Wednesday, April 30, 2008

True Meaning Of Love

During the most painful moments of my divorce process - I'm talking the most acute part of it - my brother, Stuart, turned me on to a book. I wasn't all that into reading self-help type books. I mean, I'd read them, but the info usually bounced off my brain cells; little of that stuff stuck with me. Still, during that particular time, I was open to anything that might soothe the soul so I scribbled down the title, picked it up a few days later and settled in for the read, figuring, "Why not?"

Who knows why certain things affect us, when they affect us? I've always believed that painful times are often the doorways to some of the most productive learning we'll ever accomplish in our lives. This was one example of that concept in action.

When I started writing this post, I honestly couldn't have told you the name of the book I'm talking about. I mean, you would think that something that reached me the way it did, something that soothed me the way it did, you'd think I would've remembered the title, right? Well ... I'm sorry to say, I still don't know the name of the book. I've Googled and Yahoo'd my fingers off and can't seem to find the right combination of search terms yet. When I figure out the title, I'll pass along the info.

Anyway, I'm not going to get into a long discussion about the entire book here, since I've already drifted pretty far from why I wanted to write today anyway. Suffice it to say that one of the main (if not the main) thrust(s) of the book is the notion that every single person who comes into our life, any any given time, for any given length of time - that person has come into our life for a reason. Good, bad, neutral, happy, sad, angry, tragic ... whatever the experience ends up being, there is reason that person drifted into our life, when they drifted into our life. I think the book went so far as to suggest a very creative concept, something having to do with "contracts." The idea is that there is some great, endless depository of contract-like scrolls where all of these "life intersections" are documented. I pictured a kind of giant - giant's not the word, more like an infinitesimal card catalog, perhaps organized according to the Dewey Decimal System? - where these relationships are tracked. And when we meet these people, there is a definite term/duration to the relationship, certain parameters, each party has certain performance obligations, etc... - just a like a real contract. Sometimes the term can be very long - e.g. life partners. I see some of the couples I've interviewed for Eldercation - we're talking marriages in the 50+ range, some reaching as long as 70+ years. Incredible and quite the contract, I'd say. At other times, the agreement is for only a few years. Sometimes, it can even be a matter of a few minutes, perhaps a chance car crash or an altercation with someone while on line at the market or airport - those are all examples of these relationships being set up ahead of time, according to what these contracts set forth.

Wacky, perhaps. But I have to say, this book and the way the author told the story using this concept, it really took me in and provided me with a sense of peace when I needed it most, giving me a kind of structure to help me make some sense of how my marriage dissolved the way it did. It helped me make some inroads as to the "why" of the whole thing when I pretty much knew that the "why" element of it would, most likely, never be answered. And I ended up being okay with that.

Garlic - Okay, so here's something that made me laugh out loud in the car the other day. Several weeks ago, I met a very nice woman. It happened one night while I was attending a CD release party for a friend's friend at a local jazz club here in Kansas City; a very nice evening and party, by the way. And so, I met this woman; very pretty, very tall, very personable and downright nice. I was actually on my way out the door to leave when I met a friend coming through the door and she was with this woman. And (snap!) just like that - I made a u-turn and decided to hang on for a bit longer. Of course, a bit longer ended up becoming three hours because, once I connected with this woman, I chose to stay and hang out with her. We talked for the next three hours almost non-stop and I had a truly nice time. That, alone, stirred something inside me which I hadn't even come close to feeling in a long time - a nice reassurance that that particular mechanism is still very much alive and kicking inside me. Not that I ever truly believed it was gone for good, but, you know ... So, by the time the three hours were up, it was pretty much just assumed that this woman and I were going to go out, which we did ... the very next night. We ended up having dinner then going for drinks and talked well into the early morning hours.

Now to the universal contract theme: I turned out that this woman - we'll call her Susan - is a caterer and knows her way around a kitchen, to be sure. So I've been cooking a lot over past few months as part of my healthier diet transformation and, one night, I made dinner for Susan and the conversation turned to one of my favorite foods - garlic. I use garlic a lot, in just about anything I cook. And when I use it, I simply mince it myself. It's not a big deal, usually taking just a few minutes to peel and cut up a few cloves, then into the pan with a little oil and ... I'm on my way.

"Don't you use a garlic press?" Susan asked.

