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Roman Adventure by Lox (recovered)
Marty had really been looking forward to his first big trip to Europe. All those topless beaches and beautiful babes strolling about in cities he’d only dreamed about before – Paris, London, Rome! He had a thing for the dark, Latin Madonna’s! The icing on the cake came on the very last day. His parents – yeah, what a drag, it was going to be a family vacation – had gotten so caught up with the packing and logistics right at the end, that his planned pre-trip haircut never happened. Marty would hit the European scene with a gorgeous head of thick, glossy golden brown hair framing his face and cascading in gentle loops towards his shoulders. By the time his month-long trip was over, Marty figured his hair would be the longest ever. Way cool. He was pure retro-70s as they headed to the airport. Only his passport photo, taken a few years earlier when the family went to Mexico, revealed his nerdy past in Junior High with a standard “little boy” haircut.
After the excitement of finally being in Europe wore off, Marty quickly discovered that topless beaches were not on his parents’ itinerary – only churches, museums, monasteries, art galleries, operas!, castles and the like. The trip turned into a drag real fast, and Marty’s attitude took a similar plunge. By the time they reached Rome, Marty was contemplating a site-seeing boycott. The thought of being dragged through the ruins was a nightmare. The Coliseum turned out okay – he thought about gory Roman sports, feeding Christians to the lions and all that stuff while the cute guide droned on and on about emperor so and so and what’s his name.
On day three in Rome while his parents chatted eagerly about visiting the Vatican over breakfast, Marty decided to take some action to improve his lot. “I’m gonna hang at the hotel today, if that’s all right,” he ventured casually.
But, it was clearly NOT all right! His mother pounced first, “What, and miss the Sistine Chapel?!” Oh no siree. “What if the pope should be there and bless the tourists….” Fat chance, thought Marty.
Then his father came in with a real blow to Marty’s idea, “Right, and watch all that porn on the hotel cable TV while were off getting cultured? Not on your life!”
It was settled with a final indignity from his mother, “And put on a nice shirt and tie, in case the pope comes out.” No waaaaay. A tie? It was settled on a compromise dress shirt and slacks, but no tie. The only use that had been so far was at the opera in Paris.
As they walked to the Vatican, Marty thought the vacation would pick up after his mom flew home solo to get back to her job while he and his dad took a week long sailing and fishing trip in the Mediterranean. Topless beaches would not elude him, for sure. His mom was the stricter of the two, but she exerted her authority, at times, through his father. Still, once she was gone, his father would hopefully lighten up a bit.
By the time the trio had emerged onto the plaza in front of Saint Peter’s, Marty’s irritation at being dragged on yet another foray into culture was poised to spout off. He felt so silly and hot in his Sunday clothes. “This is the last church I’m going into on this trip,” he said sulking as they ascended the monumental stairs. “Look, is that the pope there?” Marty said cattily as he saw a nun dressed completely in white from head to toe crossing herself in from the of the Pieta.
“Smart-aleck! Just zip your mouth and let us enjoy this. I’ve dreamed all my life about visiting St. Peter’s and now you’re ruining it,” snapped his mother. His father grabbed Marty’s arm and squeezed it as a warning. He backed off, sensing his parents were about at their limit. When they moved out of the church towards the museum, Marty’s dad held him back and gave him a pep talk.
“Dad, really, I don’t want to see the Sistine Chapel, can’t just mill around the plaza and get something to eat while you and mom go in?” the teen begged.
His mother’s radar ears pick up the whine. “I heard that! Steven, I can’t put up with this another minute. Be a dear and take Martin back to the hotel. I’ll do the Vatican museum on my own. But when I get to the hotel, I want that poor attitude gone. Finito. Tomorrow we leave for Florence, and we must do the Ufizzi.”
“I think that’s best for us, then, Barbara. I’ll take Marty back and we’ll rendezvous for supper.” Marty thought he detected a secret relief in his dad’s voice from getting out of touring the Vatican.
But what transpired next let Marty know that his dad was in fact upset with him. “That was disgraceful. Your mother sacrifices so much for you….and you had to ruin it, didn’t you?” The two walked silently towards the hotel.
Finally, Marty broke the awkward silence. “Dad, it’s really hot and I’m thirsty. Can’t we get a drink somewhere?”
“If you’d gotten a haircut before you left, like I told you to, you wouldn’t feel so hot. That shaggy mop looks disgraceful.” Uh oh. Marty’s pulse quickened and his stomach lurch. Those were frightfully disturbing words.
“OK, that’s all right, I don’t need anything. Let’s just head back to the hotel,” said Marty quickly.
But it was too late. “I think I see a sign for a barbershop up ahead. Barbieri.” The whirly red and white pool confirmed the diagnosis. “We’ll put our time to use wisely and your mom will be happy to see you neatened up when she gets back.”
“Dad, I’ll get a haircut as soon as we get back to Royal Oak. Promise.” But there was no response. “You don’t even know how to talk Italian. How will you tell the guy that I just need a trim?” Marty’s father fumble to get a book out of his daypack.
