Tag Archive | underestimating animals

The Barbershop Diaries, Volume I, Issue 3: Wolf Medicine Meets The Lady In The South Tower


Somebody's Wife, South Tower

One of the first things I did when I moved to Texas in 1995, besides trying to make a one night stand turn into a full-blown marital partnership, was drive – over night – to the Gulf Coast to buy a white wolf.  They said she was a hybrid, of course, 25% Malamute.  The rest was a toss-up between Timber and Grey Wolf.  I had been obsessed with wolves for years prior to coming to Texas.  Texas was the absolute last place I ever wanted to find a place to live.  But while I was here, by God, I was going to take advantage of my stay and satisfy my need – my hunger – to be with an honest-to-god wolf.  Dog.  Wolf.

Luna’s mother weighed in at 125 pounds, and her sire slightly more.  How it ended between my obsession and me is how all these things end – a lot of tears and a lot of regrets.  I wanted, desperately, to convince the neighborhood that it was “okay” that my dog left at night to go kick the snot out of a pack of coyotes and that she was just “playing” when she came home with gifts like an intact spine and pelvis of a long-dead goat.  She hadn’t actually killed anyone or anything.  She was not the type.  She was hugely shy and avoided human contact as much as possible.  But the Game Warden who also lived on the edge of “new suburbia” with us, I was assured by his neighbor, would not be as open-minded on the matter as I.  Too many young children running free in the neighborhood – they weren’t wild, according to him.  I had fruits and veggies shoved up the tailpipe of my wife’s VW Bug that proved otherwise, but I was outgunned, from out of state and from California.  I didn’t have a chance in hell of keeping my wolf outdoors and she was beginning to remodel the interior of my house, recover my leather furniture and gnaw on tasty antique table legs.

In my time with Luna I learned a great deal about myself and about wolf dogs.  We bonded quite powerfully.  I still see the old Native American medicine man whom I finally gave her to, gratis, because he had five acres and a girlfriend who was absolutely in-love with the idea of having a wolf.  Especially a white one.  I thought Luna would be safe out in the woods of Pipe Creek and in the haven of the sweat lodge of Crow’s Nest.

Not so much, as it turned out.  Somewhere around week two she met up with a porcupine who fired quills right through her curious nose and upper jaw.  I didn’t find out for weeks afterward and by then Luna was out of surgery and well on the road to recovery.  I had to let go.  Apparently so did her intended pack leader.  Said girlfriend left my Native American friend and his abundant collection of peyote buttons for the “posh” surroundings of Medina Lake.  I thought that would be that.  Lost forever.

Several years passed and I was driving around Medina Lake, half because I craved the lower blood pressure being out of town always offers, and half because I wanted to know that Luna was out there, somewhere, and doing well.  We found one another on a lonely country road as I was driving my new truck with my new wife and living my new life.  There she was.  I called her name.  She came to the side of my truck.  There were the scars one would expect to see on the nose and face of an animal attacked by a frightened porcupine.  She was nowhere near the 125 pounds of her mother, perhaps because she was half grown when the porcupine attack had happened – I can’t imagine anything tasted good to her for a long, long time after that.  Being hungry and getting impaled at the same time at that age…eating must have become a frightening option ever after.

She gave my hand a sniff and a lick as I patted her head.  Before I could shed a tear, she trotted off down the road towards her destination.  She may have remembered the last time I cried before and that didn’t turn out so well and, after all, we all have our lives to live.  I sat watching her trot down the road, my engine running and my new wife asking me, “who was that?”

“That was Luna.  It’s her,” I said.

Neither Luna, nor I, was ever very trusting of human contact.  We tried to avoid it as best we could.  There would be our circle of friends, people we could trust, and then there would be people we would tolerate having to be around.   Whereas a good Heeler or German Shepard – hell, a frigging poodle – would go out of their way to warn of danger and to patrol the area for her “pack,” Luna was not of this world.  Not Suburbia.  She could tell me more about how she was feeling by the look in her eyes than any human female could in twenty minutes of conversation and beating around the bush.  She wanted out of this place I had brought her to and wanted desperately to be free of the lunacy the two of us were living with.  In the end, we both got our wish.  Another lesson in obsessive love and letting go learned in a long, long list of more of the same.

