I never realized getting my hair cut would be such an ordeal, especially because I don’t have much left. Just sip the shaggy parts and let me be on my way. But it hasn’t been that easy. Living in one city, working 6-7 days a week in two other cities, and battling a depression that exhausts the hell out of me has not made it easy to disrupt my binge eating and extended nap sessions in order to sit in a barbershop surrounded by screaming kids so I can get a crooked crew cut.
But I also don’t want to look disheveled so I got up super early Saturday morning (usually my only day to sleep in late) so I could walk into the barbershop as they opened. I thought I’d be one of the first in line but when I opened the door, it was already packed. I almost turned around, my anxiety peaking, but I took a breath, scanned the room, and found the one empty seat next to two older men in Member’s only jackets and retired Navy hats.
The shop is about the size of a refrigerator and there’s 3 barbers and probably only 8 seats for customers, which wouldn’t be much of a problem except lots of little kids get their hair cut at this particular establishment. That means mom and dad and siblings have to tag along, which clogs up the already narrow space of the building.
It’s an old-timey barbershop, complete with a vintage drink machine that dispenses glass bottles. Their sign is hand-painted, their floor a cracked linoleum. Not dirty, just well-loved. Almost charming. Football jerseys representing each of the barber’s high school football teams hang from wire hangers above their stations. Cheap shaving cream and hair gels line the sinks below a giant mirror that extends from one end of the shop to the other. From a customer’s seat, you get a great vantage point of men’s bald spots I always worry people are looking at mine.
As I waited, I noticed a man jiggle the handle through the clear glass door of the shop. He was in his late forties, hunched over with a grizzled unshaven face and tattered tobacco-colored shirt, black Dickie pants and a scuffed pair of black-brown boots. He jiggled the handle some more until one of the barbers stepped over and opened the door for him.
“Musta got stuck,” he said loudly as he shuffled inside. And I mean loudly. He followed it up with a phlegm-filled laugh. And sure enough, he sat down next to me. Then he proceeded to chat up the barbers. “Y’all, I needa good lookin’ haircut so I can find me a good lookin’ woman,” he said with more phlegm laughing.
Within a few breaths, I smelled alcohol on him. Great. Recovering from a late night. Or starting early that day. Maybe both.
He then tried to chat up a nervous 10-year-old in the barber’s chair in front of him and asked him if he was getting a good-looking haircut to find a good-looking girl. The boy shrank into his shoulders and shook his head before scanning the room for the safe familiar face of his mother. Make the man stop talking, Mommy.
Yes, Mommy, please, for all of us.
“I know a little girl, she’s about fourteen. Probably too old for you,” he said with more chuckling and phlegm.
After enduring the loud lush for about fifteen minutes, it was finally my turn. I got in the chair, told the lady what I wanted, and she started to buzz me up. After another few minutes, I noticed what looked like hairspray in the air. And then I noticed more. And then detected a smell.
I turned to my right to see a cloud of smoke hurl toward me.
“Oh, that’s not good,” one of the barbers said.
My barber opened the shop door and the smoke floated out like a patient dog slipping through to have a potty break. “You’d better call the fire department,” one of the barbers said to the shop owner. “Oh, yeah, I’m on it,” she replied as she raced out the door with her phone in her hand.”
“Probably it’s the A/C unit,” another said. “We turned it on this morning but it just kicked in a few minutes ago. I bet it caught on fire.”
And that’s when a few little kids started screaming. And I screamed inside my head. I sat in the chair wanting the barber to get on with the cut. But she was hesitant, fearing if she turned on the clippers, it would cause a spark that would blast us all out of the building. I was willing to take the chance.
“Of course this would happen,” I thought as screams and smoke filled the building, like we were all bits of bread caught aflame in an oven set to broil. We were probably never in any real danger. The only thing on fire was my nose from the acrid smell of smoke. And my patience.
Sirens called in the distance, followed by three firefighters in blue uniforms. They brought some sort of vacuum with them and sat it outside the door to suck up the smoke. And as it cleared, the drunk man who’d sat next me came into view. He was sweeping hair up off the floor.
