Another Close Shave

Schick Eversharp Razor

 I recently got replacement blades for my electric razor. Hey, every 10 or 15 years, they probably get a bit dull, and need to be replaced, right? Trusty Amazon had just the right blades, and got them to me in a couple of days; after I installed them, my wife noticed the difference in how close the shave was compared to my old blades. I don’t remember the first time I actually tried to shave myself, but what I do remember is “borrowing” my dad’s single-blade Schick gold-plated razor. 

It was already a bit worn out by the mid 1960’s, but probably gave me the best shaves of my life. I may or may not have absconded with this razor when I moved out to live life on my own. 

I guess I always had a small rebel streak in me. I remember growing sideburns in high school (strictly forbidden in those ancient times), and being sent down to the Vice-Principals office. He took his ballpoint pen, drew a mark by my mid-ear, and sent me down to the boiler room to shave off the sideburns with a rusty razor before I could return to class. The next year, I grew my hair into a “Beatles” style cut; the principal told me I couldn’t graduate on-stage unless I got it cut. Somehow I snuck by, and graduated.

A couple of years later I found myself a full-fledged member of the U.S. Army National Guard. As you may imagine, they were a bit more strict in enforcing regulations about facial hair and hair length. Checking in for Basic Training, my head was shorn to the scalp, and all facial hair had to go. I still have that photo in some place; it was scary. All I can say is some men have perfectly shaped heads that look great bald or shaved. Not me. I’m not sure if maybe I was dropped on my head as an infant, but I have a huge depression on my skull that resembles the shape of an elephant’s head.

Anyhow, for one weekend a month, plus two weeks during the summer I conformed to their short hair, neatly trimmed mustache requirements. The rest of the time, I was on my own; my employer was crazy insistent on showing up for work on time (go figure), but otherwise didn’t care about personal grooming. So every month after my guard meetings, I’d grow my facial hair in a different style. Fu Manchu, Mutton Chops, full beard, Van Dyke, Goatee, Horseshoe mustache. My beard grows quickly, so it was a lot of fun to play with all these different appearances. It was even better when they allowed us to wear short-hair wigs to the monthly meetings so I could grow my hair long.

Early days in optical

I guess reality smacks us all alongside the head at some point in life. I had moved to Bellingham, Washington, and was struggling to find a job. At one place where I applied and was rejected, I noticed my long hair got a bit of attention. So, I got it all cut off, shaved all but a regulation mustache, and went back. I offered to work for a month for free (for the training), and then they could pay me what they thought I was worth if they saw some value and potential in me. It worked! 

Gray caterpillar on my lip

Many years later, I was blessed to meet an incredible woman, and remarry. She did love my mustache, and so did I – until I started taking a close look at some photos of me. I noticed that there appeared to be a large, ungainly gray caterpillar crawling across my upper lip! Not only was it a bit unsightly, I realized it was adding about 10 years to my apparent age – and in a business that has a huge fashion component, age was detriment, not a benefit. After a bit of back and forth discussion, we agreed the caterpillar should be removed.

Clean Shaven!

I guess the good news for me right now is that even though the hair on the top of my head is thinning, there is still enough to cover up the elephant dimple without resorting to a comb-over! I also realized a while back, after I retired, that I really didn’t like to shave anymore. The good news is that while my wife likes my clean, smooth shave, I can generally get by shaving every other day. My new, sharp shaver blades really delivered with another close shave, and a trip down memory lane. What memories of shaving might you have?

The Three Amigos

The Boogie Corner

Many people form great, life-long bonds with college roommates; others become comrades-in-arms in military service. Then there’s the Three Amigos from the Boogie Corner. Odd how things work out. I had just returned to Portland after Basic and AIT Training for the Oregon National Guard at Fort Lewis, and knew living at home was no longer an option. John D had just gotten back from Texas, where he had gone through the Air Force equivalent of Basic Training. Gary M. had been friends with my sisters, and (as often happened) would make the trek down from Renton to visit with my mom, and he was looking to move to Portland. None of us had enough resources to get our own places, so I said, “What if we all get an apartment together?” And we did.