Books on shamanic wisdom seem to coalesce on a few themes offered by wolf medicine.  Facing the end of one’s cycle of life with dignity and courage, death and rebirth, spirit teaching and social and familial values; these are the themes that come up when one reads the spiritual teachings of the shaman.  So it is altogether appropriate that this week’s haircut and shave begin with a little introduction into what I’ve learned and experienced with wolf medicine and its impact on my life.

Number one this week was a series of often funny, certainly light-hearted, definitely dismissively satirical reviews of the “power” of a Three Wolf Moon tee shirt sold by Amazon.  Sales of this shirt jumped 2300% based solely on the hilarity of the reviews offered by Amazon’s site visitors.  Even the BBC covered the phenomenon here.

The media have been saturated with stories about wolves and the popularity of the subject has been fairly ubiquitous for at least the last twenty years in the United States.  Small wonder, given my experience and the experiences of the shaman with wolf medicine, that fixations with ending one’s life cycle would show up all over contemporary America.  A person cannot walk down a city street without being struck by some “end times” message or meta-message.  And, true to form, America’s youth have been programmed, on cue, to find anything and everything about their cultural milieu, lacking, small and “lame.”  While this is certainly possible in most cases, the fact that it has been a fairly recurrent theme in just the last 100 years in the United States catches my attention.  It is almost as if we have been programmed to divide ourselves not just into different generations, but into compartmentalized cohorts, each one with its own peculiar sociological handles, cues, symbols and product identifications.

The compartmentalization extends even into shared pools of knowledge, such as the knowledge that water boarding is a form of torture.  Number two this week featured the video of conservative radio talk show host Erich Muller being water boarded.  Apparently Sean Hannity was all bark and no bite, so MSNBC host Keith Olberman awared ten thousand dollars to a charity founded by the man who water boarded Erich “Mancow” Muller.  Atheist and journalist Christopher Hitchens lasted 17 seconds – three seconds longer than the average person.  Mancow lasted anywhere from six to eight seconds, depending on which right-wing rodeo apologist one listens to.   Mancow was well below average like a lot of right-wing nut jobs who seem to permeate the firmament in and around Texas.

In his defense, Mancow admits to having been drowned as a child, perhaps even by accident.  Arising from the water board, Mancow was clearly in shock and readily admits that the procedure he had just undergone was indeed torture.  And yet the groupthink of the present media epoch pulls credulity towards dismissing water boarding as nothing when compared to having one’s head chopped off by a Saladin wannabe.  As if every Muslim or brown skinned individual should be considered guilty until proven innocent; as if every person designated by a cabal of useful idiots in Crawford, Texas to be “enemy combatants” deserves to be water boarded or have their heads lopped off.

Water boarding did one and only one thing useful to the military junta then in charge of the United States: it extracted tailor-made confessions from the person being water boarded.  Need evidence of WMD’s in Iraq?  No problem!  Locate a designated high-value al-Qaeda target and water board him until he confesses to his intimate knowledge of the nuclear weapons program Saddam Hussein was actively pursuing!  Next, show a masterfully edited version of the torture tape to a roomful of prominent amateurs and watch the groupthink descend on the gathering like a fogbank.  Bada-bing, bada-boom, you’ve got a pretext for a long, miserable, expensive war.

Wolves have dignity, hunt in packs, communicate almost telepathically with one another, and survive on fresh kills.  Hyena’s feed opportunistically on the kills of other animals.  Many people have gotten hyenas and wolves confused, particularly in recent times, because both are mammals and both have a similar appearance in the wild.  One species, however, is demonstrably canid and inclined towards familial loyalty.  The other species is a specialized offshoot of the weasel family and, in spite of their remarkably stout physique, would prefer to scavenge like vultures.  “Yes we can,” says the hyena, “but, you, first.”

