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(June 15, 2004)

        I dreamed I depilated myself the other night. Well, part of myself---just a three-and-a-half-inch piece, but one resplendant with implications of masculinity and character!
        I summoned my courage, took out the razor and scraped off a chunk of left moustache, then stared at my reflection, aghast. Unveiled were many deep, "old man" wrinkles; crevices worthy of Arizona or Strom Thurmond.
       This, I figured, either bespoke fear of advancing years, or prunes---which, come to think of it, are related.
       But like that first step out of an airplane (preferably with parachute), I knew my course was irreversible. I squashed the entire caterpillar, and left my face naked for the first time in twenty years.
        Follicular manslaughter!
        Listen, folks, it was truly horrible. I mean, you see how frightening I am with facial hair. My exposed upper lip skin had that super-white, virginal look to it, almost like a milk moustache.
        I woke up in a cold sweat (really), and immediately groped for the 'stache. Still there! Hail, Mary! Hairy male!
        The problem, you see, is that the hormonal decoration immediately south of my nostrils has turned white, or nearly so---the harvest of many years' bad editing, earthquakes, and marital problems. When I wear my gray beret, I suddenly acquire a salt-and- peppery aura; suggesting the benign old prof, or, as polite and delicate woman editor once said to me, "Rip! You look like an old beatnik!"
        As I am neither benign nor beat, I have elected to pass the salt-and-pepper. Too much seasoning. Problem is, it follows me around. No matter how dark my crown remains---and it is slowly but surely being invaded by strands of that colorless part of the spectrum that we classify as "white"---the moustache bristles (so to speak) proudly, defiantly, and ever gray, gray, gray.
        In other words, the gris is too eminence.
        This would also be the problem with my bare upper lip. It is too interruptive, obtrusive, unapologetic. To borrow a Yiddish word, which I promise to return immediately, it yutzes in. It goes where few upper lips have gone before. Lip Rense. The moustache is the six-foot-tall Chinese vase covering the hole in the floor.
        So I am in extremus, all a-twit, and otherwise flustered. What to do? Remove the dark, carefully cultivated symbol of mature manhood (which did not connect in the middle until I was thirty)? Might this restore the veneer of youth, or at least my forties?
I went on-line, as everyone does in the 21st century to solve all problems, and discovered a possible remedy: Voodoo!
        I dwell on the nightmarish object lesson of actor Sam Elliot, whose masculinity was etched by his mammoth 'stache, from under which crawled the most grisly, growly, testicular voice this side of Barry White. I mean, this mans' hairs have hairs. Elliot, if you missed it, shaved a year or two ago, revealing the nerdiest, wimpiest upper lip this side of. . . mine.
        It's no caprice that Sambo quite suddenly grew it back---silver and proud.
        The other day I broke down and went to Sav-On. Yes, you guessed it: "Just For Men: medium ash- brown." With that jackass on the box who looks like he wears Cotton Dockers and talks real adult guy stuff about stocks and mutual funds and carrying a second and colossal mammary glands. (Or I dunno, maybe he's gay.) In any case, this guy's beard---one of those preposterous perpetually-week-old affairs---looks as it were colored with a crayon, or possibly Easter Egg dip.
        I haven't been so embarrassed since I used to sheepishly clutch Troj-Enz in my sweaty teenaged fist and wait in line at Thrifty next to a scowling mom (she was scowling, wasn't she?). . .in mid-afternoon! And then the checker would see the little box of three, with humiliatingly clinical word, "lubricated," and. . .Uh-oh, we all know what you're about to do, kid!. . .
        So now it was heh-heh, we know what you're about to do, Old Man---try pathetically to reclaim a little of your youth. . .so maybe you can buy some Tro-Jenz again! Ha! You'll never fool anybody with that paint. . .
        My ever-solicitious brother, Jeff, recently sent a doctored photo of my tragically aging visage, with the 'stache colored in. Damn nice of him! But it just looked like a "what's wrong with this picture?" An older face with a moustache that hadn't caught up yet.
        Still, I opened the "Just for Men" package, and inspected the contents, read the instructions. God, I'd have to "color my roots" periodically, which I thought was "just for women!" No, there's just something a little too feminine going on here. Or too Old Poof. And what woman would want to kiss a guy with a dyed moustache? Come nibble on my medium-ash-brown, baby. . .
        I elected on a daring course. I would color it, and if it looked too phoney---you know, like Paul McCartney's orange hair---I would scrape it off and take my chances with Lippy the Lion. (And ensuing har de har hars---obscure '60s cartoon reference there.)
        Or hell, maybe I'll just do like record producer Mark Hudson does, and grow the big Fu-Manchu down the side to my chin---and color the whole thing purple! Why not? It would look more conventional, these tattooed days, than the LAPD-approved "safe" 'stache---you know, barely past the imaginary border of the mouth corner.
        I was even driven to consider New Age consultation. Although I'm not into contacting the dead (except Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Billy Kreutzman, Mickey Hart), or potions or lotions or fragrances or herbs to give my facial follicles some fountain of youth. But hey, I've been drinking the foulest-tasting Chinese herb elixir next to gutter water lately, for general vitality, so I'm not  averse to "alternative" proposals.
        I went on-line, as everyone does in the 21st century to solve all problems, and discovered a possible remedy: Voodoo! No, no, I'm not going to sacrifice any roosters or anything. But I read that there is a form of the stuff that has "ten times the potency of traditional voodoo." Yup, that should do nicely! But then---damn it all to hell---it turns out the the name of this particular magic is. . .
        Gris Gris.
        Gray Gray.
        I'm screwed.
        Vanity, thy name is Rense! I have no courage. I am my moustache.

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