Sunday, May 23, 2010

Not for the Metrosexual

I'm not your metrosexual male**, in fact far from it.  I do have male friends that approach getting their hair cut from the same perspective as my female friends heading to their salon for a cut and perm. There are certainly some men-only and mixed shops to fulfill that need such as State Street Barbers in Chicago.  Even in smaller towns you likely will find something with a lot of added show (try Tim's barber shop). 

If on the other hand you are willing to go with something less than a "stylist" and take the opportunity to check the back corners of the inner city and suburbs you may still be able to find one of the dwindling number of traditional barbers, though it is getting a little harder as few young men or women are willing to pursue a career in a one-chair barber shop.  I have managed to find a couple of favorites, depending on my location.

Pictured above is the Third One Barber Shop in Estes Park, my usual spot for a hair cut when I'm in the mountains.  It is truly the classic, old time, small town barber shop where  Field and Stream is neatly stacked  next to the Playboys.  My neck is snugly wrapped, hair efficiently cut, and then a vacuum brush run over my head before unwrapping my neck so that I don't have itchy hairs in my neck the rest of the day.  The attitude is relaxed and the talk easy, and the tab is only $12 with tip.

** "The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis – because that's where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. Particular professions, such as modeling, waiting tables, media, pop music and, nowadays, sport, seem to attract them but, truth be told, like male vanity products and herpes, they're pretty much everywhere. For some time now, old-fashioned (re)productive, repressed, unmoisturized heterosexuality has been given the pink slip by consumer capitalism. The stoic, self-denying, modest straight male didn't shop enough (his role was to earn money for his wife to spend), and so he had to be replaced by a new kind of man, one less certain of his identity and much more interested in his image – that's to say, one who was much more interested in being looked at (because that's the only way you can be certain you actually exist). A man, in other words, who is an advertiser's walking wet dream."
- Salon Magazine

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A 9,000 Page Roman-fleuve

I was this past Christmas damned to spend endless weekends and late nights reading book after book about events of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars.  My daughter-in-law gave me the first in this series of 20 historical novels, and after reading it I was, so-to-speak, unable to not proceed to purchase the other 19 1/2 books in the series and displace many other books awaiting my attention.

The roman-fleuve (French, literally "river-novel") refers to an extended sequence of novels of which the whole acts as a commentary for a society or an epoch, and which continually deals with a central character, community or a saga within a family. The river metaphor implies a steady, broad dynamic lending itself to a perspective. Each volume makes up a complete novel by itself, but the entire cycle exhibits unifying characteristics.

Such is Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey–Maturin series of novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.  Each of these books starts and finishes with two friends, English Naval Captain Jack Aubrey and the Irish–Catalan physician/naturalist/intelligence operative Stephen Maturin, who when not eating, drinking, or playing their violin and chello take part in historically accurate accounts of British Naval actions.  The 20-novel series is a well-researched and highly detailed portrayal of early 19th century life, in particular life related to the Royal Navy, with authentic and evocative language and, I might add, occasional examples of early 19th century European medicine.

Throughout the series, the author-narrator employs the same idioms and vocabulary as the characters would have used during their times, and his characters probably would have conversed easily with those of Jane Austin.  In addition to this period language, O'Brian tends to use naval jargon with no translation for the reader. This combination of the historical-voice narration and naval terms is daunting at first (at least to me); but it seems that this "total immersion" effect takes hold quickly.  Sometimes, O'Brian explains (to we nautical and historical neophyte readers) these terms by having Mautrin tutored in these matters either by Jack Aubrey or some other seasoned seaman.

There is no "last book" that wraps everything up and ends the series.  A partially-finished twenty-first novel in the series was published posthumously as a thin hardback with facing pages of handwriting and typescript.  In "The Nutmeg of Consolation" (about book #13 or so) Maturin and Aubrey actually discuss the merits of a novel that does not have a real ending, a "final" chapter and conclusion, and I wonder if O'Brien was writing this with a foresight that the series would end only with his death. His final, partial novel ends in the middle of a story, but that is OK . . . I can imagine that Stephen and Aubry will go on and on, living forever their unique friendship and sailing the oceans for Britian, Ireland, Catalan Spain and for science.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another "Connection"

(click on image to enlarge)

It's always good to connect to one's past in some manner, and often that is through a physical connection with one's family or family history.  People live on in our memories, and when something stimulates that memory I often pause for a bit of . . . I'm not sure just how to term it.  It's more than nostalgia, it's a time when my consciousness drifts to past times and people, and those people really do live on in my memory.  Of course, for most of us, this only last for a couple of generations or so.

Many years ago, Barbara and I were on a road trip through France and saw a small sign "American Cemetery" pointing to the right.  With a brief nod to each other, we turned onto a narrow road that led us to a WW I  American cemetery.

The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery   is spread over 130 undulating acres in the northeast of France near the Belgian border.  This is the largest single burial site of American WWI casualties in Europe, almost 15,000. Most were victims of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive  in which the American Expeditionary Forces lost 26,000 killed and almost 100,000 wounded.  Barbara and I went to the visitor's center and were greeted by the manager of the cemetery who was a US civil service employee at this monument-cemetery near the French-Belgium border.  He seemed overly interested in us, asking lots of questions both specific and general.  As it turns out, there were very few visitors to this place, and he was eager to spend some time talking with Americans.  It was off the main road so there were not many "accidental' or drive-by visitors, and, even in 1974-5, the second generation family of those who were buried there were largely elderly or dead themselves so visiting family members were by then few and far between.  Do most of these soldiers really "live on in memory" or are they largely now forgotten as individuals?

Now, to the picture on this post.  My father retired from his last church ministry and wanted to physically step out of the way for the church to integrate a new minister.  To do this gracefully, he took up a locums position some distance away. . . in this case Raton, NM.  He would drive to Raton, preach for two Sundays in a row,  then return to Kermit, TX for a few days before returning to Raton.  Last Winter, Barbara and I were on our way from Estes Park to Palm Springs, and stopped in Raton to fill up with gasoline.   We decided to drive the town, and see if we could find the church where my dad preached, and indeed, as the picture shows, we were successful.  I took the picture, but then toured around the church a bit, with a strong memory of my father wandering through my thoughts.

Now, I certainly remember my father well, and my kids also have some fairly decent memories as well.  Any generation to follow that will have some stories to tell, but there will be no direct memory.  Beyond that, a few anecdotes might survive, but there will be no one who truly remembers Rev. John Floyd.  This is a little sad, but true.  Genealogists (like Barbara) doing their research are a good thing to have in a family, and artifacts like books or papers with the words will help.  Pictures certainly are more plentiful than in the past, but now we have so many digital pictures with no captions (can't use a pencil to write "John Floyd" on the back of a digital file, and most people have not annotated their pictures digitally. The digital file folder in most peoples computers is little better than the old shoe box full of prints.  I have a couple of thousand slides and at least that many prints to digitize, organize, and distribute to family members.  This is no small challenge, but I think important for the future generations (but even this is likely a bit of self-deception.)

Few of us will become well known to future generations or even future civilizations (think Julius Caesar, Aristotle, etc).  What I expect will really live on from my journey here is the change, however small, that may result from how I have lived my life and how I have related to my  my family, my friends, and every other human whom I have touched in some way during my life.  I hope on the whole I will have caused more good than not.