“Hehe, well, I thought if I could help out, I would,” he said between sweeps. “Sometimes in life, you just gotta do what you gotta do.” A laugh that turned into a cough that sounded like he was gargling buttermilk. He stumbled around my barber’s station, sweeping and swaying. I half-thought he’d fall right over.
“Uh, thanks?” my barber said, confused.
When everything was determined to be all clear, my barber finished me up and my hair actually looked decent, you know, for a balding dude. I’d definitely gone too long without a cut and running my hand over the back of my head felt soft and smooth. I actually felt lighter. Although I wished the morning could have gone better and quicker, it felt good to get it out of the way. I supposed giving up a late morning was worth the shearing. My buzzed buddy with the broom was right. Gotta do what you gotta do.
Every once in a while it’s worth it.
You know how moms are always worried their kids will end up in a ditch one day?
Well, my mom found me in one last week.
Ever since I got my full-time job in November 2016, I’ve been doing well with my money. Long-time readers will know my biggest regret is college and my biggest debt from that regret is the student loans tagged on the awful experience. Over the years I’ve struggled to make the minimum payments, which hasn’t helped me pay down my loans at all as most of the money is going toward the exorbitant interest.
But I’ve been able to build my bank account up to a healthy amount and I’ve been able to make extra payments to my loans, which has finally caused the principal and monthly payments to go down. I’ve been stuck for so long and I never thought I’d get out of the postcollege quicksand. And although I’m not free of the muck yet, I can see the light at the end of the dark, dank, depressing tunnel.
Or so I thought.
I like my car. It’s not fancy and it’s not new anymore but I bought it brand new when I first went to college and it’s carried me across many states and many states of emotion. It’s seen me laugh and cry and carry more fast food than a McDonalds drive-thru. It’s been good and although I’ve had to do the usual maintenance of replacing parts and such, it’s been very reliable.
But everything reliable will eventually decline.
I noticed an orange light flash on my dashboard a few weeks ago. I told my dad and he took it to a few places, all which said I needed a certain part. And after each part was replaced, the light went away. But only for one day. And then it came back. Not knowing what else to do, my dad said I’d need to take it back to the dealership and have them take a look at it.
A few days later, I was headed to work and stopped at a red light. When the light flashed green, I pressed the gas pedel and it was stuck. I pressed harder but it would not budge. I checked to make sure I hadn’t accidentally put it in park. Nope. Then I looked over at my dashboard and my orange light had been accompanied by a slew of new, multi-colored lights. The “oil” light, the “battery” light, the “you’re screwed” light. All of ‘em.
My car had stopped working.
As other vehicles switched lanes and passed by me, I didn’t know what else to do other than to put my hazards on. I grabbed my phone to call my mom when I noticed blue lights shining in my rearview window. I have to admit, the timing on this was pretty great.
A cop walked up to my car and I rolled down my window.
“Everything all right, son?” the man asked. He was middle-aged, sagging eyes to match his voice.
“Um, no, my car has stopped working and all these lights just popped up here,” I said as I pointed to the rainbow of warning lights.
“All right,” he said. “Well, I can push you off to the side of the road but I can’t stay as I just got a call.”
“That’s fine,” I said.
He walked to the back of my car and pushed as I steered it off the road. And without checking back with me, the cop hopped into his car and drove away.
I called my mom and she said she’d come pick me up. Thankfully, I wasn’t too far away from home. As I waited, I noticed I was getting colder. I could see my breath although I had the heater on. I pressed my palm up to the vent. Nothing was coming out. Great. At least the radio was working. Thank God I had the same Selena Gomez song on every station to keep me company. And just before a cocoon of ice formed over me, my mom pulled up and saw her baby boy trying to defrost in a ditch. I got into her vehicle, leaving behind my beloved car.
I dropped Mom off and she let me drive her car to work. What a way to start the morning.
My dad had the car hauled away and inspected. After getting more replacement parts, my car was back and I was good to go the next day. No more orange light. But the day after, it was back again. The hell.
The latest parts replacement added up to a lot of money and I’m scared to take it to the dealership and see their price tag. I know it’s got to be done but just when I had finally reached a place of financial stability, I was hit with this unexpected expense. And to salt the wound, a few days later, I got a letter from the company I have my loans with telling me my monthly payment is going to increase due to rising interest. Of course. Beautiful timing.
