I’ll die living just as free as my hair… or how I learned to run, not follow, and lead a life the best I know

As shocking as it may be to you that I am titling this entry partially using a Lady Gaga lyric, trust me when I tell you it is more shocking to me.  My musical taste varies widely, but is centered around off the map punk and pop punk from the 80’s and 90’s, classic and psychedelic rock from the 60’s, and folk music from all times.  Certainly, the young, scantily clad singing and dancing pop vixen was never my thing.

However, I value openness and honesty in my entertainment above all else, and accordingly am a massive fan of Howard Stern.  While some parts of the show will not be entertaining to everyone, it is clear to me, as well as to the millions of well-educated, smart and largely white collar Howard fans, that if you are unable to be entertained by at least some portion of his show, or do not admire him, or at least, his honesty and forthrightness, you simply just have not listened to enough of the show.  The man presents his existence, brutally honestly, in all of its flawed glory, during every show.  He asks the questions we all ask, talks about the things we all wonder about, and through it all manages to be humble (despite his self label “The King of All Media,” the man clearly doesn’t think very highly of himself – and that’s endearing), and self-deprecating, yet also thoughtful.  Above all, the man is thoroughly good, in that he has only ever wanted to make others happy; to entertain.  He’s managed to do it, at the cost of his own mental stability (he talks to a therapist several times a week), and we are all very thankful for him.  His flaws are our flaws, and his successes are our successes; Howard is our buddy.  Our very honest buddy.

I’m sure you’re wondering where this is going.  Be still, brain, for the boomerang is returning.  About a year ago, Lady Gaga was a guest on Howard’s show.  I was not in any particular anticipation of the interview, as I had had little to no exposure to Lady Gaga, and didn’t feel that there would be much about her to resonate with me.  However, because it was Howard doing the interview, I gave it a chance.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I found Gaga to be an intelligent, hard-working, thoughtful, and above all, dedicated musician.  Above this, I was impressed by the responsibility she feels towards her fans.  There are celebrities in all fields who seem to resonate more closely with their fans (Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson the two standout examples for us golfers), and regardless of whether or not you fancy their particular interpretation of what they do, as a human I suppose you have to feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you observe entertainment transcending mere entertainment and moving to the realm of the therapeutic.  It was very evident to me after just a 45 minute interview, that Gaga had the relationship with her fans that I had with Howard, and I liked that.  So I decided to stick around for her in studio performances.  I was not disappointed.  Just a piano and her voice, her songs were simply beautiful.  Here is a link to a youtube video of “hair” performed in Howard’s studio:

While not all of the specific lyrical content of this song resonates with me, the idea of having a head full of hair does resonate with me.  Until I was 14, I always got the high and tight cut.  Very straight laced and boring.  Around that time, I just decided that haircuts weren’t quite for me, and I began growing my hair out.  I’ve never looked back.  I let it grow long and curly.  It flows in the wind.  It looks ridiculous when unwashed, and it looks even more ridiculous when it’s slicked back.  At 14, messing around with your hairstyle is a very easy and quick way to make those first baby steps towards becoming an individual.  We all take different routes to this, and while it was never me or my friends, I suppose and dearly hope, that even the beige people went through some sort of identifying period in their lives, and just happened to pick the life they have.  It wasn’t for me though, as the seemingly rigid social rules of decorum, frowning mightily on having 8 inches of unkempt hair emanating from all angles of one’s scalp, were just begging to not only be broken, but to be ripped to shreds.

As you no doubt learned in Gentle Breezes Turning into Howling Gusts, my decision to embark on the trip, while not specifically planned in that much advance, was the culmination of months of serious contemplation of the life I was leading, and whether it was fulfilling for me.  Of whether it made me happy, and of whether it was how I should be living my life.  And the entire experience is going to remain very personal.  I can promise you that while the tone of most entries will be decidedly lighter fare and far more pragmatic than this one, they will all be very open and honest.

Of all the people I’ve spoken with about the trip, the ones who seem most excited by the endeavor are the ones who need the least explaining about the what and why of the trip.  A few sentences in, the people who end up most intrigued and excited already very much understand.  One of these people, my good friend Indra, dubbed the trip “Feeman’s Freedom Journey.”  I think it’s a perfect title.  If I was just a little more narcissistic, I would adopt this name for the blog itself.  I guard very closely against anything that can be construed as narcissism though (ignore that this itself could be argued to be narcissistic), and will not be using “Feeman’s Freedom Journey” to describe the trip, although you are all welcome to do so.  Indeed, I have found freedom in merely making a clean break from the 9-5 lifestyle and planning this wacky solo trek across our country, but I want to find more freedom while I’m out there.  My personal freedom.

