Category Archives: humor

Crown Barbers

Have gone several times now to a new barber, or barber shop, called Crown Barbers. It’s three hip and/or bearded young men in a shop a couple of blocks off the Fayetteville Square. The clientele is mostly young and (would-be) hip, some with beards, some without. The barbers are Clint, the owner; John, the youngest and newest; and Ben, who cut my hair this morning.

All do a decent job, and then some. I prefer them to my old barber, whose esthetic was confined to “You grow it, I’ll mow it,” and an older woman barber I used a few times, also not far from the square, who kept a pet dog in a cage and the whiff of just quenched cigarettes in the air and who sometimes did a good job and other times was not attentive enough and couldn’t bother.

Crown Barbers. Why Crown? ‘Cause they’re royals? ‘Cause they crop our crowns? Whether nobles or peasant, the three barbers do a good job, as I say. If Jack fell down and broke his crown, they might not be able to help him: they’re not sawbones, after all. But if Jack came in all shaggy and furry, they could do the job.

Clint, the owner, decorates the shop with posters and signs and a couple of taxidermied animals, one a stag with squiggly horns and the second a wild boar with snarling lips and protruding fangs. Did these animals belong to the crown, or to the peasants? It may be the peasants who do most of the hunting these days, as one was shot by a customer, the other by one of the barbers.

Harry Potter wand
An interactive Harry Potter wand of the kind sold at Universal Studios.

Couldn’t get barber Ben to talk much to me, though he did talk to his colleague John about visiting Universal Studios in Florida, specifically the Harry Potter exhibit, where he got a magic wand. This wand didn’t transform him into a scintillating conversationalist, for sure, but then I was a bit more tucked into myself than usual. I did offer a titbit about Halloween, two nights ago, saying if the kids coming to the door were too big I’d query, “Candy or brandy?”

Addendum: a neighbor, aka Ben, appeared in the shop just after I did at 8 am or opening. The place gets crowded, so it’s best to get there early and put your name on the chalk board to reserve your place. As usual, I didn’t recognize neighbor Ben when he greeted me. (He’s seen me several times in public, and it’s always like I need an insistent formal introduction. What’s wrong with me? Do I have prosopagnosia, of the kind that Oliver Sacks discusses in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat? Or would I recognize Ben readily enough if he were a pretty woman?)

More wine

So this morning, over breakfast, Alexa, the Amazon Echo personal assistant, mentions the actress Gabrielle Union’s new book We’re Going to Need More Wine. I’ll drink to that! I respond, without realizing what the book is about.

(After all, my wife and I resort to wine almost every evening. It’s not analgesic so much as joy. A day without wine is, well, like a day without wine. Our coffee bar testifies to our morning and evening rituals, or addictions, of coffee and wine.)

coffee & wine
The coffee / wine bar at home.

Union’s title is perlocutionary, isn’t it? It’s clever. It gets our attention, keeps it, directs us to the book. We want to see what she has to say, read a bit, see if we don’t want to purchase it.

On Amazon, I see that the subtitle is Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True. So it is, and it’s not, all fun and games. It’s complicated, you see. It’s true. And the puff for the piece explains,

In this moving collection of thought provoking essays infused with her unique wisdom and deep humor [oh, puhlease!], Union uses … fearlessness to tell astonishingly personal and true stories about power, color, gender, feminism, and fame. Union tackles a range of experiences, including bullying, beauty standards, and competition between women in Hollywood, growing up in white California suburbia and then spending summers with her black relatives in Nebraska….

Without reading the book, I would guess that wine enters, whether too much wine or just enough to anesthetize, in the “funny” part of the subtitle. Sure, let’s eat, drink, and be merry — whatever dreary or depressing or difficult truths press in on us. “Deep humor,” yes, might be in the wings if we buy and read Ms. Union’s book. “Unique wisdom”? I seriously doubt it.

