Since the May 2 orientation, I’ve had to get a fair number of Rio Hondo College ducks in a row in preparation for my first day, June 6.
Last on my list was: haircut. But of course there’s a backstory. Not counting a slight trim in a salon shortly before leaving for our vacation in Thailand and Cambodia in March 2011, my last time setting foot in a barbershop for your typical regular haircut was February 2010. This was due in part to my getting a buzz-cutting kit at Costco, and deciding to try my hand at DIY barbering, which I got pretty comfortable with along the sides and back of my head. Not so much with the top.
As a result the top just grew and grew and grew, until I had something like 10-inch-long unruly follicles that I did my best to keep plastered back and down either with hats, or with a combined overuse of haircare products.
Frankly the long hair was more trouble than it was worth, but it was my long hair dammit. And I was quite enamored with it since its ceaseless growth was occurring at an age when some men have long got over having lost theirs.
But then came the decision in August 2011 to thrust myself into a this new environment and I knew my ‘do was a don’t.
But getting the ‘do done in proved to be the easiest thing for me to put off, and it kept getting pushed down the list of priorities — past the combination lock — until it finally had nowhere left to go.
Now from a barbershop perspective, my go-to place had been Tony’s in the shopping center on Glendale Boulevard and Fletcher in Silver Lake, a couple miles from me. I started going there when I moved to Silver Lake in the winter of 2003 and was a faithful customer up until 2010, when I embarked on the good ship Cut Your Own. And my barber there had been a wonderful old gent named Louie, who was in his 80s (but looked to be in his 60s) and was not only a genial old-school barber but also always gave me a great cut.
As that was two-plus years ago, I decided to call and make sure Louie hadn’t retired, and if not find out what coming day he would be working. Tony picked up the phone, and to be polite: Tony’s a character. He’s ornery and short-fused and he proved it on several occasions when I’d be in there being attended to by Louie. One time he got in to a full blown shouting match with a customer and kicked him out. I think Tony’s motto is “The customer’s not just always wrong but full of shit, too.”
So Tony answers the phone and I tell him it’s been a while, and that I was wondering if Louie was still there. Straight away, Tony starts breaking my balls.
“Ooooooh, Louie? Yeah… let’s see. Well, here’s how it is. Louie’s about 90 years old now. And for Louie to cut your hair we’d have to go to his house and get him and bring him back here.”
I look at the keypad of my phone wondering if there’s a *69 type combo I can punch to block bullshit.
Instead I cringe and risk further Wrath Of Tony by following up with “Do you mean he’s not in today or… uh, he’s no longer working there?”
“Ooooooh, you’re not getting the picture are you? Let me see if I can explain it more clearly: See, Louie’s about 90 years old now. And for Louie to cut your hair we’d have to go to his house and get him and bring him back here.”
Clearly when Tony repeats the same sentence that qualifies to Tony as giving me the clearer picture — even though of course it didn’t clear anything up. But I took the hint and stayed silent admiring how so basic a question could so set Tony to baloney mode.
Maybe sensing he’d ornery’d on me a wee bit too much, he eased off and invited me to come in, somewhat in the way Count Dracula bids Jonathan Harker entry to his castle. “Come on in. I’m here,” he said. “Ramon is here. Either one of us can take care of you.”
I started to say for that to happen I’d need him to come to my house and bring me back there Louis-style, but instead just thanked him and hung up.
So instead I went to Figurin’s, a shop literally around the corner from our house that I should’ve been going to since I moved in with Susan in the summer of 2004. But never did — and I’m not really sure why.
Better late than never, I took a farewell snap of my long locks then traipsed over there. Covered up and ready, I snapped a pre-during shot there in the chair and then in less than 30 minutes with the skilled hands of the very much Louie-like proprietor I was traipsing home fully satisfied to snap my Rio Hondo-ready ‘do.