Chapter 28 Pt. II

Bloodstains and Battle Scars

 I figured in order to illustrate to Jay just how much of an impact Kelly’s speech had on me earlier in the day I first needed to tell him about the god-awful time I’d been having at school every day up until today.

And now that he had promised not to say anything while I filled him in on how my life had been going (especially the words I told you so) I felt like I could tell him everything.   

So I ran down my shit-stained laundry list of experiences at Paul Mitchell, informing him of all the heads I’d butchered, colors I’d botched, and all the demoralizing bullshit I felt because of it. When I was finally finished he just sat quietly across the table while sucking the salt off a deflated edamame skin.

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“What do you think?”       

“I think it all sounds so…”  

“So what?”  

“Horrible.” he says with a voice full of surprising concern.

“It’s been one big butt-plug and up until today I was convinced you’d been right all along.”

“About what?”

“That my decision to do hair was a big mistake.”

“You know, after hearing all that I’ll just go easy on you and call your decision a gross miscalculation.”

“Miscalculation?”

“Yeah, like that time I was with that guy I nicknamed Spartacus. You remember him don’t you?”

“Six foot ten Nubian dude that had a wife and kid?”

“That’s him. Anyway, we were fucking one day at his house, I mean really going at it, and then all the sudden his wife and kid came home earlier than we had expected them to. A total gross miscalculation on our part…it got even grosser when his daughter threw-up all over herself. I’m sure she’s still in therapy to this day.”

“Jay, I don’t know how that’s even remotely comparable to my ‘miscalculation’ but-“

“Like you were saying, up until today your experience with hair and school has been more fucked up than Jim Carrey on acid.”

“Right. And then-“

“You heard this Kelly guy talk and you were miraculously bestowed with all the wisdom and confidence to go forth and succeed.”   

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Neither would I because it was a fucking joke. But I wanna know what it is he said that made you go from wanting to jam your shears in your jugular to making you as joyful as a pride parade in June.”

“If I’m being honest, it wasn’t what he had to say as much as it was how he was saying it.”

“Just like a neutered dog, I’m not getting it.”

“Alright, so he gave the usual spiel about starting off as a nobody and ending up as a somebody…”

“Cliché to the nth degree.”

“And now he owns a bunch of salons, offers cutting classes and speaks at entrepreneurial seminars. And while-“

“What’s his rate for the cutting classes?”

“I dunno, three hundred bucks or something?  There was an advertisement for it on his merch table.”

 “He has merch?”

“Yeah, t-shirts and shit.”

 “So this guy owns salons, sells merch, offers classes and talks at unemployment seminars.” 

 “Entrepreneurial seminars.”  

“Same fucking difference. And you said nothing in his speech was any good?”

“No. I mean, it was ok. He talked about the value of persistence, having principals, your attitude your altitude blah-blah-fucking-blah. None of it was bad but none of it was life changing either.”

“So then what struck a chord with you?”

“Like I said, it was the way he said what he was saying. He was able to hold the room’s attention with his charisma and body language and was one part comedian and one part rockstar. It was all performance and that’s what resonated with me and got me thinking hey, this is something I could do.”        

“Which is what?”

“Go from school to school and talk to students like Kelly does.”

“What on God’s gangrene earth would you have to talk about?”

“My own journey.”

“Uh, my handsome prince, might I remind you that your ‘journey’ has only gone a couple miles so far and by the sounds of it it’s been so shitty that it probably won’t go much further.”

“But don’t you see? Now I have a reason to keep going! I’m inspired about school again because when I graduate I can just do what Kelly does and not have to worry about doing hair since I suck at it anyway.”  

“Ok, setting aside the fact that this is the most hair-brained idea ever, pun intended, how would you earn a living this way?”

“By selling merch.”

“T-shirts and shit?”

“Yeah!”

“You’ve just got it all figured out, don’t’ you?”

“It seems to work for Kelly.”

“Yes, but in regard to all of the things you’re not thinking about, the most important one is that YOU’RE NOT KELLY. You’re a nobody and nobody is gonna buy from a fellow nobody. People will only buy from a somebody and in order for you to be a somebody you’ve gotta have-“

“Most of the people today didn’t know who Kelly was and that didn’t stop them from buying t-shirts with his name on them for twenty-five bucks a pop.”

“I get that and the reason they did that was because unlike you Kelly has-“

“And in addition to t-shirts I thought maybe I could write a book and sell that as well.”

“What did you say?”

“I thought I could write a book and sell that.”

“That’s what I thought you said. Christ smoking crack this gets dumber and dumber.”

“Hey! Don’t hate on it! I thought it could be a memoir or self-help book. Something like that.”

“You need A LOT of self-help if you think you can write a book of any type.”

“That’s not true! I’ve always been ok at writing, I even had that website a few years ago remember?”

“The one where’d you’d post about all your horrible dates and sexual exploits?”

“Yeah. People seemed to like it. You said you liked it. Your uncle Frank loved it.”

“Uncle Frank just wanted to bury his bone in you so he enjoyed reading about all the insidious places you were burying yours.”

“Still, the site went over well and you wanna know what I heard from people over and over again?”

“That you shouldn’t fuck bartenders from The Rainbow whose vagina is a bed and breakfast for every rockstar in town?”

“Ummmm, no.”

“But you did fuck that bartender and she was in one of your stories, right?”

“Yes and yes, Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“What was that decrepit woman’s name again? Jada? Sheena?”