Crying wolf was the order of the day in entry number three for the week.  Badness comes in threes, usually, but because of Canada’s advanced, sophisticated social strata, badness came in the form of four drunk girlie-girls crying “rape” when a cabbie not only refused them the illegal privilege of smoking in his Edmonton cab, he had the nerve to expect them to pay their fare.  Perhaps due to the foresight of a Middle Eastern man repeatedly harassed by Mounties, perhaps due to voyeurism, the cabbie had a camera rolling and recorded the entire incident of the four drunken females on his trusty digital video recorder.  Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to take advantage of the sympathies of at least one of four drunk females on the prowl, heroes sprouted wings and halos and cops were called on the offending cabbie.  Cops came – when they aren’t scoring donuts and drinking coffee, they’re looking for their next ex-girlfriend or ex-wife, just like the rest of us. 

Had Mr. Cabbie not been recording his fares, he would have been screwed for life.  Or, most likely, not screwed for life, as no box exists on a personals dating form for “divorced Muslim sex offender and former cab driver.”  

What is irritating about this incident is that the cops wouldn’t prosecute in the reverse direction – the movie, obviously raw and unedited, proved the cabbie’s story was true, so the forward-thinking cops were inclined to let the girls go on with their evening, behave irresponsibly, get more drunk, have wild, anonymous sex, get pregnant, have abortions and attend classes the following week. 

The cabbie is seeking a civil remedy claiming some sort of harm to his personal reputation, perhaps as a married man and a Muslim.  More narcissism in one entry on both sides of this issue than in any of our prior examined entries thus far. 

And what really annoys me is the thoughtlessness of these drunken females crying wolf.  It is hard enough for women who really have been raped to come forward about their violation and the criminal assault committed against their bodies without fearing that they will be doubly victimized as yet another case of “drunk, horny woman syndrome.” 

 (For those of you in the pharmaceutical industry with acronyminitis, that would be “DHW Syndrome.”  Now go make a pill and ruin what’s left of the sex life of the single North American adult male.)

Wolf medicine isn’t really a part of this week’s number four, but coyote medicine might well be a welcome relief as the city limits sign of Gold Hill, Colorado highlights inappropriate summary math.  Year established plus population plus elevation equals a bigger number than your town – so eat me, dude – I suppose.  No one in Gold Hill lives below the poverty line, but they do live above a line where the air is sufficient to sustain either common courtesy or a viable sense of humor.  I’ve been at Gold Hill’s elevation, and higher (try Gould, CO), and if you don’t acclimate properly (I didn’t), you can end up looking at a sign like this, walking by it and thinking it made enough sense to ignore it on a convulsive search for a place to lay down and take a nap to catch your breath.  The hicks of the foothills tried pulling the same trick here, too, but at only 2,000 feet above sea level, it’s not as witty as it is in the mountains just outside of Boulder.  Hick towns like to confuse tourists, but New Cuyama could have accomplished the same thing just by offering tourists directions through their sub-one-stoplight town.  New Cuyama, gateway to Cuyama – come enjoy a frolic at the Buckhorn Motel, or play a game of Washers with the local folks down at the C&H Market.  Due just west of Bakersfield and the final resting place of Country Music legend Buck Owens, the man even Porter Waggoner couldn’t out-twinkle. 

Rounding out this week at number five we have a work of artsy humor that was first crafted on November 16, 2007 at 10:12AM.  Art isn’t usually that punctual so it’s entirely possibly that this submission was due on November 15th at close-of-business.  But it has taken just over eighteen months for this email forwarding decision flowchart to achieve its rightful place between the barbercide-soaked combs and the industrial-strength hot shaving cream dispenser here at the ‘diaries.  There were only 8 people in the entire world that, like me, took the time to research where and when this work hit the web before it ever made Digg, and who then bothered to comment on it.  This sort of effort is what makes me one of eight special people on the planet – hell, the entire solar system – this week.  Doesn’t it just give you chills to witness history in the making?  Where else could you go, virtually for free, and experience just this sort of drama and excitement?  Never mind, I really don’t want to know…. 

None of my rattling narcissism, however, could ever come close to the creative mind and comic brilliance of “Brian” over at Shoebox Greetings – a tiny little division of Hallmark.  His portfolio of 190+ works of genius can be viewed here.  Stop by and enjoy his work and the work of his colleagues: it’s better than snickering in between aisles at the card store.

