Sunday, May 25, 2014

It's The Haircut

When reaching the last quarter of life, one has to consider the depressingly short list of endeavors likely to be improved upon. I do not intend to surrender without some kind of fight, even if it is as hopeless as the the unarmed Russian soldiers defending Moscow in WW II, charging the well armed Germans, who mercilessly mowed them down. When it comes to sports, biology is the hard truth and to overcome the inevitable reality of progressive deterioration, creativity needs to rear its beautiful head.

I could be a better doctor for sure. Every new encounter has the potential of adding a unique insight which piles upon the previous ones. More is always better, when it comes to knowledge. I just have to avoid the "learn one, forget two" syndrome, known to plague the aged. As far as teaching, I am just getting started. I feel like I am cheating compared to my niece Mary, who works with elementary school kids in Harlem's ghetto.  She undoubtedly spends a tremendous amount of energy trying to motivate, which is the biggest hurdle. My medical students are all bright, all successful, all want to be there and all want to do better. I just need to be smart about selecting a way to dissect the material so they can truly understand it and hopefully remember it forever.

Rather than dwelling upon the more lofty concerns, I spend an embarrassing amount of time obsessing on how I can get faster on the bike. For the last few years I could feel it slipping away, just like it did with basketball decades ago. This year, however, the trend has turned, which has a few riders in the local peleton suspicious I am doping. How hard could it be for a Doc to get EPO?  Hard, as it turns out, having looked into it a bit. Then there's the trick of getting your blood testosterone level checked. The normal range is so wide, there's a good chance you can talk your own Doc into a prescription, if it's on the lowish side, which I have noted to be common when gathering lab values from referring docs on my clinic days. Mine turned out to be on the high side which precluded the script (and also explains the excessive and somewhat unattractive body hair).

So instead of turning to drugs in an effort to increase my bike speed, I wound up going 'biblical', a whole new area for me. First of all, I don't know a lot about the Bible. Having been raised 'by' devout Catholics (note, not "as"), the Bible did not come up much. The Old Testament was never mentioned during services. We learned those stories watching Hollywood movies. The New Testament was tapped during a short reading of the gospel, in the middle of the Mass. This was followed by a sermon, which was supposed to interpret the gospel or perhaps relate the story to something occurring in modern times. Though having no medical knowledge, I was puzzled by the frequency of the ailment "possessed" which was often successfully cured. I wondered why no one seemed to ever have a heart condition or infection other than leprosy. I also recall Jesus mentioning " it is as hard for a rich man to get into heaven as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle" and in regard to child rearing " even the pagans love their children". There were also constant reminders to help the poor. After Mass there was a brief pause for reflection, then everyone pretty much got back to main business of trying to get rich while obsessing about the children. We never spoke about the poor, likely because we were the working poor. We had no car, and rented a small house with all three of the older kids (before youngest was born) sharing the same room. Later in life, when I was more prosperous and  hanging out with similar types, I began to hear talk about the poor, mostly complaints about how lazy they all were.

My favorite Old Testament movie, made in 1949 but frequently shown, when I was a teenager, late at night, was Samson and Delilah. My devotion to this movie, which I watched at every opportunity, had nothing to do with Samson, played by Victor Mature, nor anything to do with the message of the 'power of the righteous' or 'the fall from grace through sin'. My interest was exclusively the very sexy Delilah played by the very hot Hedy Lamarr. I could not get enough of her and the movie/story has never totally left my psyche.

I can cover a lot of old material while riding alone and recently this movie popped into my consciousness. I began to ponder the whole deal with Sampson and the hair. Hair and strength, I decided to act on it. As everyone knows, his great strength was dependent on the length of his hair. My current interpretation is that hair and strength are related and it seems plausible the exact relationship between the two could evolve over thousands of years, just like the popular diseases have done. We all also know long hair is no good for strength and speed. Look at the hippies. What were their collective athletic achievements?

So I decided to go with very short hair on the sides and straight up on top, the 'hypo manic' look. Initially I had to do the sculpting  myself. The hairdresser was a bit incredulous, but she is now on board and I go in there often for a trim. After the first cut, it was if I had received a transfusion of multiple energy units. The need for sleep dropped, my concentration was better, the training sessions on the bike were longer and more intense. My position in the the peleton has move up several notches on the regular Tuesday night race/ride. I can now launch a few attacks, instead of just holding on for dear life at the back of the pack.

Cutting the hair two lengths was the easy part. Getting it to stand up straight on top has been the challenge. The hairdresser suggested  'product', which is standard and reasonable, but violates one of the unwritten rules for guys my age. We are the 'no accessories, no cologne, no jewelry, no hair product and no blow drying'  types.  Admittedly we all did use English Leather cologne for about five minutes during the late 1960's but now anything similar would be some type of foul. I never wore chains or bracelets and now I have no rings or even a watch. 'Product' seems unacceptable.

I desperately needed an alternative solution for getting my hair to stand straight up. In high school I drove my parents 1961 Plymouth Fury which had a great engine but many minor problems including the failure of the windshield wipers to work when you applied any pressure to the gas pedal. I developed a pretty skillful technique of driving with my head out of the window whenever it was raining. This was later popularized by Jim Carey in Ace Ventura Pet Detective when his windshield was bashed by some thugs. Not to brag, but it's a lot easier to do when it is not raining.

Every morning after my workout and shower, I leave my hair wet while quickly getting dressed. I hustle to the car and when going down my street, out the window goes the head, and up goes the hair for the rest of the day, This is very reliable and does not violate any generational grooming rules. There is only the minor issue of the cars passing in the opposite direction. They occasionally feel they need to give me an excessive amount of room and subsequently go perilously close the edge of the road, and on occasion, off the road completely.

It seems unfair such a simple manipulation would have such a profound effect but I have no other a plausible explanation for the shift in the winds of aging. I am currently just sitting back and enjoying the ride, trying not to think how short lived the hair trick might be, and still, occasionally dreaming about my Delilah.