The sun had just begun to light the tops of the trees that surrounded the gravel bar. It was one of those mornings that held the promise of a good day. The sound of the river mixed so perfectly with the morning birds that it was almost dreamlike. I rolled over and thought about catching a bit more sleep but I knew in my heart that would be sacrilege. Like sleeping through dinner in Paradise.
And then came the wonderful realization. I didn’t have to shave. In fact, I left my razor at home. Why on earth would a fellow who hates shaving bring a razor on a camping trip? Granted, later in the day I might run across another fisherman or a flotilla of canoeists, but who would care. The squirrels didn’t seem to mind nor did the raccoons and the others who would be my campmate for the next 10 days. It was heavenly. Not having to perform the dreaded task that faced me every morning. Shaving.
The stubble that had stayed with me during my outing on Current river began to be a comfort to me as I headed back home. However, the bathroom mirror reflected a sad truth. I was not meant to have a beard. When your beard looks worse than Bob Dylan’s, it’s time to give it up. So I went about the painful task of removing the horrible stubble that I had hoped would be the beginnings of a beard. When I came to my upper lip I said to myself, “Not too bad. I’ll give it a few more days and see where this goes.” And that was the birth of the mustache which has stayed with me since my return from the river decades ago. Brewer and Shipley were set to perform at the Vanguard club in Kansas City, the owner of which had become our manager.
Granted, it had a lot of filling in to do but it was a mustache nonetheless and I intended to give it a shot of becoming the real thing. Our manager went ballistic. He was one of those managers that wanted to control everything. We had acquiesced to most everything he wanted, but when it came to my face…well that was a bridge too far. He went on about the fact that we had two clean-shaven album covers but this time his argument fell on defiant ears. “I’m keeping it,” I said. If it ends up looking like hell I’ll think about it but for now, it stays.“
This exchange took me back a few years when Michael shaved. Since I first met him back in Cleveland he had facial hair. Sometimes a goatee, at others a beard of some sort. And always a mustache. Michael was always changing it and one afternoon, when he came to my house it was all gone. Every bit of it. No beard, no goatee, no mustache, just a clean-shaven face. It was weird. So weird that none of his friends could look at him, myself included.
So by the time Mort, a great photographer, friend, and part of our management team came by to shoot the cover for our Tarkio album, there we were. Two guys with mustaches. The cover came out great. He also took single photos of each of us to be used as models that Bill Sandiford, our artist friend, could use to do the pen and ink drawing that would be the center of the fold-out album cover. That worked out well with one exception. The artist left off Michaels’s sideburns. But we were on a deadline so it stayed. And given all the craziness around facial hair and sideburns, “Tarkio” still became our best-selling album of all time.
Flash forward several decades. By now what was left of the hair on my head had taken on an Einstein feel. The mustache was still there but something was amiss. Jan asked one day “what was going on with the right side of my mustache.” I ran to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and there it was. A gap around the size of the tip of my little finger now took up the place where facial hair had been. I felt it. It was as smooth as a baby’s backside. I had an appointment with the woman who does my hair and I decided I’ll ask her if she knows what is going on.
“Didn’t you tell me you had Covid?” she asked. Yes, Jan and I were both afflicted with the bug early on in the pandemic, before there was a vaccine or anything like it. My fever had gotten so high I even spent a night in the hospital. She went on to describe how many of her clients had asked her about their hair changing texture and often how it was just coming out. Lots of ladies with thinning hair. No one on CNN or the evening news had ever mentioned anything about that. Full hospitals, not enough testa, people too chicken to get vaccinated but nothing about hair. I knew journalism had sunk to new lows but not even mentioning people losing their hair was about as shallow as it could get. “So much for fair and accurate reporting,” I said to myself.
And now what to do? Trim the right side of my mustache, removing everything past the bald spot that had appeared. And then trim the left side to match. A little mustache just below my nose.“Is this what Adolf Hitler had to do every morning?”I thought as I looked in the mirror. Hitler. I’m going to look like Hitler. For an old leftie like me, that thought was almost too much to bear. Fortunately, my mustache has turned a lighter shade of gray, so it isn’t that obvious, but it still bugs me.
So this site will continue to be called “One Toke Tom.” “One Toke Adolf” just doesn’t cut it. And if you happen to see a fellow walking down the street with a bag over his head just forget about it. You will know who it is and I hope you understand.