Fresh fades

Working the overnight shift causes certain changes in routine. Dinner becomes breakfast, but only in pretend. People say things like “Have a good night, ha-ha-ha” but really mean “I need some coffee”. You dream of strange cosmic anomalies: collapsing suns or permanent, blood red eclipses that will send humanity into a killing frenzy, but also make sleeping easier. Failing that, you start praying for rain like a dust-bowl farmer out of Steinbeck. In your sweat soaked overalls, grubby fists balled in torn pockets, you spit curses around a piece of straw. Forbidden names of strange reptilian Gods are evoked. Human sacrifices are worth the price to appease the Gods, but your tractor’s out of gas and you’re stuck miles from civilization. You throw your last remaining pennies down the well and make wishes, promising the lives of your loved ones for soothing darkness. Anything to make it a little bit like night time when you’ve gotten home from work and want to relax — close the blinds, turn on your favorite Hooting Owl Simulator, and alphabetically organizing your compact discs.

Also, you tend to urinate outside because you, you know, can. Maybe that’s just me, but I hope not.

It becomes a Herculean effort to do simple things like shopping, banking, and keeping daytime appointments. Your personal grooming will really start to slip. This is not speculation, it is a conclusion.  Long finger nails, a week’s growth of beard that’s more “homeless” than “suave”, accidentally mismatched belt and shoes (tragic) are all common signs.

But in my case, it’s haircuts.


Getting a haircut on the night shift seems insanely difficult to manage. Places don’t ever open until 10am. Before that people with real jobs are usually at their offices (lunch isn’t until 10:30), and even the elderly are still power washing off the rust and diarrhea. 90 percent of those who roll into work at 10am (gas station attendants, barbershop employees, retail) are nursing at least mild hangovers. Those with more serious substance abuse problems work overnight. Nothing is rolling between 8 and 10, except lots and lots of traffic. And maybe some ravers if it’s 1994.

10am is the hour when you can either max at home watching TV and then sleep, or stay up and get straight up fucked. Proven fact: there’s no going to bed if you leave the house after 9:59am. This long ago passed the hypothesis stage, and is now an immutable law. I almost died for this knowledge, use it wisely.

And although I’m entitled to four months between visits to the barber (grace period) it was just time to get this done. So I devised what was, to me, a brilliant strategy that required hours of contemplation. Seriously. I got up EARLY, and went and got my fade on before the barber closed. Genius? Yes, and thanks.

Finding a good barber is like finding a good wife. If you’re lucky, the one of your dreams falls into your lap when you’re young, and you enjoy a long, prosperous life together. Otherwise you’re stuck on “the circuit”, wasting your youth on bad, sweaty, clip-jobs and the inevitable venereal diseases. I spent the entirety of the 1990s chasing cheap stylists, buying twelve cuts and getting one free. Sometimes I’d get desperate, break out the Wahl clippers and a box of wine. Things would get ugly. But I was young, those were simpler times and honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing.

Only recently, I’d found my true love: an oldschool barber named Joe who would carefully trim my sideburns, use hot shaving cream around my ears, and delicately scrape my neck hairs with a straight razor. He’d trim my beard and eyebrows in a way that was completely butch.  We’d even talk baseball for Christ’s sake.

But I strayed after I’d moved an impossible thirty minute drive away. And there was this hot new thing called Sport Clips around the corner from my house. The advertisements promised wall to wall big screens blasting boxing matches, cock fights, and soft core pornography. The sultry narrator of the radio commercial was straight out of 1-976-HAIR-CUT. Visions of stripper types going one to one on jello shots with Oriental businessmen were dancing in my head. But mostly, it was close. And I’m lazy. And this was doable in the framework of the overnight shift lifestyle.

Long story short (and this is really becoming a terribly long story), I was greeted by a probably homosexual teenage boy wearing a breakaway jumpsuit. This could have been part of the uniform, but I’m betting it was just coincidence. He led me to the back, which resembled a dirty steel batting cage dropped in a subway tunnel. The stylist turned out to be a forty something New York transplant who reeked of gin and barbicide. Sex appeal was only derived from her if you had some strange fetishes. I’m talking maybe dead bodies, or maybe animals here. Instead of wall to wall ESPN Classic, there was one (I shit you not) 7″ television sunk into the wall next to my stylist’s chair. It was on mute, and would continue to be so until I left.

“I don’t turn on the volume unless there’s some celebrity controversy” Brenda explained.

And it’s not even as if my disappointment stems from being a rabid sports fan in need of his 6pm fix. I just wanted a haircut, but sadly that part of the equation ended up being fucked. Now I look like an extra from Joe Dirt, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Except wear my Devil Rays hat everywhere.

I’m so sorry Joe. I’ll be back in four months.


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