Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Their Natural Habitat"

II said it before and I’ll say it again:

It’s L.A.  What are you going to do?

In. L.A., everyone’s just…not quite like they are… anywhere else.

I see a “Body Mechanic”, who has not a single diploma on his wall, is a former policeman, and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, he does exactly the same kind of bodywork on horses.

I visit a chiropractor, whose treatment sessions last a minute and a half, and whose desk is covered with stacks of business cards, touting, among a wide range of services, a swimming pool cleaner, hot air balloon rides, and a clown for children’s birthday parties.

My hair cutter cuts my hair, and then gives me a blessing. 

A blessing?

On my head.

Mazel tov, mazel tov.

Matthew, a smart and dryly funny English bloke, belongs to this spiritual organization called the “One World Fellowship”, or something that sounds like that, but is actually something else.  I’m not being disrespectful; I’m being forgetful.  It’s possible “One World Fellowship” is the name of a Santa Monica health food store.  Or is that “One Voice?”  No, it’s “One Life.” 

I think “One World” is right.  For the fellowship, not the health food store.

When I arrive at the salon, I am met by a delightful young woman named Ashley, who has a number of tattoos, but, imaginably, resulting some kind of compromise arrangement with her parents, they are all limited to one arm.

Ashley shampoos my hair, rinses me off, and walks me over to Matthew, who also sports some serious tattoo work, though “location permission” is apparently off the table.  Which is understandable.  Matthew is older than Ashley, earning him the prerogative of affixing his tattoos wherever he wants.  

(I have this fantasy of a New Yorker cover of the future, where an extremely old woman sits in a chair in her living room, there’s a calendar behind her indicating “2077”, and her body-covering tattoo adornments are all drooping depressingly to the floor.)

I am comfortably ensconced in a barber chair facing a mirror, when I am confronted by the inevitable question, without whose answer we cannot properly proceed.  The question being,

“What are we doing today?”

This is my cue to instruct Matthew on exactly how I want him to cut my hair.  And when I say “exactly”, that’s exactly what I mean.

A few examples from the recent past:

Vacation Request

“I am going to Hawaii.  But unlike the “Maui” haircut you gave me last year, I specifically need an “Oahu.”

The Family Visit

“I am visiting my family in Toronto, and I need a haircut that says, ‘Yes, I can afford a overpriced haircut, but it’s nothing better than you can get here for considerably less.’  And I apologize for the ‘overpriced.’”

The Midwestern Fit-In

“Our upcoming trip to Indiana requires a haircut whose message is, ‘This could easily be an Indiana haircut, though not the kind pulled off by some relative or close friend, using a haircutting apparatus that they ordered over the phone.’”

The Pre-Op Preemption

“I’m having heart surgery next week, and I want my haircut to be shortly-cropped enough to keep the surgical team from saying, ‘We’re shaving the rest of his body; let’s go for the head as well.’”

And most recently

The Birthday “Do”

“My birthday is on Friday.  [My appointment took place on the previous Tuesday.]  I’ll be 66.  I want my haircut to make clear that I’m not trying to pass for 65.”

Whatever I ask for, no matter how specific, no matter how certain I am that he’s never tackled such an assignment before, or anything even close, or even heard of such a hairstyle, Matthew’s response is inevitably the same:

“I’ve got one left.”

The scissors begin to fly – snip-snip, snip-snip – and every time, I get exactly what I asked for, every hair styling exquisitely separate and distinct, the “Oahu” different from the “Toronto”, different from the “Indiana”, different from the “Cedars Sinai”, different from the “66.” 

(With the “66” that Tuesday before my birthday, Matthew spectacularly topped himself, cutting in a 3-day “grace period”, so I would not have to look sixty-six three days early.)

And following each haircut, Matthew instructs me to take a deep, relaxing breath, and then, clamping both hands firmly over the top of my head,

He gives me a blessing.

Two miracles then occur.  Miracle One, I immediately feel an energizing electrical charge coursing through my body.  And Miracle Two, when he removes his hands, my new haircut has in no way been flattened.

Hallelujah!  Or Om.  Whichever applies.

I am merely skimming the surface here, indicating that L.A. is filled with colorful and “unusual” characters.

And I haven’t even mentioned the actors.

1 comment:

Max Clarke said...

Good story, LA is different, but I admire that. Of course, I won't have tattoos drooping to the floor when I'm 77.

Next time, ask for the OM haircut. See what kind of charge you feel in your head with that.