We found a newer three bedroom, two bath apartment in South East Portland, scraped together some furnishings, and moved in. We were in a corner unit with two other apartments – one had three “girls”, and the other had three “guys.” Those six liked to party hardy with alcohol, and while we wouldn’t turn down a drink, preferred, let’s say, alternative choices. Occasionally we would all join forces, and quite the party would ensue – hence the name, Boogie Corner.

Gary loved to cook, and we loved to eat. John “loved” to clean, and I – hmmm – I liked everything at 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. Music, medicinal herbs, you name it. Think hippy wanna-be’s Odd Couple plus One. But something clicked.

Poor Gary – John and I would get the munchies around midnight, after Gary had been to bed for a couple of hours. We’d cook up cheeseburgers, and wake him up to eat one. He’d actually get up, eat the burger we cooked, and go back to bed. In the morning involuntary bulimia would often afflict Gary. He says that’s why I don’t eat burgers now.

Then there was the time John and I came back to the apartment, opened the door, and tons of smoke rolled out. We thought the apartment was on fire! Turns out Gary had cookies in the oven, and forgot about them until a second before we arrived. Then there was the time when he had cooked up a plate of spaghetti and meat sauce. We were in the process of eating dinner when the landlord came to call. I answered the door, but for various reasons, did not invite him in. Gary came up to the door, holding his plate of spaghetti, until – it just fell from his fingers, as if in slow motion. Still in slow-mo, Gary’s mouth fell open, his eyes widened, and he slowly looked down at the floor where his dinner now resided. The landlord looked at the food, then at Gary, then at me and said “I’ll come back later.”

Celebrating a 50th Birthday in Vancouver, BC

John worked at a major bank, I worked at Western Electric building telephone switching equipment, and Gary held a variety of jobs. One was selling waterbeds (remember those?). The best part about that was that they sponsored rock concerts, so Gary was able to get us in to see Bill Withers on his first tour, Canned Heat, and the James Gang. We did like to rock out.

There was a whole lot more, compressed into what actually was a fairly short time. But we bonded. John still lives in Portland, Gary lives in Olympia, and I’m far north in between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, but we still try and get together once a year. We share old stories, talk about future plans, and just enjoy each other’s company. I treasure the friendship of these two, and am so glad we’ve kept it going for oh my gosh it must be about 50 years now! In the end, we all have memories, but for us lucky ones, we have friends who have touched, and continue to touch, our lives.

The Three Amigos and Spouses getting together again to celebrate about 50 years of friendship

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

….It’s those changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes

Nothing remains quite the same

With all of our running and all of our cunning

If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane!”

Jimmy Buffett

It’s true that our winters in Western Washington can be long, cool, damp and … gray. We are infamous for our rain, which starts in October, and ends the day after the 4th of July weekend. The Hoh River rainforest can get up to 170 inches of rain a year; even though our winters are pretty mild by most standards,  the dampness can just kind of creep into your bones and settle there. So, it’s not surprising that many of us like to travel to desert or tropical climes to remember what the warm sun feels like on our skin.

It’s also not surprising that at a certain point in one’s life, finances permitting, many like to relocate to warmer, drier climes (the converse, weird as it seems, is also true – I often see people who have lived in, say, Arizona, come up here for our lush landscape). All that is well and good, except …

I will admit that while I feel I am a friendly guy, I don’t find it particularly easy to make new friends. A few years back we connected with another couple, and quickly established a warm, close bond. We go to dinner, check out local wineries and breweries, take weekend trips and even occasionally vacation together. We even just hang out, telling each other our stories over a glass of wine or two. They had made their home and yard a beautiful, park-like setting, have family locally, participated musically in the worship team at church, and loved the area. But. Our weather was increasingly becoming an issue, and one day they just up and sold their home, and moved to California, both for the weather and to be closer to their aging parents. Suddenly there was this huge gap in our lives.

To top it off, even as we are becoming closer to some mutual friends (love you guys, you know who you are), they bought a lot in Montana with the intention of moving there (at least during the snow-free months) once they retire in a few years. And other close friends I’ve know most of my life are dealing with health issues, so the times we’ve stayed with them, and trips we used to take with them to sunny southern locations may no longer be an option. Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same.

On the plus side, we always have a terrific time with my wife’s youngest sister and her husband, and with my cousin and her husband up in B.C.. We’ve made some new connections with couples that love to hike, and who love live music. We even enjoyed a family reunion with my four siblings, and created new and stronger bonds there.