“Oh, I’ll find a way. I think there’s a part about haircuts in my pocket Italian for Tourists booklets,” he responded confidently.
Then the biggest shock of all hit Marty as they neared the shop. The barbershop looked like something out of the 1950’s. The old man was dressed in a white tunic that come down to his knees, and he looked like he started working there the day the shop opened. The one huge barber’s chair – empty! – shimmered in chrome, bathed in neon. A row of electric hair clippers hung from the counter. There was NO WAY Marty was going to enter that shop willingly. Surely his father would understand that….
“Great. No wait! The barber seems to be waiting just for you, Mr. Mophead. Now step on in there,” he said nudging Marty forward towards the glass door.”
The barber nodded briskly to the father and teen soon as they entered the small shop. Mr. Talbott, book in handed, announced triumphantly, “Bambino. Tagliare i cappeli.” And then, just so there was no misunderstanding about why two tourists had invaded this 1950’s holdout, he simulated a pair of scissors with his fingers and pointed at the massive, wavy blond mane.
The barber picked up the cape that was draped over the back of the chair and snapped it firmly sending the stray hairs from the last haircut flying to the floor. The shorn clumps of hair on the black and white tiled floor matched the color scheme – mainly white and some longer clumps of jet black. Marty hesitated. Should he make one more pitch to try to get out of this nightmare before it was too late? As he turned towards his father to plead, the old barber, with a commanding voice, smacked the red leather seat and barked, “Prego!” The man seemed annoyed.
Marty reluctantly took a seat. Within seconds he was caped in an enormous white cloth that covered virtually the whole chair; the barber began combing through his precious locks. They were so thick, and tangled from the windy walk, though, that the barber had to yank to get the comb through. His level of frustration was evident.
“Dad, tell him ‘just a trim’ before he starts…..” but the request was cut short by the snap of a clippers being brought to life.
Marty’s father was furiously shuffling through the pages as the first swipe of the clippers set the tone of the haircut. It was to be no trim. No, indeed not! With one hand firmly planted on Marty’s head, forcing his face towards his chest, the other drove the clippers quickly up the back until they pulled away as they approached the crown. Marty was shocked out how fast the old man could work and how strong his grip was in forcing his head this way and that way. Without a word, the adept barber because quickly uncovering the ears and flicking the shorn tresses so that they landed smack on the cape under the petrified gazed of the captive Marty. His European adventure had turned into a trip through purgatory. Why hadn’t he stayed at the Vatican? Instead, he was being treated to a demeaning boot camp-type experience.
The barber clipped and clipped around his ears with different machines. “I can’t find the word for trim,” his father announced rather smugly, and way after the situation had become overtaken by events. Then the barber picked up a pair of shears and pulled the remaining long locks that hung from the crown straight up. “He seems to have his own idea of what a boy your age should look like….”
The shearing crunch was delivered less than two inches from the scalp. Mounds of beautiful blond hair fell onto the cape. Marty felt numb, completely drained of energy. The barber picked up a different, strange looking pair of scissors – thinning shears! – and continued whacking away at the only bits of length left on top and the remnants of his bangs that still tumbled down to eye-level. “It’s turning into a real work of art. Your mom will be surprised, so say the least.” Marty seethed at how much his father was enjoying the torture. Even if he had deserved it, didn’t his father have a shred of sympathy? The barber finished off by scissoring the bangs at a severe angle, starting from the left just above the brow and finishing up near the hairline on the right.
The barber began unfastening the cape. Ah, relief! The torment was over. Marty began to get up, but the barber pushed him back into the chair. No, he wasn’t finished at all. He just shook the hair-laden cape and re-fastened it snuggly in place. Then the barber applied warm lather around the ears and neck and began shaving away with an old-fashioned straight edge razor. It felt good….except until Marty realized that the barber was carving out huge, exaggerated arches around his ears. He dreaded seeing the new, nerdy him when the haircut was all over. And to think, at that very instant the pope might be blessing him had it not been for his whining, complaining rant. Now all he felt like getting was the last rites and extreme unction. The last indignity the barber administered was to work a foul-smelling tonic throughout his hair, followed by a severe left part and a slicked to the side grand finale.
Then came the unveiling of the masterpiece. The barber slowly turned the chair towards the mirror. Marty braced himself for the worse as the hideous view came into site. He could not conceal a grimace. But his annoying father shouted out “Bravo! Encore!”
Later, it would occur to Marty, that the call for an ‘encore’ was what made that miserable, historic day tolerable and memorable. Marty was out of the chair, finally, as his father reached for his wallet. But the barber had a different plan. “Encore!” he mimicked as he patted the seat and pointed directly at Mr. Talbott.
“Your turn, Dad,” smirked Marty with the same smug tone his father had used on him. “You could use a trim too.”
“But how will I tell him…trim,” mumbled Mr. Talbott awkwardly, not knowing how to handle the situation, since the barber kept refusing to accept payment.
“Signore!” the man said emphatically. “Prego!”
