Drostan’s Tears

Some way past Ellon, following the now muddy path which the Formartine and Buchan Way had become after a night and a day of successive bands of thunder storms, I asked her:

“So, this walk of ours, from Aberdeen to Mill of Aden, if it’s something of a pilgrimage as you suggest, then why are we doing it? What’s its purpose?”

We left the hotel near Aberdeen train station – on foot and in high spirits – two days before.  The morning was glorious, the seagulls calling out above us in a bright blue sky as we made our way north through the granite-clad streets to Old Aberdeen, to St. Machars Cathedral where, to our surprise and delight, we found relatives, or at least surname-sharing Adans buried against the southern wall, just below the stain-glass window of the maidens Faith, Hope and Charity.  Just the day before we had raised a glass in the Market Arms in Hadden Street, an Ichabod of a pub if ever there was one, to my forefather Charles who lived in the street in 1853.  He married Jane, at house number 33, in November of that year. So yes, we knew there was Adan family history in Aberdeen; but these members we did not know.

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We got carried away, lost track of time in St Machars, and when we emerged again the rain had started.  No worries; we had seen the weather report earlier that morning and knew it would not rain heavily or long.  We pressed on along the Great Northern Road toward the trailhead at Dyce rail station where our walk would officially begin, chuckling at the “No Golf Practice” sign planted on the wee bit of grass outside a council estate, and snapping a photo of the now pointless “EU Remain!” posters hanging in the windows. Yes, we’re definitely in Scotland.

The rain never did leave us completely and so, tired and soaked, and staring down an ever more dark and ominous sky as we passed along the hillside above the little village of Newmachar in the late afternoon, we relented and sought cover. The woman in the coffee shop at the activity centre helped us contact the local inn which, thankfully, had a room.

Next morning all the world was bright again. And I was sore. My right ankle and left hip complained mightily about the extended walk of the day before, and continued to complain as we passed through Udny and onward to Ellon. After a mere 8 miles I could go no farther.  We hobbled into Ellon, found our way to an inn and checked in early.  It was a fine summer day, the nicest we’ve had all year, so after a shower, a rest and two ibuprofen, we enjoyed a wander around town, sans rucksack, the discomfort of the morning melting away with the help of an iron brew flavoured ice cream cone.

The storms returned that night, or rather early the next day.  Renata loves lightening and thunder and so, after catching the forecast on the evening news, I left the curtains open in the window of our room so she could enjoy the spectacle when it arrived. Of such is love made after 33 years.

I awoke to a scene to which Cecil B. DeMille could only faintly aspire. Heavy clouds of no earthly colour were laced with terrifying stabs of lightning; ear-numbing cracks of thunder heralded the arrival of torrential rain. Renata was already sat straight up in bed, smiling from ear to ear.  I tucked my head under the duvet and eventually went back to sleep.

At breakfast – the full Scottish but we’ll pass on the black pudding, thank you – we faced a decision: hang out in Ellon for a day, reading and getting antsy, or carry on and brave the storms. I know my wife and I already knew what we would decide.

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So there we were, north of Ellon, variously walking at a fierce pace or huddled under an overpass, or a tree, or the little tarp I had thought to bring along at the last minute, rain dripping down our legs and into our shoes, reading our Ordinance Survey for omens or signs of good fortune and talking about pilgrimage and our loved ones in heaven smiling down on us through the rain.

“We’re doing this to honour our ancestors,” she said without pause.

We ended the day, wet and weary, as guests at the first-rate B&B in Old Deer, just a mile short of the end of our pilgrimage.  We completed the journey this morning, calling in at the Mill of Aden, a still functioning woollen mill on the banks of the River Ugie.

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In Old Deer, Mintlaw, and the surrounding villages people whose name I bear and whose genes I carry lived in centuries past.  Monks writing in the margins of the Book of Deer, a document of the 900’s, mention gifts to their abbey (“to Christ and to Drostan”) by Comgell, toisech of Clan Canan, of land as far as the Great Rock field nearest to Daldin or Old Aden.

Old Deer, New Deer, Book of Deer, the forested hills nearby – never farmed and inhabited by plenty of deer – all seem to point to the obvious. But before New Deer was founded Old Deer was merely Deer. And nothing is as it seems.

St Columba came here in 580, bringing his nephew Drostan, to found an abbey among the heathen Picts.  It is not unlikely that the abbey was located at the centre of what is now Old Deer, not 50 metres from our B&B.  Two churches stand there now, either side of the road. When the mission was sufficiently established Columba departed, leaving Drostan in charge. In later centuries Cistercian monks rebuilt the abbey a mile farther west.

