February 13 - And That's A Pretty Nice Haircut

Here's an unfinished piece I wrote after my first visit to Joe's Barber Shop in Logan Square last fall:

I started going grey in my late 20’s. It was my hair’s way of telling me to grow up. I chose to ignore these requests, and have worn a messy, uncombed sort of mop top for close to a decade. But when the greys started coming in in ALL CAPS, my childish Beatle doo began resembling a gloomy haystack. It was time to get an adult haircut.

Based on a suggestion from a recording studio message board, I rode my bike down to Joe’s Barber Shop in Logan Square. The screen door opened to reveal a cramped, cluttered room. I took a seat in the one available chair between a guy wearing identical shoes to mine and a growing Mexican boy. Five feet in front of us two men worked the two barbershop chairs. The older man was the owner, and his awards decorated the wood-paneled walls shared with ‘85 Bears and ‘84 Cubs team photos. The younger guy sported muscle car muscles, rockabilly tattoos and a grizzlying beard. They worked on a guy my age and a younger Mexican boy respectively.

I worked on writing until the rockabilly barber gave me the nod. I took off my free Miller Lite snowcap to unveil my matted nest hairstyle and took a seat.

“So what do you want to do?” he asked.

It had been four months since my last cut. It was obvious to both of us that the shagginess in the back and on the sides needed to go. That much I knew.

But I’ve always had unnecessary difficulty when communicating with hairstylists. When I was a kid my parents would give me money every couple of months to walk to Fantastic Sam’s. There I would receive some type of haircut. Then I would take the haircut home and mess up to where I thought it looked good enough for me.

This continued until one day in 1995. I had seen a picture of Beck in Rolling Stone, and I really liked the way his hair looked long. At the time I had been growing mine out, but it wasn’t really working. So I carefully ripped the little 1”x1” picture from the music magazine and brought it to SuperCuts. The girl behind the scissors didn’t really know what to do with the tiny, crinkled clipping and my big mushroom of sad hair. Especially after I told her I wanted it short in the back but wanted to keep the length I had. What I ended up with was two haircuts. A normal looking one in the back, with a long one on the sides. It looked like I had hair curtains that were obstructing the view of a normal haircut. Eventually I went home and cut the curtains off and restored it to my mussed-up liking.

Another 14 years went by.

“So what do you want to do with this?” the barber asked, referring to the top of my haircut.

To make a long story less long, I had the same communication problems with hair, and the barber and I were both getting flustered. So I decided to speak in a language I knew: music.
I used the term "rock 'n' roll haircut."

"Well, what's rock 'n' roll mean to you?"
"Gene Vincent."
He knew the reference.
"'Cuz rock 'n' roll means a lot of things to a lot of people."
"Sun Records," I continued.
"So you want a big boy haircut then?"
My barber's name was Pete, and he spins rockabilly under a psuedonym in the evenings.
I had read about him online before going in.
"Oh, so you're The Coffinburglar?"
"Coffinbanger," he corrected.
He gave me a fucking cool haircut, one that would get me compliments for weeks.

So four months later, I went back to Joe's.
This time I had Joe as my barber.
He cut my hair short and normal.
An action movie about a missing scepter in Vatican City ran on an all-day loop.
He ate chips because he hadn't eaten lunch yet.
I told him he could eat a sandwich while cutting my hair, and rest it on my head between bites.
He laughed but didn't think I would like that.
"The customer is always right."
"Well..." I countered.
"No, no. Trust me. I know."
He said he could write a book with all the stories he had. That sounded like a cool book to read while waiting for a haircut. He told a couple stories. They were short and had to do with customers being impossible.
"I had to pee. When I came back the customer was gone. He couldn't wait for me to pee!"

It was a good experience, though I had lost my rock and roll haircut. But it was short and looked better than it had long. Sadly, after putting it under a skicap for a prolonged period I started to resemble the hood ornament on an old unsuccessful sedan.

Lauren had an afternoon show on the mainstage of Second City. It was a "best of" show patched together by various Second City performers, known as a "patchco" in the "biz." It was a really great show, Lauren and the rest of the cast killed. Thanks to Joe, who's taking my Annoyance class, I got the best seat in the sold out house.

From there we went to Mixteco Grill to celebrate St. Valentime's Day. The chef is a Rick Bayless ex-pat, and we enjoyed his refreshing ceviche, followed by Lauren's pork chop in a tangy mole, and my roasted lamb in an earthy dark mole. My mashed potatoes were delicious, but Lauren's sweet mashed potatoes were the best I had ever tasted. With a bottle of red wine split evenly in our satisfied bellies, we looked and felt great.

St. Valentime himself would indeed have been happy.
If it weren't for his horrible hacking smoker's cough.

Verdict: Win

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