Marty smiled broadly as his father sunk, with resignation into the chair. In a flash the cape was fastened and the old barber was combing through the longish, businessman’s cut that Mr. Talbott had worn his whole adult life. Mr. Talbott made a vain attempt to get his hand out from under the cape showing with his fingers that he just wanted a half inch trim.
“Americano?” the barber asked.
“Yes. We’re from Michigan,” Mr. Talbott answered mechanically.
“Americanos. Mussolini. Vitoria!” the barber said enthusiastically as he snatched a huge set of black clippers and immobilized Mr. Talbott’s head so that it was just inches from his chest and the pristine white cape.
Even Marty was shocked with what happened next. The barber carved a bald strip straight up the back of Mr. Talbott’s head. There was no taper. There was nothing left in the wake of the clippers except a gleaming white path of his dad’s scalp up through the cowlick. The barber quickly balded the back of his client’s head. The plush brown hair fell quickly to the floor.
“Uh, son, what’s it like,” asked Mr. Talbott nervously.
“Um, pretty short, Dad,” answered Marty, no longer gloating but genuinely worried at how his father would end up. The barber stripped all hair from the sides and back. The cape was by now covered with hair – of course, not the dramatic curls and tresses that had come off Marty’s head, but lots of hair for an older man like his father to lose.
The barber fiddled with the clippers. “Now just a bit of the top, I guess, and I’ll be done,” said the father hopefully.
The barber’s surprise assault with the second sent of clippers was completely unexpected. From forehead to crown, he clipped the top down to a very short brush. Mr. Talbott gripped the chair arms, realizing his hair was being shorn even closer than Marty’s. Why hadn’t they both just stayed at the Vatican?!
Then it occurred to Marty what the barber had in mind for his father. “Dad, you’re getting a ‘high and tight’ military haircut. Probably just like what this barber did 50 years ago for the GIs stationed here after the war.”
“Oh my goodness, how am I going to go back to the office like this?” His worried look morphed into resignation and even a hint of enjoyment as the warm lather was applied generally to the sides and back. The stroking of the sharp razor all the way up the back of his head felt therapeutic. By then, Mr. Talbott had accepted his fate and he relaxed somewhat under the ministrations of the final warm cloths. After a brief scalp massage, the barber dramatically swiveled the chair to reveal GI Talbott. He could not disguise the surprise of seeing an almost unrecognizable image in the mirror. The white skin was blinding – and on top it was so short the virgin scalp was clearly evident there as well.
“You look 10 years younger, Dad,” said the son in a consoling tone.
“So do you, Marty,” he replied – mocking? - as he paid the bill.
Neither Mr. Talbott nor Marty could keep their hands off their head and hair as they walked to the hotel. Although both were in shock from their experience, no one else in Rome seemed to notice them as they hustled silently. Simultaneously, they rushed to the bathroom in their hotel room to check out the mirror. Marty combed out the brittle tonic and pushed his hair into a spiky style. “You look kind of trendy,” said his father, encouragingly.
“And the HnT suits you too, dad.” Mr. Talbott looked puzzled. “High and Tight,” explained Marty. “Lots of teens and college kids get ‘em these days – fades too, that also show a lot of skin.”
His father touched his scalped back and rubbed his hand back and forth, “I wonder how long this will take to grown back. But touching it like this feels amazing….”
Mrs. Talbott approved wholeheartedly of Marty’s “short back and sides” schoolboy haircut, but was very concerned with her husband’s radical makeover. “What can one expect, though, not being able to communicate properly. If you’d only taken Latin in High School like I did dear……” she said with a sympathetic scold.
Both men were happy to put Mrs. Talbott on a plane and move to the fun part of their holiday. The trip to the barbershop together had been a wonderful bonding experience for them. It had really put to rest Marty’s attitude problem too. Once they were on the yacht, both experienced, as well, the advantage of really short haircuts. No messy tresses flying about in the wind or tangles. Marty couldn’t imagine what it would’ve been like with his pre-barbershop mane. And, Marty thought his Dad looked very manly and tough with his HnT – edgy, instead of the boring, non-descript businessman’s cut. As he developed a tan, the shocking contrast with the virgin scalp receded.
The fishing was great, and they docked at more than one topless beach too! It was sad when it came to an end. There was only left one night in Rome before catching the flight back to the U.S. As they rode the bus back into town, Mr. Talbott began running his hand up the back of his head. “I feel like a hippy with this stubble. I think I’ve gotten used to his cut!” he exclaimed. “I wonder…” but the man broke off his thought.
And Marty picked it up, “….this afternoon, maybe…on our way to the see the Sistine Chapel…”
“What?!” said his father with genuine surprise.
Marty continued, “We might get in a little ‘barbieri’ action..”
Mr. Talbott beamed. “I can get this tightened up, for primetime back at the office.”
“And can I get mine cut just like yours, Dad?” asked Marty hopefully. “You look like a real stud.”
“Of course! We’ll both look fantastic with high ‘n tights!”
And so they did. A second round of superior male, father-son bonding in the barbershop. It was a Roman adventure that would stay with them for years….