Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I’m not going to start a retrospective on the tenth anniversary of this site — hold your applause — but as I was looking back at some early posts I found one that is timely to revisit.

Most everything I said in Hair and Back Again remains true.

In fact, I still have not had a salon haircut since.

And I sure as hell have never entered another barbershop.

I have cut my hair a few times, though. Literally. With my owns hands. Holding scissors, of course.

I’ve never gotten over my severe aversion to having another person hovering around my head with sharp or buzzing objects, so these days I handle that stuff myself.

Mind you, when I say handle, I am referring only to a roughly semi-annual trim.

I’ve been fortunate over the past few years to not feel — or be much better at ignoring — social pressure to keep my hair in any sort of “neat” way, so my default look has been long and unruly.

Now, alas, the day draws near when change must come.

I may be able to ignore mainstream hair norms, but I cannot ignore nature.

My hairline, always high, is creeping upward. My thickness, ever on the thin side, is diminishing.

I long ago decided I wouldn’t keep a sparse mane or, worse, be a guy with a ponytail in back and nothing up top. And while I yet have time before those coiffures could come to pass, I’d much rather get ahead of the game.

Cuts are coming. Maybe colors, too. Might as well have some fun with it while there’s fun to be had.

Ten Damn Years

Happy anniversary to lastgreypoet.com, which was founded on Oct. 1, 2010.

I didn’t start writing then, of course, but it was at that point that I started to really want to write for myself, after years of writing only for pay for others.

Sometimes, like when I had a newspaper column, that meant I got to write more or less what I wanted. Most days, though, I wrote what I was paid to.

Thus, this place. My place.

It started on Blogspot — remember Blogspot? — but I soon sprang for my own domain, using my longtime online moniker.

Of all things, my first post here was about baseball.

Since then I have been consistently inconsistent in my posting. Good days, bad days. Bad years …

Anyway, thanks for being here, even if it’s your first day.

Tip of the Hat/Spear/Your Pun Here

I woke up this morning thinking about tipping.

No apparent reason, just where my brain went upon waking.

Waking early, I might add. 6:10 a.m. finds me at the keyboard with energy, so a brief treatise on tipping is what you get today.

(My brain interrupts me here to point out that a treatise is technically a longer and more formal work than what I am attempting here, and I should probably use the term spiel instead. Okay, brain, okay. Can we get to it now?)

I strive to be a good tipper. 

I have a solid floor of 20%.

That’s the bare minimum I can scribble my name to without feeling guilt. 

It’s also a minimum predicated on a couple of assumptions.

Assumption the first: I tip on the whole bill, not the pre-tax amount. I do this because it is more generous, and the math is easier.

Assumption the second: I tip on alcohol. Considering my drinking tendencies, this raises the floor considerably.

Now, I’ve read tipping guides that advise you to not do those things, to which I say: Fuck off. I’m trying to be a decent human here.

So, we’ve set a floor. Is that enough?

Sometimes it isn’t. If I am, for example, eating alone at a Waffle House, the tab can be a single-digit number. In such cases, I have a $5 minimum.

Why $5?

As My Friend Who Likes To Punch People For Recreation once so eloquently put it, giving someone a dollar today is like your grandpa giving you a quarter when you were a kid. It’s pat-on-the-head money, not a living wage. I won’t leave the equivalent of a small pile of change on the table, and I don’t believe a diner server should get stiffed just because they didn’t get a steakhouse job instead. Start at $5 and go up from there as if that were 20%.

Having set the floor, it’s pretty easy to raise it. Decent work merits 25%, and I’ll go 30% for someone who makes me laugh.

Wait, wait, I hear.

(And I pause at the unintended pun, then realize there is no such thing as an unintended pun once you acknowledge it. So, leave it, or make a different choice, writer-person.)

Wait, wait, I hear.

What if their service was bad?

Read the room. Is the waitstaff busy as hell, working multiple tables? Is the kitchen backed up? Are there complicated orders (from your table or others)?

These are all reasons to raise your tip, not lower it.

What if they were rude?

How rude we talking? Southern rude? Did she bless your heart? Northern rude? Was the word fuck uttered as a casual adjective? Northwestern rude? Indifference?

Again, read the room. Put yourself in those shoes.

(Geez, you should have good shoes to wait tables.)

