Clean-shaven

Clean-shaven: (adj) description of a man without a beard or mustache.

I must be careful.

As I share my thoughts today, I must remind myself that there’s a danger of offering sour grapes–or souring the grapes that are available.

Yet I don’t like beards.

I have to admit that I am incapable of growing one. Underneath my chin hair will sprout, making me appear to be a Jewish rabbi, but on my cheeks I appear to have chihuahua skin. Yes, maybe you could call me the “German Hairless.”

When I was younger this created some despair in my soul because I was very concerned about my level of masculinity. For a time I even pretended to grow a beard. Every day, as I tried to groom it into some sort of creature of respect, it mocked me from the mirror.

My sons have beards, and there seems to be a rebirth of interest in them at this present time.

But I feel the beard is representative of too much macho, rugged, “frontiersman energy” in a time when we need to be gaining mutual humanity between the genders.

And truthfully, I think women like to look at beards, but feel much different when they’re up close and personal.

So I am ill-suited to write this essay. There should be some whiskered, wizened soul sharing the beauty of his manly landscape instead of clean-shaven me, sitting here, trying to present an argument for smoothness.

But you’re stuck.

I am clean-shaven but I am still a man. Just wanted to make that clear, in case there was any doubt.

And for those who choose to grow beards and flaunt their hair mass, I must tell you with all honesty that if it’s close-cropped to the face it looks decent, but if you let it grow out too much, it begins to look like pubic hair suspiciously sprouting out of your head.

 

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Ciao

Ciao: (exclam) used as a greeting at meeting or parting.

I really don’t want to say anything. I’m sure it’s not my right to intervene, but something must be done.

An insanity is penetrating every facet of our daily life and putrefying our communication. It must be highlighted and deleted from the
motherboard of our efforts.

There are several examples:

If you’re around someone from Israel or the Middle East, please don’t say “shalom.” It is not only predictable, it is insidious because it lets everyone know that this is the extent of your knowledge of Hebrew or Aramaic, yet you still flaunt it as if you’re bilingual.

Also, don’t say “Buenos Dias” to someone who is Hispanic. People who actually speak the language say that phrase much differently, so when you insert it, to them it sounds like you think they are deaf and you’re trying to speak slowly.

“G-o-o-o-d m-o-o-r-n-i-n-g…”

Also knowing that “oiu” is the French word for “yes,” and “nein” is the German word for “no” does not mean you can “parlez -vous francais” or “sprechen sie deutsche.”

I conclude this little rant by bringing out in cuffs the chief suspect of them all. You are not Paris Hilton. You are not Italian.

So please, for the love of God, stop saying “ciao.”

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Belong

Belong: (v) to fit in a specified place or environment.

Dictionary B

Shortly after my arrival, I was told that I belonged to a family.

I was also informed that this collection of people was supposed to be supreme in my mind, and I should defer to them in all cases.

It didn’t take long before I was required to belong to a school.

  • We had a mascot.
  • We had teams.
  • We had jerseys.
  • Our school was better than your school. At least, purported.

I also belonged to a church. It was not the only church in town, but in many ways, I was instructed that it was the only church in town. To belong to this institution, I had to believe in their ideas, doctrines which granted them a sense of importance, uniqueness and preference.

My genealogy told me that I was of German descent. So apparently, I belonged in the white race, the offspring of Germanic tribes. That seemed to carry some significance which I never totally fathomed.

I met a woman. Actually, I met several women. But I had to pick one so we could belong together. Picking more than one was considered scandalous.

I graduated from school and was told I needed to belong to a corporation and have a job. I found that limiting and tried to launch out on my own, only to be scolded for failing to belong to the good working folk of America.

It did not take long to realize that other people belonged to different things than I belonged to, and because of that, it would be impossible for us to achieve high levels of interaction or fellowship.

It seemed to me that belonging was just a well-organized way of clumping–and once clumped, a certain amount of defensiveness was necessary in order to maintain the integrity of our particular heap.

I grew weary of such foolishness.

I belong to the human race.

That’s it.

I am not in the mood to join any other faction. 

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Au revoir

Au revoir: (Fr. exclam.) good-bye until we meet again.

Even though I purposely avoid many of the stumps that come my way from which I could prophesy, today I shall indulge myself by sharing one of my few, but fervent pet peeves.

dictionary with letter A

I hate subtitles.

There are two reasons.

First of all, I think it’s pretentious to have American actors memorize some foreign words, contending that they are pronouncing them correctly.

Secondly, I’ve reached an age when I find myself squinting a bit to try to read the translation placed on the screen, which is often done in an obtuse font, blurry color and flashed so briefly that you’re trying to figure out the predicate from the acquired subject.

I don’t like pretense.

I don’t think you lose anything in a story if your German soldiers speak English.

After all, it’s about the story, right? Not how they pronounce the dialect from the Rhineland.

But I realize I’m in the minority and that the purists out there shake their heads, bemused by my objection.

Still, as far as I’m’ concerned, I would like to say to all those young filmmakers who feel they achieve great authenticity by offering intrusive foreign language into an American film … “Au revoir.”

