Monday, December 14, 2020

The Messengers of Clarksdale


In the Earth’s early days, at some locations the Mississippi River was ten miles wide.  Today it’s more like a half mile.  One of these locations is the Mississippi Delta.  Rich in farmland and a unique history, in 2018, I spent time in the heart of the Delta.  Clarksdale, Mississippi.  A place of which you’ve never heard.

Clarksdale has a niche tourism industry.  The Blues.  Legend has it that Blues guitar great, Robert Johnson sold his soul at the Devil’s Crossroads, to said Devil.  A friend of the town’s mayor is Morgan Freeman, was kind enough to open a blues club there.  Blues pilgrims continually flock to Clarksdale.  There are a handful of blues clubs there.  Without Freeman there would still be blues tourists, but his name created a bigger economy.  Butts in seats and locals punching timecards.  The wealth has spread…a bit.  I'm sure some businesses benefit the trickle down of his club’s impact.  Some many are on their own.

One such beneficiary is the Shack Up Inn.  The coolest place I’ve ever stayed.

Ever.  EV-ER.

Shack Up Inn.  Look it up.  I stayed in the cabin that once housed Blues great, Pinetop Perkins.  Along with most creature comforts, my former sharecropper’s cabin included the piano where Pinetop taught a certain Ike Turner how to play.  If that doesn’t get you to their website (below), then I just can’t help you.

My first full day at the inn, I was sitting outside of the main building, trying to get some sort of cell signal.  I was enjoying a cocktail and marveling at the grounds when I saw a woman taking pictures.  I said, "I assume you're visiting, too."  She wasn't.  She was local, taking pictures for the Shack Up complex’s marketing plan.  We talked about the town a bit and she told me how people are working towards a resurgence in the less-trafficked parts of town, especially the historically black business district.

The previous evening, I drove around town after leaving Morgan’s blues place.  I saw a bar with some black men gathered outside the entrance.  I hadn’t planned to stop, so it didn’t faze me.  Truth be told, I wasn’t so sure I’d be welcomed there.  It’s not like I thought I’d be stabbed, but I was in a strange town, seeing a place that wasn’t listed on any tourist websites as a must-see.  However, I was drawn to the sign by the door.

Ping Pong Nightly.

Say no more.

I chose to not go in, but made a mental note about the place and investigating it the next day, which is what I had been doing before talking to the photographer.

She continued, "You know, if you want a great Clarksdale experience, you really have to go to Messenger's."  I couldn't but interrupt.  "PING PONG NIGHTLY!" I cheered.

"Yes!" she said.  I told her I'd seen it and wasn't sure about it.  She gave me the full story.  The oldest, singularly-owned bar in Mississippi.  The Messenger family has owned the pool hall and cafe since 1907.  I knew where I'd start my evening.

Messenger’s is located in a section of town called The New World.  In the early 1900’s, when Clarksdale flourished as a cotton town, it was a multi-cultural breeding ground for jazz, blues, and ragtime music, of clubs, bars, juke joints, and, of course, brothels.  Like most cotton-rich Southern towns, times got tough when farming changed.  Today, the New World exists mostly in historical markers.  Most brick storefronts are boarded up and some just look so dilapidated it’s looks like a rundown movie set.  There are plenty of churches though.  Few businesses remain, but recently a few new places opened near Messenger’s.

I walked in, hoping for multiple ping pong tables with some decent games in progress.  My game was rusty, but in a short time I felt I could lose respectably.  Sadly, one table and it folded up against the wall.  I knew it was a pool hall, but it was really a pool hall with a ping pong dream.  Still, it was pretty cool.  Imagine a pool hall from The Hustler.  1950’s.  Paul Newman.  The place was fitting of men in suits with skinny ties and fedoras, engulfed in cigar smoke.  Instead, I saw empty tables and a couple of older black gentlemen watching NBA playoffs on TV, and a woman at the bar.  A Messenger.  I told her their local friends said I needed to come there for the Clarksdale experience.  I didn’t mention “great”.  No need to put pressure on anyone.

I bellied up for a beer.  The place drew me in right away.  The bar was more like a counter.  No liquor, no beer taps, but an Enjoy Coke wall menu from decades ago.  The kind where you change the menu one letter at a time.  Drinks were kept in a picnic cooler.  I ordered a bottle of Bud.  The going price was $2 and each came wrapped in a paper towel.  Like a paper towel koozie.  I met the husband when he came up to the bar, then he left to puttered around the place.  The wife stayed and became my friend.

