Shemp Hair Blues

Another Lithuanian with great hair.

A Lithuanian with great hair

He had taken some old bills, like the ones for his phone, utilities, a few from credit cards, and splattered them with his own blood.  They were nicely matted in brushed aluminum frames.  I’m sure he was trying to make a statement somewhere among all those statements, but I didn’t get it.

did get that this art opening was only serving wine.  And that wine gave me a headache.  Had enough of those already.  Speaking of…

My date went from bloody bill to bloody bill, giving them her full aesthetic attention.  Judging them individually by some measuring stick in her mind, she’d nod at one then move on to the next.  Pause.  Stare.  Scrutinize.  Appear to discern something.  Smile.  Nod.  Move on.

Something about the whole act smelled like rotting baloney.  She was too earnest.  Too intent.  My Fraudulent Pantomime Meter was going off, reading “Total Fake-out.”  She just wanted to be seen appreciating the work.  To look like she gave a flying fuck.

I suspected this because that’s what I was doing.

“Very nice, see how he managed to get a clot over his cable late fee,” I pointed out.  “Pollock directed his splatter, but not this concisely.”

She nodded absently and looked over at the artist.  He was on the other side of the room, drinking a small bottle of sparkling water and talking to three women.  In his early thirties.  Mediterranean good looks.  One of those dark guys who can pull off wearing his hair in greasy dangling locks.  Like Shemp.

Very few guys can pull off that kind of hair.  I always admired the ones that could.  Guys like Gibby Haynes.  And Leo Gorcey.  And Danny Trejo.  And Iggy.

The blessed and lucky.

I always loved Shemp’s hair–the way he would curl it behind his ears after getting his nose clawed with a hammer.  Just one more thing to deal with.   Besides having furniture broken over his head, always having to flip back his greasy hair.  While spitting out splinters.

That says so much.  In other words, it’s all in a day’s work when you’re a gnarly fucker.  It’s important to keep your hair out of your eyes while your head is being pile-driven into a cast iron stove.  So you can see better.

That’s so badass it hurts.

It really hurt.  The fact that this guy had his own show at a prestigious Santa Fe art gallery.  That his work was selling.  That women loved him.  That he wasn’t drunk.  That he would soon be sleeping with my date.  And that he got to have Shemp hair.

It was too much.

I excused myself and went out to my ’73 Olds Omega where five beers were heating up in the August afternoon sun.  I got in the car and lied down on the front seat.  I gassed open a can and shotgunned it down my throat.  Dropped the empty on the floor boards.  Reached under the seat and repeated.

That’ll do.  Save three for later.  I sat up and looked around.  The parking lot was full, but there were no people around.  I wanted to stay there and hide.  I couldn’t bring myself to walk back in.

I lied back down and reached under the seat.  Pop.  Pish.  Gluggity-gluggity-glug.  Thirshhhhhhh-tee!

That one did it.  I recovered my intrepididity and rose up from the car seat.  Resurrection.

Back inside, I saw her talking to him.  No surprise.  Sometimes I just know how things are going to go.  Especially when it’s bad.

I circled the perimeter for a while, looking at his work.  What a bunch of shit.  Anybody could do this.  Sure he does some origami with some of the bills.  Whatever.  You can learn that from a book in the library.  But who has the nerve to present this mess to a gallery director?  Not me.  The gall.  The balls. 

Great.  We’ve established he has bigger balls.  More bile to swallow.  To go with the red dot by the $1,200 piece.

Finally, she waved me over.

Here we go.

She introduced us.  I took his hand, then bent down and kissed his onyx ring.  I don’t know why I did that.  It was just one of those spontaneous things you do while buzzed, then wonder about later.  I meant it as a gag, but here’s where it turned terrible–he received it.  He actually took it with a slight nod, all papal and shit.  Acting like it was appropriate.  What a motherfucker!

She noted the exchange.  Oh shit.  I clicked my heels and bowed, extending the gag.  Hoping to save it.  But the damage was done.  He had diminutized me.

