I just realized that 5 of my 41 blog entries (if you count this one) have been devoted to hair. My hair. That's an eighth of the blog. An eighth of this blog has been about my hair (mostly my facial hair, actually) and its different permutations. (I’ve never had a perm. I’ve always kind of wanted one. You know, like a Greg Brady perm? My hair is pretty curly as it is, or as it was, before today, but now I’m getting ahead of myself. Still, I think a Greg Brady perm would be cool.) If all of this writing about my hair keeps up, I might have to change the name of this blog to Erik's Hair Blog--or My Year of New Hair.
Well, that's not gonna happen because this isn't gonna keep up. No. The madness is gonna stop and it's gonna stop now. It’s gonna stop here. I’m gonna get all of my writing about hair done in this post and then: No more blog entries about hair. After this one. (Probably not, at least.) I promise. (I think.)
I was born a blonde. My mom has a scrapbook somewhere with a lock of blonde hair in a little plastic baggie labeled “Erik’s First Haircut.” There’s something really sweet about this little plastic baggie in the scrapbook—it's like, look! we have this memento from a landmark moment in Erik’s childhood—his first haircut!—back when he had blonde hair!—but it’s also kinda weird because it’s a plastic bag with HAIR in it.
I remember we also used to have a jar with all of my baby teeth in it. (I’m not sure what happened to that jar. Maybe it’s in the garage somewhere?) And we also used to have an envelope labeled “Erik’s left eyebrow” that contained, yes, my left eyebrow.
What kind of sickos are we?
There’s a fairly reasonable explanation for the “left eyebrow” thing. When I was in fifth grade, this one time during recess, I was out in the field with a couple of kids. I think Brian Mann was one of them and I think the other one was Ryan Hoover, but I’m not sure. This was more than half of my life ago, so some of the details are fuzzy. But I think it was Brian and Ryan. Anyway, I was hanging out with Brian and Ryan, and we were out in the field watching some other kids play baseball. (As improbable as that sounds. Right now you're thinking Erik was watching baseball? But it happened.) And either Brian or Ryan—I can’t remember which one it was—or maybe it was a third kid, I can't remember--anyway, whoeveritwas picked up a baseball bat and a mitt and started tossing the mitt in the air and trying to hit it with the bat.
Now, I’m not much of a sport-o. I'm not a big jock. I don’t watch very many sports and I play even fewer. Still, I suppose that, logically, I should have known to create some distance between myself and the kid who was goofing off by tossing a mitt into the air and trying to hit it with a bat. But I wasn’t really paying too much attention to Brian or Ryan or whoeveritwas.
Anyway, Brian or Ryan or whoeveritwas threw his mitt into the air and then swung the bat and I guess he didn’t realize I was standing directly behind him (in the line of fire, if you will) because suddenly the baseball bat nailed me—BOOM!—smack dab in the skull.
I felt the bat make contact with my head and then I felt dazed for what felt like at least a minute but was probably two seconds and then I started to wobble a little bit and then Brian or Ryan or whoeveritwas said “fuck” because we were at that age where we were finally saying “fuck” when bad things happened— like when we accidentally hit people on the head with baseball bats—and then Brian or Ryan or whoeveritwas asked me if I was okay, and then I think I was about to fall down and Brian or Ryan or whoeveritwas grabbed hold of me and helped me walk to the nurse’s office. (Maybe I can't remember who did this to me because they literally hit me in the head with a baseball bat. Maybe they knocked that little bit of short term memory right out of my head.)
That’s when the bump started to form. It was just like you see in cartoons. A ginormous bump—about the size of a hardboiled egg—just to the left of my left eyebrow.
My mom came to school to pick me up and take me to the doctor to make sure I was all right. Before I left I had to go back to my classroom to pick up my backpack and all of the kids saw the massive cartoon-like bump on my forehead and there were ooohs and ahhhs and Brian or Ryan or whoeveritwas told me, again, how sorry he was, and I could tell from the way he looked at the ginormous bump on my forehead that he thought I was probably going to die from this head wound and he felt sorry for me. He didn't want to kill me, but I could tell from the look in his eyes, that it might already be too late.
