Dreama was out for blood.
Because of Kaleb’s brazen accusation against him and his threat to go to corporate over it Rene had been forced to yank on Dreama’s leash as an act of self-preservation. However, that yank hadn’t been hard enough to choke Dreama out, just piss him off to the point of declaring war on Kaleb and vowing to have him fired by any means necessary.
This meant Dreama had been working overtime in an effort to take him down, attempting to dig up whatever dirt he could find on Kaleb as well as watching his every move for any infraction that could aid him in his campaign to have Kaleb ousted. And although Dreama kept coming up empty handed time and time again, this didn’t deter his lust for payback but only strengthened his determination to destroy Kaleb once and for all.
“So what do you think about Dreama’s crusade against you?” I ask Kaleb while setting up my station.
“I don’t.” he says with indifference as he cleans the crud from his fingernails with my shears.
“You’re not the least bit worried that he’s named you Public Enema #1?”
“Not at all. If anything I’m proud of it.”
“Yeah, because in all the time that I’ve known Dreama I’ve never seen him work as hard as he has these past few weeks at trying to get me fired. In fact, I’d say I’ve done what nobody else, including himself, has been able to do.”
“And what’s that?”
“You’re serious aren’t you?”
“Dead serious, and to be honest, I’m so impressed with what I’ve done that I’m thinking I should quit hair altogether and become a life coach. Although if I quit that would make him happy and giving him any sort of happiness is not on my to-do list.”
“Maybe you could just bill him for your services then.”
“You never have ‘em but that’s a great idea.”
Still, despite his blasé attitude toward Dreama’s vengeful vendetta this didn’t mean Kaleb had been gallivanting around with the usual impunity he’d grown accustomed to, especially when it came to being at work on time.
In the past he’d meander into school ten to fifteen minutes late as if his schedule was more of a suggestion than a command and by the grace of God he’d always go unnoticed and unpunished for it. But now that he was walking around with a giant bull’s eye on his back he could no longer afford to waltz in at his leisure.
And even though Kaleb was one of those people who didn’t give a single, solitary fuck when it came to 99.9% of things in life, the one thing he did care about was losing to someone like Dreama and so he was determined not to hand him an easy victory by way of tardiness.
This meant that ever since Kaleb had a price put on his head he’d been making sure to raise that head (along with the rest of his ramshackle of a body) at the butt-crack of dawn to ensure that he made it into work on time, which in and of itself was a HUGE life-improvement on his own part.
So who knew, maybe Kaleb had a future in life-coaching after all.
As for me I’d been trying to follow his advice on not caring about the quality of my work and instead just focus on making it to school every day, not losing my shit and of course, not becoming a part of The 90%.
However, telling myself to not care about my work was easier said than done because it went against everything I’d held sacred about being a creative. As an artist I had always labored under the belief that whatever I created should be done with the utmost of care and held to the highest of standards.
Now, though, I’d been told to abandon that belief in exchange for wholesale apathy which meant that even when I made someone’s hair look like it’d been gang-raped by a pack of chimpanzees hopped up on Viagra and methamphetamines my only response could be complete and total irrelevance.
Which sucked because I’d always felt a responsibility and attachment to whatever I did or made. It was an extension of myself into the world and if I was gonna be someone who didn’t care about what they were bringing into the world then that didn’t make me any better of a person than Mary Jo Campbell*.
And while I understood Kaleb’s reasoning behind it all (don’t burn your forest for the trees, in fact, don’t even care about the trees) that didn’t make it any easier or give me any sort of relief or resolve, it had only put me in the agonizing position of being miserable if I cared and being miserable if I didn’t cafe. It had been a lateral move, not a forward one, leaving me to feel like I was the resident of a shitty neighborhood and all I’d done to change my situation was move from one side of the street to the other. Sure, I’d done something but that something had still kept me in the same shitty place.
So I needed a way out, I needed to find some sort of purpose to embrace that would get me through school in a more positive way. Something that would help me weather all the failures, disappointments and spells of self-doubt and self-loathing I’d experience while at the same time keeping my integrity as an artist in-tact.
The problem was, I had no idea what that purpose might be or where I could find it and until I did…
“So what am I gonna be fucking up today? A haircut? Color? Highlights?”
It was back to the business of desecrating heads like I was Jeffery Dahmer.
“Today’s fuck-up will be brought to you by way of a blow dry.” Kaleb says as he cleans the last of his fingernails with my shears then twirls them around like a gunslinger.
“Really? Just a blow dry?”
“Yeah, everyone has to be finished with their clients by 11 today so hopefully that’s something you can manage…god help us.”
“What’s with the early cut-off time?”
“There’s an industry guest coming in at 11:30.”