I suppose this week, like most of life, was a mixed bag of stunning narcissism and human thoughtlessness transforming itself into utter brilliance and a good natured smile of contentment.  This is the epitome of the grace inherent in wolf medicine.  It’s something we’ve needed in North America for a very long time.  For those of us who have an understanding of wolves, we comprehend why we see them depicted everywhere to a highly noticeable degree.  When the cycle says it is time, there can be no argument or further equivocation – don the cutting cape and quietly step up and take your seat.

When the shaving cream first goes on the warmth of it soothes the soul as it relaxes the skin and opens the pores.  But then the real magic of the barbershop takes over as men nominally trained to draw swords at the drop of a hat to defend honor and beauty, trust one another to utilize sharpened, cold steel to ritually whisk away body hair that probably thought it was doing a fair job for most of the preceding month.  The hair never saw it coming, but we did.  We always know when it’s time to sit still and trust another man to do the job we do not have the steadiness of hand, nor the drive of desire, to accomplish for ourselves.

Sometimes we pay a price when nicks occur and blood is drawn.  And if we find that we’ve trusted the wrong barber or barbershop, there comes a time when trust must take a back seat to setting things aright.


The Barbershop Diaries, Volume I, Issue 2: The South Will Rise Again — After This Word From Our Sponsor

No pain, no gain

No pain, no gain

This week’s narcissistic self-indulgences yielded 4 real snoozers and 1 quite interesting gander into the “mind” of a fundamentalist Christian.

Number one for five days on Digg, and in number two on Reddit for the last six days, is a short video of a young man, perhaps a gymnast, in a (yep, you guessed it) gymnasium with a large red rubber exercise ball.  Harmless and pedestrian enough.

The young man next rolls the red ball slowly out in front of himself and proceeds to follow behind the ball.  Just as two other gentlemen, perhaps coaches, leaning nonchalantly against a pommel horse in the background, come into the clip, the young man jumps, feet-first, onto the rolling red ball, allowing the ball to roll off his feet to his buttocks and up his back.  Generally, this is the end of this sort of maneuver as the average person’s agility tells them to bail off to the left or right before something severe and crippling transpires.

But not our young man.

In this all too nonchalant clip, the young man continues to allow the ball to roll to his neck and head, when he fully extends his legs backward and behind his now inverted body.  This move drives the back of the young man’s head deeply into the rolling exercise ball towards the back of the ball’s center of gravity.  Simultaneously, the ball accelerates as the young man is flung, head-and-neck-first, into the air. 

No one in the background or on camera is the least bit concerned or impressed as the young man continues to extend is body out and straight and the momentum from the accelerating exercise ball continues to gently spin the young man back onto his feet facing the direction he was headed with the ball in the first place.

Then the young man gives the ol’ index fingers from hips out to the camera, indicating that he knows he stuck this move, and so does everyone else.  No big deal.  Anyone can do this.  It’s as easy as rolling off a rolling exercise ball and not breaking your neck or fracturing your skull.

Some young people can’t help themselves — they seem to love to make older people feel, well…old.  The first time I saw Travis Pastrana stick an inverted flip on his 250cc motocross bike and land squarely on his two wheels, I was similarly stunned and envious.  Then young Travis went on to explain in a post-feat interview how many times he had fractured or separated vertebra, ruptured discs in his neck and eaten, God help us, hospital food.  I was no longer envious.  By the time these kids reach my ripe old age (upper forties), they will wish they’d just fornicated their brains out in high school and left the elaborate mating rituals to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  Gaining the experience and joyous revelation that young people have no respect for the wisdom of experience appears to be a concept that only actual experience can obtain.  Words simply do no justice to this phenomenon.  Comedian Ron White states the condition quite simply as, “you can’t fix stupid.”  I’ll be more generous: words cannot mean anything between parties when the parties involved do not share a common pool of experience.  In such cases, one or all parties are just pushing out air.

This submission owes a lot to Digg’s founder, Kevin Rose, who couldn’t help but to comment on the athleticism and precision of the young man in this video.  Kevin is an avid rock climber and has yet to burst into the over 40 crowd and has a good decade or so before he gets there in all his glory.