I laughed, telling her, "No," explaining that since I moved to Kansas City, I've chosen to buy only essential gear and the garlic press, while cheap, certainly wasn't something I would call essential. Having said that, a quick mini-lecture by Susan, telling me about how the press takes the entire garlic experience to another level, served to capture my attention; She really seemed to know what she was talking about and explained how using a press does something extra; something to do with the extraction of the juices which simple cutting alone doesn't provide.

Anyway - that was that. Susan and I don't see one another any more, for whatever reason. Honestly, it wasn't all that disappointing in the end. As I said, I was actually pretty pleased that I even got excited about meeting someone. That door appears to be open again.

A Whole New World - While in Target a few weeks ago, while walking through the kitchen gadget section, you know it - I snagged a garlic press - remnants of the Susan experience. And I put it to use that very night in a nice stir-fry dish I enjoy. And guess what - she was right - a different level. A genuinely noticeable difference which seemed to explode with flavor. I'm sure the folks at my office appreciate it now that I've learned how to properly cook with the press, not to mention the people in my Bikram yoga class.

All kidding aside, while cooking dinner the other night, I chuckled to myself, first thinking about the brief encounter with Susan and then, for whatever reason, thinking about the aforementioned (still untitled) special book.

"Could it be!?" I laughed hard. "Is that the reason Susan and I met? Is that the reason our paths crossed as I was walking out of the Jardine's party?"

It's wild, I know. But I wonder about that kind of thing, I really do. If there is some kind of universal source energy thing at work here, I would love to see the terms and conditions of that particular document. With the names of the parties listed at the top, the agreement might start with something like this:

WHEREAS this man has been using a particular vegetable in an inappropriate manner and can use some help in that area;

WHEREAS this man has dedicated himself to transforming his dietary needs to incorporate more healthy foods, etc ...

IT IS HEREBY AGREED, as follows:

1. TERM: 28 days, perhaps with an option to extend the term, mutually to be agreed upon.
2. DUTIES AND PERFORMANCE: Susan XX shall hereby introduce Harry Getzov to the garlic press; instructing him about the various potential uses for such a device and so on and so forth.

The rest would be boilerplate, of course, with the requisite warranties and representations, indemnification, choice of law, force majeure and severability clauses and so on and so forth.

Anyway, it doesn't really matter. The fact is, I'm just glad that I've added the contraption to my kitchen arsenal. Sure, it's an extra step to clean the darn thing. But that's all canceled out by the time I now save by not having to cut and mince any more - so I figure it's a wash.

So thank you Susan. It was great doing business with you.

I can only wonder what the next relationship contract is going to bring me. I'm actually pretty excited about the potential.

Perhaps a juicer?
Or a cappuccino maker?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Deep Dish Losing

That's not the way it was supposed to be.

About a month ago, I glanced at the upcoming Mets' schedule, noticed they had two games coming up in Chicago, figured I'd never been to Wrigley Field before and always wanted to go, so ... I picked up the phone and my brother and I agreed, "Let's play two." (sticking with the Cubs' theme here). Within minutes I hit and picked up tickets for the Monday night ESPN game, followed by a clump of tix for the following day, when Stu and I would be joined by his friend Bill and another old family friend. This was gonna be great!! Perhaps a little Portillo's Italian beef beforehand, or a post-game stop at Lou Malnati's for that a deep-dish pizza - with giardinare.

The Best Laid Plans - Silly me. A few days after getting the tickets and booking my SW flights to Chicago, what do I notice? Sure enough, the two games fell during Passover which, for me, means a somewhat curbed diet (i.e., no bread, yeast products for about a week). This, of course, meant no Italian beef and no Lou Malnati's. Actually, it also meant I was a bit of a moron because, without realizing it at first, I had already scheduled a trip down to Florida for that same weekend to be with my folks and sister's family for Passover - these trips have become very special to me; I never miss a holiday with them. And here I was, thinking I was a "Day-At-A-Glance" master all these years. Yes, yes, I still use those old-fashioned, dentist office appointment-type scheduling books. And yes, I double-booked the trips.

What to do? Passover with family? Mets at Wrigley?

