October 27, 2010

Die Haird, Part 2: Avi the Barber-ian

If you missed Part 1 of this exciting entry, click here or just scroll down a bit to the last entry.  Otherwise, you'll miss key plot points and a kickass drawing of my barber dressed as Peyton Manning throwing a football to my disembodied hair, which is wearing an adorable miniature Colts helmet.  On to the latest bloggy goodness...

So Avi sucks at cutting hair.  This much we've established.

Maybe he missed his pre-ordained life course.  Maybe he was supposed to be a great politician or actor or chef.  Or, if he's not supposed to be a star (and certainly not supposed to cut their hair), maybe he was made to protect them, Costner-in-Bodyguard style.  Because when shit gets real, Avi will throw down.

A couple weeks ago, I headed to the barber shop after work for a quick trim before I had to head off for something else.  An old, long-buried feeling of dread began to stir in me as I stepped inside and saw the waiting bench nearly completely full of people.  I felt like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings when they were all in the mine and he realized that the Balrog was coming for them.  (And yes, I just dropped a Bodyguard and a Lord of the Rings reference within the first two paragraphs of a blog post.)

I'd hoped to be able to get ushered to the front of the line, VIP-style, by my guy Roman, but he was faced with a guy who had a wee bit of hair to tackle.

More than half of the line was, of course, waiting to be enhanced by the glory of Cesar's shears, so for the second time in my life, it fell to me to trust the mustache and accept the invitation to sit in Avi's chair.

That chair might as well have been the electric chair.  Settling into it, I felt like Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile, except not huge and black.  The cut started off in typical silent, Avi-like fashion: going too high with the clippers for a very "just joined the Army after trusting that recruiter outside the Walmart" look, one or two "whoops" moments that led to a completely different haircut than he'd originally intended, a couple instances where I felt like I was in legitimate danger when he switched to scissors, etc.

And then the front door opened, and a decidedly out-of-place customer stepped in.

As I've covered before in the blog, seeing homeless people is as much of an everyday occurrence for New Yorkers as hearing cabs honk or stumbling into a movie shoot, so having one amble into the barber shop wasn't completely out of the ordinary.  Except that this bum was stinking drunk, rocking soiled camouflage pants, and, to top it all off, wearing a dirty Spice Girls t-shirt that was about two sizes too big for him.  It was fantastic.

No one quite knew what to do, except for the normal New York thing when a strange/potentially dangerous person enters their midst: pretend like the person's not there and nothing is happening.  (Oddly enough, this also applies to celebrity encounters.  In Mel Gibson's case, it's both.)  Expecting everything from pulling out his dick to pulling out a gun, we all watched, out of the corners of our eyes, as the homeless Spice Girls fan walked into the shop, sat down on the bench, opened up an US Weekly magazine, and started catching up on the latest Lindsay Lohan news.

The initial weirdness having passed, business carried on as usual in the shop, with the barbers keeping one eye on the hair they were cutting and the other on Bum Spice. They would speak in quick, hushed tones to each other in whatever language they speak, I assumed to try and formulate a strategy to get rid of the eyesore currently residing on their bench and scaring away potential customers while reading about 10 Ways to Drive Your Man Crazy in Bed.

Avi, more so than any of the others, appeared very uncomfortable with what was going on.  I was fascinated by the fiery volcano of rage that was so clearly roiling behind that happy, mustachioed face.   He wasn't able to go more than five seconds without stealing a glance over at Bum Spice throughout my haircut.  But, despite his bumism (that's the word I just made up for people who are inherently prejudiced against bums), for those first couple of minutes, all was well.  At least until Bum Spice started heckling the customers.

It was pretty innocent at first.  Somebody in Cesar's chair said something about how he wanted his hair to be longer because he was getting fatter, and Bum Spice chuckled and muttered something under his breath.  Okay.  No harm done.  The glances between the barbers resumed, but nothing really out of order had happened yet.

But then he just started getting belligerent.  Apparently the sight of Angelina Jolie adopting another brown-skinned baby set something off inside of Bum Spice.  (Either that, or it was the cheap whiskey that did it.  Maybe it was the whiskey.)  New people would walk into the shop, Bum Spice would yell something unintelligible at them, and they'd walk right out again.  One guy was told he had a "head like a burlap sack, mothafucka."  The guy who was unfortunate to be sitting next to Bum Spice was subjected to constant pokes and prods and what I can only imagine to be just awful-smelling, hot-garbage breath.

Still, nothing pushed anyone in the shop completely over the edge, until a, well let's call him "effeminate," customer walked through the door, said hi to Cesar, and Bum Spice peppered the air with a single, "Faggot."

That was the last straw for Avi.

It had been a slow burn ever since Bum Spice walked in, but now he was pissed off.

The quiet comments to his fellow barbers ceased.

The shears dropped.

Looking up at my increasingly enraged barber, I could only imagine what would happen if one of those x-ray poles that showed the size of the Grinch's heart swooped in...

And then zoomed in on his brain...

Regardless of how the thought process actually occurred, or whether it was Dr. Seuss-ian or not, Avi suddenly launched into full-on bum-battling mode.  He would fight him in the shop.  He would fight him with a mop.  He would tussle with his stench.  He would kick him off that bench.  He does not like bums in his biz.  He does not like them, Avi-he-is.

Avi stepped away from my chair (and almost took off half of my scalp in the process) and faced Bum Spice.  This broke the bum away from his heckling, and he stood to face Avi in turn.  The tension in the air was so thick, you could cut it with a pair of shears (or at least give it a nice fade).  It was like an Old West showdown.  A tumbleweed blew by (or maybe it was a big clump of hair, I can't remember).

No one said a word, but we all knew:  It was on.  It was like watching the intro before fighting a boss while playing Mega Man as a kid.

The following is not a direct transcript of the dialogue that transpired, because I am not a tape recorder, but it's as close as my memory can reconstruct:

Avi:  You go now!

Bum Spice:  What the fuck you talkin' about?

Avi:  You're not getting haircut, and you're bothering customers, so go!  Get out!

Bum Spice:  Man, I'm just readin', ain't no need to tell me to go!

Avi:  No!  Our shop!  We can tell whoever to go!  So go!

Bum Spice:  Motherfucker, don't try an' tell me what to do, fuck you!

Avi:  Fuck ME?  No, fuck you!

At this point, some sort of bomb went off inside Avi.  Note to my readers, if you're ever vacationing in Israel, do not, under any circumstances, say the words, "Fuck you," to anyone.  I'm not sure if Avi had served the required years of military service back home, or if he was a secret master of Krav Maga, but he came at Bum Spice like he was Steven Seagal, and the bum was a gun-toting, Asian henchman.  Or a sandwich.  Depends on whether we're talking about modern Seagal or '80s Seagal.

Seagal or no Seagal, Avi took two steps toward Bum Spice, and that was all she wrote.  All we were missing was Howard Cosell calling the action.  Avi gave the guy a quick shot to the face, shoved him back, spun him around, and chucked him right out the door of the barber shop.

Girl power, indeed.

Having done his good deed for the day, Avi calmly walked back into the shop, picked up his shears, and finished my awful haircut.  I was almost proud to walk out with that mess on my head.  Avi might fail when it comes to taking a little bit off the sides, but he's definitely not one for taking any shit.

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