ANN ARBOR, MI—A magic ponytail departed the head of area mortgage-loan underwriter Art Kauske Friday, marking the end of a successful eight-month-long process of social and sexual rejuvenation for the 54-year-old.
The mystical flying hair appendage's whereabouts are currently unknown, though it is widely believed that, like so many times in the past, it has gone off to seek out and attach itself to another middle-aged male undergoing a midlife crisis.
The balding, paunchy Kauske said that on January 11, 1997, he awoke to find the ponytail affixed to his hair near the base of his neck, providing him with an instant sense of reinvigoration.
"Personally, the magic ponytail couldn't have come at a better time for me," Kauske said. "My 23-year marriage had just ended, I was burning out at work, my 83-year-old mother's lingering illness was a constant worry, and my teenage daughter and I rarely talked. My life was directionless at best, and I couldn't shake the feeling that I was growing old and out of touch."
As if by magic, the newly ponytailed Kauske instantly felt energized and youthful, and the change showed in his appearance and lifestyle. He stopped wearing suits and neckties, and purchased a number of collarless shirts, which he began wearing to work along with casual Dockers khakis and sockless loafers. He changed his office environment as well, purchasing a new exercise treadmill, a poster of a soothing waterfall, and a miniature desktop Zen sand garden, complete with tiny rake.
Though out of touch for years with popular music trends, Kauske quickly made up for lost time. The day after the ponytail's arrival, he went to his local Tower Records and, upon the recommendation of a clerk, purchased a dozen new CDs, including releases by Hootie And The Blowfish, Dave Matthews Band and Counting Crows.
"Yeah, I really like a lot of the new stuff coming out right now, like The Wallflowers and Sheryl Crow," he said. "I listen to them in the car to and from work. I pretty much like all types of rock and roll, just as long as it isn't any of that grunge stuff—I can't take that loud guitar feedback. Hendrix did it best, anyway."
Kauske, who attended the University of Illinois during the late '60s, said he had sported a similarly lengthy hairdo in college. "I belonged to the campus chapter of Students For A Democratic Society, contributed to our campus humor magazine, and collected Zap comics," he said. "In other words, I was part of the 'counterculture,' if you will, so I'm certainly no stranger to long hairstyles. Though I must admit it had been an awful long time."
Shortly after dipping into his daughter's college-tuition fund to put a down-payment on a Mazda Miata in July, Kauske met Kari Helgenberger, 23, at J.P. McBleacher's, a sports bar where Kari works as a waitress. "Kari's incredible. She lights up every room she walks into," Kauske said. "Sure, I did have reservations at first; after all, she is only a few years older than my daughter. But she's incredibly mature for her age—we went to the Detroit Institute of Arts the other day and, I swear, she knew more about the paintings than I did."
Then, last Friday, the magic ponytail suddenly took flight. "Its last words to me were, 'My work here is done, Art Kauske! You are no longer the stodgy, aging man you once were! You are hip once more!'" Kauske said. "Then, with a barely audible 'pop,' it dislodged itself from my head and hovered in the middle of the room. Before I could even say thank you, it drifted out the window like a feather and was gone."
Kauske admitted a certain sadness over the ponytail's departure, but said that it has forever changed his life for the better. "I've never felt more 'in the loop' and 'with it,'" Kauske said, in-between calls to girlfriend Helgenberger on his car phone. "The ponytail showed me that, yes, contrary to popular belief, there is life after 50."
Past recipients of the magic ponytail include Modesto, CA, systems analyst Dale Greer; Dayton, OH, paralegal Ed Modesto; and Hollywood actor Harvey Keitel, all of whom experienced a marked increase in hipness and youthful vigor following the addition of the hair appendage.