Our new challenge is to build and nurture the relationships we already have, and to accept, embrace, and move forward in a quest to find new people with whom we can share our journey. Wanted: couples who love to laugh, love the blues and rock’n’roll, enjoy an occasional glass of wine (or beer), and are  willing to share their story with us as we share ours with them. They say staying flexible as you age is important; I guess that applies both physically and relationally. Time to start stretching!!


When I was young, I was a voracious reader. I mean I read everything, including my mom’s Good Housekeeping magazines. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason, I’ve always remembered an ad in there, and it has now come back to haunt me. You might even remember it – “GET RID OF HORRID AGE SPOTS!. Just buy their cream, and hey presto! The’re gone!

I guess you can figure out where this is headed; yes, I DO have “horrid age spots’. It was kinda like going shopping, getting back to your car, and finding a ding on the door. Disbelief, shock, anger, and then, resignation. Well, at least they’re not painful.

And age spots would be okay, if that’s where it stopped, but noooooo. Suddenly the back of my hand looks OLD. When did that happen? I remember when my facial hair started growing gray, and I finally convinced my wife I’d look sooo much better if I shaved the gray caterpillar off my upper lip.  Actually made me look a bit younger, for awhile. Then there are the incipient wattles, aka Turkey Neck. I’d shake my head in disgust, but I hate the flapping.

All of these are bad enough, but my nemesis is  – wait for it – hair. Hair on my head. Not the stuff on top, thinning and (ahem) soon and suddenly to go gray. No, I’m talking about the hair that is creeping up my neck and back, trying to peek out over my shirt collars. I’m talking about the zillion hairs in my nose that would pass for a mustache if I didn’t trim them. I’m talking about the ones growing out of my ears. Really, what evolutionary benefit does that impart to an aging male that is already showing signs of hearing loss (didn’t we all turn the amps up to 11 when we were young?). Seems like that little forest of ear hairs would keep even MORE sound out.

Finally, not to be outdone, are the Eyebrow Hairs. Why do they grow so much when the top of my head is losing so much? I’ve actually wondered if I could use them for a comb-over; certainly cheaper than getting hair implants!

At night, when I am dreaming, I am young, vibrant and strong. Well, in my dreams, I can also play the guitar like Eric Clapton, and I can often fly. Point is, I’m never old, or even middle-aged. But then I wake, jump in the shower, and there they are! Horrid Age Spots! Hey, what was the name of that cream again??? Asking for a friend.

Adventures In Aging Begins!

Hello! My name is Bill, and I Am Gray. I’ve been noticing for awhile that I’ve been aging, and that I’ve been getting gray. I’ve been seeing changes in myself and those around me. Some of them are tough, and some are funny, and some are a curious mix of the two. Sometimes I am right in the midst, up to my neck as I deal with all the various impacts of my body getting older. Sometimes I feel like I’m an interested bystander, watching all of these things unfold. One day I realized that this is a story that is played out in the lives of so many, and that we can share our stories of the joys and travails of the shared journey of aging. Why not tag along, and see what happens?

So, who am I? I’ve been a Licensed Dispensing Optician for 45 years – I’m the guy who helps you find the perfect pair of of eyeglass frames, and recommend the right type of lenses, then make them fit perfectly, and work with your doctor to solve vision problems. I’m still working two days a week as I “back into retirement.” I’ve been backpacking around the West, and rowed my own raft on several whitewater rivers in the West. I love to eat great food, and drink decent wine – oh, and have a micro-brew beer now and again. If you’d like to see reviews of my dining experiences, please follow me at William “Bill” G on Yelp. My wife and I love to travel, and explore places large and small – we love to find places that have their own unique character. We are now exploring ways we can continue to travel and explore with a very limited retirement budget, and I will be sharing those travels here as well. You can follow those adventures on Instagram at AdventuresInGraying and at I Am Gray on Facebook. In the meantime, this blog is very much a work in progress, so I beg your indulgence as I work out all the kinks in getting it set up to work and function the way I’m hoping.

This blog will not be just about me – I will be interviewing others who are willing to share their stories dealing with physical changes, financial challenges, changing natures of relationships, and all the joys and heartaches of aging. Looking forward to sharing our Adventures In Aging!