Freedom is a loaded word, the definitions of which vary widely from person to person.  I will not use this blog as a platform for any discussion of political or religious concerns, as these discussions are generally counter productive, particularly on the internet.  I will just trust that you, my dear readers, understand what I mean when I say that freedom is a loaded word, the definitions of which vary widely from person to person.  For me, freedom represents a state of mind which is not beholden to anyone other than yourself.  It is hard to subsist and remain free using this definition, and while I am not resigned to the fact that I will one day trade my freedom for my security again, the possibility is an ever present one.  Freedom, for me, is self determination every minute of every day.  Of course, this definition is unattainable.  But we can try.  As freeing as it was to make the decision to leave my job, I absolutely can not wait for the trip.  Absolute “Feedom” if you will, for 7 weeks.  Traveling by myself, beholden to no one, on my schedule and free to alter plans at my whimsy, this will likely be the freest time of my life.

As my friend Jenny advocates at her blog (http://www.loaforreal.com/ –  a well written, insightful, and inward looking diary, from a thoroughly female perspective – a delightful read for anyone), the changes you want in your life can be yours.  The first step is wanting them.  I so desperately wanted freedom, on my terms, that the second step, deciding to make a massive change to the life that was unfamiliar to me, was easy to make.  The third step was to do things that made me feel free.

Not necessarily intentionally, I decided to drive, by myself, across the country and golf.  These are about the freest things I can do.  I am without the energy at this minute to locate and link an article on the “spirit of the highway,” or “freedom of the interstate,” but again am placing trust in you in assuming that you get it: driving is in itself liberating.  I think a compelling case could be made that driving and our relationship with cars is the defining characteristic of the American spirit of freedom; that elusive spirit which everyone tries to take for their own.  For me, my car is an intimately free place.  My car represents the ability to go anywhere, at any time, and do anything.

Wild desire being moderated by conscious decision making, I got a haircut today.  The prospect of driving through the deep south and southwest in the middle of summer with a mop on my head simply was far too daunting.  Of course I didn’t get a high and tight (much to the consternation of my main man, Bill Linton, above whom I had lived for 3 years.  His Barber Shop is an absolute treasure and is a slice of Americana.  It was his father’s before his, and retains a spirit of community and inclusion that is simply to be seen.  Those who get their hair cut at Linton’s are Bill’s friends first, and his customers second.  For my WNY friends – he is at Eggert and Margaret in Amherst – check him out), instead opting for my traditional shortening of the mop.  Cut approximately in half, the hair now sits at about 4 inches long round my head – and it will be blowing in the wind of the open windows shortly.

As I drove to and fro the salon where I got my haircut, proceeded by a trip to Golf Galaxy to load up on golf balls, and followed by a stop to AAA to sign up for roadside assistance, I couldn’t help but feel abundantly free.  Driving my ’70 Karmann Ghia around town, itself a representation of freedom, windows down and music playing, it was as if my trip had already begun.  I was living my heart, not following.  I am leading a life the best I know.

The last sentence and second half of the entry’s title are a nod to It’s Hard to Know, by Hot Water Music.  The song, along with the rest of No Division, the album upon which it appears, were extremely influential and inspiring to me in the month leading up to my decision to quit work.  The style may be a little abrasive to some untrained ears, but here’s a link anyway:

We couldn’t help but cry when we were brought to life, drug out by the cold, slapped a few times to the rhythm of the flickering lights with tightly closed sore eyes.  We grow to either be or hate what’s cold, and that’s when we learn to run; don’t follow; and lead a life the best we know.  It’s hard to find your way through the darkness.  And it’s hard to know what to believe, but if you live by your heart and value the love you find, then you’ll have all you need to run; don’t follow; lead a life the best we know.  Let’s talk about an independent stand.  Let’s talk about freeform thought.  It’s not about living under command.  So don’t get caught.  Live your hear and never follow.

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1 Comment

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One response to “I’ll die living just as free as my hair… or how I learned to run, not follow, and lead a life the best I know

  1. Karl Schultz

    Hi Alex, I hope this email finds you. I sent you a message via Facebook last week asking if we can support you by donation of some product. If you get this email, please contact me back if you’re interested. We wish you all the best in your goal.

    Thank you Karl http://www.truthsandliesbrand.com 714.702.6294

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