Archive | October, 2011

Man Without Ties by Noah Baird

20 Oct

A great tie can take an average suit to spectacular heights. The rare man can successfully and repeatedly pick a great tie.  Rarer still is the man who can pair the tie with the right shirt and suit.  Men who can do it; flaunt it.  Rightfully so.  Men’s magazines are filled with articles covering the subject.  You don’t find nearly as many articles on picking the right belt or the proper way to lace up your shoes.

My father can pick ties. He came from a time where men typically wore ties.  They weren’t foreign to his generation as I imagined they were to mine.  Ties weren’t rock and roll, and I saw myself as a rocker.  Axl Rose didn’t wear a tie and neither would I.  Not my father’s generation.  They wore ties in their school pictures- something my generation couldn’t conceive of. I also don’t remember my father ever squirming uncomfortably in his suit like I did until he snapped at me to be still.  He came from a line of conservative, sober men who were practitioners of conservative, sober dress.

I remember my first tie; not the clip on- a real tie.  I was 16 and I finally graduated from mowing lawns in the hot Florida sun to a job in the mall- a toy store. The job had one setback: I would have to wear a tie.  The Sunday before I started my new job, my father took me to the men’s department of a local department store.  I stood there staring at the swivel racks of dyed cloth. My eyes glazed as he pointed out the different types.  The pros and cons of stripes and solids. Fashion history of the fat and skinny. Conservative choices between polka dots and art-deco swirls.  He sternly steered me clear of the cartoon characters. Likewise, he steered me away from the rack of bolo ties. Stars and steer horns; the pewter stamped bolo ties were far cooler to my 16 year old sensibilities than my father’s ties.  There was something outlawish about them.  I imagined if Keith Richards were to wear a tie, he’d pick a bolo.

At home, he stood me in front of the mirror and repeatedly demonstrated the basics.  It reminded me of the knot-tying classes I dreaded at summer camp.  I was as helpless with the four in hand and half-Windsor as I was with the square knot and clove hitch.  I can still remember his frustration as he faced me and struggled to perform, in reverse on me, a thing he did normally.  Then the awkward feeling as my father stood behind me and reached around my neck and repeatedly tied various knots.  Me all the while trying to observe his hands working at my throat.  Like trying to watch yourself swallow.  Then to watching our reflection in the mirror at the reverse image of what he was explaining.

He showed me the subtle nuances of a properly tied tie.  How to get the correct length.  How to get the dimple right in the fabric as the silk exited the knot.  To remember to get the knot symmetrical.

The lesson opened the door for a question and answer session between father and son.  What’s with the undershirt?  Why do I have to wear a belt if my pants fit? Why aren’t white athletic socks inappropriate for a suit if nobody can see my ankles? Why are the pockets of a suit jacket sewn shut? He answered each of the questions patiently.  We moved on to when to button and unbutton a suit jacket.  Why I couldn’t keep my hands in my pockets.  We decoded the mystery of getting the proper fit for a dress shirt.  I think it dawned on him how far I was from his world, a man who wore a suit and tie nearly everyday of his life.

I still don’t like wearing ties.  I know I’m supposed to.  I’m more of a jeans and T-shirt guy.  I’ve avoided wearing suits and ties my whole life.  Occasionally, I do have to wear a tie.  Recently, I needed to wear a tie for a meeting, and I found myself picking out new shirts and ties to update my small, out-of-date collection.

I selected a shirt and wandered over to the tables covered with neatly arranged ties.  Picking out a tie is the pop quiz you didn’t know you needed to study for.  Men’s suits range from black, blue, gray; maybe khaki.  Shirts are typically white, blue, or some sort of paisley color.  Shoes: black and brown.  Same thing with belts.  Not a big range in color.  Maybe half a slice of pizza in the color pie chart. To pick out a suit, shirt, belt, and shoes; a man only needs to know the colors from the eight pack of crayons. Black, blue, gray, white, brown; that’s about it. A suit may be charcoal. We know about the charcoal. We barbecue, so charcoal is dark gray; we got it.

