The barber of Chalmette

July 31, 2020

Listen to “The Barber Of Chalmette” on Spreaker.

Of all the things Carol doesn’t understand about me (contained in her book, What Have I Gotten Myself Into, Vol. 1-3), one that confounds even her broadest allowances for abnormal behavior is my attitude toward haircuts. Having strictly supervised my sartorial decisions over the past two years, Carol understands my, how shall I say, lack of awareness when it comes to grooming. (It’s not unawareness; I happen to like the WWII Polish refugee look.) But she truly doesn’t get my attitude toward haircuts.

“You’d think that it was his homage to Van Gogh, when he’d slice off a piece of my ear with that farm implement of a hair clipper was what I objected to most, but that’s not the case.”

It goes back to my childhood, when my father decided it was time to give us all “summer haircuts.” It wasn’t an issue of style. The summer haircut was modeled on the “GI enlistee.” Since it required little more than a clipper attachment manufactured by International Harvester, the summer haircut did not require any of the skills that would be acquired in an accredited barber college.

Yet, my father insisted on approaching the summer haircut, as if he were Michelangelo. (I’m sorry if the metaphor means you can never look at the David again without becoming slightly nauseous.) It meant his unnerving attention to detail and perfection would have me stuck frozen to that kitchen chair for what seemed like an eternity. (You’d think that it was his homage to Van Gogh, when he’d slice off a piece of my ear with that farm implement of a hair clipper was what I objected to most, but that’s not the case.) True, I can sit and stare blankly at a wall for hours on end, but that’s voluntary, and refreshing, I might add. Confinement to that kitchen chair, while unseen hands work my head like they were carving a pumpkin felt like jail to a ten-year-old.

I had found an ideal barber before the current pandemic. He was quick, with no conversation, and he ran that #4 attachment over my head and beard with the discrimination he’d give a tennis ball. He was too good to be true, but he was. I wouldn’t have to think about hair for at least six weeks after a session with my local Sweeney Todd.

The thing about Carol is that she has standards, one of which is she doesn’t want my hair looking like I just woke up from a three-day bender, or that I’m still waiting for my structured settlement from J.G. Wentworth. Because it’s Carol, I’m being more patient than I’m normally capable, though Carol disputes this. I have to admit the end result is more than acceptable, though she still is lacking the nerve to do that all around #4. It just means my Sea of Tranquility bald spot is more pronounced.

Since scruffy is the new normal, I still wouldn’t stand out in a crowd, if we were able to stand out in a crowd under current distancing rules. I’m certainly not complaining. The thought of having to sit in that kitchen chair of my childhood for a spring, fall and winter haircut, along with the summer one, is enough to make me happy to be alive in this day and age, regardless.

It also occurs to me that every conspiracy theory needs a purpose in order to be credible. That coronavirus is a hoax designed to get me back in a kitchen chair for forever sure seems just about right to me.

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