Things, stuff, and other items of interest

June 23, 2010

Barber shops, grievous head wounds, and a word from David Mitchell

  I like to think that I'm a pretty easy going guy. A fair description of my life long outlook in regards to what passes for my 'style' could be described as: "uncomplicated". If one were inclined to be snooty or snotty for that matter, one may go so far as to describe it as lethargic, or even simple. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I've never been one to be confined by the passing fancies of fashion or the current concerns of haute couture. This however should not be confused with apathy or laziness on my part. On the contrary, while my appearance may radiate a profound break with what passes as conventional standards or "good taste", rest assured that my somewhat disheveled and unkempt appearance is a carefully crafted facade designed with both purpose and utility in mind.

If by now, you're thinking to yourself: "BULLSHIT!", you're probably about half right. Fashion is and always has been something of a mystic art to me. I've never pretended to understand it, and quite honestly, I've never been inclined to try. When it comes to design, I nearly always favour function over form. This holds true as much for my computer as it does my dinner jacket. Oh don't judge me too harshly, I'm not a complete ignoramous. For what it's worth, I'm fully aware of differences between a half windsor knot, and a full windsor knot, and I can tie either on demand. I've been imprisoned in a tuxedo more often than I care to recall (more than twice, less than twenty). I currently own a variety of tie pins (just don't ask me to find them) and have on occasion have even been seen in cuff links. I own, and have used shoe polish. Furthermore,  I'm singularly aware that dress shoes rival a broken collar bone on the agony per square centimeter scale, and last but certainly not least... I have no idea how to tie a bow tie, but I am enlightened enough to know that there is no situation, no celebration nor tragedy yet experienced in all of recorded history, or likely to be experienced in the millennia to come that would require me to wear one.

Oh, I could rant until I was blue in the face about the previously stalwart standards of masculinity that our society now seems to regard as fluid. Were I not burdened with an over abundance of machismo I would weep for the day that the term "Metrosexual" entered out collective vernacular. There is an entire sub-culture of post adolescent men that consider it completely acceptable to adorn their respective visages with the rendered animal suet that was once reserved for the fairer sex. All of this as a result of and directly related to an overly attentive attitude towards fashion and personal grooming. [Please note my choice of words, I chose "grooming" not "hygiene".] I could, with little to no prodding, rail against the marketing firms, the cosmetic corporate behemoths, and the army of prancing sissies that make up the economic forces that perpetuate this open-handed, limp-wristed slap to the face of the standards of masculinity that (most of) your grandfathers proudly upheld. I don't think I'm alone in holding this attitude, and while neither Mr. Mitchell or "Bulldog Natural Grooming" gave me permission to use this following youtube clip, neither did they tell me not to... nor did they turn off embedding.

Yes indeed, I could rant on and on, but I won't (any more). This post isn't about that. It's not about shifting societal norms, or fashion deviants, or even my own freakishly apprehensive terror of all things frilly. No good reader, this post is something of an homage to a bastion of tradition. A place of calm for the weary wanderer. The last line of defense against the army of prancing sissy-boys. This post is about your neighbourhood barber shop, why you should always tip the man holding the scissors, and about the worst hair cut I've ever received.

Gentlemen, (and I say "Gentlemen" not to exclude the Ladies, but rather out of a near 100% certain belief that they have long ago stopped reading) it is your solemn duty to go to visit your local barber and bestow upon him the only gift you have to offer him: your patronage. Even now, like so many blue whales, polar bears, and three toed pygmy tree-sloths; they are an endangered species that we risk losing if we don't take action immediately. As far as I can tell, we've perpetrated this mascu-ronmental catastrophe upon ourselves as a result of three separate but equally critical mistakes.
  1. We have been lulled in a sense of uni-sex hair salon complacency by the likes of the industry equivalent of big box store family friendly hair cutting emporiums.
  2. The resurgence of the dreaded mullet - the hair cut equivalent of a zombie apocalypse.
  3. The overly cautious approach of safety councils and alleged "Doctors" in regards to the straight blade razor.
The sad truth is fellas, that the glory days of barber shop dominance are behind us. Realistically, it's unlikely that we'll ever return to the abundance of spittoons and ash trays that used to adorn our homes-away-from-home. Oh sure, I hear you whining about gum cancer and second hand smoke but who doesn't look back with fondness on the acrid smell of death that accompanied every new hair cut? Ok, that may have been a bad example, but it doesn't detract from the epicenter of simple respectful masculinity that now seems to be headed for that long walk off of a short plank.

