The original Broadway play poster for "Hair"

The original Broadway play poster for “Hair”

When I was a kid in college, a play came out on Broadway in 1968 that was an instant and controversial success — “Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.”

A product of the hippie counter-culture and sexual revolution of the 1960s, several of its songs became anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement. The musical’s profanity, its depiction of the use of illegal drugs, its treatment of sexuality, its irreverence for the American flag, and its nude scene caused much comment and controversy. The musical broke new ground in musical theatre by defining the genre of “rock musical”, using a racially integrated cast, and inviting the audience onstage for a “Be-In” finale.

Hair tells the story of the “tribe”, a group of politically active, long-haired hippies of the “Age of Aquarius” living a bohemian life in New York City and fighting against the draft into the Vietnam War. Claude, his good friend Berger, their roommate Sheila and their friends struggle to balance their young lives, loves and the sexual revolution with their rebellion against the war and their conservative parents and society. Ultimately, Claude must decide whether to resist the draft as his friends have done, or to succumb to the pressures of his parents (and conservative America) to serve in Vietnam, compromising his pacifistic principles and risking his life.

The show ran for 1,750 performances on Broadway. Simultaneous productions in cities across the United States and Europe followed thereafter. At the time, I saw the production in San Antonio. It was the first play I ever saw and the music and story were just phenomenal. We even got to participate in the “be-in” up on the stage at the conclusion of the play. That was an even added plus to make it such a memorable event for me.

But the music of the play never went away. I have just never forgotten “Aquarius,” “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Hair,” “Easy to be Hard” and other music.

Getting rid of the stubble ...

Getting rid of the stubble …

So, it was not that unusual that all these songs came swirling through my head today — the first time I have sat in a barber’s chair in decades. Most of you who know me know that I have been follicly challenged as long as I can remember. Either Patti or I would trim my hair from my bald head whenever it needed it. I just never had enough hair to warrant paying for a haircut.

But there are late developments.For example, last month I started chemo with gemcitabine and abraxane and the mix of these two drugs has caused my hair to fall out.  Well, most of it. One day in the shower, what little dark hair that remained fell out, leaving only white hair. Since then, the white hair has slowly disappeared leaving just a little bit of ugly stubble that left me with a “cancer-y” look.

The tool of the day -- the razor blade

The tool of the day — the razor blade

So, today I entrusted a ‘professional’ to use a straight razor to get rid of what little stubble that was left on the head. Now I am completely bald and the part of the head that the barber shaved feels more like a baby’s bottom that the top of a 62-year old man’s head. My understanding is that as long as I continue with the chemo, the hair loss will continue.

I don’t mind, just as long as I have a little sunscreen wherever I go.

Chrome dome

Chrome dome

Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

Let it fly in the breeze
And get caught in the trees
Give a home to the fleas in my hair
A home for fleas
A hive for bees
A nest for birds
There ain’t no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder
Of my…

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair

The Alamo, facade

The Alamo, facade (Photo credit: Kansas Explorer 3128)

Photo of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett from the...

Photo of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett from the television miniseries Davy Crockett. This episode is “Davy Crockett Goes to Congress”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a child, I watched all the western shows on TV. Perhaps my favorite was Fess Parker as Davy Crockett. One Christmas I even scored a coonskin cap. Wow, was I happy. That was when I lived on the windy plains of eastern New Mexico.

Those days, my friends and I would fill up our canteens early in the morning and take off. We didn’t care where we went, but usually we would jump the barb-wire fences and walk through ranches and farms that cradled the town. The ranchers and farmers didn’t care, as long as we didn’t bother anything. Back then, kids got up early, had a little breakfast, said goodbye to Mom and returned to the house before sundown. Come home after sundown and you were guaranteed a spanking. But, between those daylight hours, the buddies were able to make up the best stories.

If we happened to be out in a field and there was loads of dirt, we would play army. Occasionally, new homes were built in the neighborhood, and whenever builders were putting in plumbing, the ditches became our foxholes. Each of us would take a role from the TV show “Combat” and commence the battles of World War II. When we were on these fields and hiking, we were Kit Carson, Zebulon Pike or Lewis & Clark. Every step was an exploration.

Engraving of Zebulon Pike, who led a U.S. expe...

Engraving of Zebulon Pike(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

On one of these explores, we grabbed loads and loads of dead tumbling tumbleweeds and built a fort. Well, not really a fort, per se, but the Alamo. It was very easy to push the tumbleweeds together to make a wall. We were amazed at how easy it was.

Once the Alamo was built, we all took roles and fought every marauding uniformed brutal imaginary Mexican that came over our tumbleweed wall. We still fought the battle of the Alamo, even though we all knew by then that Davy and his fellow defenders never made it west of San Antonio.  And, because we can make up anything we want, when we defended the Alamo, we won! We shot our BB guns until there were no BBs left. I had a big Bowie knife back then, so I played Jim Bowie. Every time we did the Alamo thing, Davy was represented by each of us at some point. And, we really didn’t need to have a grownup there to tell us not to aim these BB guns at each other.

Of course, whenever we got home, we were just plain filthy. So much dirt spread all over our clothes, but we were all smiles. We had great times making up stories. If we were near a tank and windmill, we pretended we were the drovers of the Goodnight-Loving cattle drive, which ran not too far from our little town.

And because Billy the Kid met his match near Lincoln County, not too far from where we lived, and his story was very popular back then, I couldn’t count on both hands the number of times, we chose sides and were either Billy the Kid and his gang, or we were Sheriff Pat Garrett and his deputies chasing him.

And, sometimes, we’d pretend we were the main characters of any of the current westerns that were on TV at the time, whether it was “Maverick,” “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “The Big Valley,” or any of the other TV shows that were popular then. So, we had plenty of inspiration to drive our imaginations.

I am writing this to set the stage. Because of the times spent out in the farms and ranches, I absolutely love the West. To me, if I am taking the incline up to Pike’s Peak, then Zebulon Pike must have walked directly next to every cog we take to get to the top. There is a grizzled mountain man waving to me as I ride to the top. And I am very happy to see these imaginary figures.

So, over the next several days, I will share with you some details of the 3-week trip that Patti and I took through the West. Every inch of the trip was majestic. I will share with you the fun aspects of our trip, as well as some of the challenges, or disappointments, we saw along the way. I hope you enjoy these brief vignettes, we sure did.

God bless you all.