To give you an idea of the quality of my visit, after a couple of beers, I told the wife/owner, “I had planned to leave and go listen to some live music, but I’m having too much fun talking with you.” 

Truly a great Clarksdale experience.

Messenger is the family name of the bar owners.  113 years’ worth.  It started with the father.  He died and later his wife was murdered.  Messenger’s closed.

Their daughter and her husband own the place now.  Marthella and Sherman.  Marthella was a teenager when Messenger’s no longer had an owner, and her and her siblings were headed to foster care.  However, her older brother George left a good military career in Germany to save the day.  “He gave up his future to make sure we were ok,” she said.  Messenger’s was back. 

She offered me a tour of the bar and their next-door cafĂ©; walls covered with photos from the many eras of Messenger’s.  I passed.

Right.  Do you think I’d really pass?  Have you met me?  I was ready to move into the second story apartment and run their online presence!  There’s none, except for a rather splendid Yelp review.  Wink, wink….

She showed me around the place.  Most of the pictures and some news clippings involving George.  Beloved in Clarksdale.  Involved in the community.  An avid runner and athlete.  In January of 2018, George died.  He was 78 and Messenger’s closed…again.

George’s sister and her husband reopened Messenger’s in April 2018.  It’s slow going, but they’re committed to bringing it back.

There was a point in my visit where I really wanted to get beyond the Messenger’s history and to Mississippi’s 1950-60’s notoriety.  A few miles from Clarksdale is a very small town called Money.  Money, Mississippi is where Emmitt Tills, a teenager visiting from Chicago was brutally murdered.  Some say it launched the Civil Rights movement.  Two white men were arrested.  In classic fashion, an all-white jury found the two white men not guilty.  A short time later, their confession was printed in Look Magazine (below).

“There’s something I would like to ask you about,” I said to Marthella, “and if you don’t want to discuss it or it’s none of my business, just say so…but you lived here in the 50’s.”  I just left it there.  She paused for a moment and said, “Well we knew to not be on the other side of the railroad tracks after sundown.  If we were, we’d get killed.”  Her voice tailed off and she said, “Things aren’t like that anymore.”

I trusted she meant the literal over the figurative.

In the 1950’s and likely some of the 60’s, if the owner of Messenger’s walked a few hundred feet and crossed the railroad tracks, remaining after sunset could get himself killed, as would his young daughter.  Because their skin produces more of a certain kind of melanin.  Because they are black.

Hmm…if only there was a quote about judging by the content of one’s character, not skin color.  There is.

More people should try it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Spitting in a Plastic Tube: 23 and Mike

Most of my results weren't a big surprise. My parents are both of British and Irish descent. That's what family stories would have me believe anyway. However, I have since learned that no one is 100% anything. People migrated all over Europe, taking their DNA and these things called Haplogroups with them. When asked, I'd tell people i was 100% Irish. Sure, I knew that wasn't really true, but saying you're roughly 75% is boring. plus, at 100 I’m allowed a lot more leeway with not tanning, drinking whiskey, and getting into fistfights.

Haplogroups.  Yes, they’re a thing.

My mom is very fair-skinned. I am the same. Basically, I hate the sun. I’m also at the age where the dermatologist is prepared to slice chunks of skin off my favorite blistering spots. I’m hoping to keep some semblance of a nose, but hey, Michael Jackson got away with a stick-on schnoz, so who knows. Dad on the other hand, was a brown-eyed, bronze god. he never, ever sunburned...yet he was supposedly the purebred Irish one. I’d add that dad had very minimal on body hair.  I, on the other hand, well...Chewbacca. I would say I get that from my mom, which is probably true. However, let's get one thing straight. My mom is not circus people.

My DNA breakdown is 99.7% European. 78% of that is British/Irish. I’m also 10% French/German and 4% Scandinavian. I guess the 10% explains my love of invading and promptly surrendering. The four...that part of me that is dead inside and cannot express joy? "But Mike, 78% is awfully close to that 75% you thought you were," you say. Yes, but after doing some family treeing, I think at best I'm 40% Irish. It seems that when my British ancestors weren't exploiting my Irish ancestors, they were busy in other ways.  But, certainly,  with the lights off.