Communication appears to be the problem that befell this week’s number two (on the list for four days), a man being videotaped from a local helicopter as he attempts to shoot a charging police dog while steadying his handgun against the roof of his white subcompact station wagon.  The charging dog then leaps over the roof of the auto and, rather than ducking, the man receives the jaws of the police dog with his free arm.  The dog then wrestles the suspect’s testicles to the ground, followed almost immediately by the rest of the suspect.  Not to miss an opportunity for a free collar and the chance to handcuff an already subdued suspect, three of four police officers rush in to the scene to salvage what is left of the suspect’s genitalia.  The fourth, sidearm drawn, examines the suspect’s vehicle for free donuts. 

Question: why are we putting down close to 5 million canines annually when many of these animals could be drafted for military service?  A pack of no more than one dozen animals of this caliber could easily subdue a squad of Taliban, in or out of a Tora-Bora cave.  And they’d do it for an entire year for less than what we are paying out for a week of armed man-to-man combat.  War is hell, but playing “fetch” isn’t.

The communication problem appears to be a failure in our educational system as the suspect makes several errors in judgment that even a typical middle-schooler would not have made.  Error one, the suspect attempted to outrun police radios using a fluorescent white subcompact station wagon.  While your late model Dodge Colt may be equipped for time travel, there’s a pretty good chance that it will take longer for your Colt to reach light speed than it will take three squad cars and a police helicopter to corner you in a rail yard cul-de-sac.  And if one of the squad cars has a canine officer – error two, you’re tragically overweight and can’t duck below the roofline of your trusty starship – error three, you’re only packing a six shooter – error four, you’re going to jail for a lifetime of no respect.  Probably without your testicles.  Word up: crime may pay, but nothing – criminal or pedestrian — pays very well if you’re an idiot.

But being stupid isn’t just a United States criminal predilection: it appears to involve all of North America’s college students as a billboard near University of Toronto has featured our number three submission for a little over four days.  The billboard, no doubt retouched by a local graffiti artiste of questionable sexual tastes was originally intended as an advertisement for a cellular phone company attempting to “reach out” to the student body with suggestions as to what to do at 2AM on a typical night.  Two checkboxes, obviously a part of the original advert, suggest either calling a cab, or text messaging party information to all of one’s friends.  A third checkbox, done in a tasteful shade of red spray paint and checked-off, suggests anal sex as the obvious choice.

Profiling this bit of vandalism, I suspect the criminal mind of an undergraduate college student, perhaps high on marijuana or cocaine.  The individual graffitist, likely overcome with a case of the giggles, risked their buzz and their academic record to climb askew this billboard near Spadina and Dupont in downtown Toronto to make this witless, omni sexual statement.  I’m sure it was funny at the time, but the next day the message probably wasn’t as funny to this section of Toronto’s homosexual community, nor the billboard advertiser who had to clean this vandalism up, post haste.  Of course, now that we know that the billboard was neither a Pattison, nor a ClearChannel, we are left to suspect not an inebriated college student, but, instead, a “hired gun” working for one of these two competitors.  I’m leaning towards a ClearChannel consultant because I’m living near San Antonio, Texas, and I’m aware of the ignorance of the May Family and the after-effects their brand of social “leadership” produce in neighborhoods and “heezies” all over town.  I put nothing past a family that “proudly” supported the presidential aspirations of George W. Bush not once, but twice.

Submission number four, five days and holding, is just a vacation photograph from Southeast Asia.  Everyone loves to ride the elephants and loves to watch the way these Thai boys command the respect and obedience of these large, but not Africanized, elephants as they cruise leisurely through the jungle.

Something went terribly wrong in this photograph because the bull elephant at the rear of the caravan decided to ride the female elephant just in front of it.  Insertion was accomplished to the smile of the female elephant and the horror of the middle aged woman riding atop this four-legged estrogen factory.

