Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Back When I Had Hair

Back When I Had Hair

In the valley east of Spokane, on what was once
the main drag, a gangly strand of aging strip malls
and burned out hotels, one place stands out.

A life size sasquatch at roadside,
the red, white and blue concrete block building
the hand scrawled signs stating opinions on
politics and the state of the nation.
Look closely and you’ll see that this is a barber shop.

My style at the time was a number one guard
with an electric razor which, kinda like eggs,
is fairly hard to screw up, so I stopped.

Inside were bloated vinyl chairs,
ragged Playboy magazines,
combs in glass jars of mysterious blue liquid,
one proprietor and a one eyed orange tabby
with a place of his own in the corner.

I sat in the circa fifties astro chair
and ordered up my number one.
Like all good barbers he was a producer of stories
by virtue of the questions he asked.
From head to eye brows, moustache
to sideburns, he moved with an efficiency
from many years of practice.

I went back again and found him
funny, smart, and congenial.
At the time, I wrote op/ed pieces for the
local paper, so I wrote one on him.

A couple days later, I received an anonymous
letter from a woman who berated me for making
“That man look like a good guy.” After all, she noted,
he was a bank robber and a convicted felon.
He was in fact, “One of the Gentleman Bandits”
from California in the nineteen sixties; so shame on me.

During my next cut I remembered this and
mentioned it, my tone light and joking
as I though it should be.
My barber was silent for a long moment.
“Actually,” he finally said, “They called us The
Polite Bandits. Our guns were never loaded.”

He and a partner had conducted a half dozen
bank robberies in central California,
always well dressed, unfailingly polite,
never threatening or angry. The seventh attempt
went bad and the local police were waiting outside.

He served five of a twelve year sentence
with time off for good behavior.
Then, he moved north, and had been cutting hair ever since.

He spoke his piece about the government and his country,
without a care in the world.

2 comments:

David C. said...

Good stuff, Eb.
I used to go to a place called Moe's Torsorial Emporium, mostly because of the name. The first couple times I walked in, the owner was put out because I didn't make an appointment, even though there wasn't a soul in there either time.
Nowadays it's DIY clippers at home. I've worked my way down from #2 guard to #1 to no guard. I guess you could say I've let my guard down.

E. M. Atwater said...

Hey, thanks Dave - And as the title alludes, I no longer need a barber, just a Mach 3 razor and 5 minutes in the shower...