“Yeah, didn’t you get the email?”
“The email? From who?”
“The school sends out emails?”
“All the time, you didn’t know about this?”
“About the emails or the industry guest?”
“Both I suppose.”
“How could you not?”
“I barely check my regular mail so the odds of me checking my email are right up there with you cleaning your apartment.”
“That’s a low blow.”
“Maybe, but for me to drive my point home I had to shit on yours.”
“You’re becoming more like me every day, did you know that?”
“I do and that’s a scary realization.”
Kaleb has me blow dry a professional middle-aged woman in a power suit that’s come in for a blow out before her big staff meeting. By the time I’m finished she looks like a homeless person that spends her days wrestling with pigs.
She asks me if I’m genuinely ok with sending her back into the world looking the way she does and so I give her what’s become my default, couldn’t care less reply; a shoulder shrug with a side look of whatever.
She makes the mistake of turning to Kaleb for an explanation or support and all he gives her is the same response as mine, uniting us both in our front to not give a rat’s ass in regard to the rat’s nests I’m making on the daily.
After she leaves, swearing never to return, the call goes out for students to take a 20 min break before reporting back to the Theory Room for the industry guest.
Bode and I run to Starbucks, grab our caffeine fix and then get back with a few minutes to spare.
Kaleb waves us over to a spot in the back where according to him he had to fight tooth and nail to save us seats because in addition to the 200+ regular students in the room there’s also another 100 former students who have shown up for this guest, packing the place beyond capacity and giving it that funky, sweaty, too-many-bodies-in-a-room smell.
“How did all these past students know about today?” I ask our fearless seat-saver.
“They must still be on the school’s email list.”
“Did you know that the school sends out emails?” I turn and ask Bode.
“Yeah I read mine all the time, don’t you?”
“No, and I feel so left out.” I say, looking around and sensing an excitement buzzing through the dewy crowd as if this guest can walk on water or raise the dead. “So who is this person anyway?”
“Kelly Cardenas.” Kaleb tells me.
“She must be pretty awesome at hair if she can bring all these people out of the woodwork. I wonder if she’s hot.” I remark.
“HE.” Kaleb says.
“Who’s he?” I ask.
“Kelly. Kelly is a he.”
“Oh she is is she?”
“Yeah, and even though he has salons throughout the country he’s more known for his inspirational speaking which is what he’ll be doing today.”
“So he’s just here to talk? And all these people are just here to listen?”
“That’s about the size of it.” Kaleb says, scrolling on his phone.
“Have you seen him before?” I ask Kaleb.
“Yeah, he comes here every year.”
“What does he talk about?”
“I dunno, life shit and how to be good at it I guess.”
“You mean like Tony Robbins?”
“Sure, like Tony Robbins, only without all the yelling and big teeth.”
“Interesting.” I say with a sarcastic overtone, knowing full-well that most “inspirational speakers” who claim to have all the answers are nothing more than charlatans preying upon the universal uncertainties every man, woman and non-binary person experience throughout their lifetime on Earth.
“Well I guess he can’t be any worse than Dreama.” I note.
“Or that father son waxing team that came in last month.” Bode adds. “Good lord that was a massacre.”
“To put it mildly.” Kaleb chortles with his face still buried in his phone’s screen. “Did Blake ever make a full recovery?”
“I don’t think Blake ever stopped being high long enough to notice that he needed medical attention.” I tell him.
Blake was one of the few straight male students who attended Paul Mitchell and not only was he a promising stylist but he was also high AF every single day of his young, hot life. This, one can imagine, could impact his cognitive skills from time to time and there was no time more evident of this than when a father and his son came to the school to give a presentation and peddle their brand of body hair removal wax.
At one point during their spiel they asked for a volunteer to come on stage so they could smear their revolutionary new product over a part of that person’s body to demonstrate the “amazing abilities” it had in getting rid of unwanted hair.
Without bothering to ask which part of the body they planned on removing hair from, Blake was on stage, in a chair with his shirt off, more stoned than a biblical whore and wearing a big, dumb smile across his face.
Within seconds the father and his son were on him, slathering their golden goo all over his hair infested chest. Next they proceeded to cover said chest with dozens of strips of waxing paper until his upper torso looked like a paper mache. Once that was done the ripping off of the papers commenced, each tear making the same sound a tape gun does when it’s being pulled across a moving box.
Over and over again the dad and his offspring took turns yanking paper strips off of Blake’s chest, taking with them not only his hair but also bits of his top layer of skin as well. And as every yank of paper yielded more hair, more epidermis and more screams from the audience, Blake continued to sit there with that big, dumb smile plastered across his face, unfazed and unaware that this dipshit duo were filleting him like a fucking fish.
