Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Montclair Character #1: Rocky

I spend much of my time in Montclair Village, the little retail district near our house. Montclair is home to a cast of characters I’ve come to know in the eight-plus years I’ve lived here.

One of my favorite characters is Rocky, who cuts hair at the Montclair Barbershop. Rocky is an archetype – or so I thought: he’s an aging rocker, with windswept (or, rather, carefully blow-dried) gray hair, a mostly-gray goatee, hunched shoulders and an ever-present cigarette held firmly in his fingertips. He typically sports one of four or five satin or leather jackets, embroidered elaborately with insignias: Harley-Davidson, the Raiders, a Nascar team, maybe a casino. He wears tight black jeans and a various black belts with large buckles, and cowboy or motorcycle boots. Standing outside the barbershop, taking drags off his cigarette and looking around the Village from behind his mirrored wraparound Terminator-style shades, he looks like a guy whose buddies left him behind after a stop on the way to Laughlin – or Sturgis.

He’s cut my hair once or twice, and he does a fine job – adequate for the bit of hair I’m holding on to. So last week when he was waiting, just after the shop opened, I sat down in his chair.

The barbershop is a traditional one: three swiveling seats arranged before a mirror and across from a row of small, card table-type chairs. A stack of kids’ books and a box of lollipops rests on a table, waiting for the occasional boy getting a buzz cut, and in the corner waits a stack of Playboys – which I’ve never seen anyone peruse. A bikini calendar hangs on the wall.

Usually the talk in the barbershop is sports, maybe politics; today it was silent, but for the music coming over speakers, Muzak-style. Only it wasn’t Muzak; I realized as Rocky wrapped the barber’s cape around me and tied off my neck that I was listening to Abba.

I didn’t think much of it; I figured it was one of an automatic rotation of songs, maybe a mis-chosen XM station. Only after one Abba song ended, another started. I’d never heard either, but those paired women’s voices were unmistakable. I’d have expected Lynard Skynard from Rocky, maybe even AC/DC, but this was Abba.

“Rocky, are we listening to Abba?” I asked, hoping he’d notice the bit of jibe in my voice.

“Yup,” he said. “I burned this CD last night.” He was earnest. No embarrassment, no irony.

Just as he was moving from the clippers to the scissors, the first recognizable song came on. It was “Chiquitita.” I’ve never wanted to admit this, but I’m a sucker for this song; I could hardly believe that Rocky showed no hint of shame as the faux-Latin harmonies came through, expecting him maybe to dive for the dial, switching to sports-talk radio.

Instead, when the tempo picked up and the chorus kicked in, I swear he began to cut with a bit of spring in his scissors. When the song peaked with that characteristic “brrrrrUMP-bump-bump-bum,” he finished off a row of my hair with a subtle flourish of his shears – though his face, which I could watch clearly in the mirror, never betrayed any enthusiasm.

Feeling that we were perhaps sharing a moment, I confessed, “You know, I’ve always liked this song.” But he was unmoved, and replied as if stating fact, not admitting to a fellow dude that he dug a Swedish pop band from the 70’s that’s been evoked in more than one homosexually-themed movie: “Yup, Abba’s a great band.”

And then he informed me knowledgeably, “They’re from Australia, you know.”

I loved this. Perhaps he’d seen Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; perhaps one of his buddies had decided to punish him for his Abba fondness by feeding him misinformation. But it didn’t matter: he was confident in his mistaken knowledge, sharing it like an obscure but relevant piece of sports trivia.

He finished my haircut, showed me the small mirror so that I could see the back, and brushed off my shoulders and neck. Almost too perfectly, the song changed to “Money, Money, Money” as I handed over my $20. He thanked me, again with no wink, no hint of guile or irony, and I walked outside.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home