PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

July 3rd, 2006


There’s an interesting discussion over at Portland Metroblogs about fireworks in the city. The question came up as to what good it does to make fireworks illegal, because the police won’t show up just because the local kids are setting off M80s. Of course, that’s not what making them illegal accomplishes. Their illegality simply makes sure you can’t buy them in every Thriftway parking lot.

Of course, you can still get illegals if you want them. You just have to drive to an Indian reservation, or order them by mail. You can still get them, as evidenced by the blasts reverberating through the neighborhood.

Nearly every year, there’s a party down the street which ends up with drunken partygoers shooting rockets over our house at 1:00 am. We’ve had to tell them to knock it off in the past, as burning rocket remnants rattled off our shingles.

What’s even more astounding to me is the pyrotechnics that occur over the nearby trailer park. These are folks that can’t manage to get into an actual house, for whatever reason. One might presume that an inability to save up the down payment could be a factor. And yet, every year there is a steady series of astoundingly expensive (and loud) fireworks getting set off over there.

I have a pretty good idea what fireworks cost, and we’re talking about aerial shells here, the kind that get launched out of a mortar and explode high above the ground. This is one step below professional grade pyrotechnics, and that ain’t cheap. I estimate that several thousand dollars of fireworks get blown to bits over those double-wide trailers every year.

I fear it makes me an elitist, but I can’t help thinking that someone needs to review their priorities.

July 3rd, 2006

Clearcutting the Facial Foliage

I grew a mustache my sophomore year in college. If you would like to know why, I think I can explain it most easily by simply telling you that my mother despised all forms of facial hair. That, and I had an older brother that wore a mustache who I thought was the walking embodiment of cool.

Once I had a mustache, I kept it all through college and into graduate school. It was perhaps not the greatest personal style choice I could have made, but I stuck with it. Here’s an example of what PAgent looked like circa 1986:

Stop laughing! This was the eighties! LOTS of people wore bandanas around their necks! And Chuck Taylor high tops will ALWAYS be cool.

Ahem. Once I went to grad school, I started growing a beard every winter. I did this because Illinois gets freaking cold in the winter, and I needed all the insulation I could get (as an aside, a thick beard actually keeps your face remarkably warm, even in a nasty wind chill). I would generally shave off the beard in the spring, keeping the mustache, and regrow the beard every fall. That was my habit for many years, even after I returned to the Northwest.

Until, that is, my wife delicately informed me that she really preferred the way I looked in the beard. With just a mustache, not so much. Well, that seemed to be a pretty good reason to leave it on during the summer, so I quit shaving the beard off.

Well, now I’ve had a couple of kids who have almost never seen me with a bare face. And (I recently realized) my wife of 14 years has never seen me without a mustache. So on a whim I shaved off all my facial hair this evening.

It’s been entertaining, getting double-takes from my family all night. Bless her heart, my wife’s comment was “You look better without any facial hair than you do with a mustache and no beard.” Uh, thanks?

I’ve even given myself a double-take or two when I passed a mirror. It’s a toss-up whether that stranger looking back at me looks more like my father or my older brother, but the resemblance is much, much stronger than it is when I have the beard.

Now that I’m clean-shaven, I will immediately regrow my beard. I hate shaving every day, for one thing. Then there’s the pesky preferences of my spouse. For some reason, I want my wife to approve of my appearance, and that means a beard. And it will be nice when my kids quit looking at me funny out of the corners of their eyes.

For those of you that also loved Chuck Taylor’s All-Stars, but are concerned with Converse being owned by Nike, check out No-Sweat, which makes some pretty cool versions of the basic high-top basketball shoe, with the guarantee that no sweatshop labor is used. If you buy a pair, let me know how you like them.