Generations

Generations

AN OLD MAN, a newish camera, a sidewalk scene — and hereabouts I never lack for scenes.

Here are a mother and a daughter. They sell handmade jewelry. The father is a massage therapist who also plies his trade on the sidewalk. This has been going on for years.

A superior version of this photo, plus a scad of others, can — as always — be seen here.

The haircut

AS A YOUNG boy, I spent summers with my grandparents in southwest Georgia, and I got haircuts in town in a spot that could have served as a Norman Rockwell poster.

Zipping forward to the 1970s, I lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on two almost abutting occasions. One lasted 11 months, and the other lasted five. During the fiver, I didn’t get a haircut. It was the ’70s, so nobody noticed my shagginess.

But during the 11-month stay, I did get one haircut. I didn’t speak Spanish at the time, so I was hesitant to use a Puerto Rican joint. So I caught a plane to the Virgins.

GrumanGooseBWTitleIt was an old Grumman Goose seaplane that skimmed the seas between San Juan and St. Thomas. I knew I’d find an English-speaking barber shop in Charlotte Amalie.

I have no memory of where I got my haircut in the Virgins nor how much it cost. Those were my drinking days.

Before and after I lived in San Juan, I lived in New Orleans where I got haircuts on Magazine Street at an old-timey place that could have been a Norman Rockwell poster too, though you rarely spotted kids in there.

Rockwell was fond of children.

It was next door to Casamento’s Restaurant (Oysters). Some Italian guy cut my black locks, and he always finished with a head massage using one of those vibrating hand things.

That was nice.

That barber shop doesn’t exist anymore. I know this because Google Street View shows “Uptown Costume and Dancewear” in the same location. I guess the Italian died.

In Houston, a middle-aged divorcée who ran a one-woman shop in the basement of an office building on Richmond Avenue cut my hair, but in emergencies I’d use Supercuts.

poleWhen I moved over the Rio Bravo 16 years back I first lived 40 minutes down the mountainside in the state capital. I got my first Mexican haircut near the language school I attended. It was more of a ladies’ place.

But I didn’t care.

I got a haircut yesterday, which is what brought haircuts to mind. In recent years my hair’s been cut in an all-woman collective on Calle La Paz. If you exit and walk uphill about a block, you run into a church. If you walk downhill about two blocks you also run into a church.

Plenty of places to pray in Mexico.

Liliana gives me the best haircuts of my life, and she charges me the peso equivalent of about two bucks, but I tip her an extra quarter because I’m a giving sort of guy.

There’s a barber pole outside the door.

My hair has done an amazing thing. It started completely black, and now it’s totally white. Incredible!

Gray hair is God’s graffiti.

— Bill Cosby.

The Zapata Files

LET’S OPEN the 70-year-old file cabinet and peek inside.

Oh, dear. Look at the mess, the disarray. This is not a “Father Knows Best” cabinet. There appears to be neither rhyme nor reason nor direction. The files go this way and that. Let’s take a closer look.

filesThis cabinet seems strangely familiar. I do believe it’s my personal cabinet.

There’s a whiff of Boodles Gin. And ayahuasca.

Getting out of high school at the top end of my class, I enrolled at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Thought I’d major in philosophy. Weeks later, I dropped out and joined the military. A couple of years later, with only one stripe, I dropped out of that too. Better go to college, young man, because everybody does it. A path to success.

About seven colleges and universities later (really), from Louisiana to Tennessee to California, I got a Bachelor’s Degree in History, useless but better than nothing. In the meantime, I got married, became a father.

A file is tabbed Descendants. Inside are two sub-files. One is labeled Offspring. It contains two sheets. One is rimmed in pink and says Alienated. The other is rimmed in black and says Deceased. The second sub-file is labeled Grandchildren. That file is empty — and always will be.

And here’s a file labeled Siblings. There is one sheet inside. It is rimmed in rainbow colors and trimmed like sharp teeth. It contains two words: Alienated and Angry.

Let’s open the file labeled Marriages. There are three documents. Three wives! Here’s a file labeled Employment. The entry with the most sheets is Newspapering, but I never took a newspapering class in my life. What happened to the History degree? There are other pages in Employment.

I see taxi driver, bartender, insurance broker, insurance salesman, repo man and electrician. Electrician? Where did that come from? Let’s open the file labeled Schooling. Behind the Bachelor’s Degree in History are other pages. One is an Associate Degree in Electrical Construction Technology.

Here too is a document marked Incomplete. Looks like I was one class short of an Associate Degree in Computer Science. Digging farther, I find other papers. One says Certified Massage Therapist. Another says Certified Mixologist. (No shock there.) Another says Certified Private Pilot. Clearly, I was certifiable.

I often envy people whose life had a clear and straight trajectory. But perhaps I had more fun. I hope so.

I definitely had more wives.

The handy man

I have a bachelor’s degree in history, an associate degree in electrical construction technology. And I’m one course shy of another associate degree in computer science.

CableI worked as an industrial electrician for a few months in New Orleans, building a giant Schwegmann’s supermarket.

I’m a certified bartender, a certified massage therapist and a licensed pilot of small aircraft.

I served highballs and cocktails in two watering holes in New Orleans, getting fired from both. I’ve never done massage professionally, and I once flew a small plane off the runway in Slidell, Louisiana, right into the weeds.

Scared the bejesus out of myself. My passenger too.

I’ve never gone to church except to chase girls. I’ve never been baptized, never dunked into sacred waters, never sprinkled or even touched by a wet, holy hand, none of that sort of thing.

Though I toiled in newsrooms for about 30 years, I’ve never taken a journalism class. I couldn’t diagram a sentence if my life depended on it.

In college, I only took one non-required English course, and earned a C.

As a young man, I was a lefty. As an old man, I am a righty, a manifestation of the Sage Saying in the right column of this website’s home page. As you age, you should get wiser and more perceptive.

Alas, so many do not, which leaves the world in eternal uproar.

HandThough I’ve never worked as a pro masseur, possessing magic hands creates a better husband. Only the last of my three wives can attest to that. I came to massage late in life, in my 50s.

I’ve enjoyed our chat, though it seemed a bit one-sided.