 

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Aquiline

dictionary with letter A

Aquiline: (adj) like an eagle, esp. referring to the nose. EX: “hooked like an eagle’s beak.”

It arrives at about age twelve, and hopefully, by the grace of God, disappears on one’s eighteenth birthday. Honestly, it will not disappear if we allow its friends to come and shack up.

“It” is insecurity.

When I was twelve years old, I was convinced of the following:

I believed my nose was aquiline because my dad was German and had a hooked nose. I failed to realize that my mother’s genes were also in there, so my hook was not as pronounced. (I once referred to my nose as a “hooker” until my Aunt Minnie explained that the term was inappropriate.)

I also believed that my lips were very large and that I possibly was the love child of my mother with a black man. (There was no basis for this since there were no black people within thirty miles of our community. But I chose to believe my mother had made some sort of journey.)

I also thought my eyes were crooked, and began to tilt my head to the left to compensate for the poor horizon of my peepers.

Keeping up this craziness was the notion that my B were “pinned to my head,” which I assumed was the sign of some sort of mental retardation.

Moving along, I totally was possessed with the frustration that I had horribly chubby cheeks, so I tried to elongate my face by holding my mouth in the shape of a small “O” all the time.

This insecurity is present in all adolescents, and is only dangerous if it’s allowed to link up with intensity, culminating in a bit of insanity, which in adulthood can lead to plastic surgery, therapy sessions and late-night heart-wrenching honesty with your mate, drenched in tears.

I know we think the answer to this question is to convince people that “we are all beautiful just the way we are.”

But since none of us really believe that deep in our hearts, wouldn’t it be more logical for us to come to the conclusion that we’re all ugly in our own way?

 

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Androgynous

dictionary with letter A

Androgynous: (adj) Partly male and partly female in appearance; of indeterminate sex.

It’s just one of those issues.

Yes–a contentious idea that causes the liberals and conservatives to hide in the weeds, giggling, waiting to see what stance you might take, so they can proclaim you either friend or enemy.

Such is the term androgynous.

Will I appease the conservatives by acting like I have a semi-sympathetic heart about those who “choose” to have such an appearance, while secretly I’m laughing at them with my friends behind their backs?

Or will I make the liberals rejoice by making a blanket statement of acceptance, while going off with friends and desperately trying not to bring it up again for fear of being judgmental?

Sometimes I grow weary of the battle between clown philosophies–“clown” in the sense that you feel the need to don a costume and exaggerate your features so as to prove your allegiance to the cause.

Concerning this word, I need look no further than myself:

I am a fat, white man of German descent. For some inexplicable reason, I have no hair on my legs or chest. Being overweight, I have pectorals that occasionally could pass for girly, sixteen-year-old breasts. My skin is not rough and I’m not a tumbling sort. Yet I fathered five children and still prefer women instead of men.

If I were walking around a locker room with a bunch of macho individuals, I might appear, in some ways, to be a bit more “ladylike” than they are. Yet some of them would be more comfortable, welcome and visually acceptable in a gorilla cage.

What does it all mean? I don’t know.

But I am certain of one immutable fact: the more we try to identify each other visually, by outward appearance, the less we have the eyesight of God.

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Andersonville

dictionary with letter A

Andersonville: (n) a village in southwestern Georgia that was the site of a large and infamous Confederate prison camp during the Civil War.

The Civil War was our holocaust.

Actually, little will be achieved in this country until we universally accept this statement as true.

The Civil War is when we took a race of people, segregated them, mistreated them and then ended up fighting a war which included in its pursuits the decision to continue that same practice indiscriminately.

We murdered, created new weapons to increase the casualties and took brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers and placed them at odds with each other, continually making a “Sophie’s Choice” within the boundaries of households.

  • It was horrific.
  • It was unnecessary.
  • It was short-sighted.

And when you add in the treatment given to fellow-Americans as prisoners of war–on both sides–you have almost an identical parallel to many of the atrocities that were perpetuated in Nazi Germany.

It is our humiliation.

It is a war we should study because we need to make sure that in our present dealings, that none of the ignorance that brought about the massacre and slaughter can be welcomed again.

We need to put away all the trumpets, banners and paraphernalia from that conflict into a trunk and bury it in the ground with a ceremony of repentance.

There is nothing from that period of time that is worthy of our praise, let alone our consideration.

I admire the German people because they look on the horror of their own recent history and refuse to repeat it–by making sure the only reference to it is an apology.

To live in a country that still refers to “Yankees and “Rebs,” “North and South,” “Union and Confederate” with a sense of regional pride is an abomination to our belief in all men being created equal.

The Andersonville prison was a location where the anger, frustration and evil that had been perpetuated for three centuries was brought to bear and turned into a living hell.

But the Civil War was not noble.

It was not good.

It was not brave.

It is our holocaust–and because it is, we should reverence those who suffered and pledge to never repeat such foolish iniquity again.

 

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Amigo

dictionary with letter A

Amigo: (n) term used to address or refer to a friend chiefly in Spanish-speaking areas.

Don’t get me started.

I have a pet peeve about people who know three or four words in several different languages and use them whenever they get around somebody they think might be anywhere near that particular national persuasion.

