Rat Tails, Jazz Musicians and Family


(The Suggestion For This Post Was: Scissors)

rat tail


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I’m not sure if it’s a “midwest” thing or if it’s a “my family” thing but my entire life has been surrounded by beauticians. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve beauty shops: Sweeping up hair to help, sitting still so they don’t “accidentally cut your ear off”, sitting on the wooden plank that went across the armrests so that I could be high enough for Donna to give me that permed rat tail I so desperately wanted. I remember the oldschool dryers that looked like space helmets attached to a recliner. There was always a row of old ladies looking like astronauts, past their prime, that were addicted to The National Enquirer.
I never understood why I couldn’t dry my hair that way. I wanted to so bad.
My grandma, on my mom’s side, had some of those old fangled dryers in her basement in Idaho Falls and when we would visit her and my grandpa I would sneak down and sit in one. I’m not really sure why. I don’t remember very much about my grandma. I was young when she passed. I do remember that she decorated with giant wooden forks and spoons, which I thought was weird as shit. I didn’t understand why she would put that on her wall. I mean, you wouldn’t put wallpaper on your plates.
But, I digress.
My grandpa, however, I do feel like I know – even though I was young when he died too. My grandpa was the only other performer that I have been told about in my family. He played piano. He was amazing from what I understand. He jammed with Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Pete Fountain and others (but I don’t remember their names). I picture him in a nice suit swaying back and forth, tickling the ivories (or whatever they called it back then). He’d get offstage, roll his sleeves up and smoke a joint with all the other musicians. In my head, he’s the only white guy in the room, like some sort of rip-roarin’ Marshall Mathers.
But again, I digress.
It’s weird to think about many of my family members and boil them down to such basic things. Beautician. Jazz Musician. Farmer. It makes me realize that I don’t know a whole lot about many of them. If I start listing things about my grandma, it doesn’t get very far into the list before I’m into the surface stuff. Honestly the first thing I would say is :
1) Beautician
2) From Idaho (I think)
3) 2 eyes
4) Hair
That’s how far I got. I could write a book about my mom and dad though. Their worldviews, their strengths and weakness, why they are who they are. I have volumes of this stuff in my head. I’m sure my grandparents were wonderful people; deep values and a good moral compass. They made my parents (I don’t know my dad’s parents either) so they had to be pretty decent folk.
If I stop and think about what my grandma was like I imagine that she had great hair and wanted to look good all the time, for all the right reasons. Working in a time when women weren’t necessarily expected to, she probably didn’t settle on “I just want to make babies and food”. I mean, my mom was a paralegal with ovaries of steel and she had to get that from somewhere.
She probably got it from a beautician, interestingly enough.
My niece is a hairdresser now (I’m not sure what the difference is). She’s funny, has a beautiful singing voice and could probably kick your ass… but beyond that, I don’t know much. I think I want to learn more about my family. They all seem like interesting people, that have lived very different lives than me. Many have spent decades on farms or stayed in Nebraska their whole lives. Some are Christian, others mormon. Their perspectives are so different and often contradictory to not only each other’s but mine as well.
I left Nebraska in 2004, I had just had my 24th birthday. I haven’t really looked back since. I love Nebraska, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a place I could live. I have brief lapses of how much simpler it would be to move back and get a job doing something blue collar. The life style is slower and people work hard but at the end of the day, they just have one another and that’s all most of them need. I wish that was enough for me.
I feel like I have this constant nagging in my head that I’m gonna miss out or fade away into meaninglessness. I think the weird part of this mindset is that I decide what has meaning to me. My brother defines himself by being a father and a husband. I have yet to define myself. There’s a good chance I never will and as I get older I get more and less okay with that.
There aren’t enough stages in Nebraska. I’m not sure why that is. I hear a lot, “I couldn’t imagine getting up on stage, I would be so afraid” and the more I think about it, I couldn’t cut someones hair for that same reason. What if I clip when I should snip or I cough and lop an ear off. There are so many mistakes to be made on both sides of the fence. That’s what it all comes down to, what fear are you most comfortable with. I think I’m comfortable with the fear that only affects me. The same fear my grandpa got used to as well somewhere along his way. The same fear my niece barrels through when she knows a kid is gonna regret that permed rat tail he wants so badly.
It’s a weird feeling to look people in the eyes and know them from a decade ago but know that they have no idea where you are coming from, that you have no idea where they are coming from. You see pieces of each other from long ago but those pieces are attached to something else entirely than what they used to be. It’s not that anybody is on a higher rung of a ladder, it’s just that they are on two entirely different ladders.
I’m looking forward to going home in a few weeks.
But where was I? Oh yeah, scissors.


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