It was clear now that I had to beat this guy’s ass that night.  To negate that awkward little scenario.  Seriously.  Dudes have gotten on the list for less.  I ran through the whole flow chart in my head a few times.  It always came back to beating.  After all, this was a major clowning.  He played me like a wash bucket bass.  In front of her.

He’s already better than me in everything.  That was hard enough to stomach.  Now this.  And I’m not even including the Shemp hair.  That’s just running the shank through all four gears.

Hmm…superior to me in every way.  Not enjoying that fact.   I should fix it.  Let’s see, he’s better than, in all things…ah… except perhaps in a mutual exchange of pain.  I might be able to endure more of that.  I might be better there.  I may best him in the ability to suffer.

Well, we would just have to find out.  We would have to exchange pain.  And before the crowd thins out.

Unfortunately, I lived by a strict warrior code, one that prohibited me from throwing the first punch, unless I could totally get away with it.  But this ran a little deeper.  Sucker-punching the artist at his gala opening is not going to win you any style points.

But successfully defending yourself from an over-sensitive, temperamental, thin-skinned effete, one who was over-reacting to some constructive criticism while being called out for false-flagging Shemp, was something else entirely.  Now that was a chapter I wouldn’t mind having in my bio.  I could see it.

I must make it so.

“Love what you’ve done here.  Instead of wasting money on a shredder from Costco, you used your mail to clean up after your menstruating dog.  And are now getting paid for it.  Fucking brill.  Mastermind caper you got cooking here.  I hope this scam is multi-level marketed, because I want to sign up for the seminars, Shemp.”

Except I didn’t say that.  I just looked at him.  And thought about things.  Wondered if goading him into a fight was the right thing to do.  What if he warranted the hair?  What if he had the holy power?  He looked fit.  The last thing I wanted was to be hitting on some guy’s head with a brick while he straightens his hair.  Plus, you could never get a good grab on that shit to whiplash the neck, something we in the trade called Bull-whipping.

“Don’t make trouble.”

That’s what I heard in my head.  Very clear.  Very loud.  It seemed to come from somewhere else.  Believe me, it didn’t come from me.


Then again, like in case I didn’t get that something else was talking to me, “Don’t make trouble.”

I got it.  Clearly.  I was a little spooked, to be honest.  One time I heard something like that while washing dishes at The Natural Cafe, right before I was going to say something bad to the prep cook about a girl that worked there.  Something said, “Shut up.”  Distinctly.  Enough to make me shut up.  Not fifteen seconds later, that girl came in and hugged the prep cook.

“I’ll see you at home.”

“Okay, love you.”

Oh shit!  I had no idea.  Yeah.  That was close.  Good thing I…alright already, disembodied voice from beyond.  I won’t make trouble.  But don’t blame me if things get really boring.

“I like your work,” I forced out.

“Thanks, I like yours.  I read your column in The Reporter.  It’s some funny shit.”

I couldn’t believe it.  I had a crappy little column in the weekly paper.  I didn’t think anybody read it, much less liked it.  And here was both, in the same dude, and a dude with awesome Shemp hair.

Lightning 180 flip in my attitudey.  Feelings of brotherhoodship and good-fellowing welled up in me.

I couldn’t believe that I had been planning to beat up my only fan.  That would not have been a savvy career move.  Besides, he’s such a cool dude,  liking my writing and shit.   Making all this magnificently insane art, while looking all greasy.  And shit.

He turned out to be a decent yog.  Funny too.  We joked and bantered back and forth for quite a while.  He had a dry sense of humor.  I figured out that whole regally-receiving-the-ring-kiss was just him playing along.  He was just playing it straight.  With a more subtle touch than my inebriated mind could appreciate at the time.

What I did appreciate was that although all these artsy fartsy types were trying to draw away his attention, he would return to our conversation.  He didn’t blow me off to talk to some of the hot, semi-hot, or hot-enough-after-eight-beers women that were trying to glom on to him.  Which included the creature that rode up with me.  That really showed class.