Call it a by-product of my personal Eldercation - I've come to the conclusion that, when given the choice these days, you know what? I want it all. So, that's the way it was gonna be. A few tweaks of the schedule and I put together a jet-setting kind of weekend. A flight to FL, some kisses, hugs - A nice brisket, matzos, wine, the four questions, (not to make light of this, but some really great time with my family. Another trip will come soon, minus the rush off to Chicago) - then it was off to Midway Airport early Monday morning.

Play Ball - That shot to the left ... sun setting, skyline in the background, the green field ... this is heaven to me. And up until the 8th inning of the Monday night game, the Mets hung tough, the score was 2-1, Cubs and I really thought the Mets would pull it out, just the way I figured it would unfold when I first thought about making the trip. Unfortunately, that's when all hell broke loose and the Mets ended up losing something like, I don't know, 7-1? It's a blur to me now. And let me tell you, those Cubbie's fans were going wild. There was no mercy for Mets' fans. You haven't lived until you sit in the middle of 40,000+ Cubs fans when you're rooting for the other team. The fact is, the poor Mets rolled into town and found themselves running into a buzz-saw of a hot Cubs' team. Enough said.

Already running on fumes - I hadn't really slept all that much in the prior few days - I didn't have much tolerance for how lousy my Mets looked during that first game. Still, I figured they'd regroup for the Tuesday game.

"We're going to see what this team is made of today," I told my brother as we grabbed some Thai food on Chicago Ave. "After last year's collapse, there's a pride thing happening. This group is different."

I was happy, feeling strong.
I was feeling confident.
I was wrong.

"Get Me Outta Here!" - The Mets were annihilated 8-1 on Tuesday and I think it was about the 5th inning when I turned to Stu and broke the news to him that I wanted to leave - and I never, I mean never, ever leave a game early. It sucked. Still, I have to say I'm glad we stayed for the 7th inning of both games so we could hear them sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" Chicago-style - the way Harry Caray liked it and led by one of my childhood heroes, Ron Santo. The fact is, it was great to see Wrigley because it really is special, along the lines of Fenway which, because of my BU, Kenmore Square, Myles Standish Hall days, will always have a place in my heart. Like Fenway, Wrigley has that historical, intimate charm and I can see where the label "The Friendly Confines" gets its meaning. The gangways and ramps - the intricate pathways - I'd never seen such a labyrinth-like park. The above shot gives you a hint of the flavor of the traffic-flow. When Stu and I reached our Terrace Level, that's when I caught my initial glimpse of the field, the thin strip of green dotted by the tiny white uniforms darting across the infield. For a split second I remembered my first trip to a major league game. It was Shea Stadium in the mid 60's, of course, with my family as guests of my Aunt Fritzie, who had season's tickets right in back of the Mets' dugout. I think Fritzie was one of the original 1962 season ticket holders. Anyway, as I looked out onto the Wrigley infield and watched the players warming up, I still, to this day, am struck by how easy those guys seem to make those throws across the diamond. It's like the ball floats as it travels from mitt to mitt. It doesn't matter what park I visit these days, that same feeling washes over me. If it's baseball, I love it. And, for me, there is nothing like an urban context - those bleacher seats on top of the surrounding brownstones and buildings - you've gotta love that. Check out the day-night theme in these two pics.

Baseball romanticism aside, my near 18-innings of Wrigleydom was sheer torture from a Mets' fan's perspective. Downright painful. And man, do those people drink. I'm telling you, they really down that beer. I mean, c'mon, I've probably been to hundreds of games, all over; most of them in NY at Shea and Yankee. But I'm telling you, I've never seen so many people getting drunk at a baseball game before. Listen, I'm not passing judgment here and I'm not a Puritan; I like my beer and bratwurst, too. But I love baseball more. And call me crazy but I enjoy actually sitting and watching the game for more than 10 pitches at time before having to run to the urinal.

All in all, most of my complaining here is just to have some fun. The fact is I had a chance to be with my brother and see some friends. And the chance to be with my family for the holiday was priceless, as it always is.

One more funny and poignant memory of this latest adventure: while riding the subway back to Stu's car, we found ourselves in a train filled with what seemed to be about 80% Mets' fans. Apparently we weren't the only ones who needed to run for the hills. We ended up talking with a bunch of folks and commiserated with them about the two debacles we had just witnessed. The ride took about, I don't know, 20 minutes or so. And as Stu and I were about to get off at our stop, I stood, turned, and smiled at the folks in the car, most of them in Mets shirts and hats.

