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Mustache or no mustache? It's one of a dad's many stressing questions

Forget 'To be or not to be' -- 'to shave or not to shave the 'stache' is the question
All Chris Erskine's troubles manifest themselves in his mustache, the graveyard for a father's concerns

The 'stache might finally have to go.

"Who has a mustache anymore?" notes the younger daughter.

"I do," I say.

The last, worst reason to have a mustache is that everyone else has one, as they did in the 1970s, when I first grew mine. TV detectives, porn stars, ballplayers — in the '70s, everyone had the big 'stache, thick as crab grass. Back then, I cared more about the latest trends. And didn't hate change quite so much.

"It's even whiter now than the last time I saw you," my daughter says.

"I've been under a lot of stress," I explain.

"Really?" she says.

I know, I know. I seem to lead this whimsical, anything-goes life, the Pied Piper of silly suburban obsessions. But my days are not all rainbows and unicorns. I have serious concerns as well.

First, I can't understand why liquid soap suddenly became "body wash," as it has in hotel showers. I mean, really? It's like when beer became "ale" or financial advisors became "personal wealth specialists."

Then there's that Dodgers TV blackout that rankles me more than it should. I've turned it into a symbol of incipient moral collapse. I find the standoff not just bad, but bubonic (my favorite new adjective).

To be sure, it's a frustrating and bubonic world. I pay one bill, and another comes due. I seem to spend more on insurance than I do for such necessities as food and foot massages.

Meanwhile, our overpriced kitchen appliances last about five minutes past the warranty before the repairman has to replace a $600 component. And cars are far too expensive as well, even the cheesier Asian sedans.

A white mustache? Sweetie, it's amazing I'm even alive.

I counteract what might be a steady diet of disappointment with humor and funny friends. Minus that, your kids will kill you. They will kill you, then eat your brains for breakfast.

I have pretty good kids, thankfully. Yet that white in my mustache? That's mostly from them.

But they have help.

My bosses also drive me crazy, insisting on a day's work for a day's pay, and so do politicians and the pundits, none of whom has the slightest idea of what working Americans are really going through.

So, yeah, all that bothers me, and manifests itself in my mustache, the graveyard for a father's cares and concerns.

The other day, I'm walking — I have no car now, an odd and vulnerable position to be in here in Los Angeles. I gifted my car to the youngest daughter after she moved out, a sort of pre-dowry, and I hate buying cars so much I've just put it off and put it off, till one day I thought to myself, "Hey, maybe I don't really need a car, L.A. public transit being so magnificent, its tentacles reaching almost everywhere."

Hence, I walk a lot.

Anyway, the other day I was walking along, enjoying these first initial bursts of summer, wonderful as a sloppy kiss, and admiring the work the tree trimmers were doing on a nearby jacaranda tree — or maybe it was a eucalyptus. As with dog breeds and prime ministers, I can only identify two or three trees.

The important thing is that the trimmers were surgically denuding this tree, shearing it like a sheep, the way they frequently do in Los Angeles, lest we have any shade whatsoever, as if shade were some sort of urban eyesore, like graffiti or abandoned shopping carts — which shade decidedly is not.

I started to get a little upset by this, when I thought back to what my buddy Jeff told my son's baseball team the day before.

"All we ask from you," Jeff told the team before another loss, "is to greet each day with a level of exuberance never before witnessed by mankind."

Coach Jeff was quoting another coach, of course, who was probably quoting another coach before him. Nothing said on a ball field is ever original; it is cribbed from other coaches, field generals, madmen and zealots.

Point is, in the face of all the things that can do us in — bad plays, lousy landscaping and life's inevitable errant bounces — the only hope we have is an unrivaled exuberance, "the kind never before witnessed by mankind."

I like the wry playfulness of that, the American sense of resilience that little inspirational quote captures.

Dads don't live forever, you know. So be sure to capture whatever you can.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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