Loose Endz

Recently, after a couple beers, Xy let it slip that she’s not really into the funky weird ponytail I’d been growing out for the last year or so.

Ponytail

I can’t say I blame her. It started as the ultimate anti-mullet, long on top, shaved everywhere else. But when it finally got long enough, it started looking like a mullet after all. In fact, this hair had become something of a liability. I worry how my personal image reflects on my other activities. For example, as the president of a small grassroots organization I often speaking to the public. I have to wonder what the Rotary Club thought when I show up sporting that ridiculous ‘do. I don’t mind making a fool of myself, but I don’t want to make our project look bad.

So, yes, I’ve been looking forward to chopping it off. The question has been when. Xy’s offhand comment was the only excuse I needed.

The other key question has been how. I could have just shaved my head bald on the porch. I can do that myself, and the price is right.

But I like going to a barber when I can. Since Katrina I have been struggling to find a regular barber. I’ve got a guy I can go to for a cut who’s pretty good, but he’s kind of unfriendly and he’s not close to home. Proximity is key. I want to be able to walk to my barbershop. i want to be able to pop in without a great deal of fuss. I also want a barber with whom I can develop a rapport, someone who will understand what I want, eventually. And finally, there’s a little feeling of community that can emerge in a barbershop. I like talking to, or just listening to, or just being the same space with people I wouldn’t otherwise have met, neighbors I wouldn’t otherwise know.

That’s why I was happy to see Loose Endz open up just a couple doors from our house back in early March.

Corner Shop

Incidentally, I wrote Vincent Marcello a letter about this property last October. He wrote back and assured me that any lead paint issues would be handled responsibly. I would have gone ballistic if I’d seen any sanding, but I never did. Somehow they got it done. From what I can tell, Mr. Marcello was good to his word.

Since they opened, I’ve stuck my head in the door a couple times, but Saturday morning I went as a customer.

I’ve patronized African American barbers for years. My pre-K barber, Louis E. Claverie, had a sign above his door that advertised “Serving All Nationalities.” (His shop was put out of commission by the floods of ’05. I don’t know what happened to him personally. I often wonder, and I hope he made out OK.) The barbers I’ve visited post-K have not been so versatile. I went to Unifiers only once, but I got the impression I was the only white customer Mr. Percy had ever had. I worked with a couple guys at Hair Ideas, but just as soon as they got up to speed, they vanished — and then Hair Ideas was foreclosed, sadly enough.

If you’re wondering why I’m making such a big deal about race, well, hair really is pretty different between the races. What’s more, it’s different in tricky ways that are significant when it comes to cutting and styling. The art of cutting Afro-textured hair is distinct from the art of cutting straight hair.

Saturday morning, I decided to get the question out of the way. I asked Tim straight-up if he much experience cutting Caucasian hair. I don’t normally call myself Caucasian, but talking about “white hair” is even more confusing. Tim confessed he wasn’t too comfortable with the scissors, but that’s OK. Clipper cuts are what I prefer anyway.

I often aim for a flattop, a somewhat technical cut which is hard to pull of without a lot of practice. In this case, given how much of my head was shaved almost bald, I’m not sure a flattop was possible. What I ended up with was more like a rooster’s comb, almost like a mohawk with a very accomplished fade. Even so, I don’t look half as wacky as I did before. I’m happy with this for now, but I’ll probably take it down a little shorter next time. I like having an ultra-conservative, military-style haircut. It’s like a spiritual mullet: business on the outside, party within.

Twenty bucks got me a haircut and a shave. Tim proved to be both personable and a skilled barber. I think I’ll be back.

Here’s a photo.

New Haircut

It’s not a very good shot, because I’m backlit, but I like it anyway because it was taken by Persephone. I helped her steady the camera, but she pushed the button herself. You can’t really see here how the hair comes to crest, but there are more pix in my photostream if you’re really curious. Self-portraits are a challenge.

Post Scriptum: Tim told me Banks Street Bar will soon be closing, temporarily, so that the building can be straightened, because it’s leaning like a gangsta.

Vernal Mohawk

In celebration of the Vernal Equinox, I’m bringing the mohawk back.

Before 'n' After

Not the fauxhawk, mind you. I’m talking about the real thing, baby. Bring it back!

And while you’re shaving your head, here’s a diverse selection of tunes inspired by the equinox.