"Thank you," I laughed. "I feel much better. This was like a therapy session for me."

And with that good laugh, I was on my way to the car, to the Orange line, out to Midway and on a plane back to KC.

A good trip. Tiring, but certainly good.

I had had it all.

Still, one win would've been nice, you know?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ring A Ding Ding

So, I was sitting in my cubicle yesterday ...

I still find the cubicle-thing funny, but let's not go there.

... and being on the top floor of my company's 5-floor building, my co-workers and I are in touch with roof-top action. Wind, hard rain, maintenance workers doing their thing, you name it, we hear it. I'd say it was about 3:00 or so, I heard a knock coming from above me. Then two or three more knocks - followed quickly by what sounded like 100 much louder knocks and bangs on the ceiling. I stopped typing and thought about it for a second. At first, I didn't know what to make of it. Was the roof collapsing? I had heard some thunder claps all afternoon and knew severe storms had been predicted but, was this perhaps beyond severe? Was this the Midwest moment I'd been waiting for? My first tornado? Listen, I'm not stupid enough to actually want to be in a tornado but there is a part of me that wants to see at least live one funnel cloud in my lifetime. Just a small manageable one that lasts for a few seconds and then dissipates before anyone is hurt.

Anyway, I popped up from my chair - that's one funny thing about working in a corporate multiple-cubicle situation. Heads pop up one at a time like that. And with the head-popping came one word - it's as though we all said it at once. H A I L.

The Gang's All Here - This wasn't the sugar-cube variety. I'm talking at least golf ball-size. Not as large as the hail in the pic on the left, but I thought that shot was kind of cool. The stones the other day were coming down pretty hard; I mean, they were pouring out of the sky - it was like snowfall. (Check out this YouTube Video - Amazing. At one point, our storm looked like this storm. You can see how dangerous this can be, so I don't mean to make light of it.)

Okay, so the second word, after HAIL, was - DEDUCTIBLE. Everyone at the office was thinking about their cars outside in the lot. These seasoned Midwesterners had been through this kind of thing many times before, you could tell. 'So much for my IRS rebate,' was all I could think as I headed toward a window to take a look. (That photo below is extreme, I know, but from what people were telling me, it's the kind of thing that can happen).

It's funny - since I bought my car, I've been careful (not crazy) about parking in carefully selected spaces to avoid other cars. I see people in parking lots all the time, whipping open their car doors, completely oblivious to the way the doors slam into neighboring cars, always leaving the mark of an a@*h#le. (sorry for the pseudo-profanity, but this stuff really gets me going) Of course, these are the types of folks who are often chatting away on their cell phones, so they rarely notice when their door inflicts that kind of damage to someone else's property. That kind of stuff drives me nuts so I choose to counter that scene by simply parking a little farther out in the lot and walking a few extra steps into the particular store or market. I mean, what's the big deal? And I'm killing two birds with one hail-stone - avoiding ding madness while getting a little more exercise. I call it good planning. Others would call it obsessive compulsive disorder.

With cars on all of our minds, a bunch of co-workers crowded into this guy Jack's office to watch the storm from his window, which, come to think of it, probably wasn't the smartest thing to do during such an event. I'd seen hail before, but this was different from the New England variety. The large white balls of ice streaked down from the dark gray sky, bouncing off the pavement and the cars below in the lot. It didn't look good.

"A few look like softballs" I heard one person shouting from down the hall.

Sure, most people were concerned about their cars (the folks who weren't lucky enough to have indoor parking) ... but in the back of my head, it wasn't so much my car I was thinking about. I was wondering - "Isn't this kind of intense hail the precursor to a trip down the yellow brick road?" I looked out over the horizon, watching for a dark wisp to drop from one of the the charcoal clouds. If I had seen that, I'm not quite sure what I would have done. Still, I looked.

Whew!! - After work, when I got close to my car, I kind of peered at it from a distance to see if I could see any unwanted dimples or, worse, but things appeared to be a-o-k. The fact is, so much rain water had collected on the car, I couldn't tell what was going on.

And that was that. I picked up a few hail-stones and started throwing pitches, doing my best to throw strikes at telephone pole about 25 feet away. I figured I had dodged a GEICO bullet and wanted to air out my arm a bit. It felt great.

Fast forward about 15 hours - heading back to work the next morning, listening to "Mike & Mike," driving south to Leawood and ... what is that? The morning sun doing something strange to the card hood's reflection in the windshield? I was hoping that was the case but hoping wasn't going to change the fact that, yes, those friggin' hail stones apparently didn't let me or, more importantly, my Vibe, completely off the hook. At least one of those things was large enough to speak its mind or, perhaps, it just hit at the right angle to push it's way into the metal and cause one of those beautiful dings.

And, sure enough, when I arrived at work and got out of the car to conduct a dry-version inspection, yep - there were a few more where that came from. Subtle - small - hardly noticeable at first glance. But, they were there.

Raising The White Flag - The moral of the story? If there is one, I suppose it's this: What's going to happen, is going happen. Wise words, huh? I mean, here I am making a little extra effort to practice ding-avoidance and look what happens. It's funny how mother nature has it's own way of leveling things out. There's simply no fighting what's going to find you anyway. That concept is becoming clearer and clearer to me each day that I live.

Having said that - what lesson did I really learn? I still chose to park under a tree that morning, figuring it might act as sort of a wind-break to provide at least, I don't know, a little shelter for the next hail extravaganza. Yeah - real smart. Under a tree?!?

Obviously, I have some ways to go - regarding the "no fighting it" concept.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Today’s trigger?

A young woman wearing a navy blue sweatshirt with large yellow words on the front - "MARTHA'S VINEYARD." I spotted her waiting for coffee while on line at the Plaza Starbuck's. Add to that, my iTunes was playing Sarah Mclachlan's “Angel" at that very moment. These two things - actually, something else was in the mix. The fire roaring in the fireplace about four feet from my table, that was the third piece to the puzzle. The name on the sweatshirt, the music, the fire - it was like a perfect storm. I stopped my work, leaned back a bit and let my mind wander.

* * * * * * * * * *

I miss the water. More specifically, I miss the ocean.

The vastness of it, yeah, that always gets to me; another reminder of the abundance of it all. And I’m not simply talking about water. I’m talking about abundance, in general. Then, of course, there's the smell – it’s that first whiff that hits the nostrils, sometimes from many miles away - that's the thing that really lets me know I’ve arrived. I don't know if it's the seaweed? I think that may be what I'm talking about here. It's a kind of fishy smell, unmistakable. And the salt air - there's nothing like that. (btw - that's a Vineyard photo above)

I’m heading to Florida this weekend and will make sure I make a stop at the beach; I need a follow-up to an experience I had a few weeks ago while in Fort Lauderdale.

My brother and I took an early morning yoga class and were relaxing at our table, people-watching from our "Floridian" (great, cheap diner on Las Olas) seats.

“Where’s the ocean?” I asked as we were finishing up. I had a plan.

My brother pointed over my right shoulder.

“How far?”

“Two minutes.”

And that was that.

When we got close, I rolled the window down and, there it was. The whiff. And as we made the turn onto, I guess it's "A-1-A" – the strip that used to be notorious for its “spring break” chaos, but since way toned way down by the local authorities. As we made that turn, I asked Stuart to slow down and pull the car over to the right for a second.

“What the f….!?” my brother started to laugh.

The next thing I knew I was out the door and hopping over a small wall, pouncing onto the beach. The sand was pretty hot, which felt great on my toes, exposed through the open sandals. I made a beeline for the water. Knowing my brother was parked in a “no parking” zone, I knew this was going to have to be very much the compressed beach experience.

Lots of folks were out enjoying the hot sun, listening to radios, playing Frisbee, all that beach stuff. This was something I hadn't seen in, God knows how long. Perhaps since I got married at Montauk Point. And that would be ... 1998? A decade already? Now that is just plain old wrong. To think I've stayed away from something I love like that for so long. That is something that needs to be rectified. This jaunt was a start at doing just that.

I ran directly into the water, sloshed around for a bit and then stood there, looking out over the Atlantic. It was misty out. Sunny, but misty. I took in a few deep breaths, listening to the seagulls doing their thing. Then I bent down and, using both hands, scooped up what amounted to a small cup of water into my hands and lifted it up where I let the salty liquid run over my face and down my neck, wetting my shirt. “One more for the road,” I thought as I bent down again and scooped up another load.

I turned, ran back across the sand and then, up and over the wall and back into the car.

That was that. I think the whole thing took maybe about 83 seconds, tops.

“How was it?” my brother asked.

I smiled, wiping away some water from my chin, lifting my fingers to my nose to check out that unmistakable smell. Next I raised one finger up to my mouth, giving it a bit of a taste.

Man, do I ever miss that.

Monday, April 7, 2008

"A Little Dab'll Do Ya"

Doing this kind of work has served to open up all kinds of doorways to the Harry Getzov mind. I can be sitting with someone during an interview and that person will say something, or perhaps I'll smell something cooking in their kitchen - just about anything like that can serve as a trigger. Suddenly - a mind-shift. And, for a split second, I'll have traveled some place else.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a gentleman after an Eldercation interview and he mentioned something to me about heading out to the barber. He loved getting his hair cut and started to tell me some stories about going to the barber as a young boy. And when he said this to me - just like that (snap!) - a face popped up. It was as though someone clicked a web page link and a photograph loaded in front of my eyes.

That faces was Gus's.

I don't think I've thought about Gus for 35 years.

* * * * * * * * * *

Special Moments - I loved Saturdays when I was little. Something felt different about that day. Actually, the different feeling started the night before - the excitement would already be building as I'd shut my eyes so by the time those eyes would open next, by then, my lord.... I can feel that happy feeling even as I write this. It felt great.

Saturday's meant one ... well ... actually, two things to me back then. First of all, there wasn't school on Saturdays so that certainly worked. But it also meant I would have the chance to head into downtown Springfield (MA) with my father. And that weekly routine pretty much consisted of two main events: lunch at the Californian, followed by a walk to Gus's barbershop where my Dad would get a haircut. I know that might not sound all that exciting now but, man, it was to me back then. Those Saturdays and those two activities, in particular, were such a huge part of my life. In the earlier years of the routine, I'm talking around 1962, 63 or so, I think Gus's shop was somewhere in the old railroad station (now, just a dark, dilapidated shell of a building). I can sort of picture the scene now and the first thing coming to mind is that it was really dark, not at all lively. Even then the railroad station seemed spooky to me. But I remember going in there and my Dad getting his haircut; that minimized the spookiness factor.

Gus. I can see him so clearly in my mind. Tall, silver rimmed glasses, clefted chin, very handsome and proper. I recall him being German, but it's possible he was from Austria or even Switzerland. I'll have to ask my dad if he remembers where Gus was from. I remember how Gus always wore a spotless white smock or apron - a kind of barber's uniform. And then there was his hair, every bit as white as the the color of the apron and always, I mean always perfectly coiffed and combed backward, slicked down, no doubt, by any one of the many hair tonics lining the counter in front of the barber chairs. It looked as though if you touched Gus's hair, the outside coating would crack as you pushed your finger in. It reminded me of freezing rain on top of fresh snow.

Come to think of it, I bet he used Brylcreem since I remember the way Gus used to rub his hands together, ready to apply the small spot of white cream to my Dad's hair.

"A little dab'll do ya." Anyone remember that?

(Note: Did you know - Fred Flintstone's famous "Yabba Dabba Doo" is derived from the Brylcreem jingle? FYI, the actual lyrics are: "Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya, Use more, only if you dare, But watch out, The gals will all pursue ya,-- They'll love to put their fingers thru your hair." Take a look at this recent print web ad. Can't imagine something like this back in 1964 but, then again, check out the slogan under the rugby player? Hmmm.)

"Good Morning, Mr. Getzov" - The greeting was always sort of abrupt, staccato-like, but not in a short, cold way. Gus was as warm as could be. As a matter of fact, it's people just like Gus who I realize now had a huge effect on me when I was little and, in some ways, it's my experiences with folks like Gus in those earlier years that have led me to do the work I'm now doing. (Note: I only wish I had a good photo of both Gus and his shop. I saw something online the other day and it reminded me a lot of his downtown place. See the photo below, to the left).

It was obvious that Gus enjoyed those Saturday mornings as much as I did, greeting his customer's little sons and daughters and loving those visits almost as much as he enjoyed working his craft. Come to think of it, those mornings were pretty much about fathers and sons - this was a man thing, I'm pretty sure.

