I woke up this Super Bowl Sunday morning feeling wrung out despite one of the longer stretches of sleep I've had in awhile. I did manage to drag myself to 7:30 Mass. Father B., who presides over the daily 6:45, sat a couple rows in front of me.
The first reading came from the Book of Job. Befitting Job, it was a grim passage about how our time on Earth basically sucks.
The priest acknowledged during his sermon that Job's message was not uplifting. But he brought it around to make an interesting point.
He said that in a class taught by a Lutheran minister years ago, the minister had no explanation for why people suffer.
"But when we do," the minister said. "God weeps for us."
I found comfort in that message.
We sang “Amazing Grace” during communion, a hymn I had never recalled hearing in a Catholic church, and joined in with gusto.
I walked over to the annual pancake breakfast after Mass. I sat at an empty table in the school gym but was soon joined by a man in his 60s. He said he is a semi-retired accountant from the Cleveland Clinic and that he is an active volunteer with Hope Lodge, a charity that provides free housing for people from out of town who come to Cleveland for cancer treatment.
Mass and a pleasant breakfast brightened my spirits. But once I got home and sat down with my laptop, I quickly became annoyed at the hairs dropping onto my shirt.
Nearly three weeks after the start of chemo, hair loss had arrived in earnest. My already trimmed scalp had become patchy. My eyebrows had thinned and hair had begun to escape from other parts of my body as well.
I had planned to wait a couple days to get my head shaved, but my mangy look and irritating itchiness drove me to action. I went out in search of a barber. I figured the only place open on a Sunday afternoon would be the franchise place not far from the house.
Two women were at work there, cutting the hair of adorable blond twin girls. A bunch of people sat waiting their turn. Patience is not one of my virtues and I asked if there was another shop nearby. One of the stylists told me to try another location not far away.
En route, I passed a barbershop that seemed to have activity inside. I stopped and went in. I was greeted by the barber working the first chair who I assumed was the owner. Two other barbers were hard at work while customers kibitzed in the empty chairs and a few sat in the waiting area.
My entrance drew curious, but by no means hostile, looks. I had stumbled upon a black barber shop. The owner asked if I only wanted a haircut, which I said I did. (I'm not sure what else he thought I might have wanted.)
While I haven't seen “Barbershop,” I'm culturally aware enough to know that for African-American men, barber shops are sanctuaries, a place where they can express themselves with impunity. I was an outsider, but I wanted my head shaved, and I hoped they would accommodate me.
I had a bit of a wait, but it gave me an opportunity to observe. My barbershop near downtown serves men of all races. Quality haircuts are delivered in an efficient, assembly line-like fashion.
At DeFranco's, cutting hair appears to be as much art as science. Heads are sculpted with a mix of complicated procedures and equipment. Impressive stuff, really.
I got the full-service treatment: trim with the shaver; a scalp massage using a hot, damp towel; a careful shave using a straight razor; application of an astringent; another hot wet towel; application of a balm. I didn't time him, but I'm sure it took a half-hour.
Cost? A surprising bargain at $15. Expecting this to cost twice as much. I tipped him another $15. He handed me his card and said to come back anytime.
Surprisingly, I like this new look. Combined with my new glasses, I vainly admit my shaved head is … stylish. It just took cancer to figure that out.
I'd rather have my hair, though, thin as it might have been. I did not mind being a balding 50-something guy without cancer. Did not mind at all.