I’m sorry. It bugs me.

For instance, I don’t think you get to use the word “oui” to say yes just because somebody from France is in the room.

Here’s a clue. No, let me go even further. I’m going to call it a rule.

You are not allowed to use a foreign language unless you can string together at least three sentences in a row.

So this will avoid individuals who go to German restaurants, and when asked if they want dessert at the end of consuming their bratwurst, they pat their tummy and say “nein.”

And it also is going to greatly discourage individuals who, in a Hispanic environment, begin to call everybody mi amigo.

It’s not like you’re impressing anyone. Everyone knows that you’re only aware of certain words, and even find it difficult to order by yourself at Taco Bell. Just do yourself a favor–and everyone else, while you’re at it–and remove the pretense of thinking that you become international by mouthing certain words, which more than likely are mispronounced anyway.

This also goes for individuals who start talking Southern when they’re in Alabama, British when they discuss the Beatles and throw in an occasional “thee and thou” at a performance of Shakespeare in the Park.

I thank you for allowing me to vent my frustration on this issue. I’m sure it has saved me thousands of dollars in therapy … and possibly a murder conviction from brutally attacking one of these language transgressors.

 

Adenoids

Words from Dic(tionary)

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Adenoids: (n.) a mass of enlarged lymphatic tissue between the back of the nose and the throat, often hindering speaking and breathing in young children.

I was only ten years old so the significance completely evaded me.

Our family physician was named Dr. Livingston. To me it was just another name, not a literary setup, so when Dr. Livingston looked over his silver spectacles and told my mother and father that I needed to have my tonsils removed–otherwise I would have tonsillitis any time it was rumored to be in the area–they agreed.

They were further delighted when he told them that while he was in there yanking out the little boogers, that he might as well take my adenoids, too. It was common at the time. Tonsils were apparently so emotionally linked to adenoids that it was a given in the medical field that if you took one you had better remove the other, too, or fussiness would ensue.

Dr. Livingston? Tonsils and adenoids, I presume?

My father, being raised in a miserly German home, was excited because he felt he was getting two operations for the price of one.

So I was sent to a clinic in the big city twenty miles from our little burg, and was prepped for surgery. This was long before anethesia was perfected. It was actually barely beyond the phase of a shot of whiskey and a punch in the jaw.

What they used to put you under was ether. Now, let me explain what ether smells like. It has a distinctive odor. Imagine if a bottle of alcohol let off a big, stinky fart.

There you go.

So after they had removed my co-dependent organs, I awoke to the smell of this nasty “stinky” in the air, to spend the next hour-and-a-half doing nothing but trying to regurgitate all of my insides for public view.

About two hours later my stomach finally calmed down and they told me I could have some nice, cool Jello. (I had heard rumors that ice cream was the normal gift given to a patient, but apparently I ended up at K-Mart Presbyterian Municipal Hospital, where budget cuts were inserted to extract all pleasures.)

Unfortunately, the flavor they chose for my Jello was cherry.

When my mother and father wanted to go out and catch a bite to eat, they left my older brother in charge. The cherry jello by then had landed in my stomach, was introduced to the raging ether, and was immediately evicted. So when I threw up my cherry jello, my brother was convinced that I was bleeding to death. He ran through the halls screaming for nurses to come and save me.

The comical part (as if it isn’t already) was that it took the nurses at least ten minutes to figure out that what was in my bed pan had the unmistakable fragrance of Kool-aid.

Things went back to normal–if you call being ten years old, in a hospital, losing your tonsils and adenoids, vomiting profusely, with a maniac for a brother, only room for Jello and without the benefit of an ice cream confection … anywhere near normalcy.

Accent

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Accent: (n.) a distinctive mode of pronunciation of a language, especially one associated with a particular nation, locality or social class

Anyone who spends any time whatsoever in theater realizes that it is often a bigoted representation of society’s perception of all races and nationalities.

What I mean by that statement is that if you’re playing a part in a production and your director wants you to convey a certain immediate energy to the audience, he will often ask you to consider using an accent to trigger an image or attitude in the mind of the hearer.

Could anything be more prejudiced? Yet it is standard practice–and an admission that we human beings often draw conclusions based on what we hear and therefore perceive.

Let me give you an example:

Let’s say you’re playing the part of a snobby, high-falutin’; upper-class woman. The suggestion may be made to give her a British accent–therefore concluding that all Brits are really pricks.

Are you gonna play a boxer in the movie? Then you probably should have a New Jersey accent–“Joisey.”

Let me run a few more:

  • Mafia? Italian, of course.
  • A slick gigolo lover? French.
  • A bigoted ignoramus? A Southern Dixie accent.
  • How about a surfer? A California Valley-girl accent.
  • What if the part demands you be a spy? I would suggest a Russian accent.
  • A karate champion? Japanese.
  • How about a dictator? Gotta be German.

Since it is so obvious that we equate certain attributes to accents, it might be a good idea to be careful how you round your r’s and punch your syllables.

Because as much as we may discount the value of prejudice, it was here when we arrived–and it will stand over our graves.