“Vernal Equinox” from the 1977 album of the same name by Jon Hassell is straight-up genius.

Spontaneous Haircut

I couldn’t take in anymore. Having hair in the summer heat just sucks. Plus, I was no longer looking my usual devilishly attractive self.

So on the way home for lunch today, I stopped at Hair Ideas, Inc., newly reopened.

Thus endeth the protest.

Spontaneous Haircut

Quite an operation they’ve got there. Two barbers, several stylists, a nice waiting area. I also love the fact that it’s located right amidst private residences and just a block from our house, corner of Iberville and North Rendon. Mixed use rules.

I’m not sure — didn’t ask — but I think I may have been their first Caucasian customer, at least in their new post-flood incarnation. One never knows how such haircuts will turn out, because black people and white people have substantially different hair, or so I’ve been told. But that’s half the fun, isn’t it? I’m proud to be a tonsorial race traitor, and as it turns out Quentin did a fine job. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I think I can work with him.

Furthermore I was made to feel welcome and encouraged to tell my friends. So here you go, friends. Call 821-4474 for your appointment.

Protest Haircuts

Eric and I are both letting our hair grow because our barbers haven’t come back since the storm.

Protest Haircuts

But I don’t know how long this protest will last. I’m considering shaving my head bald — it’s getting hot. Eric is considering dreadlocks.

Head Games

I shaved my head seven months ago:

I Shaved My Head

And then I shaved my beard into a goatee, and of course most of the time I still wear my hornrim glasses, which gets me back to looking like this icon of myself that I created in 1995 or so:

bic.gif

And so I braced myself for the inevitable question: Why did you shave your head?

I prepared a few snappy answers:

  1. Lice.
  2. I didn’t shave it. The radiation therapy finally kicked in.
  3. To express my solidarity with Ray Nagin. Or Mitch Landrieu. Or the Superdome.

Much to my surprise, no one asked the question. This was a first. Every time I’ve shaved my head in the past, people asked the question. Why not now? I think it’s just another indication that we’re all in a post-levee-failure funk round these parts.

Anyway, I kept my head shaved all summer long, but I let my hair grow once the weather started cooling off. After one month I looked like Curious George:

B

After two months I looked like hell. Truly embarrassing hair. I took a picture to document just how bad it looked, but it was so painful to behold that I deleted it. I couldn’t go out in public.

Again I faced the dilemma: My barber Lou Claverie, to whom I was insanely loyal, got flooded out and has not returned. Here’s what i looked like after my last visit to Lou:

My New Haircut

Lou was the best. I feel it’s a betrayal to get my hair cut by anyone else, but I don’t want to look like a jerk.

And so, again, I go to the Monteleone Hotel Barber Shop. Pat is kind of an asshole (sorry Pat) but at least he knows how to do a decent flattop.

New Haircut

For most of my adult life, I’ve shaved either my head or my chin. I don’t shave both because I look like a skinhead. And I don’t grow a beard while I have a head of hair because I look like a fuzzball. But Xy says she likes the beard. (Dad tried to get me to shave the beard three times during his visit. Sorry Dad.) I am keeping the beard for now, with the head hair, and with some reservations.

So if you see me around New Orleans with a goatee and a flattop, feel free to chime in with your opinion. And feel free to recommend a centrally-located barber.

Haircut

I got my first haircut since Katrina today, at a little barbershop in the Seventh Ward called Unifiers Soul Brothers Hair Styling.

Unifiers

The artwork in front of the place was wild, and I knew I had to patronize this establishment.

The Destruction of Black Civilization

The barber was a man named Mr. Percy. He was wearing a Santa hat and listening to R&B Christmas tunes.

Mr. Percy

My neighborhood barbershop was flooded, alas. But so was Mr. Percy’s, about waist deep. He pulled down the paneling, cleaned it, dried it, painted it, and put it back up.

Mr. Percy evacuated to Austin, Texas, and said he wished he’d stayed there a while longer. He could have made some money.

“Business is slow?” I asked.

“Completely dead!”

He was confident that people will return in time, but he moved back too soon. After Hurricane Betsy (40 years ago) he had so much business that people had to take numbers.

I got a pretty good haircut. He shaved around my ears with a straight razor.

But I miss my old barber, Lou. Will I ever see him again?