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Friday, July 06, 2012

Date A Girl Who Writes

“Or better yet, date a girl who writes”…ends Rosemarie Orquico’s articles on Dating a Girl Who Reads.

So here it goes…..

Date a girl who writes. Date a girl who spends her money not only on a single, definite collection or passion like "clothes only" or "books alone" but on a variety of things—-from a quirky shirt made by 4-6 year old children at a local orphanage, a lavender scarf woven by a mother of eight who has been a widow since half of her kids were able to understand that their father will never come back, a spur-of-the-moment trip to a far flung island whose caves are said to be haunted by a sea nymph, a 5 o’clock am breakfast in a 50-year old Chinese restaurant on a dusty corner on a downtown boulevard which serves the best fried rice… the list can go on and on. And notice that every time she spends, what she buys are not only the items or the experience but also the tiny details and countless stories of lives and experiences that she can weave perfectly into words.

Find a girl who writes. You know that she does because she carries around with her a handy notepad with torn papers and stick-on notes inserted in between its pages, and these are filled with random writings, often unfinished, jotted down poems, half-finished essays, a what seems to be a first sentence of a supposed to be short story, a quotation from a book, or simply just a word that evokes a lot of meaning.. The writings are not that too organized nor the handwriting too intelligible because most of the time, the string of her thoughts are faster than what her hands can muster.

Look at the hands. You can almost always pinpoint a writer by her hands. You see the girl with the smudges and smears and lines of ink on her hands, most especially in between her fingers? That’s the writer. Don’t get her wrong. She would also sometimes wonder why she couldn’t seem to get away from those ink smudges no matter how many times she would wash and scrub her hands in a day but she would end up pacifying herself that it’s a reality that she has to deal with. Look closely at the weird girl who has chipped fingernails and crooked middle and pointing fingers on her dominant hand. If you get the chance to hold her hand one day, you’ll surely feel a small, single calloused spot on the side of the last joint of her middle finger. That’s the writer. It’s the result of the love affair of her fingers with a pen or the way she would sometimes pound (Take note: pound, not type.) on the keyboard keys, very much like a pianist who is passionately absorbed, lost in his own music.

She’s the girl who would absent-mindedly stare outside the window for most of the time while you’re relating to her what you feel is one turning point in your life and when she does this, you would sometimes get a strong desire to pound on her and tell her to pay attention. Don’t be hurt by her seemingly lack of attention or interest. Don’t worry. She’s one master of multi-tasking. I tell you, you would be surprised when all of a sudden, she would turn to you, remark on what you’ve said with words that hold the deepest sense of meaning and you would further be amazed at how she would matter-of-factly tell you how your smile became somewhat crooked at one point of your story or how a single crease of line crossed your forehead at another point. Now, who’s not paying attention, huh? Do not ever, not even for a second be deceived that she’s not paying attention when she appears like her mind is elsewhere but with you. During those times, her mind is actually in full gear and she would surprise you that she can take account of your story in toto with the right details, including the life dilemma of the old man on the other table across yours which she just heard in passing while listening to yours.

Let her know what you really think of her writing. Talk about one of her poems over a cup of coffee and insert how this particular cup of coffee is special because it was planted and harvested by a certain native tribe in the southern part of the country. You’ll surely get her attention with that. Find time to read her works even those which are written on the side of her textbooks if you happen to come across with them and you would realize her great sensitivity and the special way she looks at life with a certain degree of passion.

Critic her works, don’t be afraid. She will welcome it with a humility that would make you realize that her writing is pushing her to take a great risk of exposing and baring her soul and her heart, piece by piece, fragment by fragment, to differing opinions and views.

Don’t hesitate to disagree with some of her ideas or opinions. Instead of being disappointed, she would greatly appreciate it for she understands that a great piece of writing stimulates ideas and reactions, may it be positive or negative.

It might appear difficult to date a girl who writes because of her unpredictable nature, varied taste, and wide range of experiences that she’s exposing herself into, but I’ll tell you, she’s one of the persons who are easy to be pleased and stimulated. The only key is your resourcefulness and imagination.

Yes, give her some gifts, you cannot do away with it, but don’t give her just the item or the thing. Give her the story and the words and the emotions behind these gifts. Present to her a bouquet of inexpensive flowers and her blush would be priceless because you bought it with her in mind and knowing that the money you spent will be used by a 10-year old kid to buy a new pair of blue slippers to replace the ones with holes on both of the soles. On your date, bring her to dinner on a food cart in one of the old streets downtown without worrying of being called jologs and tell her the story of the vendor who has to sell the fishballs and the kikiam that you’re eating  to compensate for his allowance the following day at the local college. Give her the stories and the gifts of words, the dramas, and the funny anecdotes and you would surely move a mile deeper into her heart.