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Drostan cried when his uncle left him behind. Or rather he shed tears, “de’ara” in the tongue of the monks. Drostan’s tears gave their name to the abbey, then to the village of Deir, becoming Deer, now Old Deer.

This morning as we walked the final metres to the Mill of Aden Renata quoted a John Denver song to me: “coming home to a place he’s never been before…”. Aside from the manager and a young helper, Sam, the mill seemed to be run by a wide assortment of Eastern Europeans. How right, I thought.  My ancestors too were labourers, crofters and quarry workers, pushed to the margins by economic powers beyond their control – pushed onward by a desire for a better life, to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and then Chicago.

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The thread of my family history is, it seems, knotted with tearful goodbyes. From one generation to the next we rarely settle. Amsterdam, Manaus, Chicago, Chicago again, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Lonmay, New Deer…these are the birthplaces of my children’s lineage going backward.

We share the inheritance of Drostan: the quiet beauty of the lands of Aden, and tears of sorrow, the sadness of farewell.

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My first piece of furniture

The first time I actually spent money on a piece of furniture was while living in Fez, Morocco.

The estate agent had given a few days to running us around town in his old Renault 4, showing us one grand apartment or villa after another.  He couldn’t quite bring himself to believe that this young American / Canadian couple, recently arrived to do a course in Arabic at the local language centre, did not have access to buckets of money to spend on rent.  Finally, after seeing us shake our heads at yet another multi-roomed, well-appointed – and expensive – apartment, he said, “Well, I do have an acquaintance who has an empty servant’s quarters on the roof of her villa at the edge of town in Hay Adrissa.  I don’t think you will like it, but I can show it to you.”

We loved it.  Sure, the chickens had made a bit of a mess, but once that was cleaned up and the offenders removed to the storage shed, we had what we were looking for: a wide, airy room with a single window and concrete floor, plus an adjoining kitchen area boasting a sink with a cold water spigot and a short countertop.  Next to that was a WC with a squatty potty and another cold water tap.  No hot water; we would have to warm water in a pan on the gas burner we bought from the corner shop, and if we wanted a “shower” it would come in the form of two pours from a bucket while standing over the squatty potty, one to soap up and one to rinse off.

But the view!  Our little abode, four stories up, was surrounded by about 100 square meters of flat rooftop made of terracotta tiles.  At the edge there was a parapet, and beyond that we looked out over shepherds tending their flocks in ancient olive groves and in the distance the blue-green mountains of the Midi Atlas range. We were the last house at the southern edge of town and at night there was little light; we had forgotten what a true starry night looks like.  Gazing at the crystal clear stars on a warm spring night while listening to the mournful call to prayer from the local mosque was, we found, genuinely romantic.  Our first child was conceived here.

However, the place was completely bare when we moved in.  Renata, ever resourceful, quickly found some fabric and hand-stichted curtains which we threaded onto a length of cord and hung.  We purchased a large, round metal tray to use as an eating surface on which to balance our plastic cups and plates and we slept in our sleeping bags on top of a layer of folded clothes.  The poor man’s mattress was, predictably, not a success.  After a few nights we were sore, cold and grumpy.  We needed a bed, something with a proper mattress and legs on it.

We reasoned that we should go for a Moroccan “frash”, a sort of narrow bed with a decorative base that can also double as a sofa, using cushions for back support.  We should get two of them and, when we had guests for dinner (yes, we did regularly), we could put the beds together in an “L” shape in the corner; at night we would put them side-by-side to make an almost double bed.

Our walks into town had taken us through another neighbourhood which seemed to have a good number of woodworking businesses, small storefront shops producing all manner of furniture, so we decided to make our way there and see what could be found.  We timed our visit poorly, for as we approached the crowded little street we noted that everyone was busy closing up shop.  How odd, we thought, we have never noticed any sort of siesta habits before; maybe this is something peculiar to the furniture-makers trade?

Never mind.  We quickly spotted what we were looking for and haggled the price for two simple frame frashes with foam mattresses.  But how to get them home?  To have them delivered would be an extra charge, of course, but also much more hassle: how would we explain where we lived and how many days would we wait for the delivery?  We were tired of sleeping on the floor.  Eyeing the beds again and lifting an end to judge their weight I said to Renata: “You know, between the two of us, I think we could carry these things home; if you grab one in each hand on one end and I on the other, we should manage just fine.”