Noteworthy, other than the size of the bull elephant’s member, is the look of success and amusement on the face of the young male patron riding atop the successful bull of the caravan.  One would think that a healthy amount of fear, or at least caution, would be in order; however, the young vacationing male, perhaps an aficionado of fine “Jackass” outtakes, almost adopts the bull elephant’s mating success as his own.  Note to self: inspect the genders of the elephants in any caravan of these mammals and ensure that any females with engorged, oozing vulvae are avoided entirely.  As much fun as these elephants might be having together, they could easily ruin the fun of any mortal human that gets between them.  Permanently.

I have to stretch this week’s coiffure to five simply because it is so reminiscent of last week’s number four.  This week, the parent of a middle schooler responded to a teacher’s request for acknowledgement and waiver for a field trip to a geological museum by spewing all manner of fundamentalist Christian nonsense about the world being only 6,000 years old and the Earth having been created in a mere seven days by the Master of the Omniverse.

Some people should not be allowed to raise children.  There, I said it.

So consumed with fear and loathing that their world will soon come to a glorious and pious ending featuring the vaunted Jesus of Nazareth gliding towards them on a cloud, that these people are making their own children mentally ill.  No room for interpretation or metaphor exists for these people as they waste no time witnessing to everyone who crosses their path of their intention to leave this world in one, big, vacuous and righteous, “poof,” known as the Great Rapture.

Visit this site and prepare yourself for Rapture, Christians.  The sooner, the better.

Arrogance and waste were the backbeat this week, gentle readers, with a strong aftertaste of misunderstanding.  I recall the only time I came home with head lice as a kid, and my father hit the ceiling.  Gene the Barber was mortified.  It was my mother’s fault, my fault – everyone’s fault but my father’s.  That’s how I learned just how devastating and damaging an emotion guilt can become.  My father had taken all the shame of growing up poor and Polish and turned it into seizures of guilt that would stalk him like a hungry lion for the rest of his life.  The thought never occurred to anyone that, perhaps, head lice weren’t anyone’s fault.  That maybe, just maybe, we humans unconsciously call these little creatures from out of nowhere as a way of bringing us closer together, as a way of bringing us a different perspective on our shared responsibility for and to each other.  I know I never felt closer to my mother than when she actually reciprocated all the attention I have given her as a child when I combed her hair, as she was combing every strand of my hair with a fine toothed comb, as she was endlessly shampooing my hair, my sister’s hair and washing our bedding every day for two solid weeks.  All this just to prove that we were, “different” from all those “poor niggers” across town – like being black around a bunch of white people was something black people should be grateful for even while we were supposed to detest every waking moment of the experience of being anywhere close enough to them to contract head lice.  Lice didn’t jump from one head to another; it was a disease that we contracted because we were supposed to be allergic to being poor. 

When did being black in America equate to being a pariah?  That’s a good question captured inside a very stupid, almost rhetorical line of inquiry.

For me it happened when I was hauled out of my best friend’s house on Sunday morning just as they were making “hotcakes” – French toast at our house and at every white person’s house I ever knew growing up.  My father, a native of Philadelphia, had no problem yelling at me from their front stoop that I needed to get my ass out of there, and then yanking me up by my tiny arm and slapping my ass a nasty shade of red all the way home.  I wouldn’t be able to attend the local barbershop, and certainly I couldn’t be seen at our shared place of worship, if I spent any time at all around those black people down the street.  City of Brotherly Love, indeed.

Suppose we actually understood what everything in this life was for…. 

Oh, wait a minute — that’s been our problem all along.  So shame equals guilt and guilt equals inadequacy and no matter how large your male member becomes, an ounce of guilt buys you a ticket to an impoverished state of perpetual misery where no matter how much money you make or power you acquire, the hole in your chest only gets deeper.  Wider.  More painful.  And then, one day, it beats no more.  The hole swallows itself.

Getting a haircut, for real, is serious business; as serious as the state license my eyes would always fix on while the razor buzzed and the scissors snipped.  No amount of athletic agility, depraved indifference, mastery over one’s environment, abject goofiness or obedience to the dictates of an imaginary cloud being is going to change the truth of any matter.  Nor will my understanding of truth make the hole in my heart hurt any less.

Thank whatever God you believe in that it’s just a haircut.