In other news, my maternal haplogroup is H. From what I gather, it means that 18000 years ago a pretty good-sized group carpooled out of the Middle East to Europe. So why doesn't my DNA just say that I'm middle eastern?  How the hell would I know?  I'm just a sun burning/drinking/fighting/invader-surrenderer with a mostly alive soul." My paternal haplogroup is R-S661. It hales from just 3800 years ago, likely suburban middle east. 15000 years of urban sprawl and all.

Here’s something fun. The DNA report comes with something called Neanderthal Variants. As a refresher, Neanderthals were ancient humans who bred with anatomically modern humans before becoming extinct 40000 years ago. Anatomically modern.  I’m guessing no tails. I'm happy to report that I have a total of 325 Neanderthal Variants. That means I am more Neanderthal than 98% of you.  Can you say, “Tail envy?”

Without taking you on an archaeological dig, here's a bit of Neanderthals history. My people were a hearty people. We adapted well to cold weather. We created tools for hunting and tanned the animal hides to make loose-fitting clothing. Pretty practical since Spanx were a good 45000 years from invention. We lived about 40 years, mostly dying from fighting close-quarters with the animals we hunted. That and lack of good health care.  However, referring back to anatomically modern reference, of which the Tail people were not, we were known for one specific detail.

Big heads. Large craniums.

Here goes. I have a huge noggin. Like, I have never met someone with a bigger head. Not like I'm issuing challenges at the bus stop, but when someone references a big head, I can settle it with one question. "Can you wear a hat off the rack?"  "Well, yes, but..." Case closed. I win. I'm only able to buy hats online. Same place I buy my loose-fitting animal hides. Yes, it's a non-profit. After all, we're an endangered species.

Truth be told, though compared to the rest of you anatomically-modern types, I am all Neanderthals, it only makes up 4% of my DNA. That's interpreted into different sensory and physical characteristics. In my case, and I'm dead serious about this. My Neanderthal genetic marker indicates that I'm less likely to sneeze after eating dark chocolate. Yes, we Neanderthal like a nice, dark chocolate. We like it for the cacao, a provider of many minerals and flavonoids. Our non-sneezing was huge because wiping your nose with an animal hide hanky was brutal.
(Note: It's been awhile, but those days are over.  All of this non-face touching has really freed up my schedule!)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

To Pass or Not To Pass

Durango was a cool town.  Surrounded by mountains.  Old west tourism meets the outdoor recreation.  It’s a place I could have stayed another night and roamed the town.  However, my next stop was a Kitty visit and we don’t keep Kitty waiting.

Durango is in southwestern Colorado and I was going to Evergreen.  Foothills west of Denver, near Red Rocks.  In March, you have to keep an eye on weather forecasts.  Snow in the mountains can be a bit unpredictable.  A forecasted flurry and a strong wind turns into zero visibility.

I traced out my route on a map.  For the younger crowd, a map is a silent, paper GPS.  I used my vast AAA membership benefits and got maps for my entire route.  I did use the route GPS suggested, but needed the  map when I lost GPS.  If you lose GPS when driving in your city, imagine losing it on unknown mountain roads.

An hour out of Durango, I stopped at a saloon for a shot of Rye and a poker game.  Ok, that didn’t happen, but when you say “an hour out of Durango“, you should run at least into a posse chasing rustlers, or a rye-serving saloon.  In truth, I gassed up the Uhaul in Pagosa Springs.  Was making small talk when the clerk asked, "Are you driving through the pass.  “You know, I have no idea,” I said.

Turns out I was driving through the pass.  She warned me of very high winds up there.  I thought she said 85 mph.  I don’t think my girl, Sacagawea does well with an 85 mph crosswind.  She told me to take heed of the warning signs as I get closer.  

One should always take heed of things locals tell you are worthy of such heeding.

I was 30 minutes from the accent into the mountains.  Some might be hyper-focused on that kind of thing.  Perhaps hurry and get through it while the getting is good, not that you’d know either way.  I, however, don’t work that way.  Remember, it’s the journey, people.  So when I see horses at roadside, it’s time to stop and say hello.  No such much me, but a certain Cranky Bunny likes to mingle with other species.  Although, you’ll never convince me that horses aren’t really just two people in costume.

A pulling-over I did.  There is video of the encounter (see link at end of story).  Suffice it to say, there was love.  There was bunny-horse love.