Now yes, we were fit.  Fitter than we’ve ever been before or since.  We were both 24 years old and accustomed to walking many kilometres every day.  I remember paying to use the pool at one of the fancy hotels downtown and wondering why the group of women, Spanish tourists lounging at poolside, were paying me so much attention; I looked damn good in those days, that’s why. So, on a normal day, although carrying our beds a couple of kilometres up the road would be a strenuous proposition, it was certainly within the realm of the can do.  And think of how well we will sleep tonight.

The furniture-maker and his gaggle waved us off as if we had gone mad, and promptly shut their doors. We headed out, wondering again why the shops were closing and the roads had gone quiet.  Well, it didn’t take long for us to realize our scant knowledge had nothing to do with the local culture and everything to do with the local weather.  The wind that had been blowing all that day and all the day before was coming from the southeast, a direction which it had never come from before in our experience.  This continental current, as opposed to the normal Atlantic one from the west, had warmed things up nicely we thought; the clothes on the line were drying so fast in this wind and heat.

If that had been the sum of it, we would’ve been fine.  But as you suspect, gentle reader, that was not the sum of it.  What the locals knew and what we did not was that the Sahara Desert, just the other side of the mountains, had the potential not only to warm things up with a strong southeasterly wind, but to get things very, very sandy.  Within half an hour of heading out from the furniture-maker’s the sky had gone dark and Renata and I found ourselves walking through the middle of a serious sandstorm, gasping for breath, squinting our crying eyes against the sand, and clutching for dear life to our precious purchase.

Yes, we did make it home, and how we slept like royalty that night!  And although our car-less existence for most of our lives has meant I have plenty of other furniture-carrying yarns to tell, I will never forget my first ever furniture purchase, in Fez.

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In Fez, April 1987

Edge to Edge, Tofino to Ucluelet

So there we stood, a little past 8:00 on a windy but dry Tofino morning.  Gathered around us was an ever thickening crowd of runners of all shapes and sizes and, no doubt, experience.  Renata was nervous; she had done this the year before and knew what to expect from a marathon.  As for me, I knew the odds of completion were fairly thin, so I was just out to see what the day would bring.

At 8:30 precisely the cheer went up and the runners surged forward under the bouncy castle style starting gate, each of us bearing an electronic tag in our shoelaces that would register to the second how fast we would complete the 42+ kilometre race.  Renata and I started together, running the first few hundred metres side-by-side.  But the pace at the back was far too slow for her and so I urged her on; “Push ahead,” I said,  “I’ll see you at the finish”.

The numbers around me thinned quickly as we made our way southward out of town, cheered on by small groups of well-wishers out to enjoy the spectacle.  The clouds were thinning too and before long we were running in the bright June sunshine, pushed along by a pleasant breeze in our backs.

A few clicks out of town we left the cycling trail running parallel to the highway and crossed the road to the right, toward the coast.  Down a side street we made our way to Chesterman beach where, for about four kilometres, we ran to the rhythm of the pounding surf, squinting into the infinity of the Pacific Ocean.  Renata was long gone in the ribbon of runners ahead and so it was here that I encountered my first pacer – someone whom I would share the road with because their pace matched mine, more or less.  Ahead of me on the beach, at about 20 metres, was an elderly man with such a strange gait that at first I thought he must be cramping up.  But then I realized that this diminutive figure, thin as a wire, was probably a victim of a stroke.  And, as evidenced by his muscular legs, an experienced runner.  I gave him the name “Manke Jan”.

Back on the road I determined to keep Manke Jan ahead of me by about 50 metres.  “If gramps can do it, so can I,” I thought; and then it occurred to me that I was a “gramps” too.  The group thinned further and before long it was quiet except for the pounding of our shoes on the pavement, the jingle of the safety-pins which fastened our number sheets, and the occasional passing car.  Manke Jan was now paired more closely with another odd figure: a tall, lean man with a long, slow stride and a haircut that didn’t make sense.  His hair, full and frizzy, fell to his shoulders.  But up above his ears large chunks of it were missing, shorn to the skin.  Curious, I increased my pace slightly and drew closer.  Yes, a large swathe of hair had been clipped recently, and the reason was obvious on inspection: he had had some kind of surgery, the scar clearly visible as it stretched across his scalp.

“Great,” I concluded, “I run in the company of the lame and infirm.”  Once a priest, always a priest.  I decided to christen the second man “Geschoren Harry”.