Centenarian stories

On 5 September 2015 my mother would have been 100 years old had she been living. Unfortunately for her sake, and ours, she died about 24 years ago at the age of 76 . We have dearly missed Mother, genius as she was of the happy hour, when we would gather, parents and children, and tell happy stories of the old days. In our telling, that is, the days were happy, or the telling was happy, even while telling of struggles and dissension. The tales that Mom loved especially were about her struggles with Grandpa, her husband’s father. Old Grandpa Tony was what my dad called “old school,” meaning that he had very fixed ideas about behavior proper to men and women among other things. And my mother’s behavior did not fit in with Grandpa’s idea of what a woman should be like and what she should act like. My mother’s smoking, especially, enraged Grandpa. He would fume, not with cigarette smoke but with his Yosemite Sam temper, about Mother’s smoking. He would mutter, only half under his breath, so that everyone could hear, including Mother, unflattering things about “that woman and her smoking!”

With such stories we would regale each other, reinforcing types  and stereotypes of the dramatis personae of our family. Yes , in our telling, Grandpa was either an old-school tyrant or villain, on the one hand, or a clown, on the other, whose behavior was so rustic and so boorish that all you could do was laugh at it, especially these many years later.

The clown stories included episodes of Grandfather’s cheapness. He was so cheap, or tight, that he saved everything, for reuse, from newspapers to old bottles to plastic bags. He and Grandma Gertie, children of the old school and the depression, were fervent early recyclers not for the sake of the environment but their pocketbook.

The most comical story, could be, was told by my brother-in-law Russell Murphy. When Russ and my sister Barbara were first married and had several small children and lived in the suburb of Richfield , Grandpa called them excitedly one night saying, “Hurry! Hurry! You must get here before they come!” Before who come? Russ wondered. But he and Barbara and all the kids piled in the car and trundled up to northeast Minneapolis, a half hour or so away, the Polish part of Minneapolis where Grandpa lived. As soon as they pulled up to the curb, Grandpa ran out calling excitedly, “Hurry! Hurry! They’re coming!” And when Russ asked, “Who are coming?,” Grandpa merely repeated, “Hurry! Hurry!” and took them through the frontyard and then the backyard to the alley, where the noise of the garbage truck was approaching. “Hurry! Hurry!” Grandpa repeated.

What they were hurrying for, It turns out, Is the loads of windfall apples under the trees on both sides of the alley. “Hurry!” Grandpa panted. “Or they’ll be gone!” For he knew a good deal when he saw it, son of the depression, grandson of desperation, and his zeitgeist was not in accord with that that of the booming ’50s and ’60s. When Russ and Barb got home with their apples, they discovered a dubious windfall — most of the fruit at least half rotten, much of it needing to be thrown away. For all their labor, both coming and going, gathering and preparing, they ended up with a measly few bottles of apple sauce or preserves.

The old immigrant America, quaking in its impecunious boots, desperate for a few free chances, vs. the booming native sons and daughters, with their spendthrift and profligate ways. C’est la vie, non? Here today, gone tomorrow. And no one was starving.

We would tell these stories, as I say, and laugh uproariously. The distance between them and us! The distance of time, place, and point of view! The hilarity of their rustic desperation!

Of course, the day would come, and has, when our heirs would laugh their tails off telling tales, tall and short, about our eccentricities and peccadilloes. How frightened we were and shrunken! How afraid of every shadow that blew!  Now that they knew what was what, and what was not, they could settle back to their drinks, their food, chewing the fat of this generous land and worrying no storytelling bones.

Beware that Mozambique beer

Today’s newspaper carries a little item about tainted Mozambique beer.

So far, 56 folks attending a funeral in the island nation have been killed owing to the spoilage.

The traditional beer is called pombe, and it’s made from sorghum, bran, corn, and sugar.

But in this case, someone laced the drink, during the funeral itself, with crocodile bile.

So when you visit your area’s microbreweries, it might be prudent to test for contaminants. In particular, ask about crocodile bile. And be very cautious about sneaky looking people who may bear a grudge.

Gods forbid it could turn out to be your funeral too.

(A newer report suggests that 69 have died … and that crocodile bile may, or may not, be complicit in the deaths.)