The coast was clear.  An electronic sign at the final turnaround point advised that only wide-load vehicles were prohibited.  I’m of the belief that wide-load vehicles should be prohibited most hours of the day on any road, but let’s not get political.

“If you want an idea of the accent you face, look to those who are descending.” - Me

As I drove up, the vehicles coming down where moving at a crawl.  Kidding aside, when an SUV is creeping at 20 mph, Mr. Uhaul’s not going to screw around.  Biggest issue I now faced, what’s going to be my accent/descent music.

Pretty obvious.  Pink Floyd, live from Rotterdam.

The accent went well.  When I peaked at Wolf Creek Pass (alt 11,000 ft) and it was a bit intimidating.  Not so much for the current conditions, but for the plowing that must have taken place within the last 6 hours.  From what I could tell, there was an avalanche that covered the road.  At least the leftover snow…4 ft high and 10 ft wide, meant no 85 mph wind was blowing me into the abyss.

The descent was everything I expected.  Not a place to screw around.  15 mph most of the way in a Uhaul with no one passing me.  If someone was an asshole driver, they were at least smart enough to wait until they hit the foothills of Evergreen.  Again, Coloradans are shitty drivers.  Worst I’ve ever seen.  At least with common sense to take another car with them though.  Not going to skid off a mountain when you can cut someone off and cause a wreck.

As much as this Pass was uneventful, the next two were more interesting.  It’s pretty cool when you’re on a very flat road for miles and miles, but on the horizon you see mountains, and even better you see a storm obscuring part of the horizon.  It’s like driving right into, not just the storm, but the cloud causing the storm.

It’s on.

Early, Kitty texted to find out my location.  I greeted her with an enthusiastic “Saguache!”  My second time there, to which she replied, “Where’s that?”  I wanted to tell her “it’s right where it belongs”, but there were cars in the ditches.

Instead I took a picture of the impending storm and said, “There are cars in the ditches.  The Uhaul is handling fine.  I’ve never felt more alive.”

Video of the Cranky Bunny finding love

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Navajo, Yoko Ono Cover Band

When I flew into Phoenix I was surprised by snow-capped mountains as we approached the airport.  However, I also knew that the Grand Canyon is sometimes closed because of snow.  So a cold Flagstaff morning didn’t surprise me, but what did was the gale force winds.  True, I’m not sure what a gale force wind is, but neither are you.

“Blow hat off your head and kiss it goodbye” winds.

I wasn’t sure of my route for the day, but I knew I’d pass through Tuba City.  It was on the way, but even if not, who among us isn’t imaging a city named after the often mistaken musical instrument.  People, you’re mistaking a tuba for the sousaphone.  Leaving it at that.  Tuba City also reminds me of something I’d see on a 1990 Late Night with David Letterman.  Dave asking the clerk if they sells trumpets and the clerk saying, “No, just tubas.”

The drive would be all Navajo or Hopi Indian Reservations.  Rather excited for Hopi, because if we all remember 6th grade, the Hopi Indian lived in Adobe huts.  I learned maybe four things in my entire school career and that’s one of them.

1. Hopi Indians….
2. “Power tends to corrupt.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” - Lord Acton
3. Iconoclast translated means “image breaker”
4. Brittania est insula.

Navajo country is rough on the radio stations.  I found one.  It was Navajo Public Radio and, when in Rome…they played Navajo music.  Drums and chanting.  Nothing against it, but I think it does better when included as part of tribal dancing.  God bless the Native American.  Seriously.  We Europeans have screwed the shit out of them, but their music…it rivals Yoko Ono.  

Hell is a Navajo, Yoko Ono cover band.

A signpost up ahead.  Grand Canyon South Rim 79 miles.  Never been, but I hadn’t planned on going there this trip.  Just didn’t think a busy road full of tourists and a Uhaul would mix, but when I did the math a little bit later…30 miles from the Grand Canyon and not stopping?  Just silly.  The Brady’s would be very disappointed.  Yes, referring to the episode where they road donkeys to the bottom of the canyon.

The Grand Canyon can best be described as grand.  Like really, really grand.  Best obvious decision I’ve ever made.  I asked the Park Ranger where to stop if I only planned on spending an hour and he hooked me up.  If you’re in Arizona or Las Vegas and don’t go to the GC, shame on you.  Just shame.  I wish I would’ve poked it with my finger because I’m pretty sure it’s just a painting.  A masterpiece.