When I invited him out to the Omega for a hot beer, he declined, telling me he was a recovering alcoholic.  Oh wow.  Poor dude.  Now I really wanted him to succeed in art.  Since he basically had nothing left to live for.

We wound up staying there until things wound down.  A bunch of people had decided to go to La Casa Sena for dinner and he invited both of us to join.  No fucking way I could afford that.  I begged off with a lie about having to write.

“I want to go,” she says.

“Go,” I say.

So she went.  She took the upgrade.  It’s not like I couldn’t see it coming.  I have a gift.

I can’t say it didn’t feel bad.  But I wasn’t pissed.  In light of recent events, I was wary of being pissed–being pissed about stuff I probably didn’t understand.  I could give it a rest.  At least until tomorrow.

Anyway, I don’t know if they ever hooked up.  I don’t know what happened to either of them.  To be honest, I can’t even remember the dude’s name.  He was just the guy with Shemp hair.

And he had what I wanted.

Note: None of the people in this story actually exist, including the author and Shemp.  However, any and all accusations of slander and libel will still be reviewed carefully by my attorney.  As I’m sure, by yours, as well.

16 responses to “Shemp Hair Blues

  1. Shemp never existed. He was in reality Rudolph Valentino, and THAT is what needs to be taken to court and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt

    • Of that factage, there can be NO denial. And yet…a very large portion of the population claim separation of sheik from Shemp. Now don’t get me wrong, going through life with a blind refusal to face facts is not a bad way to skip, unless it’s somebody else doing it, and it happens to irritate me. Then I say don’t spare the Rod Mckuen. Bludgeon reality into their stubborn craniums. No matter how insane that reality might be.
      So they can finally see what’s what.
      I think we’re eye-color to eye-color here, Pally.

      • Dude, you want to hear something strange. Tonight a buddy of mine called me. Tells me yesterday he went to see a client about ramping-up their flagging web-site. They sell bobbleheads, see? Sure, he says, let’s see the product. Goes through a bunch of them and singles one out. “Oh yeah, that guy,” the company owner says, “Didn’t sell for shit, not like the other three.”
        -At this point I know what’s going to happen. Figured it out, right away.
        My buddy agrees on a price for the work, part of which includes a case of said shit-selling bobbleheads. Ok, so today he reads the Shemp piece. He feels strange. He has a case of Shemp bobble-heads in the trunk of his car. Not any of the other Stooges. Just Shemp.
        God I love life.
        I have a pretty good feeling that one of those Shemp bobbleheads is going to wind up next to this computer. I’ll vizualizeit it, and make it so.
        You know, I wasn’t sure about pulling the trigger on this piece just yet, then yesterday my friend John posts a Legalize Shemp meme on Facebook. Turns out Shemp just had a birthday on March 17th. He was a Pisces. Makes sense. Sensitive. Artistic. Anyway, I took it as a sign and published it.
        Glad I did. It helped the weird go down.
        Not like it needs any help.

  2. Wonderful writing, VaVy ! I’m learning from you. (as opposed saying I am stealing some of your amazing adjectives) Alzheimerdly Yours, Jeffski

  3. You fucker. If you keep writing these I’m going to keep reading them. Seriously, you’re hitting them over the fence one after another like a smoker throwing dime rocks in his stem on check day.
    You brilliant cuss, you.
    And the Shemp bobblehead-pix or it didn’t happen. I want photographic proof a bobbleshemp on the desk. Actually a portait with Bugs and Lou hanging out with Shemp would be the only way to make up for the Siracha tip.

    • Just watch your mailbox, dude. I suspect you’re going to have a little company at S.B.C. headquarters very soon. Somebody to nestle among the dried glu-sticks and dirty coffee cups. Boing! Thanks for the nice. Means a lot. You know.

  4. ” I ran through the whole flow chart in my head a few times. It always came back to beating.” I was laughing my ass of at this. I like how we go through the “logic” of our thoughts, and it mysteriously goes back to the one thing that we wanted to do in the first place.