It's not just your duty gents, it's your privilege and honour to require the service of the noble barber. Lest we not forget our proud balding brothers, and offer up a moment of silence for their follicularly challenged noggins. I don't mind telling you that I myself once walked among the chrome domes, shining brightly into that barberless abyss. What follows is not for the feint of heart. A brief tale of drunken shenanigans, brutal mutilation, and my brief experience as a hairless pariah.

Some years ago, I and a few of my friends had gathered for a night of revelry and celebration. If memory serves, I believe the cause of our jubilant jocularity was that it was Thursday and a local beer garden had recently instituted a very popular policy of two dollar shots. Together with two of my most trusted amigos, as well as our respective lady friends, we set off in search of libations.

Rounds were purchased, time and time again, only to be followed by more rounds, and then a few dozen more after that. Suffice it to say that we were well stewed, and while our brain cells died slow, agonizing deaths by the thousands, our conversation took a turn that I can honestly say I had not expected. It was then, during a moment that would be very much regretted a mere twelve hours later, that I mentioned something hindsight has since revealed I probably should have kept to myself: that I had always thought it'd be neat to shave my head.

And so the plan was set in motion. Clearly, I was convinced that this was something worth doing. More than that, this was something I believed was a critical mistake that I had over looked for my entire life up until this point. Wasting all that time on grooming and hygiene, when it would be so much easier to offer up a more comprehensive solution. I'd get to the root of the matter if you'll forgive the pun. What I failed to notice in my drunken stupor was the giddy sense of pure joy radiating from my sadistic friend like some sort of Machiavellian hair removal specialist. I suppose what followed would have been completely predictable to even the most dull witted simpleton had any of us actually been sober, sadly this was not the case.

We got back to the apartment in question, and my friend began his preparations like some sort of demented alchemist who has spent too much time trying to turn lead into gold. The plan was for me to bend over the toilet, in a position most commonly referred to as "Praying to the Porcelain Goddess", and my pal would bust out his mad skills on my noggin with a set of clippers. It was here that we ran into the first hiccup in this endeavour. There were no clippers to be found. In fact, we couldn't scrounge up anything even remotely resembling a functional set of scissors. I would later learn that the only cutting implement available in this shit-hole of an abode was the very-used, very-dull "Bic Ladies Leg Razor" that my pals' girlfriend had forgotten to throw out some months prior.

I learned this about two minutes after the head shaving process had begun. Roughly about the time that the trickle of blood started to dribble down my face into the toilet bowl in which I was staring. I expressed my concern. My friend assured me that it was but a scratch. I expressed my concern more boisterously and questioned the skill of he who wielded the the razor. He again assured me that it was but a scratch and that the accident occurred due to the structural abnormalities of my misshapen cranium. I then suggested that his head may soon be misshapen as well if he were not more cautious while completing his task. It was then that I became utterly confused as he passed me a pristinely clean perfectly white towel, and suggested I use it.
Me: "But, if I clean my face with this I'll stain it. Don't you have some crappy rag you don't care about lying around?"
The Butcher: "It's not for cleaning your face, it's for biting on."
It was then that I noticed he had pulled from his cabinet a bottle of "Brut for Men" and was applying liberal doses to both his hands. He looked me in the eye with an intensity I had not previously believed existed on the face of this earth a fraction of a second before he slapped both of his giant cologne wielding palms downward on to the top of my freshly shorn, blood smeared noggin. I'm pretty sure that the scream that escaped through clenched teeth and downy softness woke at least a few the neighbouring floors' residents. I could try to describe the pain, but I simply don't have the words. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I went home about six beers later, with a shaved head, free of infection as all the open wounds that now adorned it had be cauterized thanks to the alcohol scrub my cranium had received from my sadistic cackling friend. I woke up the next morning very, very, very hung over. I chuckled to myself as I regained control of my faculties through a veil of dehydration at the weird dream I had. It was then that I noticed my pillow was stuck to the side of my face.

Hopefully, this tale gives you some small amount of insight as to why I hold the simple Barber in such high regard. His skillful mastery of the craft which he practices less and less with each passing day is something we need to hold dear to our hearts gentlemen. Tip him generously, show him your appreciation for a job well done. If you take nothing else away from this rambling mental excretion take this: Don't frequent bars that sell two dollar shots, don't trust anyone who has a bottle of "Brut for Men" in their bathroom cabinet, and for the love of God go find yourself a decent barber.

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