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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ADVANTAGES OF WHITE HAIR


robert ryman


For several weeks I've been wanting to get on the highway and drive, just an urge to go someplace nearby, like visit Cumberland Gap, visiting the Bristol country music museum, maybe even go on a Saturday and stop at the Carter Fold on the way home. It both appeals to me and does not appeal to me. Today it happened. Appointment at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem to have heart read by computer, an annual trip. I've used Alleghany In Motion before, but too often end up listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, which makes me gag. I don't care that his politics are different from mine, but he's such a liar, an alarmist and general bullshitter. He looks like a German banker in Berlin between the wars depicted in George Grosz paintings: pigs in suits. Thought I'd bypass Limbaugh and leave the driving to myself. It had been awhile since I have driven at a steady run on interstate. Wanted to give the engine some exercise, clean out whatever carbon might be in the cylinder heads. Mainly wanted to give it a good run, like taking a horse out for a run. The car is my friend, same as a horse would be my friend. It takes me to town and back, and to Woodlawn and back. Woodlawn is an hour drive, but it's different from an hour on the interstate. On mountain highways speed varies constantly. On interstate I can put it on seventy and go. It was an hour and a half each way with a break at the turn-around point of about a half hour. Driving around looking for a way to get on the interstate helped ease the engine into the long run.

robert ryman
 
 
The drive was a good one with the window open and no radio. Followed mind wherever it went. I wore my everyday hillbilly garb that kinda sticks out in a city, like the ball cap I've worn for ten years, the bill frayed across the front. On the highway I took the cap off, wanted white hair visible. White hair has great advantages. First, white hair is the sign of diminished memory. So I don't have that backpack of too many memories to carry. Second, white hair acts as something of a white flag that says I come in peace. Third, people tend to make allowances for white haired people. Like you fart in the grocery store while talking with somebody you haven't seen in awhile, and you get away with it. "Oh, that happens to everybody," somebody will say. "Don't worry about it." Or nobody will say anything, it accepted among white haired people that farts happen. It's something old people tend to have in common, the occasional fart that takes a life of its own. It makes me slightly regret I didn't always feel the freedom to let farts happen instead of suppressing them. Fourth, no one suspects somebody with white hair of juvenile delinquency. Excellent camouflage. With white hair, people think whatever you're doing has authority behind it, perceived maturity. Fifth, a freedom comes with white hair if you care to exercise it. White haired people tend to get grumpy, and they're not afraid. "What you gonna do? Kill me?" It's an attitude. You know they're not going to kill you, but if it were to happen, it would be received a favor. That's not generally true, however. It's just a part of the tapestry.

robert ryman


I confess to loving the freedom that goes with white hair. Especially in my own behavior. Something inside, like old age, has me feeling free enough to say what I mean, unable to in the past. I may turn out to be a cranky old turd. I don't care if I do. Something I discovered that I did not anticipate, though saw in retrospect it was obvious, other men my age tend to have calcified minds locked down in right wing politics. I see it along the way in men as they leave school and go into the work world. The only explanation that makes any sense to me why men tend to lock down in right wing belief systems where they tell you what to believe and you profess to believe it, is military. Obey. Until the end of the draft, next step after school was military for the men. Still is in most countries, as well as here. The military belief system is the most common among men. It's the one most looked up to in men. I'm recalling a couple times somebody said, "You been in the military?" Of course. I said, "Yes." The other said, "I thought so." It's good they didn't ask what I thought of it.

robert ryman


Men get it drilled into their heads to be obedient, do what you're told, until it becomes the nature of male culture. What would we do without rebels? And rebels are made to feel so guilty for breaking from the obedience mold. Another freedom with white hair, white haired rebels can do whatever they want. Nobody takes them seriously, so we're free to do whatever. In the world of music, Willard Gayheart in Woodlawn, Virginia, 81, picks bluegrass guitar with the best. Other musicians don't play down to him. He holds them up with his rhythm, allows fiddle and banjo to play and not concern themselves with keeping rhythm; Willard has the rhythm under control. He likes to sing old songs from the 1920s, I Get The Blues When It Rains, and Bob Wills Texas Swing songs like Take Me Back To Tulsa. In Willard's world of regional musicians, white hair is a sign he's been pickin a long time and knows a lot of songs.

robert ryman


I feel like I've seen white hair express differently in different people. Some wear it with a kind of authoritarian I'm-in-charge-here attitude, some with a kind of piety. In the time my hair was turning white, I decided to change haircut. Didn't know what I wanted to do with it. In that time, I was in London for a few days seeing thousands of people everywhere I went. I saw white hair about every way it could be done. It appeared like no matter what a man did with white hair that needed combing it had an aura of vanity about it, somehow. The ones that I saw with a crew cut looked best to me. Simple, easy to manage, easy to wash. They didn't look primped over. All I need is mirror sunglasses to be taken for retired highway patrol. Some people take me for retired military. My car doesn't show that. It's the classic old man car, comfortable interior, good motor that will scoot. I kicked it into passing gear a couple times today and let it wind the rpms way up. The motor loved it. I was happy with the car's round-trip performance from departure to arrival. A good three hour run. It's been wanting to do that. And so have I. Good to get on the road with no radio and mind surf.  

robert ryman
 
 
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