Tell her the truth no matter how ugly or painful you may think it is. She can surely take it, coupled with a poignant smile. She has heard a lot of truths in her lifetime—truths that would make other people cringe. However, she understands that behind those truths expressed in words are sometimes honorable intentions and motivations that have just somehow swayed out of the context. It will never be the end of the world to her.

Don’t get her too comfortable with your presence. Stimulate her even if your effort would at times fail. She understands failure much like she would sometimes purposely lead her characters to fail and doom for she knows that this gives substance and twist to the story, for without it, her write-up would be bland and unimaginative.

If you find a girl who writes, don’t be daunted by her seeming complexity. Keep her close. When you receive a call at 2 o’clock am and you realize that it’s her voice on the other line asking you about a certain word which is already at the tip of her tongue but she couldn’t seem to gather her thoughts completely because she just woke up due to a strong need to put to writing an idea that passed her mind while in the middle of her slumber. Don’t tell her to go back to sleep. Help her think of the right word, noting that her voice is enough to erase your irritation of being woken up and is stronger than a cup of coffee in keeping you wide awake. Who knows, she might be using you as the hero in the short story that she is currently brewing up or better yet, she is in fact writing about a vision of your life together.

You will start to write letters, the real kind, in long hand and expect to see it several years after—-yellowed pages and dog-eared, evidences of having been read for several times. You would start reading Keats and memorize some of her own original poems, reading it to her on a warm night and wonder how you ever thought before that reading poems nowadays is too gooey , when it’s the most romantic and natural thing for you to do.

Learn to ride with her quirkiness and crazy ideas and you would realize that it’s like a whiff of fresh air into your life. On the other hand, in moments when she is in deep thought, try to call her back into the dimension that you are in by your assertiveness and by balancing her silence with your thoughtful comedic acts. Don’t hesitate to break her occasional silences. Introduce and relearn with her the pleasure of experiencing the lighter stuffs in life. When she is having one of her moods during a writer’s block, take the pen out of her hand and hold it tightly with yours—-crooked, calloused fingers and all.

You will declare your love to her in the craziest way you’ve never thought possible—-in a rusty carnival ride, in the middle of a mardi gras, while walking on a wooden plank to the pump boat that would bring you to another island escapade. or probably when there’s a thunderstorm coupled with streaks of lightning and you just find yourself dumbfounded, mesmerized with her complete focus on the natural phenomena in front of her that would lead other people into shrieking, while she gazes at it intently, keeping to mind the exact color at the moment of the streaking of the lightning across the sky and the distinct sound of the thunder so she can write about it perfectly lest she needs this particular scene in her next write-up.

Life with her would be one great adventure with moments of tenderness for she understands the balance of her elements. You will at times want to throttle her, but most of the time, you would roll with her while laughing so uninhibitedly and you will smile so hard ’til your jaws ache and will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled all over your chest yet. She will ask you to write with her the story of your life together, carefully balancing the elements of love, happiness, excitement, conflict, suspense and of course, the happily ever after. And take note, this is open to editing and proofreading.

Do not expect her to be the conventional partner that you could tie on the bed post. Ask the man who tried. For anytime, she may decide to study ballet, or learn digital photography, or join the peace corps. But expect her to love you with the passion that is only equal or even more than what you give her for she is sensitive when it comes to this matter. You will have adorable, intelligent, yet quirky kids with names that have individual stories of their own. She will introduce the children to a world in which there is a balance of magic and the occasional painful truths.

Date a girl who writes because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can introduce you to seeing life in a different light and loving it with a passion like the way you look at her when you think (remember the warning about not believing even for an instance that she’s unaware?) she’s unaware that you’re lovingly gazing at her. If you can only give her monotony, and half-baked decisions of embracing her totality, then you’re better off alone.

If you want the worlds beyond ours and the worlds beyond those still, date a girl who writes.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The Fallingwater home in southwestern Pennsylvania. But a child's doghouse?

Frank Lloyd Wright designed hundreds of landmark buildings and homes during a prolific career that spanned more than seven decades. But in what is widely considered a first and only for the famed architect, Wright indulged a young boy's humble request for a dog house in 1956 and sent him designs for the structure.

"I was probably his youngest client and poorest client," Jim Berger, now 68, said during a recent phone interview.

Berger rebuilt the doghouse last year with his brother, using the original plans. It was featured in a documentary film and will be displayed during screenings starting this month.

Wright designed Berger's family's home in the Marin County town of San Anselmo, prompting the then-12 years old Berger to ask his dad if Wright would design a home for his black Labrador, Eddie.

Berger's dad said he didn't know, so Berger decided to write to the great architect himself.