“Brenna.”

“That’s it. She still alive?”

“Last I heard she got a new liver so she could keep drinking, so, maybe?”

“Sounds like an extraordinary woman, you must be so proud of your-“

“Like I was trying to say, even though the subject matter may have been lewd and vulgar, people kept coming back to it because the writing was good.”

“Okay, I’ll admit that the prose was decent. But compiling a book is totally different than writing little stories about having sex on a buffet table during a Halloween party.”

“I understand that, and-“

“Or having to go to the ER while you were in Colorado because you were pissing razors.”

“That really was a horrible trip to Denver, but-“

“Or how your girlfriend punched you in the face when you came home with a cum stain on your pants and tried to play it off by saying you spilled mashed potatoes all over yourself.”   

“I’ll admit that wasn’t one of my more admirable moments, however-“

“You know what? I don’t think you should write a book about anything…ever…so long as you live.”

“Always the supportive friend.”

“Oh like you’d listen to me anyway. So let’s say you graduate Paul Mitchell and instead of doing hair you decide to go from school to school talking to students and trying to sell your book and t-shirts with your name on it. Have you put any thought into what your qualifying factor might be in all of this?”

“What’s that?”

“The fact that you don’t know what it is means you don’t have one. And if you don’t have one that means you won’t sell anything and if you don’t sell anything that means you’ll be homeless and if you’re homeless you’ll wanna move in with me and I won’t do it, Stuke, I just won’t. You know Edward and Randolph don’t do well with long term guests.”

“Then for the love of all roosters big and small, as well as your dogs, tell me, what the fuck is a qualifying factor?” 

“Well…” he says, stretching his sun soaked arms, locking his fingers and cracking his knuckles. “The reason Kelly can do what he does is because he has a stamp of legitimacy that signals he’s seen a lot, done a lot and paid his dues in this industry. Hence, his qualifying factor. It lends authority to what he says and gives value to what he’s selling. You with me so far?”  

“Yeah, you’re saying he’s put in the manpower and the mileage for his career.”

“Exactly. Now if you were to come fresh out of hair school and try to do what Kelly does, what sort of knowledge or experience are you bringing to the table to validate your worth? What sort of insights would you have to offer in this book of yours that you’re selling? Why would people pay $25 for a t-shirt with your name on it?”

“Ummm…”

“Do you own a salon? Nope. Will you be offering classes? Nope. Will you have spent any time in the industry whatsoever? Nope, nope and nope. The only thing you’ll have under your studded belt is the fact that you survived hair school and graduated.”

“Isn’t that enough considering how hard it’s been for me?”

“Fuck no. Hair school is hard yet most people survive it and end up graduating. And if that’s the case, what’s gonna make you stand out to a group of people that will soon be accomplishing the only thing that you’ve accomplished in a few months’ time?”

“I hadn’t thought about it like that up until now.”

“That’s because you haven’t thought about this at all. If you had then you’d know that it’s crucial to put in the time and torture that’s necessary to establish yourself as someone who’s worth listening to. You’ll need to have gone places and done things that your audience has only dreamt of doing or didn’t know was even possible. You getting me?”

 “You’re saying I need to have some skin in the game.”   

“Not some skin, all of it. And it needs to be tattooed with welts and wounds to give your words weight. People don’t want survivors ok? They pity survivors. People want fighters who are covered in bloodstains and battle scars because it shows they were willing to do whatever it took to get to where they wanted to be.” 

“So what you’re getting at is-“

“That you have to aspire to do more than just graduate school if you’re serious about doing what Kelly does. You’ve gotta commit to wanting to succeed in this industry and be prepared to pay whatever price it is to do so.”

“Of course I wanna succeed, I just don’t think I can do it the way most people do it which is why I like the idea of following Kelly’s path. It just seems more attainable.”

“It is attainable but if you’re gonna follow his path then you have to follow it the right way, no shortcuts. Make yourself become a better hairstylist. Put in the time, effort and energy. Put in the blood and sweat this industry requires for a few years and then you’ll be able to talk about it to a group of hair students and your words will be worth listening to and your book worth buying because you’ll have your qualifying factor.”  

“Fuuuuuck! Why can’t anything be easy?” I groan as I drop my head to the table.

“Because true steel is forged in the fire.”

“Is that a Confucius saying or something?” I ask, lifting it back up.

“Fuck if I know. It’s in a frame on the wall over there.” he says. “Listen, I think you’re on to something with this idea of yours. You just need to apply yourself, spend time in the industry and not allow the failures to stop you.”

“I know. They’re just so discouraging though.”

“Yes and they’re also temporary. Plus, and this is really important so I want you to remember it, especially when you’re down, the industry we’re in, is the only industry in the world where you can have some far-out, fuck-faced idea and still succeed with it.”

“Really?”

“One thousand percent. For instance, just the other day a client of mine was talking about some goofball that claims he’s made something better for your hair than shampoo. It’s called Ten or Fin or Ben or something ridiculous like that. Ever heard of it?”

“No. Paul Mitchell wants me to believe that they’re the only company in the world that makes hair care products.”    

“Ok, well, I guess he calls it a cleaning conditioner or something preposterous like that. Anyway, my point being, as long as you have the vision and the willingness to go the distance, pay the price and make the sacrifices, then even the most bat shit craziest of ideas can catch fire.”

“Like this guy and his no shampoo thing probably will?”

“Absolutely. God help us all.”

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