I should add that on the way I saw the greatest advertisement ever.  A hand painted sign that read “Navajo handmade jewelry.  Stop and say hello.”  One of a few dozen roadside stands I’d see that day, but I had to say hello, right?  The ad wasn’t a request.  It was an order.  For $5 I got a bracelet and talked to two very nice Navajo women.  I told them I stopped to say hello.  One said the sign was her late husband’s idea.  The man knew his advertising.

I still haven’t checked a map, but I think I passed through the Painted Desert.  I looked painted, but I was distracted by the still very strong winds that were now a sandstorm.  My next option for really cool destination was Monument Valley.

Monument Valley is every cowboy movie every made and the jogging in the desert scene from Forrest Gump (I’ll include a link to a picture).  The problem with this stop was timing.  Burning daylight.  A lot of this on the road.

Crunch time.  Decided on Highway 163 to MV.  Knowing I had a hotel booked for Durango, CO, if I skipped MV I wasn’t sure I’d want to backtrack the next day to MV.  This was all very complicated map stuff, so just go with me.

Monument Valley at dusk is like being on Mars.  Maybe cell service is better on Mars, but both places had the same number of humans.  So cool.  Intimidating.  A lot of 90 degree angle geography that gets pretty creepy looking as the sun goes down.  Reminds me of a first grader cutting out around the teeth of a construction paper pumpkin.  They might want it to look smooth, with sloping foothills, but it ends up being a lot of jagged, random cuts that just don’t look like something nature would create.  Nature created MV, but God only knows how.

I felt like the only vehicle on the road for the hours I had left.  It doesn’t bother me.  It’s kind of cool.  It’s the time when I’m sure half of my face is going to get sunburned (movie reference you should know) or I’ll see Bigfoot.  

I reached Durango just in time to enjoy all restaurants being closed, but the grocery was open.  Just gave me that much more naked hotel time.  Don‘t worry, I haven’t forgotten.  We still have to discuss NHT.  When I get to Kansas.

Forrest Gump in Monument Valley video

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sacajawea, My Sweet Ride

Sacajawea was a Native American woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition from the northern plains over the Rocky Mountains, to the Pacific Ocean, and back.  On the side of my Uhaul was her picture.  Love at first ride.

After a few nights in Phoenix, the first stop was Flagstaff.  I’ve never been there.  Not been to much outside of Phoenix.  When weather is extreme…Minnesota is sitting naked on a giant bag of ice.  Phoenix is being scalded with hot coffee.  Winter in Arizona is summer in Minnesota.  I'll let that soak in.

Ten minutes into my drive I find out that Sacajawea’s breaks are solid.  An accident happened a few cars in front of me and everyone/everything survived.  Biggest concern was the snacks my sister-in-law packed for the journey.  Cheese & Sour Cream Ruffles intact!

I didn’t have a set arrival time for Flagstaff.  I’ll get to Flag.  Yeah, college town.  If there was nothing for me to see on the way, then I get there before sundown (we measure things by sunup and sundown on the road).  Flagstaff seemed to have some ok restaurants, a few Uber close to my hotel.

However, Mike and his lovely Indian maiden had a date with history in Prescott, Arizona.  No Sedona stop.  Whether it be -a Vortex or static electricity from a meditation rug, none of that held a candle to Prescott.  It especially didn’t hold an ice cream cone to it.

Some won’t even recognize this history.  That’s what the internet is for.  Marino’s Mob Burger and Ice Cream.  Forever it holds a place in Mike’s folklore.  For in the 1960's, the movie Billy Jack was filmed in the surrounding area.  Quite sure some don’t remember this movie, but might remember a few scenes.  Mike remembers, and after all, it’s my folklore.  So I went off the normal path for about 30 minutes into Prescott.  I found appropriate parking for my sweet Indian legend and was on my way.

I found a seat right where I wanted.  The counter.  The kind where one gets a root beer float, a double cone, or a scoop of flour poured over their face.  Yes, for I was sitting at the place where the young Indian students were refused service, and the bad guy proceeded to “make them white” by pouring flour on their faces.  At this point in the film, the hero, Billy Jack arrives in his classic, straight-brimmed cowboy hat and tells our bad guy that this kind of treatment makes him go berserk. He uses his supreme martial arts skills to ruin some people.