"I would appreciate it if you would design me a doghouse, which would be easy to build, but would go with our house...," read the letter dated June 19, 1956. "(My dog) is two and a half feet high and three feet long. The reasons I would like this doghouse is for the winters mainly."

Berger explained that he would pay Wright from the money he made from his paper route.

"A house for Eddie is an opportunity," Wright wrote back. But he said he was too busy at the time (construction on the Guggenheim began in 1956) and asked that Berger write him back in November.
Berger did so on the first of the month, and the plan for the doghouse followed — at no charge.

"The story of a 12-year-old kid having the chutzpah to write a letter to the greatest architect of all time and having him design something as modest as a doghouse..., I just knew it was a great story," said Michael Miner, who produced and directed the documentary, "Romanza," which features the doghouse and other structures Wright designed in California.

The Dallas, Tex. filmmaker is scheduled to screen the documentary at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, Ill. on March 25, according to his website, Screenings are scheduled to follow in Iowa, Georgia, Florida, New Jersey and New Hampshire. The doghouse will be on hand.

Berger said the original doghouse was not built until about 10 years after he received the designs. Since Eddie had died by then, Berger's father and brother built their house for another family dog.

That doghouse, however, later ended up in the dump because Berger said his mother did not have a dog, and did not see much other value in it. He rebuilt it for the documentary last year, working off Wright's original plan, which said, "Plan of Eddie's house."

"When I wrote him originally to design the doghouse, I specified that it be real easy to build," said Berger, who became a cabinet maker. "It was a nightmare."

The roughly 3-foot wide-by-5-foot long-by 3-feet high doghouse has a sharp triangular shape, with a sloping shingled roof. It is made of Philippine mahogany and weighs about 250 pounds.

"It's definitely in the master's hand," Oskar Munoz, assistant director of archives at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, said of the design for the doghouse.

Munoz said Berger's is believed to be the only doghouse Wright designed. Wright likely sketched it out and then handed it to a draftsman in his studio who turned it into a working drawing, he said.

Wright was past 80 and likely busy with dozens of projects at the time, Munoz said, so for him to take the time to make the sketch was unusual. Wright died in Phoenix in 1959.

Berger, who now lives in the Sacramento area and has three rescue beagles, said he's not sure what he will do with the doghouse.

Although his beagles are worthy of it, he said they would probably prefer to stay in the house.

"My feeling is that I'd like it to go to a museum because it is a historical monument," he said.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Pit Bull saves 2 women from deadly cobra, dies wagging his tail

Four-year-old "Chief", an American Pit Bull Terrier, dashed in front of a venomous snake which was poised to strike at 87-year-old Liberata la Victoria and her granddaughter Maria Victoria. Shielding the women from the attack, Chief saved them but died minutes later from the snake's bite.
(Photo: Marc Sabelita)

BARANGAY LAPASAN (Philippines) Mar 1, 2007

The children in the Fronteras household refer to their dog as "kuya" ("big brother"), and he certainly proved it on the day he sacrificed his life to protect the family.

On Monday, Feb. 12 at around 2 p.m., "Chief", an American Pit Bull Terrier, rescued Liberata la Victoria, 87, and her granddaughter Maria Victoria Fronteras from a deadly cobra which had entered their house through an opening in the kitchen.

Liberata la Victoria and Chief had been watching TV on the sofa when suddenly Chief jumped up and alerted her to the presence of a cobra less than 10 feet away. Maria Victoria rushed in and pulled her grandmother into a separate room, hoping the snake would leave.

But when Maria Victoria later emerged from the room, she was terrified to find the cobra poised about two feet away. Equally startled, the cobra expanded its hood and appeared to be spitting venom as it prepared to strike.

"The snake was in front of us, maneuvering a deadly attack," says Maria Victoria. "I screamed out loud to ask for help." 1

That's when from "out of nowhere", Chief dashed between the cobra and the two women, using himself as a shield against the cobra's attacks. Chief then seized the cobra by the neck and slammed it into the floor, killing it.

But for Chief it was a Pyrrhic victory. In the struggle, he sustained a fatal bite to the jaw, and moments later he began gasping for breath and collapsed.

The family sought the help of a veterinarian, but they were told that nothing could be done. According to the vet, the bite was too close to Chief's brain, and the venom had already spread. Maria Victoria called her husband Marlone who, stunned by the news, rushed home immediately.

Ian de la Rama, a friend of the family, says it was less than 30 minutes from the time Chief had been bitten that he "went wobbly and lost control of his organs," 2 urinating and defecating uncontrollably. Yet he still kept clinging to life.

It wasn't until Marlone arrived that Chief finally let go.

