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Soup of This Day #330: Who’s That Funky Dude Staring Back At Me

August 9, 2013

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn upon his return to Russia from exile. The 20 years away from his mother country hadn’t softened his views – He was still angry, like an old man returning soup in a deli. He could have used a haircut as well – Photo: Evstafiev, 1994. Evstafiev is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

When I was young I used to tell everyone who asked that I wanted to be a marine biologist.

Which was not accurate – I didn’t really want to be a marine biologist – I get seasick and I’m scared of sharks. It’s just that I had to give an answer and whenever I said ‘marine biologist’ people seemed to approve. And in time, I said it so often, and skewed so many vocational questionnaires (It says here Longworth72 that you like the ocean and the creatures that live in it) that I almost convinced myself that I really did want to be a marine biologist.

Instead of a writer.

Because what I truly wanted to be was a writer. I’d loved words and the stories they told me since I was able to read, so I wanted to be around books – I figured then that I could do this best by writing them. The trouble is that writing is not a career that sounds definitive enough. It’s kind of vague and has a hint of rebellion to it – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a writer and look how that worked out for him.

Writing stuff is all fun and games until someone finds themselves in The Gulag Archipelago. A marine biologist meanwhile is more like to splash down in the Galápagos Islands. Which is a more literal, and frankly more appealing, kind of archipelago.

So I shoe-horned myself into being a marine biologist-in-waiting, all the while making very little effort to be particularly marine or biologist. I did eat fish, but I didn’t catch them and by the time I got them on my plate they were nondescript fillets enveloped in batter.

And that was me – Sure, I wasn’t covered in batter, but I was a nondescript fillet out of water. 1 woman, watching me stumble through athletics training, sympathetically told the trainer that I was like a dolphin in the pool. This comment did further enhance my marine biology cred, but by extension it also emphasised that on land I was just awkward. I moved awkward, I did marine biology awkward. I looked awkward. Even my hair was awkward.

Which was why I used to dislike getting my hair cut. I’d go along with strict instructions to get my hair ‘neatened up’, which meant short back and sides with a fringe that stayed clear of my eyes. What made this worse is that I’d spend my waiting time at the barbershop, looking at photos of prospective styles. Cool styles, the kind that seems to make the owner happy to wear. See, that guy has got himself a mohawk and now there is a girl hanging off of him and he’s driving a 427 Cobra.

Definitely not a marine biologist’s cut. And not for Longworth72.

At least the place where I got my hair neatened was comfortable.

Mostly Brother of Longworth72 and I went to a barber’s shop in Perth. A simple place with warm leather couches squaring off a waiting area and maybe 7 or 8 chairs forming an ‘L’ shape around the outside of the single room. You didn’t book – Instead you just wandered in and sat down. Periodically 1 of the cutters would call out ‘Who’s next?’ and the occupants of those couches would cycle through those pneumatic chairs. There was no TV and no radio – Just a conversation if you wanted it and companionable silence if you didn’t feel like jawing.

Some customers had favourites – Goto barbers like Frank, the owner – and they’d wait till that preferred blade-master was free. My Dad was 1 of those customers – He’d allow Frank to take scissors to his locks, but nobody else. Dad didn’t have the same rule for his boys though – We had to just accept that maybe the apprentice would be chopping our ears off. Which in truth never happened – I never once had a bad cut from Frank’s guys, most of whom seemed at least sympathetic to our plight.

That’s probably why we went back there – And why I take The Noah there now. Frank and his crew have now cut 3 generations of Longworth72 family hair. The shop has not changed – The Noah waits his turn on warm leather couches and there is still no TV or radio. I don’t mind any of that – There’s something to be said for rewarding good work with loyalty. That is in fact the theme of this Soup.

Dustin Pedroia is the 2nd baseman for the Boston Red Sox. He’s sort of like my hair, in that he’s not always fashionable in style but he is scrappy.

17 years ago I had my hair shaved down to a 1 at Frank’s. I’ve not grown it out since – I wake up looking the same as when I went to bed, with a scrappy layer of fur barely covering my dome.

This is Pedroia – Scrappy McScrapperson. Since the native of Woodland, California was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox in 2004, he has scrapped his way to a career that just didn’t seem likely for a 5’8″ skinny kid who hit .191 his 1st year in the Majors (31 games in 2006).

Pedroia though has serious heart. And a serious glove. And a pretty decent swing on his bat. All of this he parleyed into the American League (AL) Rookie of the Year award for 2007 – The year he hit .317 across 139 regular-season games and then batted in 10 postseason runs as his Red Sox won a World Series.

The next year he got better, belting out a .326 batting average while earning the 1st of 4 All-Star nods, a Golden Glove (2b) and a Silver Slugger (2b). To cap that all off he handily won the AL MVP award.

Since then he’s not dropped below .288 with the bat – His combined batting average over his 8 years in red hosiery is an astonishing .302, with 477 RBIs and 98 long-shots.

All of which is awesome but none of which captures the heart that Pedroia plays with. He is the Red Sox – The guy who you just know will be out there scrapping until the end. The guy who will dive into the mud, the turf, the wall even, all for his team – Each and every day in the life of Dustin Pedroia. Says the man himself:

‘It’s the only thing I know. I love putting on the Red Sox uniform every day. Every game is important to me and my teammates. It’s pretty special. I live and die by this team. It’s important to be here my whole time.’

That extra stuff, the team ethos, doesn’t always count for a lot when it comes to back-office decisions. The likes of Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington need to be pragmatic – He’s building a team to win and there isn’t much room for sentimentality in that. Ben needs to be a marine biologist, not a writer.

Which maybe explains why the Red Sox have recently given Dustin Pedroia a whale of a contract extension – The diminutive 2nd baseman will net wins and will get $110m on an 7-year deal that will see him tied to his team until at least 2021. That’s 7 bonus years of Pedroia absorbing the knocks of his sporting life in a Red Sox uniform.

Bishan Rajapakse is someone else who has been taking the knocks of his sporting life of late. While surfing at Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach, Bishan caught a whale of a deal of his own.

That was more like a deal of whale, being an actual cetacean that was:

‘…the size of a bus.’

That bit is critical – Had the whale been for instance, the size of a baseball, then Bishan might not have paddled over to take a look. From above the whale. But it’s ok because Bishan is thinking this through:

‘The whale actually moved pretty quickly so I guess it’s made me cautious to see what could happen.’

Not cautious enough – What did happen is that the whale flicked its tail up and Bishan got to wake up on the beach, having had his unconscious arse dragged to shore by rescuers.

See Bishan, that’s the kind of thing that a writer would do – Describe a whale as being the size of a bus – That’s evoking an image using words, a connection between the whale and a bus.

A whale is not much like a bus when it comes down to it.

Marine biologists know that. They’d know that unlike a bus, a whale has a tail. A big tail that swings like Dustin Pedroia’s bat. Which is a metaphor, and a loose 1 at that, because Dustin Pedroia’s bat is highly unlikely to swim up from the deep and knock out surfers.

And even if a marine biologist did say that a whale was like a bus, they wouldn’t mean that because the whale had the propensity to just stop and pick up passengers, before safely depositing them at pre-determined locations.

That’s just not a whale’s deal.

So a marine biologist wouldn’t identify this bus-sized creature as a whale and then go over it for a closer look. Solzhenitsyn might have got curious – He was a writer though. He was in fact a more than decent writer who made a worthwhile contribution to the written world.

It’s ok to be the writer Bishan. Just maybe write about marine biology.

And get a haircut dude – Frank and the lads will see you right – Trinity Arcade, Perth, Western Australia.

Who’s That Funky Dude Staring Back At Me

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