Try to think of a reason to hold steady or raise the tip, rather than look for ways to lower it.

Maybe it’s a first day/bad day/last day. Maybe their dog died. Maybe their lover is leaving. Maybe they don’t have a lover, and they are confused about love in general, filled with despair at the existential loneliness that is life, waiting tables to pay the rent on a place they don’t like but is (barely) affordable, living without parents who can afford to offer financial assistance that, even if such were possible, they would turn down on principle, and the power bill is due …

You get the point.

(I people-watch and sometimes daydream lives for the mental exercise. No, wait — that’s not the point. The point is …)

You never truly know. Err on the side of giving someone a living wage.

Which brings me to geography.

This spiel is focused on life in the States, as our (wealthy, developed) nation nonetheless has basically no laws in place to provide a living wage to members of the service class.

Tipping isn’t a nicety; it’s a necessity.

If you feel that shouldn’t be the case, fine. Vote and advocate accordingly. I’m with you. Meanwhile, tip well.

Which brings me to the assholes.

Low tip? Change on the table? Always looking for reason to lower the tip?

Assholes, all.

Then there are the very special assholes, the ones who don’t tip on principle.

Buddy, get some better principles. I get it, you saw Reservoir Dogs at an impressionable age, and Mr. Pink’s anti-tipping tirade really moved you.

a) You’re an asshole.

b) Everyone in that movie is an asshole.

c) Tarantino is an asshole.

d) Joe, while still an asshole, was correct: “Never mind what you normally would do. Just cough in your goddamned buck like everyone else.”

e) You’re an asshole.

What Stage of Grief is This?

I have a song stuck in my head.

Round and round on a loop, I hear it.

Getting a song stuck in your head is a common enough occurrence, but I am one of only a handful of people capable of having this particular song in there.

Once, on a cold night in Maine, I sat playing cards with The Empress of Whisky, her father, and her uncle. It may have been snowing; I can’t recall. It was definitely cold, though, and when I say that, I mean the Mainers were saying it was cold. So, you know, death to anyone born south of the 43rd Parallel.

Anyway as we sat playing cards and drinking*, my father-in-law began to sing.

*(I should make a note about the drinking. I don’t recall everything exactly — not because we drank that much, but just because it’s been some time — but I suspect The Empress of Whisky was living up to her name, while I may have had a strong beer or whisky, and her uncle was drinking something vodka-based, likely a gimlet. My father-in-law, however, almost certainly had a glass of Grand Marnier. He occasionally indulged in a Heineken, and he would gamely try anything — oh, the fun we had taking him on brewery tours! — but, for preference, it was always either that beer or his favorite orange liqueur. On this cold night, I’m certain it was the latter.)

There’s a phrase about people who play card games: “Winners tell funny stories; losers yell, ‘Shut up and deal!'”

My father-in-law always told funny stories, win, lose, or draw.

He also told stories during dinner, on car rides, while watching sports … the man was full of stories.

He was also full of life. Big, bold, life. Gregarious is the word that keeps coming to mind — so apt for him.

He would sometimes sing.

The whole family is musical, mind. They all play instruments, and they all sing on pitch, in time, and with harmony. It is not uncommon for one to break into song, with the others then joining in. It’s rather beautiful.

On this particular night, my father-in-law began to sing, his big, booming voice bringing forth an unfamiliar tune.

Despite the unfamiliarity, The Empress and her uncle were quickly harmonizing to the lines, and eventually I even found myself humming along in tune. (I do not, generally, sing.)

It’s a happy song, and it’s a perfect song for a cold Maine night, and we’re all smiling along as my father-in-law deals the cards, making up lines as he goes, everyone following along … when the song turns unexpectedly bawdy.

At which point we all cracked up and both song and game had to be put on hold while we composed ourselves.

For the rest of the night, usually upon some significant play in the game, one of us would sing or hum the melody, and that’s all it took to crack us all up again.

So that’s what’s in my head. A song that originated with four people and is now known to a handful more (all family) through a bit of judicious sharing, generally during another night of drinks and games.

It’s in my head, and it won’t go away; it just temporarily fades only to pop back up, much like it did the night he composed it.

And every time it does, I smile a little.

But then, he was always making me smile; why would that stop from beyond the grave?