Manke Jan, Geschoren Harry and I kept each others’ company until kilometre 14 (one third of the course!) when, for some reason, the other two began to lag a bit and I passed them by.  Soon I found myself completely on my own, runners ahead by a few hundred meters and runners behind by the same.  My legs were getting seriously tired now, evidence that I had not prepared for this race as I should have.  The sun, whose warmth was so welcome just 90 minutes ago was now getting hot.  Having passed the 1/3 mark, I set my sights on the half-way point: 21 kilometers.

When I reached it, running low on puff, I was greeted by a lone cheerleader, a pretty, sweet Siren who had – from all appearances – recently emerged from a refreshing shower at the Park Service employee quarters just off the road.  “Well done!” she sang melodiously.  “You’re half-way there, Marathon Man!”  Oh how I longed to stop.  But no, I must press on.  I told myself that no self-respecting man would be content with half a marathon when two-thirds of one was a mere seven kilometres away.

Easier said than done.  Soon after the half-way mark I began to pass increasing numbers of runners-turned-walkers.  Like me, these were people who, in their training, had done what I had done: never run more than half of the full distance and somehow believed themselves when they said, “Anyone who can run a half marathon can run a full one….”.

At 28, facing a significant hill, someone called out from behind: “Passing on your right!”  It was Manke Jan.  I was at once saddened by my ineptitude and gladdened by his company.  He passed me by, but I quickened my pace slightly to match his.  Fortunately, not far ahead there was a water station.  The stop was manned by a group from the local First Nations people, drums and all, and – more importantly from our point of view – they had taken the initiative to augment the standard water jars with an equal supply of energy drink. Manke Jan and I both stopped.  We drank cup after cup of Gatorade as we thanked them profusely.

As we headed off again I asked Manke Jan if this was his first marathon, as it was mine.  “Well,” he said, “the first one in Tofino.  But it’s my 48th overall.”

Stunned, I watched as he reached his old awkward but steady pace again, a pace I could no longer match.  For the next few kilometres he drew slowly away, until I could see him no more.

At 32 kilometres I had had enough.  I began to walk more than run.  The only consolation was that I was now in the “under 10 kilometres to go” phase.  The Highway 4 turnoff to Port Alberni came and went and I was on the road to Ucluelet, a work of the devil as far as runners are concerned: a road over a seemingly endless series of moderate hills.  Ahead of me now were two middle-aged women with large hips and thighs.  I scolded myself that I was reduced to trying to keep pace with such un-athletic types.  Up and down the hills we went, me ever so slowly drawing closer to them.

At the outskirts of the town, with about 3 kilometres to go, I finally drew even with the two women.  They were chatty, wanted to know where I was from, had I ever done a marathon before, did I have family waiting at the finish, etc. etc.  Before leaving them behind I asked if they had the time.  “It’s one-thirty,” they said, meaning I had been on the road for 5 hours now.  “But don’t think you are doing so bad,” they added as an afterthought, “we started an hour early!”.

Which was just the encouragement I needed to pick up my feet again.  As I rounded the bend for the final downhill chug, the steward on the street grabbed his walkie-talkie and called out my number.  Within seconds, as I turned the corner for the bouncy-castle finish, the loudspeakers blared out my name and place of residence, and one last encouraging cheer rose from the crowds gathered on the lawns.

There was Hanna, taking my picture; there was Renata, pulling me into an embrace.  Done.

A good meal

My father was of the generation of WASP men for whom cooking was decidedly a woman’s task. He could make a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich and could even make you believe it was a feast, but beyond that he never learned to prepare any food at all.

Being my father’s son, I left home at the age of 18 without the foggiest idea of how to put a meal together.  In the summer of 1980 my parents returned to their work in Brazil, leaving me temporarily living with my grandparents in Seattle and working as a laborer for a local construction company.  But I quickly tired of living with Grandma & Grandpa, of hearing them talk about me from their bedroom as I tried to get to sleep at night and having them scrutinize everything I did and said, so I soon set out for the college dorms in Corvallis, Oregon.  I figured it would give me a jump on available jobs too if I was there ahead of the thousands of Oregon State students arriving in September.

So there I was.  Alone in my student apartment with a suitcase full of clothes and a few boxes of household supplies.  And I soon learned that, unless one is defectively addicted to fast food, hamburgers and fries are an awfully boring diet.  I had to learn to cook.

My mother had seen this coming, of course, and in my box of assorted kitchen utensils I found a beaten-up hardback copy of “The Jungle Camp Cookbook” – a kind of back-to-basics survival cookbook intended for missionaries in primitive conditions.  It was the perfect guide for someone who didn’t know anything at all about food storage or preparation.

And so my education began.  I put together a menu of what I wanted to have for dinner, read up on the necessary ingredients and how to prepare them, and then headed off to the Kroger’s supermarket at the corner of King and Circle to make my purchases.  Not having anything in the house to begin with it seemed I was spending a vast amount of money on an endless variety of items I had never before given any thought to: salt, pepper, spices, baking soda, flour, oil, etc. etc. etc.

Getting my horde home, I spent all afternoon carefully following the instructions, step by step, amazed at how much work went into creating a single meal.  If I remember correctly I was having cornbread and roast chicken with vegetables, and a chocolate cake for dessert, but if that isn’t right then it was something along those lines.

At last, early in the evening I set the table and spread out before me the work of my hands!  What an accomplishment!  What a feast!

And then I cried.  I balled my eyes out. I cried so hard and so long I couldn’t eat.  Every bite got stuck in my throat, choking me, until finally I just gave up and went to bed.

All my life I had grown up with a family around the dinner table, with happy conversation, with people who loved me and with whom  I could  share my day.  And all of a sudden I was in a big empty house, food aplenty but with no one to share the meal, no one to share my life.

I had discovered the most important ingredient of a truly good meal: people.

Jobs

This past week we reached a milestone in our nuclear family of six: for the first time ever we are all employed to a lesser or greater extent.  In keeping with the times, most of us are working part-time.  But we have jobs none-the-less; something to be thankful for in these economically troubled times.

The first work I ever did for pay was when I was 7 or 8, sitting on a stool in the shade of Spanish-moss-covered trees in sleepy rural Florida, shelling peas behind the kitchen of the drug rehab center where my dad worked.  I got 10 cents an hour, which I immediately spent on refreshingly cold bottles of RC Cola from the vending machine on the porch at the front of the building.  A dime well spent.

As a teenager in Brasilia I mostly washed cars on Saturdays, and did odd jobs during the summer break.  My dad’s printshop was always thankful for cheap labor, but there were other things to keep the teenage boys busy.  The summer I turned 16 I spent most of my days on top of the apartment complex where we lived, putting little plastic extensions at the end of each dip in the corrugated roof, so the rainwater would clear the balconies below.  An unsightly solution to an architectural mistake.  Safety was not a concern to my employer.  The roof was made of asbestos sheeting, and we spent hours each day drilling holes in it with no protective gear whatsoever.  (Jana and I spent evenings on the roof that summer too, watching falling stars and talking about nothing.  In spite of the setting, the relationship never became romantic; Jana is now a Facebook friend.)

My senior year of high school, in Portland, Oregon, I had a job at Fred Meyer’s, sorting bottles and aluminum cans.  Oregon still has a useful “Bottle Bill” where almost every beverage container has a 5 cent deposit on it; return rates are high and the streets clean of stray bottles and cans.  I came home smelling of stale beer every night. A habit that’s been hard to break later in life.

The summer in Seattle saw me working as a grunt for a construction company with a Swedish name I’ve now forgotten.  Fast food followed, working at Bob’s Burgers in Corvallis, then Buns & Burgers in Santa Rosa, California.  That year I came close to McDonalds too, pulling out on the first day of my training, which greatly angered the manager.

The next year, in Seattle, my brother David came to the rescue, securing jobs as “prep-ers” for both my brother Paul and me at Magicare, where David worked doing electrostatic painting.  “A good name is worth more than silver or gold” says Solomon.  David has always been a hard worker; Mr. Midkiff figured it probably ran in the family.  My dad wrote the man a letter, thanking him for employing three of his sons.  So, not only do we work hard, we’re nice too.  Pat my back.

What else?  The list is too long to cover it all…a courier in Seattle, running around downtown on a moped; silkscreen at an athletic uniforms shop; a missionary; a priest; and when things went sour for awhile, working “black” for a friend’s restaurant and delivering mail for the post office.

Next year, this time, I’ll be looking for work again.  I’m sure something will turn up.

Tributo á amizade

Today at dinner Renata and I were listening to that wonderful bossa nova album of Stan Getz and João Gilberto from 1963, known widely for its most famous track The Girl from Ipanema.  Singing along, with the little Portuguese I still have left, one thing led to another and before long I was shedding a quiet tear, remembering my beloved father.