But I guess that’s the way it always goes. Two steps forward, ya know? I’m grateful that I can afford to have it fixed but it is a small reminder that I’m not ahead, that the plans I’ve made to get my loans paid off has hit another snag. And it sucks because I really want to feel like I have something under control.
The only thing I can do is pay off these extra debts, try. not to spend any extra money if I don’t have to, and once everything is back to normal, go back to paying off those loans. The sooner I can do that, the sooner I can focus on moving out and far, far away.
And then maybe I can actually start living.
My dad is a simple man. He doesn’t understand technology and doesn’t want to. He’s never used a computer. He’s less Internet and more fishing net. A few months ago, his work gave him an iPhone and it might as well have been an alien device from the year 3,000. I had quite the time teaching him the basics and he still needs help just answering the thing.
So I was surprised when he asked if I’d heard of the Amazone Echo, as he called it. I told him I had and he said he wanted one so he could use it to listen to music.
“You can just tell it you wanna hear a song and it’ll play it for you, right?” he asked.
I knew he wouldn’t understand that it wasn’t that simple but he was mostly right. “Basically,” I responded.
Since Father’s Day was coming up, I mentioned it to Mom and she and my sister and I all pitched in to get him one. Later on after ordering it, I realized he wasn’t going to use the Echo to its full potential. Since he was going to just use it to listen to music, the Tap or any other bluetooth speaker would have sufficed. But he never asks us for anything and I figured later on, once he got accustomed to it, maybe he would utilize more of its features.
So on Sunday, my sister came over and we all had dinner and then Dad opened his gift. Once he pulled it out of the gift bag, he smiled, a rarity for him. I think he was surprised to get it since he had only casually mentioned it weeks prior.
“This is that thang we were talking about, right?” he asked me.
“Yep.” The next hour or so was spent setting it up. Now I know I just picked on my dad for not knowing his way around a smart device but I found myself getting a little stumped with the setup process. There was lots of downloading apps and setting up accounts but eventually, we got it set up.
And that’s when I had to explain to my dad that he couldn’t just request a specific song. As far as I knew, he’d have to connect the Echo to a streaming music service like Spotify or Pandora. I later figured out he could play specific songs through YouTube by using the Echo as a bluetooth speaker but that would have required him navigating his way around his phone, which defeated the purpose of getting the Echo. I think he was relying on the ease of voice commands.
But he struggled in that department, too. He kept asking Alexa to play a song or turn up the volume without saying her name first. I kept telling him he’s got to “get her attention” by calling her name before giving her a command. And when he did use her name, he yelled into the Echo, “Alexandra!”, “Alexia!”, or “Alexis!” And I thought people got my name wrong all the time.
Lordy. I had to wonder if I should have bought the Tap after all. A tactile technique might have been better after all.
My sister and I joked about how all those young kids with Echoes either ran up their parents’ credit cards with thousands of dollars worth of toys or candy or ended up accidentally purchasing porn of some kind. We wondered if that would happen with Dad. He’d request a Conway Twitty song and end up ordering a sex toy named “Connie’s Titties.” Or even worse, find his way to a Kellyanne Conway podcast.
It’s been a few days and so far, so good. I come home from work to find Dad in his recliner, listening to honky tonk tunes. And there’s no dildos at the doorstep. So, that’s cool. Otherwise, things would go from Amazone to the awkward zone real quick.
When I had my septoplasty done around 8 years ago, the doctor listed the benefits of the operation: increased sense of taste and smell and the hopeful disappearance of the cyst that had popped up on my neck a few years prior.
“You’re gonna feel so much better! You’re gonna have energy!”
None of that happened…except for the increased sense of smell.
It hasn’t quite been the benefit I had expected. I’m constantly picking up on putrid aromas.
In all actuality, I can’t totally blame the operation. I’ve been able to detect despicable fumes for years now, all the way back to when I was a kid. I even wrote a whole chapter about it in my non-best selling memoir that y’all didn’t bother to read. But the operation really seemed to kick my hyperosmia into high gear.
