On March 1, 2013, I launched my private foundation, Secret Singer-Songwriter Society (S4). Today, all ten songs—or better put, all ten amazing songs by ten amazing international singer-songwriters—are now online and available to listen to and download for as little as a buck and a quarter. The proceeds from the S4/Umoja Centre Project go towards promoting education and community development programs at the Umoja Centre in Arusha in northern Tanzania. Run by Australian Caroline Goody, the Umoja Centre provides education, training and empowerment to disadvantaged youths who want to return to school or enter into the workforce.
In April, the second phase of the 11-month fundraising campaign will kick in when I present the ten visual images created by ten artists who have each interpreted one of the ten songs in their own unique and colorful style. The images will be used on a variety of textile and paper merchandise such as t-shirts, limited edition posters, greeting cards, scarves and calendars, just to name a few.
Finally, On April first, a second initiative will get underway with the digital release of the first of ten songs for the S4/City Shine Project, in support of small, European-based foundation who work providing educational resources for young people in the Soweto slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
Please take a few moments and stop by the S4 website and just listen to what I’ve been up to.
If I’ve learned anything about going to a hair salon, it’s this: a hair stylist will look at the hair you have when you first arrive at the salon and base the first impression of how your hair looks at that moment in order to make an almost instantaneous decision of how they are going to cut and style your hair.
I’ve tested this theory many times and it holds true more often than not. I walk into a salon with my hair parted on the left and I walk out an hour later with my hair parted on the left; I walk in with my hair slicked back and, that’s right, it’s slicked back when I leave; and if it’s a tossed and tousled look that walks in, lo and behold I’ll be coming home with a gelled, hairsprayed, mussed up coif.
Cutting my hair is a challenge, even for the most skilled and experienced stylist. The major complication of cutting my hair is the fact that I have no less than six of the most unmanageable cowlicks (a world record perhaps!) and that my hair grows in two different directions on the two opposite sides of my head. Basically what we’re talking about is every hairstylist’s nightmare—cut it too short and the cowlicks stand up like Alfalfa from the Our Gang comedies, leave it too long and it becomes an unruly, chaotic pelt of bushy, wavy filamentous biomaterial that even Dippity-do couldn’t tame.
So when I walked into Headz For Hair in The Hague, a fairly nondescript hair salon that reminded me of a slightly more grown up version of the barber shops of my youth, I was greeted by a waifish blond wearing a metal-spiked leather jacket over a well-worn Roxy Music t-shirt with the double-headed Polish eagle crest on it, who asked if she could help me. I told her I wanted a haircut and asked what they charged and if they could take me without an appointment. Pascalle, as she was called, checked the appointment book and told me a men’s cut would cost 34 euros and that they could take me now if I wanted, which I did.
Pascalle took my jacket, offered me a drink (which I politely refused) and directed me to sit in a chair beneath a wash basin where she washed my hair with a chocolatey smelling shampoo, rinsed and dried it and escorted me to the middle of three barber chairs in the salon. When I asked who’d be cutting my hair, she smiled and said, “I will be!” as she proceeded to cover me with a black cutting cape and rubber neck collar.
Then the dreaded question arose: “So, how would you like it cut?”
This has been the 64,000 dollar question for nearly all of my adult life. And the answer? “How about like George Clooney. Or Johnny Depp.” Or, “here, I’ve got this photo I cut out of GQ and I want you to make me look like him.”
But I’ve never been able to get the haircut of my dreams, and I’ve come to realize it’s not because of my hair, it’s because of who’s wearing my hair. Me. It’s about something much more complex than unruly cowlicks or the direction in which ones hair grows. It’s more than mere indecision or trying to be trendy or even trying to preserve youth. The dilemma is quite simple once it can be carefully interpreted. A haircut is based on the individual, but what if the individual—let’s just say for argument’s sake—has more than one personality? Now I don’t mean the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of personality, I mean, take me for example: Three days a week I’m a stay at home father, caring for two toddlers, and sometimes, when my teenage children are around, my parenting duties double, so it’s quite common for me to be unshaven, uncombed and wearing my favorite sweatpants and red Crocs. Two days a week I teach professional English at a school for hotel and restaurant management where I am expected to show up for work kempt and professionally dressed. Finally, my artistic inclinations are equally as contrasting—writer, stand-up comedian, singer-songwriter—each alter ego possessing a unique persona requiring that certain look, that distinctive flair, dress sense and hairstyle.
So I looked at Pascalle in her black leather jacket and Roxy Music t-shirt, with her straight, long blond hair, pouty mouth and full lips, and I gazed around momentarily looking for some source of inspiration. “You know what,” I said. “I’m going to be fifty in just over a year’s time, and while I’d like to walk out of here looking as though I was twenty years younger and on my way to a solo performance at the Royal Albert Hall, the truth is that I just want to look like me, whoever it is you see in me and however your hands, scissors and creative notions wish to make me.”
With that, Pascalle reached for her electric clippers and inserted a number one guard over the blades and proceeded to completely shave the sides and back of my head nearly to the scalp, leaving little more than a shock of wavy brown hair set atop my skull that she ever so slightly puffed up and set with a palm full of molding wax.
I have to admit being a bit shocked at first, not thinking Pascalle would have the nerve to carve out such a radical design on my noggin, but I immediately understood the metamorphosis that had just taken place—my hair and I had finally become one, reunited after years of trying to figure out what each one had in mind, how one could cohabit with the other, share a peaceful, meaningful and fulfilling relationship while maintaining a semblance of unconventional originality and extraordinary sophistication (ehem, ehem).
I’ve been wearing my “Pascalle,” as I’ve named it, for just over a week now and I’ve had enough time to become familiar with its needs and peculiarities. I admit to spending more time in front of the mirror with this haircut than I have with any other in perhaps twenty years or more, but there’s something different I’ve observed in the mirror, a part of me I’ve long neglected and taken for granted, seen but not really appreciated for all its worth, and it’s much more than a haircut. It’s the lust for life that I’ve all but lost recently, lost because I’ve been out of touch with myself for so long, lost because I seem to have forgotten what it was in life that I aspired most to be. Or perhaps I haven’t forgotten at all and maybe that’s what lies at the root of my predicament—that I’ve never really aspired to be anything more than what I am today or who my hair declares me to be.