Mark Schauder was not a Hippie

What do cigarettes and long haired guys have in common? Fortunately for you, I will tell you what. The perception of cool. Dear kind and thoughtful reader, my main goal in life is to make you mad and irritated. I like to call it maditated. Before I lose you to your other business about the internet I will confide in you that I am a recovering long hair (guy). As a point of clarification, from here on, when referring to the long hair it will only be pertaining to guys. It’s not that uncommon for the female brand to carry the longer locks (ie, Cher).

I consider myself lucky to have never required the extra cool factor that the cigarette offers. This is not to say that I was cool, but rather I was confident in any lack of cool. Please, kind and gently argumentative reader, let’s not even pretend that there is any other reason to begin smoking. People generally want to fit in with other people. Sometimes the people need something to do whilst they are fitting in. Enter, stage left, cigarettes (actually, stage right – as stage left would be a left-handed cigarette) – and what better place to enter, than as a youthful person.

I refuse to belabor the point. Everyone gets it. The big difference between the smoker and the long hair is that quitting smoking is much harder than quitting, ah…..ah….hairing. By the time the smoker gains confidence and starts to become an individual, they are now an individual with a nice little perfectly legal addiction. Nice job, R.J. Most long hairs are able to kick the habit, if they want to. Some have no intention and why should they? They’re not hurting anyone, unless you think of second-hand hair as that long strand you found in your burger at the pub.

My name is Jason Spafford and I thought it was cool to have long hair. There I said it. I didn’t hide behind a burning nicotine ember, I chose to grow my hair long to fit into something. I’m not really sure what I fit into though. I wasn’t in a band (although, I was once asked to be in one because of my long hair). I didn’t smoke pot. I don’t want to assume that having long hair means drug use, but sorry long hairs, a lot of you smoke pot. I didn’t even hang out with a lot of long hairs – maybe because I wasn’t in a band or smoke pot. But somehow I decided that I wanted to have the long hair when I was 19. So let the growing and fitting in begin.

I made it through the Carol Brady stage and quickly moved to all shoulder length and that’s where I stayed for a better part of seven years, occasionally cutting it all off and starting over. There were pros and cons, like most things. The pro was, unlike a pack of cigarettes, my perceived cool cost me nothing but a dollop more of shampoo each day. The cons were that those not perceiving me as cool, but instead a dirty hippie, had to be convinced that I was in fact not a dirty hippie. I had to spend more time than necessary explaining to my dad that someday I would have a job.

The other con was on occasion more scrutiny than I liked. As a fly under the radar type of person, I was often put into higher profile situations. For example, when going to Jamaica on spring break one year with two friends I’d refer to as Jim Johnson and Ed Baumann, I was the only person on the plane checked to see if I was bringing drugs into Jamaica. This seemed wrong. On the way to a Jamaican beach, we walked by a man who appeared to be waiting for someone. My clean-cut friend Jim was a few steps ahead of me. As Jim passed the man, it became obvious that he was waiting for Jim.

“Hey, man. Hey, man. You need coc? Cocaine, man? Got it, man.” He said, in a choppy quick paced delivery. Jim Johnson shook his head no and walked past him.

I approached with my long hair calling card only a few steps behind Jim Johnson and the message changed, like only a true salesman could do.

“Hey, brother, you need some weed? I’ve got some good weeeeed, my friend.” This delivery was slow and he swayed a bit as he said it. I think he may have assumed I was high already and he was trying to hypnotize me into resupplying. He obviously knew his markets.

I stopped. He thought he had a sale, and then I responded in my best northern Midwestern/Canadian accent slowly, clearly and politely, “No thank you sir, but thank you very much for asking.”

These instances were few and far between, but for a person looking to streamline and make things easy I was not a huge fan of the confusion that my hair sometimes created. What follows is exhibit B in the case of the long hair confusion.

In 1989, my friend, let’s call him Don Schantz, and I took a big road trip out west. Don’s mother was from China and his father from Wisconsin. That actually made Don – Wisconese. That’s probably not politically correct. I should really be mixing the word Wisconsin with the exact region in China, but I don’t have that information and I can’t call Don right now, because he’s still maditated at me about calling him Wisconese. Oh, the web, I’ve woven – mostly on quiet weekend evenings. That’s when I do crafts.

Near the end of our trip we ended up in Los Angeles. The day before that we were in San Francisco and got out of town just before one of the largest earth quakes to ever hit the city. We both thought we should leave for some strange reason. That strange reason reached out to us and touched us with a tremor in Los Angeles. After a couple of days in Los Angeles being ever so productive, we decided to take trip to Mexico with our good friend, I’ll call him Mark Schauder.

Mark had moved to Los Angeles several years before and was living the consistently tepid California dream. He was an old friend from high school and a fellow thespian. I should point out that he was a real thespian and I was more of a “pian”. Mark was an actor and I built sets and made people nervous with the slightest anticipation of me speaking on stage. In California, Mark found his way as a talented bi-lingual restaurant manager as he schemed his next move in life, taking a break after a very tiring college career. Being from the Midwest is a definite advantage when looking for work in the forever lazy world of young native Californians. Dear readers, I apologize for stating something resembling the truth. I would apologize to young California readers, but they are too lazy to have waded this deep into so many words.