The latest scene of sardine smells takes place at my new job. My trainer/co-worker has driven me around in his car on a few occasions to tour the grounds. When I first stepped into his car, I noticed the distinct smell of puke. And when he turned on the air conditioner, the gust of air propelled the smell right up my nose. It was sharp and acidic, like rotten meat marinated in orange juice. I was assaulted, offended, nauseated. I wondered if he smelled it. I wondered if maybe there was no phantom puke at all and perhaps I was just going nuts. Why wasn’t he saying anything about the upchucked upholstery? I wanted to say, “Hey, dude, I think someone hurled in your Honda.” But I didn’t out of politeness.
I wondered if maybe someone had barfed in the backseat years ago and the lingering aroma had weaved into the fabric, settling just above the surface, forgotten by many, but waiting to pounce on the next unsuspecting passenger with one superior sniffer. It’s kind of like blood. You can wash it away but the stain will always be there.
While I shook it off during that first car ride, the next time I got into his car, there it was again: sharp stabbing gut juice. I knew I couldn’t have been imagining it. All the while, he carried on with one of his millions of inane stories, oblivious to the stank curled in the weave of his vomit wagon. Was he just used to the smell? He had previously told me his hearing had deteriorated. Perhaps his sense of smell was also dissipating.
While I’m all for road trips to get out of the office for a little while, I’m not sure if it’s worth holding my breath for the duration of a car ride and possibly passing out in the pungency. It looks like it doesn’t matter where I go, whether it be out of state for college or in a co-worker’s smelly SUV, the sharting specter is still stalking me.
Did anyone watch Town of the Living Dead on the SyFy Channel? If not, it was a docu-series about a film crew in Jasper, AL who were struggling to make a full-length zombie movie.
I was excited to watch this show because 1)zombies and 2)I actually chased a girl to Jasper and that’s where I had my first kiss. So I have a special attachment to that city.
The show chronicled this group of amateurs as they struggled to put together scenes with no money, no special makeup effects, and no idea what they were doing. It was funny and endearing. It almost felt like I knew these people because I recognized their accents and southern colloquialisms.
Usually I cringe at southern representation on television because the shows always make the people seem like uneducated hicks. Maybe I’m in the minority on this one but I never felt the cast of the show were put in a bad light or made to look like white trash. Sure, they were country but that was a part of the charm.
But instead of showing these people farting in each other’s mouths or filling up the bed of a truck with water and using it as a redneck hot tub like you’d find on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Town of the Living Dead actually showed people with aspirations beyond drinking beer and mud riding. They were creative and passionate about their project.
One cast member, John, was the writer and director of the zombie movie. I related to him the most. He was a creative guy who dreamed of making a film but was stuck in a small town with very little artistic opportunities. While he worked on the film in his spare time, he earned money by working at RadioShack. Here I am, also a writer and also stuck in my own retail hell. I feel ya, brother.
“I have heard it said love endures all things, now I know that it’s true,
stronger than the grave, death can’t put it out, here I am, the walking dead,
still next to you…”
-Showbread, George Romero will be at our Wedding
We decorated Valentine bags at work so everyone could put goodies in them. Everyone decorated their bags with sticker hearts and puff paint, which is all well and good but I wanted to do something a bit different.
I designed my bag around the Showbread song George Romero will be at our Wedding. It’s about a zombie who vomits up a wedding ring and realizes he ate his wife. He eventually finds her, zombified, and they stay together, despite them both being dead. It’s about how love can overcome all things, even death. It’s actually a really meaningful message beneath all the entrails.
I wanted to draw a vomiting zombie on the bag but then I thought I’d put Photoshop to good use and designed the zombie dude in the program and printed him out. I taped him to the bag, which gave a nice 3D effect. And instead of just drawing vomit, I made it interactive so you can spin the vomit around.
I also created a QR code which links to the song and on the back of the bag, I printed the song lyrics. So you’ve got your physical, visual, and auditory interaction, which I thought was pretty neat.
|Here’s what the bag looks like.|
|Here’s the back of the bag with the song lyrics.|
“We’ll never be the same, never feel this way again
I’d give you anything but you want pain
little water please, I taste you all over my teeth…”
-Jimmy Eat World, Just Tonight…
“She’ll break your heart like she broke mine
bipolar, baby, make up your mind…”
-Forever the Sickest Kids, Bipolar, Baby
Wednesday at work, I had lunch with work girlfriend (WG) as we tend to do when we work the same shift. Everything was fine and well until we clocked in to go back to work and a coworker walked toward us. The coworker pointed to WG’s hands and said, “Why are you hiding that?”
