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Shaving my beard after five years

After five years with a full beard, I suddenly shaved it off on Wednesday morning. I warned no one. I had made the decision on Monday, after toying with various styles of barbate coif.

I had not even trimmed it since the September attack on New York, and it was going to be a big job. Certainly it was too emotionally complicated an event to tell my wife about. I didn’t want to have to explain myself, or to have any parties to the decision. Better to surprise her, along with everyone else. Here, I would go solo, come what might. My wife has always said she didn't like the beard. My mother made spitting noises when she first saw it, and has frequently urged me to shave it off. My grandmother would sometimes turn to me and say, at any pause in an unrelated conversation, "I have a razor." She also told me more than once,

When your grandfather and I were courting, one day he shows up with a moustache. I says, 'No more kissing till you shave it off!' So he went straight to the bathroom and borrowed my father's razor.
But I liked it, and didn't let their opinions sway me.

But now I had set my mind on pogonotomy. On Tuesday evening, I quietly plugged in my long-unused beard trimmer to prepare the battery. I went for my morning walk on Wednesday and bought some shaving supplies, things I have not owned since four households ago when I was in graduate school, including some witch hazel scented with rose water. I love witch hazel after a shave.

My wife was already up when I got back, so I waited until she went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. I put on some music, locked myself into my bathroom, and turned on the shower to conceal the sound of the trimmer. Two minutes were enough to remove the hair, but there was a mass of stiff stubble to clear. (I think "stubble" originally refers to the tough stalks of grain-plants left in the ground after reaping.) It took some 20 minutes of careful work in the shower to get my whole face smooth. I managed not to cut myself, rather to my surprise. I had thought my skin would be tender after all these years of being covered in fur. Perhaps it was because I was using a new blade. My wife did notice that I was in the shower longer than usual, but suspected nothing.

Her reaction to the clean face was to cover her mouth and stifle a scream. She continued to groan for at least half an hour. All day, she kept making up her mind to look me in the face, then squealed and turned away. In spite of her many complaints about the beard, she was not particularly happy that I had shaven it off. She said I looked too young; she would be arrested for child molesting, she said. At first, she wouldn't let me kiss her, saying she couldn't stand the feel of the smooth skin. Today she is more used to it.

I am not sure I am, though. I had forgotten that underneath my gruff beard there was a sensitive Jewish face. With the beard, I got used to being yielded to in situations like scrambling for a seat on the subway or getting on the bus out of turn. I wonder if I will have to struggle more now that I look younger and softer.

To make the effect even more pronounced, I went out and had a haircut. Now I really do look quite different. At the University the first day, people who know me walked right past me, not recognizing me. Have I become anonymous? A little. That's an interesting sensation.

I had meetings with two A students that afternoon. They recognized me when they saw me, but said nothing. The Chinese student betrayed nothing on her face to suggest things were not completely normal; the Irish kid goggled a little but made no comments. This is one of those occasions when the teacher can see clearly the effect of his authority on the normal student - although our dealings often seem friendly, in fact they are not equal, and you mustn't mistake the ordinary teacher-student relationship for a normal friendship.

On the second day, a classroom of Chinese students said nothing until the very end of class, when the Evangelical student blurted out, "Why did Teacher shave off his beard?" He has considerably more difficulty controlling his emotions, and rarely prepares for class - on the other hand, sometimes he gets flashes of insight that have not been granted to his more studious classmates. I could see, however, that the other students, though better in control of their mouths, were just as curious as he was. My second class, with American students, responded as soon as they saw me with gasps and comments. Truly, these are different cultures.

Well, why, after all, did I shave it off? Certainly I felt it was the right thing to do. I suppose in some sense it was an unemployment beard, a hermit's beard - I grew it first in 1997, at the end of the second year of what would turn out to be a five year wait for a tenure-track job. It was a crushing, wrenching experience. I now am finishing my second year in a tenure-track job, and somehow I guess I feel I am finally over the worst of the emotional damage. The beard can go.

I have also kept my beard untrimmed since the attack on New York - for what reason I cannot say, except that it comforted me. But recently I have realized that I am largely healed from that event, as I have described in an earlier day-log. The beard can go.

I have shaven off beards twice before. Once was at the end of college, after breaking up with my girlfriend of many years and preparing to go overseas for an unknown length of time. And once was before I started spending time at my future wife's house in the Taiwanese countryside after things had become serious between us. For it is well known that a son or son-in-law does not wear facial hair in Chinese society if the father goes clean shaven. To do so would be a sign of arrogance and disrespect, and in that case everyone would comment on the beard.
last day-log entry: April 19, 2002 | next: April 29, 2002
Well since the last daylog I wrote, things have gone exactly as I had assumed they were going to, down the fucking hill faster than Hermann Maier in the 1998 Olympics.