Ian de la Rama describes, "Chief gave his two deep breaths and died. He was fighting and saving his last ounces of breath to see a glimpse of his master for the last two seconds of his life." 1

Ian adds that the last thing Chief did as he gazed up at Marlone was wag his tail.

"You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us."
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

1 Gomez, Herbie. "Pitbull dies saving 2 women from cobra" Manila Times. 24 Feb 2007

2 Gomez, Herbie. "Dog saves family from cobra, is killed." Cagayan de Oro Journal. 16 Feb 2007.

3 "Farewell CHIEF!!"

Friday, February 24, 2012

Michigan family discovers rarest football card collection in history
By Eric Pfeiffer

The "anonymous" John Dunlop card, first issued in 1894.

A Michigan family was cleaning out an old farmhouse and accidentally stumbled across a long-sought after collection of football cards worth thousands of dollars and considered perhaps the rarest such collection in history. The set is highlighted by an "anonymous" card of former Harvard football player John Dunlop, which was first issued in 1894.

The Dunlop card alone is reportedly worth $10,000, according to Lou Brown, president of Legends Sports and Games. "If it was in the right condition, it could be worth up to $60,000," Brown told Yahoo! News in a phone interview.

"We get a lot of calls from a lot of people saying they've got something, and usually it's not what you expect," Brown tells local affiliate Fox11. But Brown says this set is something different entierly. "It's the 'Holy Grail' of football cards," he tells Fox11.

The Dunlop card, created by the Mayo Tobocco Works of Richmond Virginia, is called "anonymous" because it did not actually feature Dunlop's name. The entire set is considered the rarest football set in history.

Brown tells Yahoo! News that the Dunlop card is being put up for sale by the Robert Edward Auctions this May.

There are only 10 Dunlop cards known to still exist, with some valued as high as $18,000. The entire collection is the first ever to dedicated to football players. And since there was no NFL at the time, the set focused entirely on the nation's 35 best Ivy League college players, according to the site

You can view some of the other rare cards from the collection here.

The family also discovered several rare boxing cards, first issued by the same tobacco company in 1890. "I was hoping there might be some baseball cards in there too," Brown, who has been trading cards professionally for over 35 years, told Yahoo! News. "But I'm pretty excited with what they did find."

Brown says the set will be evaluated for their estimated total worth, then either auctioned or purchased by Brown's store directly.

The trading card industry has faced many obstacles in recent years, with competition for fans' dollars and attention going to video games and other non-sports trading card collectible games, like Pokemon and Magic the Gathering. Steven Merriam of the Bleacher Report has written about the decline of the sports trading card industry, placing at least some of the blame on the industry itself for targeting children instead of adults. "Cards are predominantly bought by adults anyway, so I believe they should go back to the way they used to be," Merriam wrote.

"It's a whole different deal now," Brown tells Yahoo! about the ever-changing industry. His own collectible shop, first opened in 1988, now has an entire room dedicated to gaming and other non-sport collectibles.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pet dog saves 2 girls, but loses her face
By Julie S. Alipala
Inquirer Mindanao

BEAUTY OF THE BEAST. Christina Bunggal plays with a horribly disfigured but treasured family pet Kabang in Zamboanga City. JULIE ALIPALA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

ZAMBOANGA CITY—The story of Kabang is one more heartwarming take on the familiar theme of the pet dog as lifesaver.

Cousins Dina Bunggal, 11, and Princess Diansing, 3, were walking across Nuñez Extension on Dec. 14 not knowing that a speeding motorcycle was bearing down on them. At the crucial moment, Kabang, the Bunggal family’s dog, emerged from nowhere and jumped into the motorcycle’s path.

The cousins stumbled but were otherwise unharmed. The motorcycle driver, likewise unharmed, took them to hospital for treatment of their bruises.

Eyewitness Jovito Urpiano said Kabang (a Visayan term that means “spotty”) shielded the two girls from certain harm.

Urpiano was in an eatery on his noontime break from driving a tricycle and saw how Kabang stopped the motorcycle from hitting the girls. The dog’s head landed directly on the motorcycle’s front wheel, and as it rolled, her snout got stuck in it.

“I thought somebody threw the dog on the motorcycle, but I could not see anyone who might have done that,” Urpiano told the Inquirer. He said it later came to him that Kabang had intentionally blocked the motorcycle’s path to save the girls.

A hero

Rudy Bunggal, Dina’s father who works at a nearby vulcanizing shop, also saw how Kabang saved the lives of his daughter and niece.

“The bones holding her upper snout were crushed, and we could not do anything to save it. We just pulled her off the wheel,” Bunggal said.

Thus freed, Kabang ran away as fast as she could and went missing for two weeks. When she finally returned to the family home, she looked very different.