    Anyway, my thesaurus is getting a beating trying to describe how damn fine your writing is…seriously. I know you would rather take a bag of hockey pucks to the head (I am Canadian, remember, so add an “eh” to that as well) than take a compliment, but by the Grace of Blog goes you. Again.

    Only one word pops up after reading this – perception. We can turn on a dime, see things in a different light, and avoid the beating…of another or ourselves. Cats like us enjoy(ed) wailing on ourselves for what we perceive(d) as failings or weaknesses. That’s what we do and that’s one heavy reason for reaching.

    Glad you and the Shemp-ster got along so chuffingly. Sounds like a righteous dude.

    Keep the Mrs pressing that “Publish” button, Marius. We are all richer for it.


    • Thanks again, my Canuckian trudge-mate. Don’t stress over the thesaurus, pally. We just make up any words we need around here. It comes in handy at this homestead, where senility is early-onsetting us into a new dementian. Why grope for words like a sputtering geriatric, when you can just blurt out new ones? Make somebody else reach for the dictionary.
      Yeah, some of my biggest (and most humbling) lessons were about the mutablity of perception. “Say, I don’t need to fix the people, places, and things around me, I can just take off these shit-colored goggles!”
      Of course, every alcoholic (sober or not) has a basic respect for perceptual virtualicity. “Here, drink sixteen of these and everything will at least seem better.” Towards the end though, even when I knew that drinking wouldn’t make me feel better, I’d still do it, with the lottery-ticket hope it would. After all, you pretty much have run out of options at that point. Except maybe to quit drinking, which you and I both know, is the most insane and desperate of contingencies. No, I need to put that one off…just a little longer. Better to walk through a plate-glass sliding door with a hibachi full of hot coals than to do something that crazy.
      The amazinghood of our minds is aweful.
      I guess it takes what it takes. And it is what it is. And everybody is just where they’re supposed to be. I’m glad that sometimes, for you, that place is here, Paul. Love having you around.

  5. Still hearing those voices? Y’know what I figure they were (are)? That voice came from the only sober region of the brain – the teetotal majoris. It’s the region of the brain usually associated with precognitive perception. Everyone has it. It’s pretty useful too. Example – you go to open the stall door in the John. The engaged sign is not in operation, but you just instinctively know it’s already occupied. Saving yourself from the very real danger of bursting in on someone’s… alone time.
    That’s it’s simple function. It works even when drunk. In fact scientists (me) have proven that it mysteriously works even better when you are slightly drunk, but not at all when completely rat-arsed.
    That poor guy with springy legs in South Africa had a malfunctioning teetotal majoris, which resulted in him being unable to tell if someone was using his toilet or not. The frustration of being ‘blocked’ in this way led to him emptying a whole clip through the door and killing his wife by accident.
    I suppose the novelty upshot of this will be – “Your honour, my client, in this case, would like to plead ‘not guilty’… on account of NOT hearing any voices.”

    • I like it. I can see a sharpster mouth-piece selling it to a jury too. Maybe a murder beef would be a tough one to trot it out on as a pilot run. You’d need to introduce the defense for something petty, like prescription forgery or reckless driving. You know, establish precedencement and shit.
      “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you know how we all have a devil on our left shoulder telling to do something, and an angel on our right shoulder telling us not to? Well, my client is deaf in his right ear. The only thing he’s guilty of is being hard of hearing. And since when is that a crime?”
      It might work. I wouldn’t want to have my sleeping accommodations depend on it. But if you have nothing else, it’s worth a try. Anything is.
      Tell me something, John, and think about this before you answer…have you ever felt desperate?
      I am almost positive I have. I seem to remember it bringing out the worst in me, too. But that’s fuzzy.
      My next question is more of a world history question. In the course of human history, has an Englishman ever warmed his bones beside a fire? That can include women too. Actually, much better if it does.
      I hope this finds your bones all warm and cozy, safe in your cottage house in the salt-sprayed little village of Broadsbathgatewell and Prestonton by The Sea. Nothing here for you on this end, but love.