A nice bucket list item for me and you probably understand why driving solo is often for the best.  It was an excellent get.  I wouldn’t go hours out of my way for it, but 30 minutes was a no-brainer.

The place had changed.  We’re talking 50 years ago.  Few customers even know about the movie, aside from the poster on the wall.  I knew it.  I sat in the same freaking spot where Billy Jack kicked ass!  One tin solider rides away...  Youtube links at bottom of story.

The young man at the counter knew the story and told me some history of the place.  That’s what you get for two scoops of Gelato.  I told him more about the movie and what happened in the restaurant.  Also introduced him to TCB, showed him a video, and explained that history.  He loved it.

Interesting thing about the Prescott Town Square, there were at least three ice cream places on the square.  I actually had to compare Google Street View to the film.

It was a fun visit.  No great, life-changing experience, not on my end, but perhaps on the counter guy.  He got to meet The Cranky Bunny.

Billy Jack goes berserk.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Road Trip 2017 - Pretrip Preface

I like road trips.  I like solo road trips.  Not because I want to be alone.  Sometimes I do.  It’s easier to do what I want, be on my own schedule, etc.  However, the biggest thing it does is make me mingle.  I like mingling.  There are few strangers on my road trips.  You can create memories traveling with someone, but you will create them when traveling alone.

Is it lonely?  A few years ago I traveled by myself for 45 days.  That got lonely towards the end.  After a week?  No way.  It’s just nice to experience things on your own accord.  Be your own boss.  I’m to blame for stopping at the Navajo Jewelry stand, or regret not stopping.

Also, no one else snores.  Once I close my hotel room door, the clothes are gone!  More on that later, because I know you want to know more my hotel naked.

So this road trip.  Sis-in-law mentioned moving her mom from Phoenix to Iowa City.  I volunteered to help months ago, especially with my long distance driving skills.  A few months later, she asked and I said I’d be interested if the timing worked out.  I was asked again as plans were firming up.  I was given the chance to bow out, no questions asked.  Honestly, my initial reaction was “no, I better not do it.”  What if something comes up?  Like with a lot of people, for me it can be easier to just say no.  “No” keeps me safe because it eliminates “what if”.  I hate “what if”.

So for that exact reason I committed on the spot, period.  I’ll do this road trip.  Period.  My only caveat, I could dilly-dally.

The art of the dilly-dally.  I could have made this Phoenix to Iowa City trip in three days.  Interstate all the way.  I would have if it were required, but it wasn’t.  So, I didn’t.  The destination just ends the journey.  Wow...

“The destination just ends the journey”-Mike Brennan.  

There are interesting places along the way and some cool people, too.  Granted, what I considering interesting, you might not, but still.  Explore.  Dilly-dally

“A life without dilly-dallying isn‘t living.”- Mike Brennan

Next - Off like a truck full of herds of turtles driven by a guy who isn’t used to trucks full of anything.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hair today. Waxed Tomorrow.

In the early 1990’s, I performed standup comedy.  I did a good ten minutes on being hairy.  The featured part of that was my hairy back.  Lots of material there, literally.  Just as much material when I got it waxed, figuratively.

A hairy back isn’t something playboy playmates list as a turn-on.  It’s made the turn-off list a few times…I’m told.  However, it’s not a relationship deal breaker.  However, admitting to it early on is.  Providing you avoid early dating beach and pool situations, you should be fine.  Eventually, when your shirt is off, there’s a good chance hers is too, and the coast is clear.  I’d be lying if it didn’t used to make me self-conscious though.  Just that moment at the pool when the shirt comes off and people‘s thoughts go towards the great ape in the swimsuit.  The thing is hair just means more testosterone (that‘s what we hairys say anyway).  Nothing wrong with that.  Yet, a hairy front is considered sexy.  Why was a hairy back so…well, icky?  And to the men who shave their chests…”men” (definite air quotes).

Still, like I’d rather not be bald, I’d rather not have a hairy back.  If simply for easier living.  Having a full head of hair makes it easier in the summer.  A sunburned scalp hurts like a grease splatter during naked cooking.  Mostly kidding, just wanted to give you the visual of hairy, naked cooking.  Back to simplicity, not having back hair just means less shedding.  If I don’t keep up on vacuuming, it’s pretty much guaranteed I can rub my finger a few inches along any part of any floor in any room in my house and pick up a hair.  Not a ‘curly’ hair, just a hair.  I shed.  Less hair, less shedding. It eases this hairy man’s burden.

