Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Miscellaneous: Adventures in the Skin Trade

On my last trip to the barber I was early, so I sorted through the magazine rack. There, along with Us Weekly and Blender, was a current issue of Playboy.

My first thought was: again?

As a kid, I would get my hair cut at Sal’s. The barber shop was located in a subway station, and the barbers who co-owned the place were both named Sal. They were referred to, respectively, as “Big Sal” and “Thin Sal,” sparing them the indignity of being known, respectively, as “Fat Sal” and “Little Sal.”

One afternoon I was looking for a magazine and spotted a stack by Big Sal’s chair. He was in the middle of a story, so at first he didn’t notice me. I lifted up the top copy of Popular Mechanics only to discover that the rest of the periodicals in the stack did not contain the blueprints for crystal radios.

A roomful of strangers, several of them racetrack touts, rose en masse to protect my innocent eyes from what my father would describe on our awkward walk home as “men’s magazines.”

Twice in almost three decades isn’t a pattern. But now I had to wonder if those desperate adolescent years spent skulking around trying to look at such magazines without getting caught by my mother or Sister Maureen or a judgmental stranger wouldn’t have been better spent getting haircuts. Lots and lots of haircuts.

Finding myself in a semi-public place with access to a “men’s magazine” prompted other existential questions:

1. Don’t I owe it to my frustrated younger self to at least flip through this issue?

2. Am I being watched?

3. Can I hold the magazine in such a way that passersby will not be able to see the cover or what I’m looking at?

4. Wait a minute. Lisa Guerrero from Monday Night Football is in here?

5. How much difference is there between Playboy and a lad magazine like, say, Maxim?

The answers, for those of you scoring along at home:

1. Yes, I do. 2. Probably, but for reasons that have nothing to do with my choice of reading material. 3. Yes, but it will do permanent damage to my wrists and neck. 4. And how. 5. Not a whole hell of a lot.