Wednesday, July 24, 2002

My hair is gone. It was last seen headed in an easterly direction on the Hollywood Freeway. Be on the lookout for it.

What happened was that I got my ponytail snipped off. The result of this is that I now look about 12 years old. But I am going to mail it to Locks of Love, so at least my hair will be doing something productive with its time. That's good. I wouldn't want to read about it in the police blotter one day or see it all pixelated on COPS. I don't think I could handle that.

I got it cut at the Elvis Barbershop. It's not really called the Elvis Barbershop, but it is owned by a guy that dresses up like Elvis. Really.

Anyway, I promised about nine months ago that I would tell you the story of Elvis and Monkeyboy, sad and heartrending as it is. The time has now arrived for the tale to be told, so pull up an orange crate and lend an ear. Or at least a lobe.

The Story of Elvis and Monkeyboy (with full orchestration and five-part harmony)

The greatest barbershop in the world is Jerry's Rock n Roll Barbershop in Campbell.

I used to go there to get my hair cut about once a month. At the time I was frequenting the place, there were three guys working there: Elvis, The Greek, and Monkeyboy.

Elvis is Jerry, owner of the Rock n Roll Barbershop. He dresses like Elvis. Not like Vegas or Blue Hawaii Elvis. He doesn't go around wearing sequins and fringe jackets and throwing sweaty towels at his legions of adoring fans. It's more subtle than that. His hair is kind of like one of the Everly Brothers or Roy Orbison or something, dyed jet black despite the fact that he is about 68 and it looks a little odd. And he wears big gold chains and medallions. The sideburns in themselves are a thing of beauty.

Then there was The Greek. He doesn't work there anymore, but he was one of those guys who just belonged in a barbershop. This guy had more ear hair than I have ever seen in my own species, he was bald, and he talked about gambling pretty much constantly. He would talk to Jerry about horse racing, because Jerry owns and breeds horses, apparently.

Lastly, Monkeyboy. Monkeyboy passed away a couple of years ago, and I hope I don't do his memory a disservice by telling this little story. Monkeyboy was over 70 years old. He was about 5'10" or so and he weighed maybe 100 pounds, tops. His skin had that wrinkled leathery look you see in people who have spent their whole lives in the California sun and are now paying the price for it. Skin and bones was really about all Monkeyboy had. There was no sort of musculature at all that I could ever discern. He coughed constantly. Huge, wracking coughs that shook his withered frame. The kind of coughs that you would wonder if he could survive. He also couldn't hear a word you said, which made those barber-customer chats a little strained.

So those were the three barbers.

I would wander into the shop on a Saturday and there would be about ten guys in there waiting. They were all waiting for Elvis. Occasionally you'd see somebody in a hurry sit down and let The Greek have a go at his hair. I myself was shorn by The Greek a couple of times, and had no complaints.

But no-one let Monkeyboy cut their hair.

So once, I was in a bit of a rush and there were the usual ten or so guys waiting for Elvis to be free. Even The Greek was busy. And there was Monkeyboy, swaying slightly as if he might fall over and shatter into little Monkeyboy pieces on the tile floor. He was signalling to me to hop up in the ol' barber chair. And I figured, what the hell? Here's this guy, this barber, and no-one lets him barber. I would be the one. I would take the plunge and give this poor wraith of a man some dignity.

I swear as I walked up to the chair, that place was quiet as a morgue. I sat down and swallowed hard.

"How do you want it?" Monkeyboy asked.

"You know, short up the back and sides" I responded, hoping my querulous voice wouldn't betray my misgivings. Of course, Monkeyboy couldn't hear what I was saying, being almost totally deaf. He said a few more things to me as he was cutting my hair, and between coughs. He didn't exactly give me a great haircut. Maybe not even a good haircut, in the greater scheme of things. But hair was cut. I'll say that much for him.

Then came the straightrazor. One of the cool things about this barbershop is that they still shave your neck with a straightrazor. Cool, that is, unless the guy shaving you looks like he's liable to have an apoplectic coughing episode or grand mal seziure at any second. I could feel my pulse racing as the blade crept closer to valuable vein and artery type things. But he didn't kill me. What he did do was nick me. The kind of small razor cuts that you wonder about when you get home, because you didn't feel them at the time.

Anyway, a kind of symbiotic relationship grew from that day forth between Monkeyboy and I. I would walk in, see all the guys waiting for Elvis, and Monkeyboy would be looking at me balefully. Inevitably, my heart would go out to him and I would climb into his chair, awaiting the poor haircut and small slashes the razor would leave on me. I would see my friends after a Monkeyboy cut and they would ask "Why? Why do you let him cut your hair?"

I don't know why I let him do it.

And then, one day I went to Jerry's Rock n Roll Barbershop and they told me that Monkeyboy had passed away. It really kind of hit me. He wasn't a good barber. He wasn't my friend even, really. But he's gone and that peculiar trapped feeling I would have, knowing I couldn't say no to the guy is gone too.

It's just something that happens, like so many things.

And that's the story of Monkeyboy and Elvis.


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