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Famous Reporter # 35




Blog: Ruby Street



Sunday, November 19th, 2006

making do

Every so often I have my hair 'done'. It's a luxury, a kind of time-out. Two hours or more to think and dream along different streams. A public kind of dreaming, especially on a Thursday evening, when it's crowded.

I get to read fashion magazines. I am far from the type for these. I could not wear the clothes featured, nor put on the shoes or contemplate the make up nor the diet fantasies proposed and propelled along their pages. It is all wonderfully alien, yet territory for thinking.

My hairdresser, Sam, gives me decent coffee, maybe a small Greek biscuit from the cake shop across the way. I don't talk much. The staff and other customers gossip around me and there's a lot of laughing and screeching. This is both comforting and friendly, but also exclusive. Or, as I realise, it's me who excludes. That I have nothing to say into this. But that isn't the point for me.

This time, and I wonder if it will stick, I think of ways in which I might need to change my life. This includes my writing - though I immediately fear this sounds like the ending of too many poems.

I think of hairdressing as making. Of choosing where to cut, on what plane and angle, and how to cut. Sam uses those sheep-shearing tools, different kinds of scissors, sometimes a razor. Tools to work with materials, at the present moment being my very material hair. And because it's his salon he has to make sure all the others are working as needed, expected. He breaks off cutting at one stage. Something is going on I can't quite hear. But there's no real tension, though there is a conversation going on between him and one of the women who works there. I tell him, when he returns, he is like a film director, and he agrees. 'Every day I have to tell them the same thing. They never seem to get it.' He is actually referring to just one person. And he laughs.

But I spend most of the time reading, looking at the latest mags. How can anyone expect to emulate the highly posed, buffed, manipulated tableaux inside? The stories of the rich and rich? But, of course, I am not supposed to emulate. All I could do would be to purchase a token, a brand, sniff a droplet of the elixir from afar. It is for dreaming. Of course, I can't pretend I wouldn't enjoy shopping in New York, or Dubai, or LA, if it was possible. I've never been to any of those places. Or to be able to afford London, where I have been. I would buy different things on my spree, or go to places that sold different things, to see and feel them. Books, paper, pens, music, sensible clothes.

In the magazines are also stories that tend to the real though I doubt them. Non-fiction is still story, composed, fashioned out of streaming ordinary reality. But there are people out there doing things - relationships, careers, successes. I like some of the photography.

To read is to be alone. I try to talk to the young guy putting colour on my hair but I have nothing interesting to say - weather. Please! I'd rather read. So I shut away, down, in. And all these directions are metaphors. All the while the pages offer me, as Barthes would say, 'the present tense' of fashion. I am happy to place myself as looking inwards as if, being alone here reading, there is an expanse where fantasy plays out alongside my critical self (so, I'm made of selves?), that even with the images and restricted vocabulary and diction of these magazines, there is still an expansiveness on offer, or that I take on. As if I could take off my clothes and live in the sun (an entirely dangerous enterprise, in point of fact).

Which perhaps, gets me to the point, if there is a singular point to be made. Anyhow, the point about the open, or a kind of nakedness. Or being less protective. How does one explain a metaphor? In images? Open, naked? I am sitting in a white vinyl chair in front of a long mirror under strong lighting (quel horreur) with hair dye covering my hair. I am not entirely happy. I know that I am not entirely happy, though just slightly euphoric (maybe it's the chemicals). I know that there are things to be done, just as those poems say. I walk into the cold night and think of writing about it. Is that enough?



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