This Week’s Things to Do

1. Buy eggs.

2. Clean gutters.

3. Re-invent self

4. Thank you note to Aunt Vera for the Obama Chia Pet.

Of late, there’d been a few suggestions that I “re-invent” myself. The latest had come from Brittany, a twelve-year-old who lives next door.  As seems to be my luck these days, just as she was in the middle of yelling out her recommendation to me, one of those noisy, heavy duty trucks came barreling down the road. By then, she’d slammed the front door of their house and I never heard exactly what she was suggesting. However, I’m sure that “re-invent” was what she said that I should do to myself. I’m pretty sure about this anyway. (Me and Brittany’s relationship has become a little testy, even strained, of late—-especially after I backed over her cat last week.  Hell, it could have happened to anybody. The cat was in my driveway. Unfortunately, so far, Brittany has not viewed the cat vs. Buick confrontation from the same viewpoint.)

I am sure that the concept of “personal re-invention” was first discovered by a woman. Cher, maybe? Possibly Madonna?  Nevertheless, I am sure that it was a woman. And if it was not a fully maturated woman, then certainly it was a smaller one, a rising star as it were (such as say,  Brittany). I am most sure of all of this because since the dawn of man, not one single guy has ever said to another guy, “You know Harry, you could stand to lose a few pounds. And maybe you should get a new suit, too. And you could use a new hairstyle. Ever thought about parting your hair to the left? And maybe if you’d quit drinking and go to church sometimes, people would respect you more, and you’d get a better job.” It’s just not in our male DNA to suggest this kind of thing. It’s also strictly forbidden in The Testosterone Manual: the Secret Male Guide to Doing Everything. (Of course, the bald-headed, naked truth is that guys have to feel superior to somebody.  And since there is absolutely no chance that any woman walking Planet Earth would ever allow us to feel superior to them, we have to keep some other “lesser” male around us, to be “better” than.  That’s why middle -aged guys of all stripes hang on, like grim death, to life-long buddies named Booger or maybe Skip.) No, re-invention is usually the “inspiration” of some close female “associate,” who usually begins her “request” with the words: “Will, we need to talk.”

From a purely historical perspective, until June, 1991, nobody had even heard of re-invention. Nobody. Then on a Sunday afternoon during Pledge Week and not wanting to show the 3 millionth re-run of Little Anthony and the rest of the Doo Wop Group Reunion Show, those people over at PBS started ad-libbing about something that they called “The Re-Invention of Self.” They just made up the whole concept of personal re-invention on the fly as it were.  They said that “RE-INVENTION” was the key to “happiness, enlightenment, the reversal of global warming, the cure for psoriasis, clearing up toenail fungus, erectile dysfunction, and world peace.  Re-invention could be especially useful they said if you were one of the 300 gazillion currently unemployed Americans. (We were in a bad recession in those days too, by the way.)  Quicker than you could say “Oprah,” thousands of newly minted motivational speakers sprouted up across the land and started preaching the gospel of re-invention. The whole thing took off like…well, kudzu. (If the reader is not native to the Southern U.S., you might substitute wildfire, a tornado or a tsunami for kudzu.)

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Intrigued by my own possible re-invention and at the behest of several females, I read and researched any number of stories and articles about people who had successfully undergone re-invention. One magazine story told of an attorney who had an epiphany and decided that what he really wanted to do was to become a 1960s style hippie, cut down trees and then sell firewood for a living. Another story told of a computer programmer who had a “moment of clarity,” chucked it all and became a worm farmer. A common, yet disquieting thread that ran through most of these tales were that the re-inventees had moved from working indoors under controlled climate conditions to jobs that were on the outside, in the elements and also involved a kind of labor that was decidedly manual.  Never did there seem to be any cases of, say, an elevator operator who’d risen to greater altitude by re-inventing himself as, say, an airline pilot. Never had I read or heard of any actual re-invention success story where a migrant worker became a doctor. If you read closely enough, there were never any true life stories about anyone whose economic station in life had dramatically improved after re-invention. Another disturbing trend was that, in general, re-inventees were making less money after re-invention than before.

Despite all the disquieting facts about personal reinvention, the authors of all the re-invention legends said, every single one of the re-inventees were “marvelously, deliriously and euphorically” happy in their new lives. But since I remained still very unsure of what to do about my own re-invention I turned to the source that I often go to when in a quandary:

“Marvin, you mean to tell me that all re-invention really is, is a new haircut, a new suit, new eyeglasses and some new cologne?”

“Well that and a herd of goats. A lot of people re-invent themselves as goat herders, or shepherds, or worm farmers. You know, some real simple job that existed in the 1800s, Mr.C.”

“Hmmmm.”

”In a way, personal re-invention is a lot like Halloween. Except that it lasts all year, of course.”

“Wow! You barbers know everything.”

“We try, Mr. C. We really try. It’s the training they give us. You’ll remember that I tried to warn you banker-types about those Wall Street guys a few years ago. You guys just wouldn’t listen. I also tried to warn you about those derivatives”

“Marvin, I…”

“No problem, Mr. C., I understand. Anyway, do you know that we do three, maybe four re-inventions a month right here in the barbershop?”

“How come you never told me about this before Marvin?”

“Hell, you never asked! Here’s the special re-invention colognes that we use right here. We got two that you can choose from. One is that “new car” smell. The other one smells just like cookies.”

“Cookies!?

“Chocolate chip. Would you like to see the manual that comes along with our re-invention treatments?”

“Manual?”

“Yeah, here it is,” he said, handing me a book with the title: Goat Herding for Fun and Profit. Listen, Mr. C., re-invention can be a good thing for a body. Just look at Al Gore. He went through re-invention a few years back, right after he lost the presidential election to Bush. The new re-invented Al Gore got fabulously wealthy, won an Oscar AND a Nobel Prize. It’s all right here in Barber’s Weekly.”

“I never quite thought of it that way, but I can see your point.”

“Think you want to try re-invention, Mr. C.? Your head has a good shape for it. There are guys around that re-invented themselves years ago and you’d never know it unless they told you”.

“Like who?”

“Like me, for instance. I’ve done it twice.”

“Really, I never knew.”

“I know. Before I was a barber, I used to be  a nuclear physicist. I first re-invented myself as a priest. I did that for awhile. Then I got this hair cutting gig.”

“Jeez. You’re kiddin’ me, Marvin. WOW! A nuclear physicist, huh? I guess that’s why you know so much about everything. Anybody else that we know who re-invented themselves?

“Well take our new barber, for instance.”

“I like her…Ramona, right? What did she used to be? No, let me guess, a CPA? A Certified Public Accountant? Maybe she was a masseuse? She really did a good job on me last week when you were on vacation.”

“No. Before her re-invention Ramona was Raymond!”

With a suddenness that could only be compared to a thunderbolt out of the blue, I could feel both eyes get momentarily bigger and almost painfully protrude from my skull. After what was probably only a few seconds, but seemingly a much longer period of what could only be called deafening silence, I felt both eyes settle back into their sockets. I swallowed…and then asked Marvin, my long time advisor, if he might know how to resurrect a neighbor’s dead cat?

© Copyright 2010 Will Cantrell

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Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.