So I decided to pull the trigger, er…pull the hair, if you will, and get my back waxed.  I had a long weekend at the beach coming up and figured I’d try it out.  Rather than go to some fly-by-night waxing outfit, I made an appointment at a Spa.  A mall spa, but still a spa.

The de-waxer met me at the reception area and took me to the room.  A nice room.  Typical new age music, scents, and dim lights.  I took my shirt off and laid on the table.  Larger than massage table with a high tech crock pot of wax nearby.  It used to have leather straps when waxing was used as a torture method against the Italians in WW2.

The way the process works is a follows…
Step 1: Put warm wax on hairy area.
Step 2: Put a strip of cloth over the waxy area.
Step 3: Rub cloth a bit so it adheres to wax.
Step 4: One, two, three and yank the cloth hard and quickly.

The resulting yank pulls out the hair by the root.  If successful, I should add.  The first yank I experienced can best be considered a false start.  The car engine didn’t turn over.  She pulled and the cloth didn’t budge.  “Sorry,” she said.  Did it hurt?  Think of it this way.  With that yank, my skin made a better effort to be pulled off my body than the hair did.

“Where does my back rank in terms of hairiness?”  I had to know.  If you’re going to have a hairy back, you want to be top 10%.  “You’re up there.”  My bathroom rug-on-the-back badge of honor..

After the initial oops, she…we got into a rhythm.  True confessions, I experimented with some at-home dehairing. Masking tape.  Never limber enough to do more than my shoulders…and all it really did was thin things out.  What it did do was prepare me for the pain.

There are places I would never ever wax.  I also think there are places you can’t wax.  Example, I’ve never heard of anyone waxing his head.  I think your scalp would pull right off.  I’d also never wax my chest.  I had half of it shaved for shoulder surgery and it wasn’t pretty.  Body hair tends to lessen the obvious.  That I’m a quite pasty.

So we conquered the shoulders well enough.  However, as I suspected, as she took the wax down my back…ouch.  The rest of the back didn’t like waxing. At that point, I was ready for the leather straps.

There’s not a spot on a male that should ever, ever…ever get used to waxing.  The closest a man should get to hot wax is when dripping it for placement of the candle in the carved pumpkin

But let’s get back to the horror.  I’ve sugarcoated the experience and aftermath.  It was a donnybrook of the back.  By the time she was done, it looked like she’d had a banner day squirrel hunting and came away with a couple of dozen pelts.  I can only imagine what her garbage can is like after a day of peak man-waxing season.  She probably sells off her results to a Locks-of-Love group from hell.  Perhaps a third world sweater manufacturer.

Hirsutes for the Angoraphobic! -TM

The waxing part was as expected.  It wasn’t going to tickle.  It didn’t.

The aftermath.  Wow.  The awful secret.  Never again.

I wasn’t out of the mall when my back spoke, “You’ve done something weird and now you’ll pay.”  It then screamed with waves of prickly sparks of heat.  Hundreds of hot pins.

It mellowed out after a couple of minutes.  The next lesson was that evening when I showered.  Research shows the average person showers with a water temperature of 105F.  On my naked back, 105F felt like 205F.  I didn’t expect this and when the water hit my back, I screamed.  I’m not a good screamer.  I go from my normal baritone or my rarely-heard teenage girl.

The journey of surprise continued  the shower.  The shower had been surprise-free…hmm…for a long…long time.  Toweling off.  In my younger days, there was never an issue.  And no, I wasn’t born with a hairy back.  I’m not Curious George.  However, once I was waxed, toweling off my back became impossible.  Like using a towel on a wetsuit.

There was so much friction between my towel and back, I had a better chance of pulling my skin off than I did drying off.

Appearance.  I thought it would look normal the next day.  Friend told me it looked like I’d been strung by a hundred bees.  Up close, I noticed that roughly 20% of the hairs weren’t truly removed.  They broke off just above the root.  That meant two things, that some hair would start growing right away, instead of the six months it would normally take.  Also, it looked like a few hundred wood tick heads were stuck in me.  Their little spines sticking out.

So, I tried it, but it was just silly.  Who in their right mind believed it?  I looked like the before photo of a home remodeling job.  My front was 1970’s deep shag carpeting.  My back, linoleum.

*Haven't posted anything in awhile because I'm working on long-term project.  Thought I'd write a little something fun.