I looked over to see what the coworker was talking about and WG, who conveniently had her left hand covered with her right, uncovered lefty and held it up.
The coworker looked at me and said, “He did a good job, didn’t he?”
Confused, I didn’t reply. I just looked at WG. She held her left hand closer to me and pointed to a shiny silver ring.
“What’s…that?” I asked, still confused.
“I’m engaged,” WG said.
And my reaction went a little something like this:
Thursday afternoon, I put on my frayed trainers and headed out the door. The weather was perfect for a good walk to I had to go out and enjoy it. I knew I only had a few days of good weather left before the air turned too cool to go outside.
Things were great. I wasn’t too hot. I wasn’t too sweaty. Ear buds were firmly in place, pumping music into my extremities.
And then the school bus passed me.
It’s always awkward when vehicles pass me. I can see people crane their necks to look through the rear view mirror at the bearded stranger walking down the dirt road.
It’s worse when it’s a bus filled with curious and obnoxious children. That particular bus has passed me a few times and I always caught glimpses of smashed noses and oily forehead prints on the smudged glass.
Being the beautiful day it was, the bus windows were down to allow the sweet little
bastards angels to enjoy the cool breeze. As the bus rolled past, I saw a white ball whirl by me and hit the blades of grass at my feet.
I looked up and saw glowing brake lights as the bus skidded to a stop. Through the blasting music, I heard the bus driver’s booming voice spill over the open windows. I surmised he was yelling at the littering little snot. I was only feet from the bus so I slowed my pace. I didn’t want to pass by and risk being pelted with more paper or insults.
“What the hell is this guy doing?” I asked myself about the driver. The bus just stood in the road, the brake lights illuminating my embarrassment.
Finally, I just turned around and walked in the opposite direction. I heard the squeak of the tires as the bus started up again. I didn’t look back until I was down the hill.
Oh, why do I always find myself in these awkward situations? I kept thinking what the kids must have been thinking. “Hey, John, let’s throw this piece of paper at the fat loser walking in the dirt road!” I don’t like being “that” guy, the one people think they can push around or make fun of. Especially when it’s a bunch of middle school shits playing the bully.
I looped back around to the spot where I was almost hit with the wad of paper and found it on the ground. I picked it up, smoothed it out and saw it was poorly colored paper Santa.
|By the way, you did a crap job putting that Santa together, Pablo Prickasso.|
I just wanted to burn some calories and clear my head, not catch a paper cut from Kris Kringle. Thanks for the holiday cheer, Timmy. I hope you get coal and canker sores for Christmas. And people ask me why I don’t like kids!
A few days ago, at work, a female coworker (FC) came up to me to get more change for her register. I’d guess she’s in her 50s but I think her smoking has played a part in her looks. For all I know, she could be 36 but her face is a spiderweb of wrinkles underneath a dull gray bob of hair. Her bright blue eyes are bloodshot inside a ring of thick clumped mascara. She always smells of coffee and cigarettes, which probably contributes to her brown teeth. She’s also from Arizona so she’s not a stuffy Southern prude so I know I can have fun with her.
FC: “So, I bought some men’s sleep pants the other day.”
me: “Oh yeah?”
FC: “Yeah.” She waved her hands over her crotch.
FC: “Well, I forgot about that front flap. I’ll have to sew that up. It’s chilly.”
me: “Oh, yeah. A little breezy there?”
me: “Chapped lips?”
Happy Halloween, boils and ghouls. I carved a pumpkin on Sunday…or I attempted to. It turned out crap ’cause I tried to get fancy with it by shading and highlighting and…no. Carving isn’t as easy as it might seem at first. Maybe if I had a couple of pumpkins to practice with, I could have gotten the hang of it but my hand started cramping so I just gave up. Anyway, here’s some pictures of the gutting process.
|Our stray cat who adopted us wanted to help. “Here, gimme that knife. Let me show you how to do it.”|