The Blog

Ordinary Time

8,000 miles away, war rages. At home, life goes on and there is much work to be done.

2:00 AM, Mar 24, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
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THE WAR has been on for four days (or two years, or twelve years, or a thousand years), and I took the kids for haircuts. It's one of those kid-places with balloons and play areas and horrible music, which, if you're a professional crank like me, means any music at all. For some time now I've planned to switch them to a regular barber shop, where the magazine rack has worn copies of "Popular Science" and "Field and Stream." Nothing against where we went, you understand; they're just catering to their market. But we go there all the time, and the joint drives me nuts. The eight-year-old boy on our right was getting his hair dyed blue (temporarily, I think), and his mother was looking on lovingly, and the one on our left was having his hair spiked. And my oldest asked if he could have his hair spiked, too. I considered several approaches and served up the hardy perennial, "No." Naturally, he volleyed back his own perennial, "Why?" Whereupon I rushed the net with a killer smash: "No spikes, no colors, no tattoos. Ever."

The war has been on for four days, and some of our soldiers are dead, and I took the kids for haircuts. And I told my son there was no way he was going to get anything wilder on his head than was already there, and our hair-stylist-person-sales-associate, a pleasant young girl, smiled at me and said, "No earrings, either, huh?" I checked her eyes for sarcasm, found none, and said, "Have you seen those press conferences with Tommy Franks and his aides? Just make them look like them." This jolted her a little, possibly because she thought Tommy Franks sounded like someone on "The Sopranos." ("Boss, this is Paulie's new crew: Joey Steaks, Jimmy Tomatoes, and Tommy Franks.") So I dipped into my endless supply of patience and said, "General Franks. You must know him. Or one of the other generals. Think of anyone in uniform at a podium in the Pentagon. Like that."

The war has been on for four days, and some of our soldiers are dead, and some are captured, and I took the kids for haircuts. And I asked the young woman to cut their hair like the best people in our country, and her eyes widened, and she whispered, "You mean a soldier?"

"Not a new recruit--my wife would brain me--but, yeah. A pilot, maybe."

Now the guy cutting hair next to us looked over. (He had an earring, by the way.) I could see where this was going--Who couldn't?--so I smiled in my winning way and cut bait. "Any way you like. Just . . . shorter."

They're all good people, you know, known them for years, and they waved, and the woman at the counter said, "You take care, now, funny man," and I was flattered, and she's pretty, and they gave us balloons and candy, and no one mentioned anything or looked concerned about anything, or somber about anything, even for a moment, a sidelong glance.

The war has been on for four days, and some of our soldiers are dead, and some are captured, and one is a woman, and I took my kids for haircuts. And on the ride home, the balloons, innocent-but-not-at-all, kept floating in front of my face, risking havoc, and I'm used to that; and I thought back a few minutes and wondered why I didn't say something more, quietly seething, risking a greater havoc, and I'll never get used to that. What is it with people? What is it with us? Are we worthy of this sacrifice? I hope so.

I met a young man in December, and he's fighting there now, and I carry his coin, and I pray for them all, including their commander in chief. But I forget, too, because there are so many things to be done. Tomorrow, that's it, tomorrow, I'll call that guy, who knows the guy at special services, who said he'd get back to me about doing something, a show maybe, anything, here, there, anywhere. Yeah, tomorrow. I'll remember.

After all, not so many chores to worry about.

Since I already took the kids for haircuts.

Larry Miller is a contributing writer to The Daily Standard and a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles.