I love writing this blog..but sometimes, I can’t come up with one blasted idea that justifies an entire column. Oh, I could rattle on about the upcoming election and explain why I’m reluctantly going to leave the U.S. House race on the ballot blank. But anyone who, like me, gags every time another negative ad from either candidate comes on TV.. doesn’t need an explanation. I could also rehash such hot topics as event centers, smoking bans and Brett Favre…but after careful consideration, I’ve come up with a riveting subject: HAIR. I really don’t like mine very much.
Now, I realize I’m not going to get a lot of sympathy from those of you who’d give your eye teeth to have a full head of hair again. But, trust me, it’s not so great going through life as Moe Howard’s son either.
Best as I can figure I’ve had about 700 haircuts in my lifetime from only a half dozen different barbers. The first was George Woodard. He cut my dad’s hair so when I came of age (around three) that’s where I went too. I remember climbing up and sitting on a board that George had placed across the arms of the barber chair so my little head would be at grown-up level. George wore one of those noisy hearing aids with a long cord that led from his right ear to a battery box the size of a deck of cards which he kept in his white shirt pocket right next to the pack of Camels. He liked to tease me about needing a shave and then world give me a whisker rub with his weathered old cheek against mine which, as I think about it now, kind of creeps me out. Anyway, my dad believed that if you spend good money for a haircut people better, by god, .notice that you got one..and George was only too happy to accommodate.. trimming me right down to the nubbins with just enough left in front to be stood up straight with the help of a bit of butch wax. I hated short haircuts..still do. They made my big ears look even more enormous..like a 49 Ford with the front doors open.
I eventually convinced my mom to let me go to the other barber in town, Helmer Dahl. Helmer was a much younger guy who treated kids like adults and understood that they were after more of a look like James Dean or Elvis than Mahatma Gandhi. He would actually ASK what style you wanted and we’d point to one of the pictures he had posted on the shop wall.
I remember when one of Doctor Peeke’s sons told Helmer he wanted a Mohawk. There wasn’t any picture on the wall for that but Helmer said okay and began buzzing away until all that was left was a windrow of hair down the middle from the front of his head to the back of his neck. I’m not sure if Doc’s son had parental approval for this radical cut or if Helmer caught hell for obliging but, if the desired effect was to get attention at school, it was mission accomplished. Helmer also kept a nice variety of comic books to read while waiting your turn in the chair. Sure beat the heck out of “Field and Stream” or “Today’s Farmer” magazines offered over at Woodard’s. Sometimes my friends and I would go into Dahl’s Barber Shop just to read the latest edition of “Archie” or “Lil Lotta” even if we didn’t need a haircut. He never seemed to mind our loitering..in fact, long after I’d graduated from high school and moved away, I’d still make it a point, whenever I came home, to stop by Helmer’s for a trim or just to chat. He was a good guy.
For the last 30 years or so, I’ve been going to Steve Klooster, owner of Headhunters on Southeastern Drive. I don’t doubt that he’s had to take a lot of heat for being barber to that TV guy because so many people think I wear a rug. That probably doesn’t speak well for his styling skills. But it’s not his fault. He’s tried, over the years, to get me to go for a different look..even gave me a permanent once to put some curl into my thick stubborn coiff..but it sprung right back to straightness within 24 hours. Steve has finally had to admit that I have “heinie” hair; which is to say it grows forward like a field of sunflowers leaning into the sun. As a boy I fought my follicle fate by using great gobs of Brylcreem to overpower the natural grain of my hair by weighting it down with grease. Later our bathroom would be filled with a giant cloud of Aqua Net hairspray which I bought by the case. It stunk to high heaven, but was effective in gluing my rebellious hair into submission. When it was determined that I might be solely responsible for depleting the ozone layer, I switched to a pump spray, Lady Clairol extra hold, to get the job done.
But I’m tired of fighting it..so on my last visit, I told Steve the barber to go ahead and cut it all off. I’ve said that before but this time he knew I meant business so for the next half hour he was like Edward Scissorhands. When the shearing ceased, I looked at myself in the mirror sitting there in a circle of grey fluff like I’d sneezed in a patch of dandelions that had gone to seed. Oh, I still have hair left but now it sticks straight up in front just the way George Woodard used to do it.
Hmmmm, I wonder. “Linda..we don’t happen to have any Butch Wax in the house do we?”