But her human family could not care less.

“It does not matter if she’s ugly now. What is important to us is she saved our children and we cannot thank her enough for that,” Bunggal said.

“Kabang is a hero,” said his wife Christina.

Milk and porridge

Bunggal said Kabang’s heroic act might have been triggered by her closeness to Dina and Princess.

He said he found Kabang as a puppy near the family home a year ago. “We raised her like she was ours. We gave her Bear Brand (a milk brand) and porridge,” he said.

Buying milk for the dog was a big deal for the family, according to Bunggal, because he and his wife, who sells candies, have a combined daily income of only about P150.

Christina said that as Kabang grew, she was fed the same food that the family ate. “We did not mind if she was an addition to our expenses. We regarded her as part of the family,” she said.

Bunggal said Dina and Princess always played with the dog. “They even sleep together,” he said.

He recalled that Kabang had no history of wandering outside the house, which was why, he said, “we could not believe she went out when she sensed that the girls were in danger.”

Veterinarian Anton Lim of the Tzu Chi Foundation said Kabang’s act of saving the girls showed that she was grateful to the family.

Back to old self

Lim has been treating Kabang for her injuries and has administered antibiotics so her wounds would heal faster.

Kabang now uses her paws to eat. She is back to her old self, and has resumed playing with Dina and Princess.

And she is expecting puppies, according to Christina.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ernest Shackleton biscuit from 1907 South Pole expedition to sell for £1,500

Lieut Shackleton (Pic: PA)

A single biscuit from Ernest Shackleton's Antarctica ­expedition looks set to make a packet at auction.

The Huntley and Palmers snack that stopped the explorer and his exhausted men starving to death in 1909 is expected to fetch £1,500.

It has somehow survived intact for an amazing 102 years since returning from the intrepid group's hut on the frozen wastes near the South Pole.

Specially made for the gruelling trip and fortified with ­concentrated milk protein Plasmon, the biscuit helped keep up the mens' diminishing strength as they returned from their trip, called the Nimrod mission. One, Frank Wild, later told how Shackleton made him eat the snack daily to stay alive as they headed home from their failed bid to reach the South Pole.

He wrote: "Shackleton privately forced upon me his one breakfast biscuit, and would have given me another tonight had I allowed him."

"I do not suppose that anyone else in the world can realise how much generosity and sympathy was shown by this; I DO by GOD I shall never forget it."

The biscuit will go on sale at Christie's in London on September 29. Spokesman Nicholas Lambourn said: "The biscuits played their part in the Nimrod expedition."

"A lot were made and this one survived for over 100 years."

The highest price paid for a biscuit at auction was £7,637 in 2001. That was from Shackleton's more famous Antarctic expedition in 1914.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Becoming Adolf
Hitler's Toothbrush mustache is one of the most powerful symbols of the last century, an inch of hair that represents infinite evil. The author had his reasons for deciding to wear one.
by Rich Cohen

The Toothbrush mustache will forever be associated with its famous wearer, Adolf Hitler. The Toothbrush mustache will forever be associated with its famous wearer, Adolf Hitler. By Heinrich Hoffmann/Corbis.

I decided to grow a Toothbrush mustache. Well, that's not what I called it. Until I started this story, I had only one name for the thing in mind: a Hitler mustache. An inch of hair that speaks of bottomless evil. A few nights earlier, I had seen Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, interviewed by Bill O'Reilly, who, citing Stalin and Hitler, said he thought atheists, because of their lack of restraining faith, were more susceptible to evil. To which Dawkins (in essence) replied: both Stalin and Hitler wore mustaches—do we therefore think the mustache was the cause of their behavior? I experienced this as an epiphany: By Jove! I said to myself. It was the mustache! From that moment, I stopped shaving. From that moment, I started reading. From that moment, I became wrapped up in facial hair, and the role it has played in politics. The Toothbrush mustache offered a new way to look at the past. It was a pinprick through which I could see the old scene from a fresh angle. It was the history of our time retold as the story of the 'stache.

The author and his Hitler mustache. Photograph by Gasper Tringale.

The Toothbrush mustache is the most powerful configuration of facial hair the world has ever known. It overpowers whoever touches it. By merely doodling a Toothbrush mustache on a poster, you make a political statement. Actually wearing a Hitler mustache, as I planned to do—well, that is like yelling racial epithets in a crowded subway. Wasn't Hitler amazing? Whatever he touched turned to ice. His life ended the long and fabled career of the name Adolf, which had included the stories of Adolph Zukor, Adolphe Menjou, Adolph Ochs, and Adolph Coors. Never again will a pregnant mother innocently consider the name for her son, or imagine shouting it across a teeming playground. As for the Toothbrush mustache, it did not only die with the Führer—it was embalmed with him. It was his essence, and so it has been relegated to the black book of history.

