Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Good and Mostly Bad Hair Days

As you read last week, I have recently made futile attempts at cleaning out some closets in my New York apartment.  Naturally, as you undertake such a process that you really don't want to do, you can be easily distracted.

By photo albums, for instance.

I have collected a few of them over the years and I rationalized that, by spending an hour or two with the ones from these closets, I could expand the photos I use in this blog.  After all, my dad's Technicolor slides are finite and I have already employed several of those snapshots on multiple occasions.

So I dove into the photo albums and had yet another epiphany.

Gee, what the hell was I thinking?   Appearance-wise, that is.

I've never been happy with the way I look.  Okay, who is?  Always a little chubby, even if I wasn't.  Constantly having some sort of hair mishap.  Not digging whatever glasses I was sporting at the time.  Or, in some photos, being incredibly over or under dressed.

If you start with my childhood, you can divide up my "modes of appearance" into three distinct eras.  If you look at the picture that always adores my blog and Facebook page, that's pretty much me in the most recent era.  Still not crazy about what God and DNA has given me, but making the most of it.  The hair is not as much of an issue these days.  I've got a terrific hair stylist, Lisa Oliver, in Los Angeles.  Facially, I try to keep it clean and as young looking as possible.  That's why I devour Men's Health magazine every month.

Of course, the earliest era of my appearance's life was not under my control.  I was put out into the world in whatever outfit my mom decided was the fashion of the day.  Take, for instance...
This fuzzy photo of Hopalong Len.  Apparently, cowboys were in and Mom went overboard decking me out in Marshall Dillon's finest.  

You really can't tell from this grainy snapshot, but my hair is perfectly combed.  There is not a strand out of place.  That's because it was virtually cemented into place.   By this stuff....
Every single day of my life up until the sixth grade, my head was full of product.  Bottles of it at a time.  Every time I went with my dad for a haircut from John the Barber on White Plains Road and 225th Street in the Bronx, we had to stock up on more and more of this guck.  Yes, that's what my mother called it....


Apparently, it was sold only in hair cutting establishments.  Or perhaps on the black market.  I can't think of a reputable store actually allowing this weapon out into the public.  It would stiffen my hair so much that my head could be used as a battering ram for cops trying to break down a door.  

As a result of this garbage, I became a grade school carnival act.  Kids in my class would love to come up to my hair and pat it.  Yes, fellow classmate, it is the consistency of marble.  No, you can't carve your name in it.  But, on the windiest day in January, your hair will be a mess.  Mine will not move.  I was perfectly coiffed.  With a head very much like the plastic GI Joe doll I bought at the toy store.

The parental controls on bodily hair were relaxed in high school and college.  But, that didn't necessarily mean things got any better.  I had begun to shave.  There was always a cut somewhere on my face.  And, following the pattern of friends, I let my hair grow longer.  I look at some photos from college and it looks dirty.  To this day, I refuse to look at my college yearbook graduation photo.  My hair is a mess.  I apparently tried to comb it in front of an electric fan.  

But, as my tour through Photo Album Land was about to show, I would be soon entering my second era of "appearance mode."  And hair style.

Instead of parting my hair on the side, I would be radically and part the middle.

But, that was not all.    Nope, the piece de resistance of Len's image would be...

A moustache.

Now, there are many of my Los Angeles friends who will have no knowledge of this.  Good pals that I have met in the past fifteen years who know me only with an unadorned upper lip.  For those of you, please hold on to your loved ones as you scroll down to meet...the moustached Len.

Truth be told, I love this photo.  It's probably me at my edgiest.  As I examine it, I can remember every moment of this day.  

For several years in the early 90s, my college best friend and I would make an annual summer road trip to see the Mets play the Cubs in Chicago's Wrigley Field.  The temperature on this day had topped 100 degrees.  I had already ditched the hair parting down the middle and was regularly getting clipped by a guy in Pelham, New York named Billy Shears.  Yes, Billy Shears.  Don't ask.  He did a pretty good job, but, on this day, the humidity had done its damage.  My hair had stood up for the seventh inning stretch and never sat down.

But, still, I like the way I look in this photo.  My appearance captures perfectly where I was and what I was doing in my life at this time.  

Flipping through some more pages of the Moustache Era, there were days and photos that were less perfect.  Indeed, I had grown the foliage on the upper lip to look older.   Some time around 1994, I shaved it off.

To look younger.  

But, as the albums showed me, the moustache lasted much, much longer than I had remembered.  I must have been comfortable with it because it endured for many years.  Over a decade.

You'll see some of those photos as I find reasons to incorporate them on subsequent Sundays.  There are pictures that I look good in.  There are others that are straight from the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  But, from the Hair Down the Middle Era which was also part of the Moustache Era, this is one photo which I like a lot. Taken with my good friend, Djinn from the Bronx, during one of my first visits to California.
Damn, it was all working for me on that day.  But, in my life, that's the equivalent of Halley's Comet.

But, as I close out the Len Eras of Appearance Past, I make one last note about good and bad hair days.  

In 2013, I still have most of it.  I look around at some friends and...well...they don't.

Dinner last night:  Eggplant parmagiana at Mio Babbo.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

my hair and I have parted ways long time ago. maybe I should have used Jervis in the early days to preserve my hair like you