I cannot be a French Socialist Dale Earnhardt

Kline in Fish

Over the weekend, I shaved my beard down to a mustache and soul patch (modeling the fantastic, spastic Kevin Kline in a Fish Called Wanda). Initially, I did so to entertain my son who enjoys disparate configurations of facial hair. Immediately upon shaving, however, I felt different, on the inside not just out. Yes, I liked the way I looked, but there was more. “Is this really who I’m supposed to be?” Looking in the mirror of my mother’s guest bathroom, I thought, “Oh yeah. I am delicious.”  Then I walked the silken streets of Linden Hills, past Tibetan incense shops, restaurants that serve frittatas, tortillas de patatas and migas, stores purveying toys made of wood, and also children’s bookstores, feeling tough and ready.  My muscles were loose, my mind clear.  “I am a French Socialist,” I thought.  The bourgey masses in their puffy North Face coats parted.

On Monday, I drove to Mankato to start the work week.  The trip went fast, because my mustache allowed me to drive like Dale Earnhardt. Imagine the blur of snow-melt flooded valleys and leafless spring hillocks. Beautiful.

Once in town, a clerk at the Qwik Trip, where I bought a banana and some gasoline, gave me the evil eye.  “That’s right. Too tough for you,” I thought.  I slept so well that night.

Too Tough?

On Tuesday, I went to campus ready to rock the stache all over my students, to teach with both Earnhardt abandon and French Socialist intensity.  But my students thought the stache funny. During an exercise in prose class, I walked the room and found several students not participating at all, but rather drawing pictures of my face. The stache in these pictures grew big and cartoonish, not in a caricatured French Socialist Dale Earnhardt way, more in a Daffy Duck goes to Paris way. I felt less tough.  My graduate students were more mature about the stache, but even less encouraging.  They told me flatly that I looked like a pervert (which made me reassess the reasons why families parted as I walked Linden Hills streets).  At break, however, one quietly said she thought I looked more like a musketeer than a pervert.  That was nice. But, my love of the stache dissipated. Who wants to look like musketeers? Dorks.

The day fled without further incident.

That evening, the MSU campus hosted a large invitational indoor track meet for area high schools. On my way to the car, I stopped in and watched a long distance race (I love distance races — so dramatic).  The young women running at the front of the pack were good.  They ran like spirited gazelles.  They seemed to know each other and they challenged each other with little bursts of speed that eventually separated them from the rest. Very exciting.  Because there were so many high school kids in the facility, it was difficult to see what was happening in the race on the back stretch.  I began to jog back and forth to catch sight of the back stretch pyrotechnics.  Real competition. Side by side running into corners. Fantastic!  As the race neared its end, the two gazelle young women lapped other competitors.  Their speed grew. They grimaced and gutted it out.  Whoever had the best kick, would win the sucker.  The bell rang. Last lap.  I couldn’t help myself.  I ran the length of the straight away closest to me, trying to catch the moment when one’s superior kick would mentally defeat the other.  It didn’t happen.  They both sprinted in sync!  As they came around the final corner, I met them.  I picked up speed and ran almost along side them, dodging other spectators.  In the last fifteen meters, the young women in green lost gas, her muscles gave out while the other bounced forward.  I whooped!  The winner!  The crowd cheered, at least the ones who weren’t around me laughing and pointing.

Pointing at me?  Holy Christ.  I’d just run the final straight away alongside a couple of high school track athletes.  I turned to scurry out of the facility.  A dude in a green track jacket said, “Nice mustache.”

At home, I shaved it all off.  You can’t be a French Socialist Dale Earhnardt when your essential vibe is mega-dork.  You can wear that mustache if you’re into musketeers, I suppose.  But, I really like high school track and my stache made me look like a pervert.


7 Responses to “I cannot be a French Socialist Dale Earnhardt”

  1. 1 Caroline Starr Rose March 31, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    How in the world have I not been following you before now? You are nuts. I love it.

  2. 2 Caroline Starr Rose March 31, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    And I love me a tortilla de papas.

  3. 4 Matthew Rogers March 31, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I’ve always wanted to shave my head. I never thought there may be political undertones and my urges may have consequences. What profound writing. Thank you Geoff. Run with abandon!


  4. 6 Matthew Rogers March 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    First thing in the morning is a very bad time to do that. Just sayin’

  5. 7 Caroline Starr Rose March 31, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    I have a friend from Spain coming to visit in a few days. My “sister” — she was an exchange student to my home when I was ten. Must demand the tortilla.

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I am…

Geoff Herbach. I am the author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special, among a bunch of other stuff. When I'm not writing, I teach writing at Minnesota State, Mankato.

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I’m With Stupid

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