i had cut off all my hair in order to get out of the way of myself a bit. after a few weeks the stubs got long enough to clip a barrette to and i decided i wanted a little decoration for my head. specifically, i wanted plastic kiddie barrettes to clip on my almost-bangs, the kind of barrettes that parents put on their baby to indicate that it should be addressed as “she”.
i went to walgreen’s. i went to the 99-cent store on mission. i went to 3 more 99-cent stores and 2 cheap-everything stores. it was all clips clips clips, no plastic barrettes. somehow i got it into my head to try eBay, where i found RaVeR~LOT of CuTiE Baby Barrettes~ item 493009946, a whole big heap of ‘em in a silver faux-alligator case. after winning the auction for $8.50 plus $1.75 shipping, i trotted myself across the street, got a money order from mohammed, and proceeded to send it off and begin checking the mail every day for my hair candy.
it didn’t come. after a few weeks i sent some email to the nice raver girl in florida, who didn’t respond. a couple weeks later i sent a slightly less nice mail. i got one back with an apology saying that there had been trauma, which required travel on her part, and that my package was now in the mail. i said thanks and i hoped things turned out ok.
by the time the package came, i had figured out some things to do with my hair. and the colors weren’t really anything i wanted to wear. and i wasn’t sure of the best way to clean them. they weren’t so clean.
the much anticipated slightly grimy silver faux-alligator case sat on my desk for a couple weeks. then it went into a brown paper bag with FREE scrawled on it in magic marker that Iives under the kitchen table. every time the bag fills up, i put it out on the sidewalk. on my way out to play for new year’s eve, i put the bag out.
when we came home the next morning the bag was gone. in its place was a dirty old mop. the barrettes were scattered all over the sidewalk. i guess someone wanted the case but not the barrettes.
the first day of the new millennium was beautiful. we were setting records for warmth in san francisco. jim and i didn’t even have coats on when we went back out to pick up the jeep from the garage at 5th & mission, where it had been stored during the evening’s revelry.
we walked 2 blocks and hopped on the N at the park, headed downtown. there was that nice sort of openness in the air that one feels on a holiday in the city. new year’s day is always a little more special, because unlike most holidays, the celebration has already taken place. so here we were on monday, Jan 1, 2001, headed downtown on MUNI with a bunch of folks who all had been celebrating, too. it was a lovely day. we were happy, and a bit tired. there weren’t 2 seats together, so i sat down next to a mad-max looking african-american guy, and jim sat down across the aisle. the mad-max guy next to me had an orange-dyed mohawk, and he was talking to his friend in the seat in front of us, who had all sorts of crazy laced-up clothes on under his leather motorcycle jacket. the man in the motorcycle jacket was carrying a wicker basket and talking with his friend about the parties they had been to on ocean beach the night before, in a high voice with admirable stage-like drama.
a couple rows front of us was a disheveled middle-aged white guy who i recognized from the neighborhood. he had a guitar with only 3 strings, and was strumming away and mumbling to himself. the driver yelled back for him to pipe down, please, he didn’t need any music this morning, thanks. so the guy stopped strumming and sat. after a couple minutes he took a piece of paper out of his coat pocket. and then a clump of something i didn’t recognize. and then some change.
he stood up and started emptying all sorts of things out of his pockets. bits of plastic and string. his wallet, which was held together with duct tape and tied to his coat with a piece of plastic clothesline cord. he was dumping everything onto the seat he was standing in front of, and feathers from his ratty down coat were flying all over. feathers and more coins, and then some bits of bright plastic.
he sat down and started sorting all the stuff. then he yelled over to the guy with the basket and asked quite conversationally if he wanted a barrette. the guy with the basket answered delightedly that he did, whereupon he was given a yellow dog barrette. and then a blue fish. and a couple more.
i leaned over to jim and whispered that I knew the flying-feather guy from the neighborhood. he hangs out outside the horseshoe. he got on at the park with us. our house is between the horseshoe and the park. and when we had come out to come down to the train, the mop was still outside, but the barrettes had been picked up. jim’s eyes got wide, and we grinned at each other.
the basket guy and his friend began to talk about which of their friends would like to have which barrette. the barrettes were going into the basket. the basket guy began lifting things out of the basket to show the flying-feather guy. a pair of silver glittered shoes they had found at the beach. a gong, “for rituals,” he said. some fabric from africa. i didn’t recognize the name of the tribe, but the feather guy did. “uh huh, he said. they eat the brains of their enemies.”
i winced and held my breath. but the basket guy simply replied “yeah, they did.” and then asked for another barrette. the basket guy, the mad max guy, and the feather guy spent a few minutes trading barrettes like baseball cards, debating whether a little orange was needed, and whether so-and-so would wear a green dog. then the basket guy jumped up saying “this is our stop”, and hopped up. i got up to let the mad max guy through, and we smiled at each other and said happy new year.
as they got out, an older chinese lady seated next to the door gasped and began to wave some papers she was carrying in front of her face. the doors closed, and she pointed to the seat where the basket guy had been and plugged her nose and made a face. the seat was full of sand. the feather guy was singing to himself and putting his things back into his pockets.
our stop was next. we got off the train, and walked upstairs into the day.