By the time it was all said and done there was a pile of paper strips rife with blood, wax, hair and skin both littering and sticking to the stage while Blake’s chest looked like it’d been pared with a potato peeler.
“That was a bloodbath for the ages.” Kaleb says, breaking free from his phone’s spell and shoving it in his pocket as Capitan Ron swaggers on stage to address the crowd.
“Alright, alright, I know you’re all excited for today’s guest so please make sure to give him your full and undivided attention. That means putting your phones away and keeping them away or else I’ll be taking them away, understood?”
Everyone nods their heads and mumbles ‘YES’ knowing that Ron isn’t one to make empty requests or threats.
“Now I know some of you have seen Kelly before and the fact that you came back to see him again is a testament to his skills as a speaker.” Ron says, looking around the room to make sure all eyes are on him. “For those of you seeing him for the first time I’d suggest you open your hearts and minds to what he has to say because he truly is a visionary who wants to help people make their lives better. So without any further delay, it’s my honor to bring out Mr. Kelly Cardenas.”
At this the crowd of former students jump to their feet, cheering, clapping and whistling as if Jesus himself had returned and stopped by to see how everyone’s day at Paul Mitchell was going before continuing on with his rapture duties.
The rest of us who had yet to experience this Kelly Cardenas character didn’t know how to respond. So some joined in on the hootin’ and hollerin’ while others sat by and looked on with healthy skepticism.
I myself wasn’t sure what to think, including what this guy would look like. But whatever notion I may have had in regard to his appearance it sure as shit wasn’t what entered the room and ascended the stage.
Sporting a blonde, nappy mess of shoulder-length dreads and a dark scruffy goatee on his face, this guy did not strike me as someone who could change my life with the utterance of his words.
What he did strike me as was a burned out beach-bum who hit the bong 24/7, a third-world traveler that spent his life guzzling ayahuasca* and frolicking through the jungles of South America naked or the bass player of a Grateful Dead cover band that wasn’t above asking people for spare change at gas stations.
In fact the only thing that kept me from believing this guy played in a drum circle and sold sage sticks in Venice was his impeccable wardrobe that consisted of custom made clothes and a leather jacket that all screamed high-end rockstar chic. It was a total juxtaposition to say the least.
He stood still onstage beaming a warm, radiant smile from his round, cherubic face until the applause from his disciples died down and everyone returned their assess to their seats. Then he finally spoke, which is what we’re all here for in the first place.
“Thank you all so much for such an incredible welcome.” he says in a voice that sounds just like Wayne Newton. “You know, I get to go to all the Paul Mitchell schools around the country and Sherman Oaks never fails to bring the love.”
This remark lights the crowd up again and gives way to another round of standing, yelling, clapping and cheering, making my tinnitus ring a little louder and my patience grow a little thinner.
I was already under the impression that this guy was full of shit and that the only thing of value he’d have to say would be ‘That’s all the time I have, thanks for being a great audience.’
So I was hoping for a quick end to all this inspirational nonsense. Seriously, dude, let’s hurry up and get to changing some lives so the rest of us can get on with ours and go to lunch.
Little did I know that the biggest life that was about to change was my own.
*Mary Jo Campbell is the mother of Kris Jenner. Kris Jenner is responsible for giving birth to not only the Kardashian / Jenner kids but also spawning a reality TV franchise and product brand. Those two business entities not only celebrate her children’s status-driven narcissism but are also responsible for convincing a generation of young women that their bodies aren’t good enough because they don’t compare to the plasticized, photo-shopped images of Jenner’s superficial offspring, prompting teenage girls as young as 13 to ask their parents for nose, breast and butt jobs in a sad and futile attempt to keep up with the Kardashians.
Had Mary Jo Campbell been a little more birth-controlling and a little less pro-creating when it came to the act of bearing children then the world might have been spared the damaging effects of having Kris Jenner and her descendants in it.
* Ayahuasca (hi-uh-wah-ska) is a South American hallucinogenic tea that when consumed is believed to give people not only a beautiful and spiritual experience but also offer them unique clarity about their lives and bestow them with an enhanced sense of personal direction.
While the plant isn’t illegal in the U.S. per se, its active ingredient, known as D.M.T. is banned as a Schedule I Drug, the same category as heroin and ecstasy so the only way to slurp up some of this spiritualized soup is to travel to Brazil, Costa Rica or Peru for a retreat or if you’re in the States you can take part in an underground ceremony led by a Shaman at the tune of $250 a pop.
Which if you think about it isn’t a lot money when it comes to having profound realizations that the miserable job or relationship you’re in isn’t the right thing for you, thereby empowering you to seek out a path that gives you total happiness and fulfillment and in turn making you a better person and the world a better place.