This is the part where I am supposed to explain just why I decided to write this story now. I might talk about the re-emergence of facial hair on the world stage, or the rise of the "new anti-Semitism," or Holocaust denial in Iran, but, the fact is, my interest in the Hitler mustache never started and never ends. It is always. If you're a Jew, the Hitler mustache exists in the eternal present. I grew it for the same reason Richard Pryor said the word "nigger." I wanted to defuse it. I wanted to own it. I wanted to reclaim it for America and for the Jews. My name is Rich Cohen, and I wear a Hitler mustache.

The Imperial, the Walrus, the Stromboli, the Handlebar, the Horseshoe, the Mustachio (also called the Nosebeard or the Fantastico), the Pencil, also called (by idiots) the Mouthbrow—the catalogue is illustrious. (The history of the razor is longer than the history of the mustache, but only by a few minutes.) Most mustaches lie waiting for some Clark Gable or Tom Selleck to fix them in the mind. The greatest are identified with a single man, a bad man, usually, who so wrapped his identity with a particular configuration of facial hair that the two became inseparable. Like the Fu Manchu, in which long tresses hang to the chin, where they can be stroked as the madman laughs. It is named for Sax Rohmer's (racist) villain from the golden age of Hollywood, the bad guy from the B movies who became a symbol for the creeping Asian menace. Or think of the long, droopy Pancho Villa. It was worn by the pistol-flashing Mexican bandito as he chased gringos through the border towns along the Rio Grande. These days, you see it only on Halloween, or at reunion shows of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

The Toothbrush mustache was first introduced in Germany by Americans, who turned up with it at the end of the 19th century the way Americans would turn up with ducktails in the 1950s. It was a bit of modern efficiency, an answer to the ornate mustaches of Europe—pop effluvia that fell into the grip of a bad, bad man.[1] Before that, the most popular mustache in Germany and Austria had been the sort worn by the royals. It was called the Kaiser, and it was elaborate. It was perfumed, styled, teased and trained. It turned up at the ends. It was the old, monarchical world that was about to be crushed by the rising tide of assembly-line America. In other words, in the case of Hitler and his 'stache, America faced an extreme case of blowback.

By the beginning of the century, it had been taken up by enough Germans to draw notice in the foreign press. In 1907, The New York Times chronicled a growing distaste for the import under the headline "toothbrush" mustache: german women resent its usurpation of the "kaiserbart."

In the years before the First World War, the Toothbrush was taken up by a German folk hero, which is the moment it became a craze. Before that, it had been an elite fashion shared by the dandies and swells of Berlin and Vienna. After that, it was worn by every yokel who dreamed of greatness. I am imagining young Hitler poring over newspapers in search of any mention of Hans Koeppen, a Prussian lieutenant who had become a pop star in the manner of the solo aviator, the illusionist, or the tightrope walker. Here is how he was described in The New York Times: "Lieut. Koeppen is 31 years old and unmarried. Six feet in height, slim and athletic, with a toothbrush mustache characteristic of his class."

The moment he appeared in the press with the Toothbrush mustache is like the moment Michael Jordan appeared on the basketball court in Bermuda-length shorts, changing the look of the game forever. In early 1908, Koeppen was given leave from the Prussian Army to cover a New York–to–Paris motor race for Zeitung am Mittag, a German newspaper. When I think of the Hitler who must have followed this race, because it was followed by everyone, I think of the Hitler who loved cars and built the autobahn. (As opposed to the Hitler who killed the Gypsies and the Jews.)

After a disagreement with the German drivers, Koeppen took over. By the time he left Vladivostok, he was a star. The Times: "When he dashes across the German frontier from Russia … the tall, trim young infantry officer"—with the Toothbrush mustache—"may count upon a greeting hardly less joyful than if he were returning from victorious battle."

By the end of the war, the Toothbrush mustache was being sported even by the defeated royals. A last image of the Old World is captured in pictures taken in November 1918, when William Hohenzollern Jr., the son of the Kaiser, the heir to an office that had ceased to exist, was sent into exile. He stands on the deck of an imperial steamer. He wears shiny boots, a greatcoat, a military cap, and a Toothbrush mustache. When he turns to look at the people crowding the shore, showing them only his Toothbrush mustache, he is showing them a picture of their future.

I search the photos that survive of Hitler before Hitler was famous for the moment the 'stache appears. Because that is the moment the Devil gets his horns. In early photos, he is barefaced. The first shot that captures Hitler being Hitler was taken in August 1914, at the Odeonsplatz, in Munich. It was photographed from high above the square and shows thousands of people. Hitler, who was nothing and nobody, is no bigger than a cigarette burn, yet he jumps out. Once you see him, you can't stop seeing him. He wears the sort of grand mustache you expect to see on a barkeep. His eyes glow. A speaker has just read the declaration of war. I shudder when I see this photo, and remind myself he is dead and I am alive.

Experts disagree on the exact year Hitler began wearing the Toothbrush. Ron Rosenbaum, perhaps the only historian to give the mustache its proper due, fixes its appearance with confidence. "It was Chaplin's first, before Hitler's," he writes in an essay from The Secret Parts of Fortune. "Chaplin adopted a little black crepe blot beneath the nose for his Mack Sennett silent comedies after 1915, Hitler didn't adopt his until late 1919, and there's no evidence (though some speculation) that Hitler modeled his 'stache on that other actor's."

But some suggest Hitler began wearing it earlier. According to a recently re-discovered essay by Alexander Moritz Frey, who served with Hitler in the First World War, Hitler wore the mustache in the trenches. Because he had been ordered to. The old bushy mustache did not fit under his equipment. In other words, the mustache that defines Hitler was cut in a shape to fit a gas mask. Which is perfect. Because Hitler was the bastard son of the Great War, conceived in the trenches, born in defeat. He inhaled mustard gas and exhaled Zyklon B. In another memoir, dismissed by some as a fraud, Hitler's sister-in-law Bridget claims she was the cause of the mustache. Bridget Hitler was Irish and lived in Liverpool, where, according to the memoir, the young Adolf spent a lost winter. Bridget (or whoever) says she often bickered with her brother-in-law. Because he was disagreeable, but mostly because she could not stand his unruly 'stache. In one of the great inadvertent summaries of historical character, she writes that in this, as in everything, he went too far.

He was wearing the Toothbrush at the first Nazi meetings, when there were just a few people in a room full of empty chairs. One day, an early financial supporter of the Nazi Party advised Hitler to grow out his mustache. He did this delicately but firmly, in the manner of a man trying to protect an investment. The mustache made the Nazi look freakish. Hitler was advised to grow it at least "to the end of the lips." Hitler was a vain man, and you can almost feel him bristle. Here's what Hitler said: "If it is not the fashion now, it will be later because I wear it."

In the coming years, the Toothbrush mustache would belong to just two men, Chaplin and Hitler. The funniest and the scariest. The dialectic of history. For many people, the Toothbrush mustache became no less a symbol of evil than the cloven hoof.

But here's the big question: Did the mustache affect history, or was it just a matter of style? Did it attach itself to a person and drive him crazy? Was the man in charge, or was the mustache calling the shots? Ron Rosenbaum argues that the presence of Chaplin's 'stache on Hitler's face encouraged Western leaders to underestimate the Führer. "Chaplin's mustache became a lens through which to look at Hitler," he writes. "A glass in which Hitler became merely Chaplinesque: a figure to be mocked more than feared, a comic villain whose pretensions would collapse of his own disproportionate weight like the Little Tramp collapsing on his cane. Someone to be ridiculed rather than resisted."

In 1942, Vidkun Quisling, the premier of Norway, whose name, because of his sellout to the Nazis, became synonymous with treachery, forbade Norwegian actors from mustache wearing. Because thespians had been donning the 'stache to parody the Führer. "The purpose of this singular ordinance is … to halt 'actor-pranks' that have been 'stopping the show' by affecting a Hitler mustache," The New York Times reported. Note how, in this story, the Toothbrush mustache is not identified as the Toothbrush mustache but as the Hitler mustache. From then on, the Toothbrush would belong only to Adolf. Not just a symbol but a totem of the dictator. A voodoo doll. It's not hard to see how you go from here to the plan cooked up by officers of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the C.I.A., to inject estrogen into Hitler's food—female hormone that would make Hitler grow weepy, make Hitler grow breasts, and, crucially, destroy his mustache. A smooth-faced Adolf would lose confidence and fall from power. I mean, without the mustache, is Hitler even Hitler?

When Hitler died, he took his mustache with him. Not even the most cutting-edge stylist can pry them apart. If you dress like Chaplin, you run the risk of being mistaken for Hitler, as, if you dress like Evel Knievel, as I do when it rains, you run the risk of being mistaken for Elvis. The Vandyke, the Goatee, the Soul Patch, these things can become the objects of nostalgia, but the Hitler mustache is never coming back.