We went to the doctor’s office and the doctor told me how lucky I was. If you’re gonna get hit in the head with a baseball bat, you should got hit in the exact spot I got hit. It's the sturdiest part of the skull. That jut of bone on either side of your forehead.
If the bat had hit me in the eye, that woulda been bad, and if it had hit me anywhere else, like if it had been a direct hit on my forehead, it mighta cracked my skull, which woulda been even badder. But the baseball bat didn’t hit me in any of those places, so fortunately I was going to live.
While the doctor explained all of this to me, I thought to myself: I’m one lucky little dude. I could have died today. This bump that’s on my head right now—and the black eye I’m going to get tomorrow—these things are all reminders that I lived through this thing. The baseball bat incident. As I was having my little epiphany, I peeled off the icepack I had been holding up to my forehead, and then I looked at that icepack and I noticed something stuck to that icepack:
It was my left eyebrow.
And since I was a weird kid, I thought that the eyebrow was a symbol of this thing I had gotten through—the baseball incident—and I also thought that it was really cool that my eyebrow had gotten stuck to the icepack, so I decided I had to keep it. I took my left eyebrow home, put it in an envelope, and labeled the envelope “Erik’s left eyebrow.”
I’m not sure what ever happened to that envelope. It got lost over the years. Maybe it’s in the garage somewhere.
We were talking about hair, right?
In college, I didn't experiment very much with drugs or sorority girls, but I did experiment with my hair quite heavily. My first week of school, I dyed my hair green. I went to a small school—Occidental College—the type of place where if you don’t know someone’s name, you at least know their face—and for the next four years, whenever I met someone new, they’d be like, “you’re the guy who had green hair during the first week of school, right?” Or “you’re the guy who had green hair and then blue hair, right?” Or “you’re the guy who had green hair and then shaved it all off, right?” I could answer yes to all of those questions, because yes, I was all of those guys.
For graduation, I gave myself the coolest haircut ever: a Mohawk. (Actually, Joe Chandler, one of my frequent blog commentators, was the one who “gave me” the hawk—he’s the one who shaved my hair into a hawk.) My hair was blonde at the time and it was really long, which meant that the hawk was really high—nothing “faux” about it—and I used Elmer’s Glue to keep it standing straight in the air because I read that’s what real punks use and I’ve always wanted to be a real punk even though there isn’t really a punk bone in my body, so my hawk was probably about as poser as a faux-hawk. Still, it was real enough for me, and it was so stiff with glue that when I went to bed and woke up in the morning it still stuck straight up in the air. When I put on my cap and gown for graduation, I realized that the cap wasn’t gonna fit over my hair, so I left it at home. I walked through my graduation processional with my tassle attached to my hawk hair. It fucking rawked.
That Mohawk was definitely my coolest haircut ever.
The haircut I got today? Not so much. There is nothing punk about the haircut I got today. It’s kinda George Clooney circa The Facts of Life. How’s that for a mental image? Do you know the haircut I’m talking about? Short on the sides and puffy on the top? That’s the haircut I got.
But even though the haircut kinda sucks, I’m still gonna go back to this barber because, well, he’s my new barber. That was the New Thing I did today. I got myself a new barber. Two new barbers, actually. Louie and Alex.
See, when I was a kid there was this barber I used to go to all the time. He was the greatest. I loved him. He was actually the man who performed “Erik’s First Haircut”—the one who clipped the hair that’s in the plastic baggie that’s in the scrap book I mentioned earlier—and I went to him through high school.
But then I went to college and I never really cared about having a good haircut, so I would just go to the nearest Fantastic Sam’s or Supercuts—whatever was convenient. Even though these places don’t really give the greatest haircuts, they’re cheap and fast and easy, so I’ve been going to Fantastic Sam’s and Supercuts to cut my hair ever since. But the thing that’s missing at these chain haircutting salons is heart. Fantastic Sam’s and Supercuts—they’re like the scarecrow of the haircutting industry: they got no heart.