      • Odd questions. Me? Desperate? If that’s the driving force behind becoming a desperado, then, yes. Totally. I think my inner dynamo spins because of the despera-magnetico. The whole spinning metal core of the Earth is powered by the struggle between centrifugal force – that which makes us want to run – and the gravity of desperation meltdown, not caused by, but greatly aided by standing still.
        I think that answers your second question – I rest beside the fire that burns beneath our feet, in the same way a steam engine sucks coal because it likes the taste of carbon.

      • Soory mine gut man, about the delay in reply. I feel bad. Not about that only. Just added to a bunch of other stuff. Just pile it on top.
        My despara-magnetico-driven amigo, “the garvity of desperation meltdown” officially enters the lexicon, crosses the Rubicon, and feels up a chick at Comic-Con. Very nice. Mmmmm-good. I’m re-reading this little entry of yours. Lots of gems. Gem-encrusted, if you. “Because it likes the taste of carbon.” That was a sleeper. Only appreciated it the second time through. It keeps spitting up new ones with each re-read. That says something.
        You should write a book or something.
        Man, I am feeling the moon tonight. You? Oh Jesus, what am I asking? Who am I asking? Does the moon also effect the tides in England? So yeah, you know.
        I bet you can get your lunar on pretty good. I’d love to team up some full moon and see who could make the other worry about the other first. Lori and I used to play that game with each other. Purposefully act really crazy in front of the other, ramping it up to where you might see a glimmer of concern in the other’s eyes. We gave it up. It was too exhausting. (there’s that word again)
        Okay, this comment reply is answered. Now on to the next. Let’s see…oh it’s that Carnell again. What the hell does he want? Let’s find out…

    • Wait a minute. Are you trying to tell me you’re blaming your recent craziness on the moon? Well, now I’ve heard everything. What kind of crazy bullshit? What else do you not want to take responsibility for, Carney? I know, I know. I too am a victim. Of The Age of Aquarius.
      (I kind of do sometimes like to blame it, you know, for all the stuff)
      Anyway, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to answer all the comments as they came in, but I didn’t get the gap to sit down and really hammer at the buttons. If I thumb something out on the phone, it’ll just come out vague and laconic. And that’s the last thing.
      So, instead I wind up making you feel like you’re chatting on to wallpaper. Which was not the case. I always enjoy seeing any comment-replies, and especially from beathemtodeathwiththeirownshoes.
      “Overseas calling, sir, will you accept the charges?”
      “Operator, does he sound drunk?”
      “Not that I could tell, sir.”
      “Go ahead and hang up.”
      Man, everybody’s getting it on paper, these days. Your papaerback. Dave’s zines. Now, I don’t want to be a copy cat. So, I’m going to be publishing on parchment scroll. All hand-lettered and illuminated. Gold leaf rotogravure. Limited edition, Book of Kells kind of shit. If I even sell one, I’ll be able to afford that jet ski I’ve always wanted. The one with pin-striping and a cup-holder. The Tritan 3 I think. 3 or 4.
      Anyway, it’s inspiring to see. It would be especially inspiring to see if it inspires me. We’ll see.
      I just have no time to write. There’s all this answering comment-replies that I have to do. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in them.
      No, that’s not the problem. You and I both know what the problem is. Actually only you. You keep trying to gently tell me what it is, but I keep changing the subject.
      And it has NOTHING to do with Fear of Failure! Puh! I’m so over that. That’s so fourth grade.
      I’d never let it rule my life with an iron fist until it choked out any hope.
      That’s for babies.
      Cry babies who need their naps.
      It’s 11:11pm right now, and I am wide awake!
      Good morning to you, Farmer John.

      • And don’t ever apologize for writing here. I want you to consider this your 24/7 crash pad away from home. Mi casa es… Seriously, John. What the hell? Yeah, for God’s sake, don’t breathe any life into this beast.
        Now, where was I? Oh yeah, being completely awake.

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