Monday, November 3, 2008

Shanghaied on Peck Slip!

Walking along Peck's Slip in the Seaport this morning, I spied a barber's pole, looked at myself in the store window's reflection and saw a wild poet. I went inside, took a seat and announced, "Short on the sides, square in the back and take nothing off the top.
"Whoa, matey, what?"
A voice from the backroom. He was behind me and I couldn't see him, while he's talking I notice there was no mirror in front of me, just piles of ship rope and nautical devices ~ hanging over my head was a painted maidenhead with wings.
"I want a haircut."
"This ain't a barbershop."
"What is it?"
"It's the Unofficial South Street Seaport Museum and Home for Wayward Sailors. Call me, Ishmael."
"What's with the barber pole outside?"
"That's not a barber pole, It's a carved lighthouse painted with stripes."

I readjusted my glasses and looked around the place. The windows were dirty with little light coming through them, but I saw two guys asleep inside a rowboat turned on it's side so they could curl up for a nap. One sailor had an admiral outfit on and the other seaman wore a striped shirt with a hankie wrapped oddly around his bald head. They both snored. A sign said, "Bait for Sale."

"I'm sorry, I thought you were a barber, I'll leave."
"No, no, don't go, I'm a barber, I mean I was a barber when I sailed the South Seas."
I recalled my memories of sailor's hairdos from movies and concluded this wouldn't end well.
"Thanks, but no, I'll be going."
I tried to get up, but in a warm forceful way, Ishmael shoved me down. He had an eye patch.
"No, please, I'll do a fine job, and I'll feel better about myself. I've been combing the waters for another chance at barbering."
"What do you mean feel better about yourself?"
"Well the last time I cut hair, I was still rumming, covering everything with monkey shit and had a few accidents. I damaged my pepper box and had to kiss the wooden lady."
I tried to get up again, but Ishmael gave me a desperate hug and pressed me down.
"I'm better now. Haven't cut myself shaving all week."
My chance to escape was nil. I haven't been to a gym in a year; my exercise slump's taken me muscle away.

I've been Shanghaied on Peck Slip!

"Why so glum?"


"Why the long face?"

I've buried three barber shops in the last four years. Sick of the "find a new one" process, I surrendered.

"Oh nothing, go ahead."

"A fine decision, laddy, sit back, while I swab your deck."

"Who are those guys?" I said, pointing to the two sad sacks in the rowboat.

"Sporty in the admiral's outfit is Loose Lips. He's been on three ships that sunk and he's talky. Baldy's name is Billy Bones but everyone calls him Baldy."

"Do they live here?"

"On and off, but it's my sea chest they're after."

Ishmael took my glasses off and with little light coming through the haze covered windows I may as well been down in Davey Jones Locker. In the dark, I imagined what was in Ishmael's sea chest. I concluded Loose Lips and Baldy were strictly there for the free room & board.

"Why are the boys in the rowboat, don't they have beds?"

"Up on the deck they have swell hammocks, but they like being down here with me."

While Billy Bones and Loose Lips snored away the morning in their rowboat, Ishmael & I talked about the sea, the football Giants win over the Anti-Christ and my next reading for
Trumpet Fiction,
this coming Saturday, November 8th @645pm @ KGB
@ 85 East 4th Street (just west of Second Avenue)

Ishmael gave me a fine haircut; I tipped well and prayed my head had found a new barbering home.

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