You could not wear a Toothbrush mustache after World War II, obviously. Because if you did, you were Hitler. In fact, you could not wear any kind of mustache after the war, because, running from Hitler, you might run into Stalin. Hitler plus Stalin ended the career of the mustache in Western political life. Before the war, all kinds of American presidents wore a mustache and/or beard. You had John Quincy Adams, with his muttonchops. You had Abe Lincoln, whose facial hair, like his politics, was the opposite of Hitler's: beard full, lip bare. You had James Garfield, who had the sort of vast rabbinical beard into which whole pages of legislation could vanish. You had Rutherford B. Hayes, Grover Cleveland, and Teddy Roosevelt, whose asthma and elephant gun were just a frame for his mustache. You had William Howard Taft—the man wore a Walrus!

After the war, the few American politicians who still wore a mustache were those who had made their name before Hitler and so had been grandfathered in. Like Thomas Dewey. Dewey was Eliot Spitzer. He was a prosecutor in New York in the 1930s (and later governor), the only guy with the guts to take on the Mob. For Dewey, the rise of Hitler was a fashion disaster. Because Dewey wore a neat little mustache. Dewey ran for president twice—losing to F.D.R., losing to Truman. In my opinion, without the mustache, the headline in the Chicago Daily Tribune (dewey defeats truman) turns true. One of the few prominent American politicians to wear facial hair in recent memory is Al Gore, who grew a Grizzly Adams beard after he lost to George Bush, in 2000. The appearance of this beard was taken to mean either (1) Gore would never again run for office, or (2) Gore had gone completely mental. The decision to grow a mustache or a beard is all by itself reason to keep a man away from the nuclear trigger.

As a player in political life, the mustache lives on only in the Third World—a conclusion drawn not from any statistical analysis but from my own travels. You see the mustache on politicians in such lands the way you see old Peugeots in the French Antilles. It is the past. It is what we left behind. In the Third World, a portion of voters still go for the sort of hair-growing display that once brought the Volk to Hans Koeppen. Until recent events caused me to re-assess, I even entertained a theory—my only stab at a Tom Friedman–like, one-phrase-tells-all formulation—which I call "¿Quien es mas macho?" According to this theory, a country led by a man with a mustache is more likely to start a war, and more likely to lose it.[2] Because such a country is certain to value machismo over the nerdy qualities that actually win wars. A macho leader will counter a tank division with a cavalry charge—or promise, on the eve of battle, to drive his enemies into the sea. Such a leader will make some of the same mistakes as Hitler: he will overvalue physical courage; he will call on supernatural forces; he will consider even the smallest skirmish a "test of wills"; worst of all, he will answer the question "How will we win?" with the question "¿Quien es mas macho?"

I cut my beard on a Friday. I did what everyone who has ever cut a full beard does: I took it through every configuration. Like passing over the stages of man, or watching cultures rise and fall until the face of Hitler emerged. I went to the closet. What would the Führer wear on a sunny day? It does not matter, I decided. Because I am Hitler—whatever I wear, Hitler is wearing. A dozen Hitlers passed through my mind: Hitler in a sport coat; Hitler in a lab coat. Hitler in a Speedo; Hitler in a Camaro. I shook myself and said, "Get it together, Hitler—you're losing your mind!"

I went out. In the street, some people looked at me, but most looked away. A few people said things after I passed. One man gave me a kind of Heil, but it was lackadaisical, and I am fairly certain he was being ironic. (People can be so mean!) Even friends said nothing until I asked, or else acted embarrassed for me. A woman said, "I think you were more handsome without the mustache." I had been worried someone might try to hurt me. I imagined toughs from the Jewish Defense League attacking with throwing stars—Jewish throwing stars! But it turns out, when you shave like Hitler, you follow the same rule you follow with bees: They're more scared of you than you are of them. Because either you really are Hitler, or you're a nut. So people do with little Hitlers what people always do with lunatics in New York, the harmless or dangerous—they ignore, they avert, they move away. If you want to fly coach without being hassled, grow a Toothbrush mustache.

I wore the mustache for about a week. It preceded me into stores and hung in the air after I exited. It sat on my face as I slept. I was Hitler in my dreams. I went to the Jewish Museum. I went to Zabar's. I went to the Met. I went to the modern wing. I said, "All of this art is decadent." I stood on the corner of 82nd and Fifth. I stared into space. When you stare into space with a Toothbrush mustache, you are glowering. You can't help it. You're looking into crowds. You're looking at the names on the census that end in "-berg" and "-stein" while thinking, How do we get all these Juden onto trains? But in the end, my project, in its broader aims, was a failure. Because no matter how long, or how casually, or how sarcastically I wore the mustache, it still belonged to Hitler. You cannot claim it, or own it, or clean it as a drug lord cleans money. Because it's too dirty. Because it's soaked up too much history. It's his, and, as far as I'm concerned, he can keep it. When you wear the Toothbrush mustache, you are wearing the worst story in the world right under your nose.