The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Bill Mead
Columnist Emeritus 

Bare facts get uglier

The Overall Picture


Today, We Honor The Overall Man Classic Bill Mead

Reprinted with permission

My daughter met me the other morning and warned me that I had shaving cream still smeared on my chin. Actually it was residue of a glazed doughnut (which I am not supposed to eat) so I didn't tell her.

When I was younger I often wondered why old men don't pay attention to their appearance. Now I know. When you get to be my age, looking in the mirror can be unbearable torture. I'd rather wander around with sugar on my whiskers, which merely offends other people, than check myself in the mirror, which offends me.

I have been spared a few ravages of the passing years. I have finally dropped my weight to where I am merely pudgy. Although my hair has turned a rather ugly gray I have kept most of it.

That's the only good news. The plentiful bad news is the result of gravity, a natural force that sooner or later turns us all into misshapen lumps.

I'm not sure when my formerly-smooth neck began looking like a freshly-plucked chicken. In spite of spasmodic pushups and sucked-in breath, my stomach now hangs out like a sack of flour with a string cinched around the middle. When I undress for bed I leave the light off. If you want to close down the nude beaches, just send me over there wearing nothing but a smile.

When Father Time first starts getting rough with us, I think we all try to kid ourselves that nothing bad is going on. Our mid-life wrinkles and droops start out looking like nothing worse than evidence of graceful maturity.

But it doesn't stop there. Gravity keeps tugging downward as our egos rise up to deny that we look different than we did a few years before.

I have indulged in absurd self-delusion when my early morning reflection tells me somebody drove a John Deere over my face during the night. I have surreptitiously pushed up on the dangling folds of fat, hoping to glimpse a vestige of the fairly presentable young man who used to live there. Alas! What stares back is an overstuffed version of the Phantom of the Opera.

I think you can understand why I haven't had a picture taken since 1985, the last time most women would look at me without gagging. My wife, who has become hardened to my deterioration, tells me I am in violation of the truth-in-packaging laws by continuing to palm off a 22-year-old photo as the contemporary me.

That's easy for her to say. Gravity likes her better than it likes me.

If you don't know Bill: Bill Mead was the longtime publisher of the Tehachapi News, along with Betty Mead, his wife and partner of more than 50 years. Known for his keen wit, which could be gentle or scathing or somewhere in between but was often self-deprecatory, Bill's writing won him a wide following among News readers. His column "The Overall Picture" ran in the News for more than 25 years, and in 1999 he published a collection of his columns in a volume entitled The Napa Valley Outhouse War. His book is currently available for sale at the Tehachapi Museum for $10.

Bill had a remarkable mind and because of his intelligence, humor and appearance he was regarded by many as Tehachapi's Mark Twain. As Betty used to remind him, he was "older than the oldest Model A Ford" and his wealth of life experiences and rural upbringing allowed him to bring a thoroughly American, 20th century perspective to his reflections and musings on the everyday. Bill passed away in 2008 but his writing lives on.


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