Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Grooming

In 1994 I spent all the money I had to buy a one-way bus ticket to Livingston, Montana, where I then had to hitchhike 70 miles into the heart of Yellowstone National Park (fighting off bears and elk) where I worked in a hotel dining room and emerged from a weak, frightened, timid cocoon. My journey into the most beautiful place in the United States was one of the darkest I ever took sending me down paths of heartbreak and loneliness and despair.  But when I found myself at the bottom I looked up and saw mountains. Gorgeous, impossible, redeeming mountains.

That's when I cut my hair.  It's symbolic, man.  And really fucking important.

So, every month since that fateful day in 1994, 8,000 feet above sea level, I shave my head.  Or, rather, I get someone else to shave my head.  Coincidentally, that person has always been Love of My Life Lynette.

But this month we got busy.  James' first birthday and visits from in-laws and preparing our condo for sale left me bushy headed and slowly losing my identity.  So yesterday I walked down the street from work to a downtown unnamed Washington DC barber shop.

This tale will sound contrived and cliched, but it really happened.  I walked in, nervous because I'm not sure how many white customers they get, and promptly created a battle for my patronage among three different barbers quick to insult the other.  I sat in an old barber chair and instantly disappeared into the fabric of old, faded posters on the various styles of afro I could ask for.  The barbers were made up of one old timer know it all, and  three young men who respectfully called the old man Mr. D.  The conversation strayed from a recent boxing match to a claim by one of the young barbers that he and his girlfriend had a threesome with some woman they met at the bar while watching said boxing match.  Then a man who was standing outside trying to sell his Subaru Outback to another man came in and sat down in an empty chair.  Mr. Subaru scolded the others for talking dirty in front of the Reverend.  Twenty seconds later I realized he was referring to me.

The haircut was a bit pricey, but how would you pay to earn a nickname at a local, neighborhood barber shop?

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