Not in the Land of Ties (not to be confused with Thailand). In the Land of Ties, there are more colors than in the paint section of Lowes, and 34 names for one color. White is no longer ‘White’, but ranges from ‘Eggshell White’ to ‘Unicorn Testicle’. Blue can be ‘Peacock’, ‘Navy’ (we know about the navy), ‘Pacific’, ‘Blueberry’, ‘Baltic’, ‘Deep Baltic’, ‘Midnight’, ‘Sound Blue’, ‘Surf Blue’, ‘Sail Blue’, ‘Bluestone’, ‘Deep Navy’ (I think this is for submariners), ‘Deep Sea’, ‘Mediterranean’ (More fun than Baltic!), ‘Harbor’, ‘Stone Blue’, ‘Coastal Blue’, ‘Shoreline Blue’, ‘Oceanfront’, ‘Peasant Blue’, ‘Royal Blue’ (More inbreeding than the Peasant Blue), ‘French Blue’, ‘Montclair Navy’, ‘Cayman Blue’, ‘Light Maritime’, ‘Grey Blue’, and ‘Ink’ (Ha! I bet you thought I was going to through in a blue balls joke. I wrote about my huevos enough in the last buhlog).

The proper tie with a patterned shirt?  Is the shirt pattern bold or subtle?  What colors match?  Which patterns compliment? I have no idea. I usually grab the most effeminate sales person in the store and ask them to pick out the tie. Say whatever you want about homosexuals; those dudes can pick out a tie. They will break all the rules I’ve ever learned and match a striped tie with a checked shirt, but it will look great. I’m thankful for every one them who have helped me out. I’m still annoyed with them about the restaurants. Homosexuals know where all of the great restaurants are, but they won’t tell us. If you want to find a great restaurant in any city; ask a gay dude. Except for barbecue; they don’t know about the barbecue. If I can’t find the effeminate guy, I have to scan the store for a mannequin and buy whatever it has on.

Many things have change since 16, and many more things I couldn’t learn from my father.  I’ve long since stopped fearing I would become my father to slowly realizing I already had.  With one exception. What did I do with my first paycheck from the toy store? I went back and bought a fist full of those bolo ties.

No colors were injured while writing this buhlog.

Noah Baird is the author of Donations to Clarity. If you buy the book, I promise to not use the royalties to buy ties.


Vasectomies For Beginners by Noah Baird

19 Oct

I’m almost 40 years old. I’m divorced (twice). I have two little boys, who may or may not be werewolves. One of my possibly werewolf children pissed on my living room rug this weekend because he was too busy playing to run to the bathroom. I was making the boys breakfast when I heard my oldest complaining that his brother’s pee is getting all over the rug during their epic space battle. It was one of those surreal moments every parent has; I’m pouring cereal in bowls and through the crunching sound I hear “pee” + “rug.” I poke my head around the corner and see my youngest in a deranged Statue of Liberty pose; a Stars Wars spaceship held over his head as he balanced on one foot and shook liquid out of the other foot of his pajamas. Before I could get a “What the fuck . . .” out – you can’t throw the ‘F’ word out at a four-year old. My brain has to run through a catalog of words and phrases which capture my emotion but is appropriate to little ears. Before I can get any words out, the child dashes off downstairs, leaving me to contemplate the pros and cons of climbing back into bed. The little monster dashes back through the living room, still holding the spaceship but now completely naked, leaving a tangy wake behind him.

I’m at the point in my life where I don’t want any more half-werewolf children.

I posted on Facebook that I had my vasectomy consultation the next morning. I was surprised by the reactions to the post which ranged from “I wouldn’t do that” and “Don’t do it,” all the way to “This is a procedure invented by women to keep man down.” The really strong reaction came from a Catholic guy who had a vasectomy and is mad because he’s going to hell for cutting the Catholic-making pipeline off.

I was surprised I was getting any sort of negative reaction. All of the men I’ve spoken to about it say it’s no big deal. They want to tell you about it, but it isn’t a big deal. Ladies, here’s the part you need to understand: vasectomies are our pregnancy. Every woman wants to discuss their pregnancy; every man wants to discuss their vasectomy. I know it’s not the same thing. We don’t have anything else. We don’t have duckbills poked into us every year. Our doctors don’t even get close to us. I see my physician once a year. He shakes my hand, looks at my tongue, checks my lungs, and kicks me out. The closest he’s ever gotten to me is when he checked my ears.

In the Urologist’s waiting room, as I handed in my insurance paperwork, I notice the nurse looking around behind me. She asks if I’m alone. I tell her that I am. It’s then I notice every man in the room has a female chaperone. None of the men looked happy. The women; they were happy. My mother called to tell me she forced her first husband to get a vasectomy. His name was ‘Tom’ and so is my father. The first one is dead; we call him ‘Dead Tom’. It took Dead Tom two tranquilizers and five beers to get him into the Urologist.

When the Urologist was done playing with my Huevos Rancheros, which is Russian for ‘Stones of Many Pleasures’, we discussed the procedure. One of the topics was scaring. Apparently, some men are upset by the scar left on their seed bag. Who would be worried about a scar there? Have you seen testicles? It looks like our nuts were gift wrapped in leftover elbow skin. I’m not sure if I could find a scar there if I tried. I think I might like the scar. I may need to prove I had the snip one day.

The good news is I passed the consult. My vas deferens (the swim lane between the huevos and the prostate) is “taunt like a guitar string.” I also have big balls, which I’ve been telling people for years, but I don’t think they believed me.

Noah Baird is the author of Donations to Clarity.

The Joys of Lying to Children

11 Oct

I am a bad parent. I lie to my children.

I lie to my children nearly everyday. I’ve told them lies, they have repeated my lies in school, and I get phone calls from stern-sounding teachers wanting to discuss their concerns about my fibbing children. That was another lie; my ex-wife gets phone calls from the teachers. Then I get the talk.

I once told my son, who was attending preschool at a Presbyterian church, the reason we celebrated the Easter Bunny was because when Jesus died and was buried in a cave, an egg-shaped rock was placed in front of the cave so Jesus couldn’t get out. The Easter Bunny pushed the rock away from the cave and saved J.C. The chocolate symbolizes the wood of the crucifixion. We got a very nice phone call from the school to discuss what I’m teaching the children.

Sometimes I lie because my children ask far too many questions for their size. I have two little boys, 4 and 7, who are bubbling fountains of questions. Sometimes I lie because I don’t know the correct answer, but usually I lie because it’s a lot more fun.

One day while shaving, flanked by both boys quizzing me on my shaving ritual, my oldest asked me, “Dad, why do you grow hair all over your body and mommy doesn’t?” I crouched down to their level, looked them both in the eyes, and very seriously explained to them I was a werewolf. I had to shave because some people are afraid of werewolves, and I didn’t want to scare them. I watched as their eyes grew big. They both nodded obediently when I explained this was a big secret and they shouldn’t tell people I was a werewolf.

Here are the facts as I described them:

  • My hair is brown when I’m a werewolf (they asked).
  • I don’t transform in front of them because I’m afraid it would scare them.
  • I won’t eat the dog.
  • I became a werewolf when I was bitten by a werewolf when I was a boy. That makes me a 2nd Generation Werewolf.
  • They may also be werewolves, but they usually won’t show until they are teenagers. They would only be half werewolf because their mother doesn’t like this werewolf business. That would make them 3rd Generation Werewolves.
  • They may show signs early. I instructed them to check their feet when they woke up after a full moon. If their feet were dirty, then they were out howling at the moon.

At this point, the reader should expect a story about frightened children who could not sleep; afraid of the werewolf dad prowling around in the dark. My lie had the opposite effect: it stopped the bad dreams, monsters in the closet, and moving shadows on the wall. I hadn’t made the connection until I overheard the boys playing. My oldest, speaking as the elder statesman of the two, wished the boogyman would break into our house so they could watch me transform into a werewolf and scare him away. My youngest speculated I would only need to show the boogyman my claws and roar, and the boogyman would never scare another kid again.

My double life as a werewolf has been the answer to numerous pre-pubescent concerns. Vampires? Werewolves and vampires don’t bite each other’s children because we are equally strong. A vampire attacking a werewolf’s pups would be inviting an attack on their children. Peace is maintained through equal power; the Cold War with fangs. Zombies? Werewolves don’t taste good to zombies so they stay away from us. Of course, no self-respecting werewolf would ever eat a zombie. That’s just disgusting.

My oldest is now at the stage where he’s excessively fascinated with guns, war, and all about my military experience. Enter the werewolf; I fought in the Great Werewolf-Zombie War. Werewolves and Vampires rounded up all of the zombies and locked them into underground bunkers (because you can’t kill zombies. Duh!). You try to explain the U.S.’s foreign policy in the 21st century to a four year old. There are people running for president who can’t explain why we’re in Libya.

At dinner one night, my oldest gravely told me his teacher had explained to his class that dragons weren’t real. The child was upset with the thought that dragons didn’t exist in his world. So, like any bad parent would do: I moved dinner into the living room, and streamed a documentary on Komodo Dragons. Now, in case you don’t know, Komodo Dragons don’t breath fire, but they do have pretty nasty mouths which might as well be venomous. We couldn’t find a documentary on fire-breathing dragons because they’re hard to film. They keep melting the cameras. Armed with new knowledge, my son happily marched into school the next day and informed his teacher dragons do exist.

My question to the well-meaning adults out there: Why are your lies better than my lies? Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are permissible lies because they fall into an agreeable construct we’ve all accepted? Open the imagination box wide. Better yet, kick the lid clean off. Let the kids have their imagination. It just might do you some good too.