Bad Hair Day

by Lee S. Wilbur

Christmas Eve. Haircut two months overdue. Bouncing steps were cushioned by neck hair doing service as a mini-parachute. Often get myself in these situations. Christmas parties, midnight church service—one of two I attend each year, other being Easter—were upon us.

Knew the hairs had to be cut and if I asked AJ, who always cuts me, to chop at this last minute, I’d be treated to another dissertation of “why do you always leave things to the last minute?”– which I do because I work better under pressure, which adds a certain zest to the challenge (although, I’m not sure if Editor Mike appreciates the loss of his hair when editing these articles on the way to the presses).

Had to do something and do it soon. Noticed a new sign on the main drag here in Englewood, a town noted for competitive, low pricing, which read on a piece of cardboard, “Haircuts $8.” Now, I like to stay a little close to what money I have. Christmas, a season of money, is a traumatic time of the year where one has to venture into stores to buy presents which I’m never sure the anointed receiver wants, in exchange for money the like of which I’m unsure, is enough, too little, or way more than necessary to cover the guilt feeling for doing too little the previous year.

Trying to make up for past transgressions during the last few days of nauseous music is just too difficult and I try to endure until December 26, the relief day of Saints, arrives and the pressure falls away like a warm shower.

I pull in the eight-dollar driveway. There’s one other car in the yard. Mercury Montclair. Light blue. Building is about twenty by twenty. Built of leftover masonry, rocks and shells. Florida, 1920s. I park and go in. Already someone in the chair. Barber must have walked to work. Unswept hair on the floor. Broom and dustpan full of hair lay on a second station tool bar. I’m greeted. “I’ma apologize. Shop not too picked up. Ples hava seat.”

I sit down. No magazines. I know that whoever cutsa de hair will probably be a disaster but it’s too late. I’m doomed anyhow. Several minutes go by and Frankie (I soon know his name because Frankie keeps talking about himself in his given name) shakes off the cape and asks now barbered patron “Howa you like?” This guy’s hair actually didn’ look too bad. Maybe I’d sneak through this after all.

I step up into the chair and proceed to tell Frankie what I’d like. “Just trim all around, nothing off the top (where a few dozen strands still reside) and do not shave or square off the back.” We were not even in a wildest dream remotely on the same page. Frankie’s “spoken” language was English. His understood language was not, which I soon learned as he told me his life history of born and brought up in Chicago.

He just didn’t understand English or the instructions therein related. First move was pick up “passed-down-a-few-generations” electric clippers and square off the back. Then, with clacking scissors in hand and black mustachioed malevolent smile, he commenced to shear away any semblance of shape.

“I benna worka wid my Fadda 24 years. Tella him, Dad, you godda slow down so I canna learn froma you. He cutta 66 yearsa. My old man saysa, “You gotta cut fast and good Frankie. Fastand good.” Obvious Frankie’s father cut way too fast for Frankie to learn the “good” part.

Visions of the impending confrontation with AJ loomed as Frankie finally brought his weapons of destruction to rest, swept off the greys, unhooked the cape, gave it a matadorial shake and asked the inevitable question I could not answer, “Howa you like?”

I simply nodded my head, kind of. None left on top. From a quarter-inch bristle above the ears he had shaped to zip on the upper sides. Resemblance of a geometric trapezoid. I fumbled eight dollars to his outstretched hand, then pulled my baseball hat down, got into the T&C van and went off to do Christmas shopping. Hoping no one would take notice, point, or laugh.

Later that afternoon I walk into the house trying to be full of a joy I didn’t feel, knowing that Christmas eve of champagne, good food, and the last of the wretched carols would soon be a relegated memory. “Take that hat off.... You’ve had a haircut. I’m not going out with you tonight!!!’re wearing a straw hat for the next two months. How much did you pay for this one?? That’s the worst haircut I’ve ever seen. I can even see your moles and wrinkles. You’ll have to stay home!!! And on it went. She was right. The worst ever. I tried to apologize. Two months have now gone by. Hair has finally grown out and I need a little.. ah,.. trim. Perhaps I’ll order one of those “do it yourself kits” from the TV.

For those who subscribe to “Yankee” magazine, you’ll appreciate it when I say they have probably the best recipes of any regional magazine I've ever read. For those who don’t read it and enjoy cooking as I do, try this on a cold, remnant day of winter.

* R E C I P E *


Maple, Apple, and Onion Smothered Pork Chops

6 bone-in pork chops 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper
3 T vegetable oil
5 med. yellow onions sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
4-5 fresh thyme sprigs
(or 1 T dried)
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 cup apple cider
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 firm apples, each peeled and
cut into 8 wedges
Juice of 1 lemon

Pat pork chops dry and season both sides w/salt and pepper. Add oil to large sauté pan. Brown chops over med-high heat, covered, for about 3 mins per side. Remove to a plate. Lower heat to medium and add onions. Stir often, cooking until softened and browned around the edges, about 5 mins. Stir in garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Cook until fragrant, about 1 min. Add apple cider, chicken stock and maple syrup, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, stir in apples. Return chops to pan, nestling them into onions and apples. Cover and cook about 15 mins. (Pork will be cooked through and tender). Arrange chops on serving platter. Keep warm. In the pan, remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Raise heat to high and cook sauce until thickened. Add lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover chops with sauce and serve. (Six servings—four if it's been a real cold and active day.) Accompany with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. Don’t forget a hearty white wine.

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