My father gave me several pieces of timely advice.
"Never accept wooden nickels!" he once screamed through
a drainpipe at me. "Buy low, sell high!", he would yell
from the bottom of the yard, near the grapevines. I can recall a
time when he shrieked from his
banana lounge - "Never get a haircut when you're out of town!".
Naturally I thought him to
be rambling as he lost his reason in a comfortable chair. That was
until I took a holiday and
like so many fools before me failed to heed this warning.
I was looking messy and I was in a foreign place.
It simply wouldn't do. I showered. I shaved. I bought some new shoes
with tan uppers. The fellow looking out of the mirror was shaking
his head in puzzlement when I realised that I needed a haircut.
Near to the pension I was staying in I had seen a
red and white stripy pole. I had a flimsy grip on the language of
the land, the shapes of the words were meaningless and they felt
like shucked walnuts in my mouth when I spoke them. The sound from
that shop had me initially thinking it was a typing pool - it had
to be the place. Inside it wasn't so different from the barbershops
back home. There was hair flying all over, and a guy to sweep it
up. Silent men eyed themselves in the mirror whilst wearing white
smocks. When the barber had finished the job, he flamboyantly removed
these smocks in the fashion of a conjuror, briskly swept errant
hairs from the punter's neck with a soft brush and produced from
nowhere a hand mirror so the newly shorn could nod in approval at
the majesty of the back of their heads.
I sat on a chair once one became available and set out to describe
the hairstyle I was after. "Have you ever seen that film, you
know, the one about the bee-keeping sheriff? You know the one, it
has that guy in it, he was the cop - they took his badge? And Gun?
'This time it's
personal'. Although it was the other guy who said that line - you
know the shorter guy. They were partners 'This time it's personal'."(I
was doing a great impersonation of the guy - really getting into
it - I mean I was shouting 'This time it's PER-SON-AL!'). The barber
was staring at me blankly. "Hunna Hoona Hop Hop." He said.
I could see this wasn't going to be easy. "OK"
I said, and I pulled the smock up over my mouth and nose and stood
on one leg on the chair. "You must know this one - 'The hunter
becomes the HUNT-ed'. You know that bit surely." More blank
looks from the barber. He looked nervously to the guy sweeping up
the hair, who just shrugged his shoulders. "Hunna Hoona Hop
Hop" he repeated.
I knew I had to pull out all the stops. I took that
little soft brush and placed the handle in my mouth. I gently prised
the scissors from the barber's hand and bent them at ninety degrees,
placing them open and under the brush in-between my teeth - now
I had the bushy moustache and fangs I was looking for. (I bet you
already know the famous scene I was about to enact!).
The sweeping guy happily gave me his broom as I reached for it and
backed away as I broke it in half - you know - for the semaphore
flags. I took two burning cigarettes from a couple of old boys who
were smoking outside the shop and I put then in my ears - viola
- the two volcanoes!. The only prop I needed now was the log to
dance on as I rolled it up the river. (What a scene! What a star!
What a film! What a hairstyle!). For this I removed the red and
white stripy pole itself from it's place on the wall. Jumping on
it and dancing I did the semaphore and eyebrow movement that had
immortalised the famous actor. The pole rolled under my feet and
I began to tear through the street away from the barber's. The barber
and the sweeping guy came out of the shop to watch me. When I had
the optimum velocity I breathed deeply and prepared to shout the
line that would surely reveal the actor I was describing to the
barber (as if my costume, props and performance so far was not enough!).
I didn't get to say a word, and I still don't know
what I hit. I woke up on a hospital bed. They had to shave one side
of my head to put in the stitches.