Rubber Chicken Scratchings: Oh no, where did Brian’s hair go?You can’t tell by the handsome picture that accompanies this column, but I’m the kind of guy who really doesn’t have to worry about going broke on haircuts.
By: Brian Matuszak, Budgeteer News
You can’t tell by the handsome picture that accompanies this column, but I’m the kind of guy who really doesn’t have to worry about going broke on haircuts. The hair fell out circa 1982, right around the time I realized that the real world wasn’t going to be as much fun as high school. The realization that college instructors and employers expected results caused me to break out into a sweat that started at my scalp and poured down my torso like a champagne fountain. The ol’ dishwater-blond hair bailed soon after that, and there I was: 19 and bald. Just like Telly Savalas, only significantly less cool.
There were a few advantages to this situation. I didn’t have to invest in frivolous hair care products like mousse or hair dye. (Plus, I wasn’t really the rebellious teen who colored various parts of his body or poked holes all over it — seemed kind of redundant.) A small container of Pert and a black comb and I was set for months. I also didn’t have to spend a lot of time and money at the local haircut place. I fell into a twice-a-year-whether-I-need-it-or-not routine that I continue with today. But before I joined the ranks of the “follicly challenged,” I did have to get my hair chopped off quite a bit.
I grew up with my Grandpa Len being the barber of the family. But he was not a “barber” in the traditional sense of the word: He had neither scissors in his arsenal, for example, nor fine trimming implements. When it was time for my brother Bruce and I to get our overgrown and shaggy heads shorn, we visited Grandpa out in Saginaw, where he and Grandma Irene ran a small country store and tavern. Grandpa would be waiting for us with his crooked smile and trusty, hand-held electric clippers. He had nicknamed this huge, dusty monstrosity “Nippers,” which implied a subtlety that Bruce and I knew was not going to be employed. “Nippers” looked ancient; we all assumed Grandpa brought it back from the war, where it was employed as an interrogation tool, forcing Nazis to give up vital information. It certainly would have worked on us if Grandpa had ever chosen to ask who broke the glass in the candy counter while playing a vicious indoor game of “kick the can.” (It was my brother, by the way.)
After Mom and Dad dropped us off, Grandpa would start with Bruce, who was younger than me. This was one of the few perks of being the oldest kid, along with picking which breakfast cereal got to be opened first. (I was a Cocoa Puffs man.)
Bruce was plopped onto a barstool, and a white tablecloth was draped around his neck — so large that it reached the floor and left his head sticking out of the top like a hairy cherry perched atop a lumpy mound of ice cream. “Nippers” was then plugged into the wall with a thick, winding umbilical cord that hadn’t been properly coiled and put away since Himmler gave up the location of the Schutzstaffel. With a quick thumb flick, the shaver roared into life, blades twitching back and forth and emitting a high-pitched squeal that cleared the area of squirrels for a month. It took Grandpa one, two, three, four swipes from base of skull, up and over to forehead, and he was done.
“Next,” he would yell out to the empty bar, but there were no other takers. One whisker rub for Bruce, and then it was my turn. Although I loved my Grandpa very much, and miss him terribly, these haircuts are the reason there are no pictures of Bruce or me smiling from 1966 to 1974.
Now that I’m grown up (relatively speaking), I can choose where to get my hair cut, and when I step into my local salon chain store, I can’t help but smile. Sure, it takes a bit longer than four swipes across my head, and I still instinctively flinch when I hear the whine of the electric shaver, but my clear memories of those brief moments spent with my Grandpa will stay with me forever, and that’s actually kind of nice. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but, as I get older, I find that’s the way it usually works.
Oh, and sorry about tattling about the candy counter glass, Bruce, but I’ve been carrying that guilt for a long time....
Hey, maybe that’s why my hair fell out!
Brian Matuszak has been difficult and demanding since February 2008. He is the co-founder of Renegade Comedy Theatre and founder of Rubber Chicken Theater. His hair was so long in the last Rubber Chicken production of “American Buffalo” that he was able to wear a ponytail for the first time and liked it a bit too much.