On my last night in Brazil, at the age of 17, in June 1979, the family had all turned in for the night, wanting to be ready to face the big day tomorrow, the flight to Rio and then on to Miami.  Suddenly, there was the gentle sound of a choir of voices singing softly outside in the tropical breeze.  We hurried to the front porch to find our house surrounded by a large group of young adults, come to bid our family – and especially my father – good-bye.

This is what they were singing:

Tributo à amizade*

O céu escureceu, estrelas a brilhar; a lua já surgiu iluminou, iluminou

O meu caminho que era tão incerto, e a mão de meu amigo me mostrou

Mão cheia de amor, cheia de carinho, derramando amizade no seu coração

Que renasceu, que renasceu.

Em cada olhar brilha o amor dentro de uma lágrima a rolar, a rolar.

Em cada rosto vê-se a esperança de um dia se reencontrar.

Muito obrigado por sua amizade

Leve, ao partir, o nosso amor que nunca acabará, não acabará!

The song, A Tribute to Friendship, is a song about being there for each other, of being thankful for another, and the hopeful longing of one day being together again.  There have been few moments in my life that matched the emotion of this tender farewell.

My father had taught for years at the local gatherings of Young Life and Teen Challenge.  He had little formal theological education, but what he knew he passed on.  More importantly, even though he only became an officially ordained minister in his 70’s, he was the best pastor I have ever seen.  By far.  These young people were deeply impacted by his life, and came to say thank you in a typically generous Brazilian fashion.

* Here’s the only Youtube video I can find of the song, done by a church group.  The tune is the same as I remember it, but I have to say that the people around our front porch that night did a better job of singing!

Haircut

We live just around the corner from a barber shop, where I have my hair cut about every 6 weeks.  It’s one of those old-fashioned places which operates without appointments; as you wait your turn you can help yourself to coffee and the daily newspaper.  No donuts though. I’ve been a regular customer for five years or so, but I only know one of the barbers’ names: Jan, the one who goes to church in Utrecht and has a stutter.  The others I know as “the lady”, “the gay guy” (he does the best haircut), “the owner”, and “the guy with the lazy eye”.  They all know I’m a pastor – Jan told them – and I’ve noticed they’re a bit more careful with their conversation when it’s my turn in the chair.

For most of my growing-up years, my mom was my hairdresser.  I think she still does one of my brother’s hair.  Considering she never trained for this, she does quite well.  But then, she had a husband and 4 boys, so plenty of trial and error over the decades.

I’ve mentioned Okeechobee, Florida before.  I went to a barbershop there once, in the late 60’s, when I was 7.  I don’t rightly know why my dad took me there for that one time instead of letting my mom do the job.  I think we just happened to be in town and he wanted me to experience a bit of Americana; I had never been to a real barbershop before.  I drank an RC cola and listened to stories about fishing on the lake.  But the cultural lesson I remember from the day was that not all magazines strewn around in barber shops are equally appropriate for young boys.  Also an important bit of Americana.

As a teenager I let my hair grow to my shoulders.  It was the 70’s and I had nice shiny blond hair.  When “Saturday Night Fever” came along one of my girlfriends tried to convince me to part my hair in the middle and get it cut with a feathered effect.  It was the style at the time.  I’m thankful I resisted her suggestions.  I’m even more thankful I resisted her other suggestions.

Just after my 17th birthday I left Brazil permanently and decided maybe it was a good point to make a change in hairstyle.  I didn’t trust my mom for this event, so went with a friend to a stylist near the American School in Brasilia, on Asa Sul.  He got it short all right, like I wanted, but otherwise made a complete botch of it.  Later, at home, I had my mom fix it.  I’ve had my hair short ever since.

Renata remembers my tennis ball look, from our time in Morocco.  My hair type was unfamiliar to the barbers there, but rather than stop, they had the habit of trying to undo their efforts by doing even more until there was nothing left to cut.  Lovely photos from that time.

The strangest experience I’ve ever had in a barber shop occurred during our short sojourn in Canada a few years ago.  I kid you not, as I sat there waiting with a handful of other guys,  the conversation turned to their latest hunting trips and the (large) animals they had each managed to kill, in one instance with a hunting knife.  Frantically trying to come up with something manly to contribute, should the need become unavoidable, the best I could do was a thought that formulated something like this: “Did you guys see that episode of Grey’s Anatomy where George had to shoot a turkey?”  Fortunately, God conspired to save me this time and I was called to the chair before the faces turned to me.