The mustache knows all…

Wandering aimlessly through the dimly lit corridors of the old Solano County Hall of Justice not too long ago, I ran into a former colleague whom I hadn’t seen for several months.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed that his once-aggressively black mustache had turned snow white – particularly odd since the fellow is considerably younger than I am.

I managed to mutter some inane pleasantries (I’m adept with those) and staggered back down the hallway, still shaken by my friend’s unexpected mustache mutation. Visions of my mortality were catching up to me.

My own mustache, the bristling remnant of a tequila-induced whim in 1970, has gradually been moving from brown to salt-and-pepper to more-salt-than-pepper. The next step, I realized, could only be an elderly shade of white.

No, shaving off the ‘stache or judiciously applying a periodic coat of walnut stain are not options. The mustache stays for better or worse with no additives or coloring.

It took awhile, but I eventually came around to the idea that this mustache metamorphosis might not be all bad.

As my old ’60s sidekick Sapper used to say, “When life gives ya lemons, shaddup!”

Sure, a snowy white mustache is an obvious sign of aging – or a catastrophic collision between one’s upper lip and a bottle of bleach – but it does have its good points.

Once your mustache turns white, people begin to look at you as a kind of elder statesman, a gentleman who’s been around and knows what’s what. Suddenly, you command respect, regardless of whether you deserve it.

Noticing that distinguished white mustache proudly perched on your upper lip, people will invariably turn to you for advice – usually about subjects of which you have absolutely no knowledge.

When you were younger, you might have begged off and admitted your ignorance.

With your snowy mustache riding shotgun, though, you can shoot from the lip about virtually anything and get a hearty nod of approval from others.

Thanks to your mustache, you have become the World’s Foremost Authority.

Quantum physics? No problem.

Microbiology? Piece of cake.

Mesopotamia in the Third Century B.C.?

(“Harrrruuummmph! Old Mesopotamia, eh? Hell, the place was full of Mesopotamians. You couldn’t walk 3 feet without bumping into one of them, and not a one of ’em spoke decent English. Can ya believe it? Lousy poker players, too, I can tell you…”)

And, with that authoritative white mustache, you can liberally quote wise men from history without ever being challenged on the accuracy of your quotation.

It’s easy:

“As Mark Twain used to say, you can take a riverboat downstream, but you can’t turn it into a silk purse.”

Who’s going to argue with you about that?

Best of all, that snowy mustache means nobody will ever dare card you when you demand your senior citizen discount.

And it just doesn’t get better than that, amigos viejos…

Originally published July 10, 2005

Touch not a hair on this lip…

A pop-eyed fashion fop approached me a few days ago and pronounced that mustaches were out of style.

Harrrruuummmmph. And, I might add, balderdash. Mustaches are not now, nor have they ever been, out of style.

Teddy Roosevelt had a mustache. So did Sonny Bono. And Wyatt Earp. Has Wyatt Earp ever been out of style? Not likely, amigos.

I know what a few of you bare-lipped sissies are going to say: “Hey, Hitler had a mustache, too.”

Sorry, guys. Experts will tell you that Hitler did not have a mustache. The scant covering of his upper lip was comprised of nothing more than a few runaway nostril hairs that the shaky little maniac was never able to completely remove with his inadequate wartime razor.

I grew my first, and only, mustache in 1970. It was a time of fire and rain, of protest and political upheaval, heroic quantities of Red Mountain Wine and unidentifiable herbs from Bolinas. It was also a time of AMC Gremlins (that was a car, children) and of Richard Nixon, who somehow insinuated his way into the American presidency and left in disgrace four years later.

I should point out that neither Nixon, nor his sidekick, vice president Spiro Agnew, had mustaches.Take my word for it, if Nixon had had a mustache, American history would have been much, much different.

Since I first grew my mustache, I’ve been shot at, run over by a golf cart, had a burning railroad station collapse around me and been threatened by a knife-wielding methamphetamine consumer who mistook me for a Fresno truckdriver.

It should be noted that, through all of this, I’m still quite alive.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. Mustaches are both a built-in good luck charm and a distinctly male accoutrement that says “Don’t mess with me…”

Admittedly, Gen. George Custer had a mustache on the day that he and his entire cavalry contingent were wiped out during the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. All I can say in light of this quirky happenstance is imagine how much worse things might have been had Custer not been wearing his mustache that day.

I shudder to think…

In these troubled times, it’s become pretty obvious that what this country needs is a few more good mustaches. Nationwide, law-abiding citizens are crying out against rising crime. Robbery, drug dealing, assaults and illicit interstate transportation of used kitchen grease have become interwoven with the fabric of our daily lives.


Fewer and fewer cops are wearing mustaches.

There was a time when no self-respecting lawman would take to the streets without a well-groomed mustache and those fur-lipped symbols of yesteryear took a big bite out of crime.

Today’s hairless wonders simply don’t inspire the respect as their mustached counterparts of 20 years ago.

Put the mustaches back on the beat, amigos, and America’s streets will once again be safe for each and every one of us.

Mustaches out of style? Don’t bet on it.

Originally published July 4, 2004