I don't understand it sometimes....life that is. Makes no sense to me whatsoever....but that's another daylog in itself....

It seemed like recently I was writing about how amazing I have been feeling. Funny how that can change in a matter of hours.

I guess for some reason, it just doesn't feel right to me what happened. How quickly and easily you managed to pull me in, and then just as easily push me away. Or rather, pull yourself away. I suppose I can't blame you. I can't do anything about the fact that you refuse to attach yourself to anything right now, especially someone else. I can't do anything about the fact that you don't want to feel, can't be bothered by feelings, especially those of another.

But why did this have to end the way it did?

You ended it, and then preceeded to stay over my house, in my bed, turned away from me. Leaving me to lay there, staring up at the ceiling thinking about how wrong it was. How wrong it was that there we were, together, and yet not.

And then when I tried to leave the room because I couldn't sleep and was upset you wouldn't let me, and instead you pulled me into you, and held me.

How am I supposed to respond to that? Where am I supposed to go from here, when I know that it is fear that is keeping you from me and that is it.


I feel lost now. I told you I never wanted to say goodbye to you, and you, you told me I would never have to....and now, now you are forcing me to let you go.

I don't want to give up this easy. I don't want to just accept this and try and move on. Not this time. This time it is different...there is more....there is something that I can't put into words at work here, and you are the one that is throwing it away.

Time will pass I suppose. Perhaps we will stay friends, perhaps not. For some reason I am not going to be surprised if you don't stop by before you go to work on Saturday to say hi.Oh, did I forget to mention that we work right next to each other? Yeah, that's an added plus....chuckle..chuckle...

But in all seriousness, if that happens, I think a part of me is going to die on the inside. And I am not trying extremely hard to be over-dramatic, I am being honest.

My heart is like broken glass. Shattered by a few simple words. And I hate that remembering you and remembering your smile hurts right now. That was never supposed to happen.

All I can do now is hope that this isn't over yet.

But I fear that I am wrong and I hate that more than anything.

Standing at the door of the Pink Flamingo crying in the rain.

It was a kind of so-so love, and I'm gonna make sure it doesn't happen again.

You and I had to be the standing joke of the year.

You were a runaround, a lost and found and not for me I feel.

Take your hands off me, I don't belong to you, you see.

And take a look in my face for the last time.

I never knew you, you never knew me,

Say hello goodbye

Say hello and wave goodbye.

David Gray

As Dane observed, grilling season was here last week but I was unarmed. The weather was beautiful, and I was outfitted with bottles of savory juices but no meat. I had plenty of ammo but no guns. A pile of ordinance but no cannons. Lots of bomb belts but no eager teenagers dying to be martyrs.

So I bought a large sack of assorted chicken parts frozen in a solution of not less than 10% magnesium salts and frost. This was with the hope of eventually soaking the assorted parts in Caribbean Jerk marinade, which has the delightful tastes of fresh papaya and Jamaican oppression. I find it fitting that my favorite meat soaks are something called 'jerk', and I have started a fine collection of various jerk sauces in anticipation of a lovely charcoal spring.

Charcoal spring is gone. Grilling season is over. Cold is here, snow is now. Right now the giant vacuum could descend space and steal our atmosphere and no one would complain. Go ahead, take our foul weather! May it bring you a frosty death!

I have a exam for my saxophone in about umm....3 hours or so, it will be the last exam I take and I am so fucking glad. For the past 6 years these certain exams have plagued my life, constantly practising pieces which have interest for me, im a jazz player, and Classical i cant stand playing.

Im not saying I dont like listening to classical, I just cant stand to play it, it doesnt sound right, I mean playing Bach on a saxophone?? its ludicious. At the moment I am studying Debussy in my music class, to narrow it down some more, I am studying Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune which he wrote in 1892-1894 and I do really like this piece I think it speaks a whole new language, and it did indeed change of lot of things around that time.

At the end of the day we all have our own opinions which is cool, I just cant stand playing something which I get no enjoyment from, and thats what its all about really, enjoyment, you all these players including my self trying to make a living in crappy clubs, and earning shit, yet they still do it.

Musicians are a special breed they love the music and will do virtually everything possible just to play.

That’s it, done with my reserve service. Well 3 more days in an office. But I’m done with old MACK semi trailers, MAN 15 ton trucks and loading them all up with anything and everything from brand new Merkava Tanks to US Army surplus jeeps.

Went to my battalion’s home base for the big release party, saw a lot of old friends and a lot of my new ones from this past month. One of the guys is a professional cameraman in his civilian life so he made us a movie of the whole mission, we laughed and cried and saw ourselves in the middle of the night sleeping outside, in the morning brushing our teeth and combing our hair in truck mirrors and working around the clock. “Margol” or Margalit Tzanani a famous Israeli singer sang us “Mizrachit” or Eastern music and we all danced and got on stage with her. The General came up to saw how proud he was. All in all it was a nice party.

I Said goodbye to everyone as they were all getting released and don’t have the 3 extra days I do… I also went home early from the party to get some sleep, while they had a long night of bureaucracy ahead of them. I said goodbye to people who would be going back to their families, their kids, their wives, and their girlfriends. They would be going back to their jobs as sysadmins or parking attendants or salesmen on Sunday, the factory workers and truck drivers would be working by Saturday and a few would be going back to the university or the unemployment office.

We hugged or shook hands, some of us exchanged phone numbers, some jotted down e-mail, and some just ignored each other. The last words “Hope next time we meet as civilians” (The optimists) or “Until the next war” (the pessimists) and some good lucks all around.

I said goodbye to my new commander who told me of my new position on the staff and what it would require of me.

I didn’t get a new rank as many did (I am a First Sgt. and although a lot of people thought I deserved it, I don’t have enough service days to go any higher) but they decided to spill some water on me as the custom goes anyway.

It’s hard to write this now, it’s just spilling all out, after a month of hard work, thinking of no one but my soldiers and their needs, being back on my own is a bit strange, eating when I want, what I want… and not just whatever’s near, when I can.

I will really miss some of it, there is something about hanging around with 40 guys working outdoors together, sleeping in tents, and eating in a 400 man dinning hall that makes you feel good at the end of the day. (Whenever it ends.)

About the politics of it all? Well, everyone has their own opinion… I think I’ll just go on and go back to my life and let the politicians, newspapers and American broadcasters worry about my so-called future.

First Sgt. Falk (Reserves)
35th Transport

That’s it... (until my annual 2 weeks of service in November).

Life DOES go on....

So I wasn't scheduled to come to work till 2pm but there was an email from the president of our company about a meeting at 1:30. So I show up a little early to the meeting and everyone is quiet, walking around on eggshells. And I hear a rumor, layoffs....

So at the meeting, our president says "We aren't making enough money, we grew too big too fast.... First quarter wasn't as good as expected." 8 people lost thier jobs today, or were layed off. This to me prompted an interesting intellectual debate mostly in my head. Whats the difference between being fired and being layed off? Is one better to take as a person or give out? Or does it actually matter in an interview process. I was laid off from last job vs I was fired? Just something to mull over as I go about helping people who are now infected with the Klez virus because they didn't have an antivirus program.


After breakfast, we headed toward Rheims, our objective for the day, winding our way gently through the southern Ardennes from Sedan. We stopped at various villages on the way, looking at the churches and so on. We got to Rheims about lunchtime, and ate at a café in an ugly modern shopping centre which looked like a bunch of Swiss chalets. Opposite the shops was the site of our first visit: the Basilica of St Remy, the archbishop of Rheims who baptised Clovis, King of the Franks. The present building in about a thousand years old, and stands on the site of a monastery which dates back to Roman times. We spent an hour in the church, marvelling at the architecture and the skill in rebuilding - the church was gutted by shelling in 1917. The church forms part of a World Heritage site, along with the Cathedral and the Palais du Tau, both of which we had seen on a visit last year, and the Musée St Rémi, which is where we went next.

The Museum holds a vast collection of material from prehistoric times down to the Renaissance, and is housed in the rebuilt cloisters of the abbey. We spent a fascinating couple of hours wandering around it, looking at Roman pillars carved with the images of syncretic Celtic deities, medieval statues recovered from shelled buildings, and relics of the city's Christian heritage over the past 1700 years. Of particular interest at the Basilica had been a wall covered with diamond-shaped medieval stones with leaded pictures of bible scenes on. In the museum I found a stone from the set which I realised had been missing from the wall in the church: the destruction of Sodom.

Then we moved on, through the steady rain, to the Piper-Heidseick champagne 'caves' - extensive cellars running beneath the streets of the city. Although not part of the extensive Gallo-Roman and Medieval catacombs incorportated into some of the other firms' cellars, the Heidseick complex is nevertheless over two hundred years old in part. An electric 'gondola' car took us through the passages, where the history and technique of champagne production is illustrated with an impressive light and sound display. Piper-Heidseick is Hollywood's favourite champagne, and part of the exhibition consisted of signed photographs of film stars past and present drinking the product or visiting the cellars. Our fellow-passengers in the car were an American couple, and after the tour was over, we all sat and tasted champagne together and chatted. Eventually, we had to walk back to the car and return to Sedan for dinner, which was again pleasant.


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