So today, when I realized I needed to get a haircut (because my hair had gotten OUT. OF. CONTROL) (because I wanted to look good for Show and Tell tomorrow night) (because it looked like Chewbacca had birthed a child on my head), I decided I should do something new and get a haircut that had some heart in it.
I opened up the phone book to the letter “B” and looked up “barbers.” Scanned the names. Came across a phone number for Louie’s Barbershop. Sounds good, I thought to myself. Okay, I’m gonna give Louie’s Barbershop a call—see if they’re open.
I dial the phone. A man with a thick Brooklyn accent answers the phone “this is Louie’s Barbershop” and then I ask him a couple of questions about where he’s located and how to find him.
“How much do you charge for a cut?”
“I dunno, depends how much hair you got on your head. I could charge you twelve bucks—fifteen bucks—I dunno, depends. You come on over, I’ll see what we gotta do, then I’ll let you know how much I gotta charge you. Get ovah here.”
I follow his orders. I get in my car and head straight for Louie’s. His barbershop is in this tiny little strip mall. The storefront has a large glass window and it’s the only business establishment in this strip mall that’s still open. The lights inside the barbershop are bright and from the street I can clearly see two men sitting inside, waiting for me.
One of the men is in his sixties. He’s heavyset, with thin white hair, and coke bottle glasses. He wears an oversized blue Hawaiian shirt that goes down to the middle of his thighs. He sits in the chair closest to the window, reading the newspaper. When I walk in, he looks up and greets me with a friendly smile. This is Louie.
The other man is in his forties and not so easy with his smile. He smells like the Bazooka Gum he is chewing. If he were an actor and I were a regional theater director trying to cast a production of The Odd Couple, I would immediately cast this guy as one of Felix and Oscar’s poker buddies. If you know The Odd Couple, you should have a good mental image of this guy right now, and if you don’t know The Odd Couple, then tough titty.
The younger man introduces himself as Alex and asks me what my name is. I tell him I’m Erik, and then he asks me what kind of cut I want.
“You want a regular haircut or you want it styled?”
“What’s the difference?” I ask him.
“Regular’s twelve bucks and styled is fifteen.”
“No, I mean, what makes regular cut different from the styled cut?”
“The regular cut’s just regular. With the styled one, I do a little more. Your hair’s kinda wavy so I’d go with the styled.”
I pick the styled and then Alex proceeds to give me the most aggressive haircut I have ever received. He’s pulling my hair—yanking at it—to get a good cut. Turning my head left and right and up and down—yanking at it—and chopping away. There’s nothing pleasant about the cut, but Alex? He’s a nice guy. Not super talkative, but nice. I ask him some questions, and find out that the guy in the Hawaiian shirt—Louie, the owner—that’s Alex’s dad. Louie moved out here from New York forty years ago to start up his own barbershop. He’s been in this same tiny little storefront shop for the last forty years. Since Alex was a baby. Alex grew up here. He’s been cutting hair for going on twenty years now.
When he finishes cutting my hair, that’s when I look in the mirror and realize that I now have George Clooney’s circa-Facts of Life hair. In other words, not a very good haircut, and certainly no better than the haircuts I’ve been getting at Fantastic Sam’s and Supercuts.
But then Alex grabs my hand and shakes it and tells me how nice it is to meet me and he hopes I’ll come back next month (“you really should cut it every month so it doesn’t get as wild as it got”) and Louie starts sweeping the floor around my feet and thanking me for dropping by and wishing me a pleasant evening and asking me if I’m gonna go home and watch the President’s State of the Union address and the way he asks me I can tell he’s not really a fan of our current Mr. President and even though I don’t particularly like the haircut I’ve just gotten, there’s something about this place that makes me wanna call it My Barbershop. It’s these guys. They’ve got heart.
So that’s what I did today. I got myself a new barber. Two of them. Louie and Alex, father and son.
UPDATE: Gina requested a picture of my new haircut, and I aim to please, so here you go: