The Haircut, or Hair and Back Again

I’ve always hated getting a haircut.

When I was a kid, I had a severe ticklish reaction on my neck. As a haircut involves someone poking around the neck, I was a squirming nightmare for hair-cutting professionals.

Generally, my mother eased this burden by carefully selecting an accommodating salon.

I suspect she also tipped well.

But a boy cannot forever be taken by his mother into the caring, understanding graces of a hair stylist.

The day comes when he must visit the barber.

My experience with the barber — and I say “the barber” in the utter confidence that for me, the man I am about to describe shall remain the only such hair care worker I ever encounter — occurred under the guidance of my father.

Dad didn’t patronize a salon. Not even a barbershop. Rather, Dad, like many of the other firefighters at our local station, was a patron of the services of one of the men, who, for the purposes of anonymity, I shall refer to as “Buzz.”

If I’m remembering correctly, Buzz learned his trade while serving in the army. His tool was a clipper. His style offerings were numbered. The numbers matched the settings on the clipper.

There were no frills in this barber’s “shop,” by which I refer to an otherwise unused corner of the fire station’s hose room wherein Buzz practiced his art with nothing but the aforementioned clippers, a chair — not a barber’s chair, just a chair — a broom, and a dustpan.

Into this place my father escorted me one fine Saturday morning, with the intention that we should both get haircuts.

I had never encountered clippers before, and while a person with scissors nipping around my neck was enough to set off a tickle response, a pair of buzzing clippers … well, today I can bear clippers through willpower and a diminished tickle response; at age 8 I had no willpower and a powerful tickle response.

I came home with half a haircut, and my mother neatened things up with a pair of scissors, no doubt wondering why she hadn’t just done this to start with.

***

I don’t have the severe ticklish reaction anymore. (I don’t get carsick, either, but that’s a whole other tale of childhood turmoil.) Nonetheless, I still hate having a haircut.

I have no moral objection to long hair, but, having spent most of my life in the South, I have always endured a strong, prevailing social pressure to look “respectable.” Often, this has served as reason enough to endure a haircut, especially upon certain sacred official occasions — participating in a wedding, going for a job interview, posing for a formal portrait.

In the absence of social pressure, my hair grows — I don’t enter a salon except under duress.

I adore an absence of duress.

Once upon a time, my hair ran down my back with abandon. College, followed by jobs at a couple of easygoing newspapers, allowed that.

After years with ponytail-length tresses, one day, more or less on a whim, I cut my hair.

Since that day, I have had just enough of the right social demands, spaced at just the right intervals, that my hair has been more or less short for the past few years. Sure, it has been on its way toward unruly hippie proportions a few times, but, on average, “presentable” has been a good descriptor of my hair.

No more.

I last had a proper haircut shortly before the wedding of one of my best friends, approximately a year ago.

Since, nada.

Last night, I had an interesting realization: My choice to go for short hair coincided, roughly, with the time I stopped writing freely.

No doubt it’s coincidental that I am embarking upon blogging as my hair once again ventures into The Land Below The Collar, but the coincidence still amuses me.

Onward, words and hair; may you both flow freely.

Awake

A wind stirs, rustling leaves above me.

I lift my fedora from where it rests, covering my face. Day is here, but the sun is mild, scarcely penetrating this shady abode.

I gaze up at the great stretch of limbs, trying to remember just how long I have lain here. My mind is too fuzzy to think in days, weeks, or years; only “too long” registers as a unit of time.

I rise, and my bones creak, but I am full of energy. I look about me at this, my favorite reposing place, reach a hand toward the rough bark, speak a silent thank you to my arboreal friend.

Then I shrug my shoulders, dust my coat, replace my hat, and wander off …

159 Down, Three To Go

I love baseball. Also, autumn. So it’s natural that as October brings the baseball season crashing to a close and sets us up for playoffs, I’m a pretty happy guy.

And yet …


My happiness at this point of the year always comes with a little sadness mixed in. As much as I anticipate the clash of the year’s best teams in the playoffs, I grieve a little for the dying regular season.

For, despite how much stock fans put in the Fall Classic, how we marvel when its winners kiss their trophy and hoist their banner, baseball is, at its heart, a game of the long summer.

Across that span, sustained excellence is hard to come by.

A team will lead you to believe its men haven’t a clue or a prayer while losing nine in a row, dropping to last in the division, lurking nearly last in the league. Then, without warning, something in that same team will click and it will win relentlessly, charging to the top of the division, the league, the whole shebang.

Later, the same team may fade to the point of elimination.

Along the way, crazy plays will be made and missed. Improbable victories will be won, crushing defeats, suffered. Your favorite player will ride the bench or get injured, or get injured right after coming off the bench. Meanwhile the player you despise — for statistically valid reasons, of course — will start every [expletive deleted] game even when it should be obvious to a brain-damaged monkey that guy shouldn’t be in the lineup.

And you will wonder, sometimes aloud, whether the team would be up or down in the standings if it had hired a brain-damaged monkey instead of the old guy at the end of the bench …

But, maybe at that point you remember that baseball is also a game of heart, and, try as you might, you aren’t a heartless bastard.

Only a heartless bastard would be happy to see that old guy go.

As much as my analytical self sometimes wonders what the hell the man is thinking with his in-game tactics, whether he has ever so much as browsed Fangraphs, heard of Baseball Prospectus, or knows an advanced metric from an inverted tantric, I do overall admire Bobby Cox and everything he has done for my home team, the Atlanta Braves.
As he made the rounds in this, his final season, I went back and forth on that. My warm-hearted conclusion is no doubt rooted in my love of the long summer.
As much as my favorite World Series remains the 1991 seven-game meeting between the Braves and the Twins, it is still the summer before it that I remember so fondly.
That summer, Bobby took a team of has-beens and never-weres, playing for a down-on-its luck and far-from-its-glory franchise in a city that had never seen a major sports championship, and came thiiiis close to the trophy and the banner. Four years later, he would deliver them, but by then it was already a changed team, a collection of have-beens and yes-we-ares, playing for a franchise revived of its luck, forging new glory.
Now, as the clock winds down on Bobby’s career, he stands poised to give the playoffs another shot, take one last stab at October fame, provided the Braves can hold their own this weekend.
And I find … I don’t especially care how that all turns out.
Scratch that.
I care. If playoff baseball returns to Atlanta, I fully intend to buy my way into Turner Field and root, root, root for the home team.
But …
Whatever happens, this year has returned a little of the magic that I had been missing. Bobby has again taken a team that I think can’t win and made me feel it can’t lose, done so through a host of player injuries and other inadequacies — including, yes, sometimes, his own — and he’s made me keep my eye on that team all summer, because I would have hated to look away and miss something.
Thanks, Bobby.