So, after downing the best roast turkey sandwich in the city, (with the best Russian dressing I think I've ever tasted to date, by the way), my Dad and I would walk over to the train station. And as soon as we'd round the corner, approaching Gus's, I'd smell the shaving cream, freshly cut hair, Vitalis, Brylcreem - that fresh, soapy clean barbershop smell. And if there had been any doubt what day of the week it was, that doubt was most assuredly wiped away at that very moment. Sometimes, if the timing was right. I'd hear the massager from all the way down the long dark station hallway. Ahhh, yes - the massager. I loved that gizmo. Have you ever seen one of those? Do you even know what I'm talking about? (Check out the picture below on the right - that's it! I know, I know, it looks like something you'd find under the hood of a car. But that's almost exactly like the one Gus used). The barber would wrap a strap around his hand, with the metal, "command module" part resting on top. When the switch was clicked on ... "Good Vibrations" is about the best way I can put it. The barber would then run his vibrating hand over and all around the customers head, giving him the most relaxing head massage. Gus usually ended this service with his special finishing touch, allowing the weight of the massager (it was actually pretty heavy from what I can remember), drop his hand onto the customer's shoulders and upper back, where he'd let it do its thing for another 30 seconds or so; a barber's 1960's version of a "happy ending," I suppose.

For the most part, when it came to the whole head massage thing, I was a mere observer but, sensing my curiosity, I remember the first time Gus signaled for me to hop into the chair, where he then gave me a sampling. I think my teeth chattered for ten minutes after that go-round but it was fun; I'm sure I was giggling uncontrollably at the time. It was just a giggling kind of experience. How could a person not giggle getting shaken around like that?

A few more memories: There was a pretty blond women in the shop every week, too; the manicurist. Very sweet. You know what? I'm now 50 and, as unbelievable as this might sound, I don't think I've ever had a manicure in my entire life. Something to put on my list,. I suppose.

Okay then. Vitalis, manicurist, crazy metal vibrating massager, warm shaving cream ... But now, to the star of the show. To what came to be the centerpiece of those visits. At least for me, it was the centerpiece.

The magazine rack.

Learning About The Rack - Okay. So by now, you've probably already glanced below and saw the photo I included, so the mystery is now gone. But here's how this part of the story goes:

So - when I was 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 (a lot Saturday mornings came and went along the way) - the reading material in Gus's place didn't mean jack to me. But, when young adulthood started its move - (I'm talking biology here) - all I can say is - ooohh, la, la.

Suddenly, even though the turkey sandwiches and special moments with my father remained important to me, the rack started to take on a whole new significance for me - in more ways than one.

Strategy Is Key - It's funny, but I think even at 12 or so, I was wise enough to not merely bolt over to the waiting area and immediately grab 3 or 4 Playboys for my reading pleasure. I have to say, I remained cool, calm and collected, first accepting Gus's warm greeting and then slowly, purposefully gliding into one of the red leather, silver studded waiting chairs lining the back of the shop, behind the barber stations. Then, after scoping things out a bit, waiting for my moment when Gus would be perhaps applying some shaving cream or brushing loose hair away from my Dad's eyes - then, I'd make my move. And there was a definite skill involved here - sort of a pre-Star Trek, "cloaking" device technique, I like to call it. It worked like this: I figured out a way to take, I don't know, a "Sporting News" or "Life Magazine" - it had to be something large, "National Geographic wouldn't do the trick - and I'd then carefully slip a Playboy under the larger magazine, so the "disguise" magazine would then become a kind of book-cover. And that was that. I'd then return to my chair,sit back and then read to my heart's content. Well - I wouldn't exactly call that reading. It was probably more like staring, ogling. Perhaps a bit of drooling? Seriously, I was still careful enough to keep one eye peeled on my father and Gus throughout this entire process, peering over the top of the magazine into the mirror, just to make sure they didn't know I was up to. One eye fixed on them, the other peeled on ... well ... All I can say is "Thanks, Hef."

"Did You Know?" - I'm blessed, I understand this. Even with my folks' health issues sometimes rearing their ugly heads, I am quite the lucky man to still have my parents around; I really am. And I'm saying this during a time when I've been hearing about the deaths of several of my closest friends parents. But not to dwell on that here; that's actually a subject for another essay I'm writing now. The point here is simply this: my Dad is still very much alive and, after writing this entry, I thought it might be fun to find something out; to ask the obvious question listed above. My best guess? Come on - there is no way my father didn't know what I was up to back then. What do you think?

Search This Blog