due to hubris on my behalf so much as just common sense: If I let my hair grow, rather than looking like a distinguished senior citizen, I’ll look like something the cat drug in. More specifically, I’ll look as if, before the cat drug me in, he cut it with a weed whacker.

It’s been like that all my life. When I was young and slicked-back hair was in fashion, I’d slather my head with about a pint of Wildroot and it looked great, just the way I wanted it … for an hour or so. Then my curls would break through the oil slick and spring out, this way and that, haywire all around.

Later, when I got out of the Navy and long hair was all the rage, I gave that a try. And once again, I failed. My hair grew, but it would not grow long. Instead, it wrapped around itself, shot out at weird angles, or formed lumps and bumps, making me look, to quote my sainted mother, like “an unmade bed.”

It was a simple issue: No matter what I did, my hair would not cooperate. It was like a problem student who’s too lazy to study but too dumb to know he’s gonna flunk. And there’s no way to convince him of either, let along both. It ends up an irresolvable standoff: I can’t understand why he’d want to be a dumbass, and he can’t understand why I’d want to be a teacher. And that’s me and my hair — we just don’t understand each other.

But while there’s nothing I could do with a kid like that, there was something I could do with my hair, which was to always keep it cut short. OK, so no one’s gonna mistake me for Paul Newman’s bastard son, but even if I’m not handsome with short hair, at least I don’t look like a slob.

And there’s the biggest drawback of the quarantine: I can’t get to Little City barber shop to have Mary cut my hair.

Since I’d had a haircut right before the quarantine, I looked decent enough for a while. Then I looked less decent. And finally last week, I started to look like Shipwrecked Chic. And since I knew what I looked like, I started to feel it, too.

So what to do?

Since I expected the quarantine to outlast my haircut, I’d had time to consider options, though in the end I was left with only one: I’d cut my own hair. And after thinking of ways to do that, I again came up with only one option — electric hair clippers.


I did a bunch of looking into the world of electric hair clippers. And when I say “world,” I mean world. Hell’s bells, there are enough different brands and enough different models that if I investigated them all closely, by the time I made my final choice I’d be starring in the Malone fair sideshow as the Wild Man of Borneo. Then I remembered a quote from Dante: “The darkest places in hell are for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”

All right, so I don’t believe in hell and this was hardly a crisis, moral or otherwise, but still, I was going to end it. So I checked out the wares in the local drugstores, compared prices and qualities, and picked what I thought was the best deal (made in USA, no less).

Now all that remained was for me to actually use the thing. And how hard could that be? I asked myself. I mean, they sell millions of those things, so obviously millions of people use them. And of those millions, at least a couple hundred thousand use them to cut their own hair, I figured. And if they can cut their own hair, why couldn’t I?

When I got the clipper home and took it out of the box, I was a bit taken aback by all the stuff that came with it. This wasn’t some simple one-trick pony. Uh-uh, aside from the clipper body itself, it had more attachments than Artie Shaw. One for trimming beards, one for thinning beards. One for shaving, one to depilate your nose and ears, another to shape sideburns, and on and on and on.

Finally, I cut to the chase: I picked one of ones designated “haircut,” snapped it on the clipper, plugged it in and got that show on the road.

I’ll admit I had a long moment of indecision, paralyzed by the thought of trashing my coif. After all, what did I know about cutting my own hair? Nothing, that’s what! Then I took some deep breaths till I calmed down and could think clearly again. And when I did, I realized the beauty of not having a lot of hair is there’s not a lot of hair to screw up. So into the fray!

It was 15 minutes of “a buzz buzz here and a buzz buzz there, here a buzz, there a buzz …” and finally my maiden voyage into the Wonderful World of DIY Haircutting was over.

And now the inevitable question raises its recently buzzed head, namely: How well did I do?

Well, rather than go into all sorts of boring details, I’ll just put it this way: Don’t be surprised if, for the rest of the quarantine, you see me wearing a stocking cap.


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