Tuesday, July 8, 2008

El Moostache

Personal Rehab Post #1
Today I begin mentally rehabbing. You would not believe how many things can remind someone of...well, you know. I just got an invite to her "celebration" which really wasn't a bolt from the blue. But the journey of thousand miles begins with a single step, so I better get to walking. This spot however is marked on the map of my life however. Can't get around that. Not sure I want to.

I want to tell you I born with a full set of teeth and mustache, nursed on Jack Daniels and was riding out on my big wheel like I didn't have good sense before I could walk, but I'm not prone to that much lying in less than 50 words. Maybe 75, but certainly not 50. I do understand however that I never used a pacifier, which might be a whole other issue.

I did however grow a mustache, or the first wispy hairs of one, sometime between 13 and 14 years old. I know this because I was able to pass for 18 with the little bit of hair on my face to buy the "adult" magazines at the newsstand down the street from my dad's business. That or the old dude who ran the store just didn't care. At 13 with a real dirty magazine, not the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, I couldn't have cared less either. But I thus attached a certain significance to that little bit of facial hair. It meant I was a man. Or at least looked like one.

I keep the mustache all through high school, experimenting with the attached goatee, the pencil line, the thick bush, and all the other variations that beguile your average teen in a small town with no friends who live anywhere close. I groomed it. It looked good. In college it unknowingly became my brand. Let me explain.

In 1992 I was on internship, living in Rahway, New Jersey with two house mates, slipping up to NYC on weekends to club and be "in the city" and generally living large. Well, extra medium, but I was a kid from rural SC with NYC 20 minutes via the Skyway so I thought I was getting ready to take over. Between three guys, all of us had mustaches and one night we all apparently lost our minds. It started, as most nights do, with alcohol. We had been drinking and playing video games (Sega system...man, I'm old) when our resident youth mentioned he might shave off his meager mustache. Why I don't remember. We other two doubted he would, but as the discussion wore on my other roommate mentioned that if the youngster would shave his off, he would too. In a moment of lubricated solidarity, I joined in the pact.

The next morning I awoke last. In the kitchen I noticed the youngster had duly removed the hair from his face. I was unimpressed, as the difference was a best subtle. My other house mate emerged from the single restroom a few moments later his face also cleansed and a thought suddenly struck me. What madness had I entered into?

Looking at myself in the mirror thirty minutes later, face hairless for the first time since I was 12 was, well, odd. I was amazed at how much that little bit of hair changed the shape of my perception of my own face. Frankly I thought I looked goofy. But the best was yet to come.

We had guests coming up that day from Philadelphia, a couple of girls (yeah, bad math 3/2) and so we would seen by people who knew us, to get an idea of how much of a change we had made.

Youngster opened the door, and the girls greeted him with nary a blink. The other roommate got an "oh, you shaved, you look different" comment, to which the girls then noticed the youngster was without. Then I entered the room.

The first girl's eyes bugged out a little. The second girl screamed and clapped her hand over her mouth. Apparently I wasn't the only person who thought I looked different. The very idea of me without facial hair seemed to fascinate them. Today's version has people saying I look much younger. But I digress.

That smooth faced bastard lasted a week and other than now I have always had a mustache in some form or fashion. The beard has been off and on, off lately because it's now straight gray, but you know. 16 years. Whoa.

Which actually leads into another story which I'll share now because it ranks as the oddest shopping experience I'll ever have. I hope.

Later on this same day that I had taken on a nude face and shocked the world so to speak, we found ourselves on 3rd Ave as the sun went down having wandered the Village and other hinterparts of NYC, now looking for someplace to eat. For the purposes of storytelling, we eventually ended up eating in New Jersey, so that part is irrelevant.

And as women are won't to do, we passed a storefront with what looked like interesting items and they wanted to stop in, so as men, shut up and wandered in behind them. It was a typical NY boutique, which has for the sake of argument has currently been transplanted everywhere else in the world, jam packed with wares for sale that look like nobody would buy them except the people that work there. And then only because they got a discount.

Only something was ....odd.

It took me a little while to get it. I'm from the country and maybe a native New Yorker would have spotted it in seconds. Or maybe not, as the store had a good number of customers. Or maybe we were all tourists.

All the people working there still had their coats on.
They didn't use the cash register and all the sales were cash. No coin change. No credit cards.
They would bring things out of the back, set some down for inspection and take the rest to a truck waiting on the curb.
Everybody working there looked a little nervous.

Now maybe I'm wrong, paranoid or just plain have too much imagination, because I suddenly was of the inclination that the store was being robbed and the enterprising criminals, probably interrupted by a nosy city dweller, had decided to cut out the middle man and had simply started selling the stuff right there. The cheek of the blighters. I mentioned my theory to one of the guys. Influenced by my insanity he drew pretty much the same conclusion.

So we'd walked into what I suspected was a robbery and the girls were so into the shoes they weren't even paying attention. Oh the dilemma. Do I scream like a little girl, give the game away and suddenly create a hostage situation? Leave everybody behind and save myself? Do I turn into SuperIdiot and apprehend the thieves? My body tensed as I plotted my course of action.

So the girls didn't find anything the liked and we wandered out with much the same speed had wandered in. Maybe the owner was too cheap to turn on the heat as he sent the slow moving stuff down to a reseller. Who knows? But as far as a shopping experience goes, it was memorable.
Either way it made for lively dinner conversation.

Barkeep...I thirst. Bring me solace and understanding on ice.

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