Once again, I apologize for my last paragraph. I feel bad about talking about how lazy young California people are, when everyone already knows that. I shall be more considerate of your time from here on.

Mark, Don, and I set off on a road trip for a day or two in Mexico. We were able to borrow Mark’s boss’ car and headed down towards Tijuana and continued down to Ensenada. We arrived at the perfect time – not on a weekend and off-season – so we were some of the few whitish colored skinned people around (or “pink” as my 3-year-old daughter refers to the Caucasian color). We explored the beaches during the day and I have a fuzzy recollection of a small local bar, cockroaches and a tiny tv with Johnny Carson in Spanish.

The next day we realized we were almost out of money and decided to head back towards San Diego. Somewhere just outside of Tijuana we were pulled over by the Tijuana police. Great. Mark stopped the car and two officers approached. They both first went to Mark’s side of the car. He was ready with his fluent Spanish. Like a fire hose, Mark could turn on the language – either language. Mark’s speaking energy was not to be trifled with. His ability to talk should have required some kind of disclaimer, like, “Don’t try this at home.” I have tried to keep up, because over the years I have honed my center of attention skills, but whenever I’m on the same playing field as Mark, I’m left tired and shaky. A regular person trying to interact on the level of Mark’s professional energy could easily be left in a coma. Death might be a possibility if one tried adding his level of gesturing into the communication mix.

That afternoon outside of Tijuana I was happy to let Mark answer all the officer’s questions as I took in parts and pieces of the conversation. My brain was the gate-keeper of a small amount of Spanish, allowing some words and phrases to come in with strict orders that nothing coherent leave via Spanish.

I sensed that Mark was starting to be scolded, and then I heard the Spanish word for jail, shortly followed by Mark saying something about having no money. The other officer walked to the passenger side where my long hair and I were seated. I rolled the window down and the officer asked in Spanish if I spoke Spanish. If I were a smarter person I would have not responded and possibly shrugged, but instead I answered back in Spanish that I don’t speak Spanish. That action seemed to contradict itself, but I think he knew where I was going with it.

At that point it was very clear that they wanted some money to let us go or they would take us to the Tijuana jail. The officer on my side peered in my window and examined Don more closely in the back seat, then they both walked back to their car.

Mark replayed the conversation in English. Apparently, they had stopped us semi-randomly. They asked about Don, because he looked Mexican to them from a distance. They asked about drugs because of the long hair in the car and they asked about the car and found out that it wasn’t registered to Mark – and we just learned that it’s illegal to bring leased or rented vehicles into the country – let alone, somebody else’s leased or rented vehicle.

One of the officers approached the car again and spoke to Mark. He made one more attempt to get us to give him money – not for the city of Tijuana, but for him and his partner – but we had no money, so it wasn’t a bluff. Then I noticed Mark’s speaking energy ramping up a bit. A couple of gestures were sneaking in. And although I could only understand bits and pieces I could grasp that he was offering a heartfelt apology. I think he not only apologized for us, but possibly the transgressions of generations of U.S. citizens. I think he was hoping when complete with this apology, the officer could go back to his father and grandfather and say (in Spanish),

“I just talked to this Gringo today and we’re all cool, we’re square. This guy apologized for everything today. We can all stop being los maditated.”

Instead, what happened is that Mark wore him down with his talking energy and they finally realized that we didn’t have any money. But, it would not be that easy for us to get home. They escorted us to the border and made us wait while they thoroughly checked the inside and truck of car for drugs. They also went through our belongings and checked the frame of the car and any panel that could be easily removed. Fortunately for us, as a long hair I was required to carry a hacky-sac around at all times. Don, Mark and I played hacky-sac in the parking lot as we waited, only having brief concerns that for some reason Mark’s boss would have drugs hidden in his car.

On that day, I learned a great deal. I wanted to take away something from the experience. I thought hard. Don Schantz didn’t smoke cigarettes or have long hair. Mark Schauder was not a hippie and didn’t partake of the nicotine sticks. Maybe I don’t need to have this long hair. I could still talk to my long hair friends (when they’re showered), and I wouldn’t need the locks. There was conditioning work and other primping concerns tied to the long hair. It was starting to get in the way of my “easy aesthetic”. Maybe I should focus more on the talking and follow the lead of my good friend Mark Schauder. I would get a buzz cut and talk a little more. I could replace gesturing with the constant pushing of the long hair behind my ears and out of my eyes. I felt like I fit in to something – I’m not sure what – just thinking about the whole plan. How cool would that be – to be able to out talk and out gesture everybody. I’m sure once I emerged from my latest chrysalis I could find new ways to maditate my friends and loved ones and figure out how to be a little too judgy about a buzz cut in a few years.

Sadly yours,

Jason Spafford

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