I left the house at 10:30 AM. Mission: Christmas cards and haircut. Oh, I got Christmas cards weeks ago, but bought too few. Wise move, at the time; why buy ten more than you vaguely think you need? It’s more fun to make a special trip later at the last moment. So I went to Target, recreated the card on the Kodak machine. My cards would be ready in one hour – time enough for a haircut. Back in the Element, over to the Mall, down to the budget barber-pen. Ten minutes, they said, so I wandered over to the book store and bought an enormous book about Pompeii, fabulously illustrated, for $20. That’s about .80 per pound. Such a bargain! I lugged it back to the Great American Haircuttery & Nails Emporium or whatever it’s called, took a seat, and read the book until it was my turn.

My stylist was unpleasant. Usually I get a cheerful lass with a balloony bosom (displayed for all to see, so we can marvel at the tattoos) but this time I got a sullen minx who radiated indifference and self-regard: why is my hotness wasted here? Why is my hotness not rewarded immediately with money and wild sex with Abercrombie & Fitch models? Who the hell are you? I made the first tentative offering of small talk, which was backhanded away with a grunt. Fine; I’ll just sit here, then, recalculating the tip.

Do you use scissors? she asked.

I had no idea what she meant. I mean, I did, inasmuch as she had scissors in her hand like every other person who’s ever cut my head, and I had entered into the transaction with the assumption, however unvoiced, that scissors would be involved anew, but I didn’t quite understand, and asked her what she meant.

Do you use scissors? On your hair?

No, I don’t, I said, carefully, but the people who cut my hair do?

That satisfied her. Pissed her off, too, but it satisfied her. (Later my wife explained that she was asking if I would rather have a razor cut, because now they’re offering to cut your hair with a razor. No one has ever offered to cut my hair with a razor.) The rest of the haircut was one of those uncomfortable events where you don’t like her and she doesn’t like you but you’re going to get through this together, and at the end you come to respect each other as you’re bonding behind a brick wall during a shootout with Mendoza’s goons. Often that last portion is omitted, though.

I couldn’t tell what she was doing. Usually you can sense a pattern or personal style; you can detect tentativeness or confidence. This felt like my head was a bowl of mixed nuts and she was working on extracting only the cashews. In the end it was fine, though, but I shaved a buck off the tip. Or rather scissored it.

Spare me the emails about how I shouldn’t have tipped her at all! It was a decent enough cut, and she has to make a living. I just won’t use her again. I’m North Dakotan that way. I’ll show the little snit what I think, and tip her exactly what the custom demands.

Incidentally, I received a variety of chastening and castigating letters for using canned tomato sauce. Believe me, it’s not standard operating procedure; I usually use bottled stuff, particularly Lido, a local sauce that strikes me just right.  Most of the bottled stuff disappoints, except for some house brands at the supermarket that cost $7.00, which I refuse to buy unless they’re on sale. I know, I know, I could make my own. I used to make my own. Some day I will return to making my own. I will alert the media when the situation changes.

It’s not that I don’t have time to cook, it’s that I can’t cook. No – wait, that was backwards. Sort of. New subject.

Back to Target. I did some quick shopping for staples – one of these days the list of staples will actually include, you know, staples – and picked up a present for Gnat from my Dad. Got the Christmas cards. Drove home, wrote a column, considered a post-lunch cigarillo, but that would mean going outside. It was raining. It was raining ice. The gazebo was shiny with ice; tiny nubbins of proto-cicles depended from its roof; when I let Jasper outside he turned right around and clawed the door: nevermind that. Once I finished the column I went upstairs to do office work, and around 1:30 the character of the view outside my window changed. The world grew brighter. I looked up:



A White Christmas after all.

And may yours be merry and bright!


Repeat note: Part Three of the Diner Christmas special is here.


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