May 21, 2013 — I still have hair on my head as I write this, but by the time you read this I’ll be bald as a cue ball.
I’ve been twisting and turning this shaved head thing around in my brain for about a month now, and it feels as if I’ve already jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, and I’m waiting to slip down into the icy water below my feet. I’m just holding on for the splash, and it’s too late to turn back now.
Writing about this in the newspaper for the past few weeks just adds to the public curiosity. It seems nearly everywhere I go people want to talk about the event, and that’s a good thing. A lot of people think it’s really funny — the idea of me with a shaved head. One fellow shavee even said, “We’ll both be ugly!”
Of course, I point out I’m doing this for a purpose — to raise a little money for cancer research — but those suffering with the disease often lose their hair as a result of chemotherapy. No, I won’t suffer the heartbreak of slowly losing my hair in clumps or patches or piles on my pillow. I’ll lose mine all at once.
My only real experience with shaved heads (except for some correctional officer friends here in Susanville) goes back half a lifetime ago to Fresno in the late 1970s/early 1980s when the hardcore punk scene hit the kids there hard. I always thought my friend Dale Stewart and his band, Capitol Punishment, an international band that toured the United States and Europe several times and appeared with most of the big punk bands of the era — Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Discharge (and a lot of other bands whose names have no place in the Lassen County Times) — were a big part of the reason for the scene’s popularity.
Hey, Capitol Punishment made the cover of the famous punk fanzine Maximum Rock n Roll and even played the legendary CBGB nightclub in New York City. And Stewart ran Stage Dive Records, a dinky, whole-in-the-wall shop on Belmont Avenue that stocked all the obscure, impossible-to-find hardcore records from England, Germany and the East Coast. Stewart was a mentor to the young musicians and almost a surrogate father figure to a lot of the lost kids.
Frankly, I don’t think the live music clubs were all that crazy about this punk thing because of the violence and weirdness that went along with it. If one were brave enough to enter a mosh pit and join those circles of humanity spinning in opposite directions at a local club back in those days, one could expect to leave the dance floor bloodied or injured. People lost teeth. Bones were broken. It was ugly.
I never could understand the attraction to that part of the scene, but the kids packed the shows and the mosh pits just the same. The clubs made money, so they looked the other way and tolerated the goings on. I was more delicate and always stood near a doorway with my back against the wall so all the action was out in front of me and I could make a hasty retreat if necessary. I didn’t want to be surprised by a body slam from some chain-wielding crazy with sharpened studs on his motorcycle jacket who decided I was out of place at his venue.
I absolutely love Stewart’s guitar playing, his dissonant, close interval chords and arpeggios and his brilliant use of harmonics. And it was really cool to watch his petite wife, Joceylin, absolutely pound the strings off this long-necked, Guild Starfire bass that seemed bigger than she was. I smile every time I conjure the image of her playing. What a captivating sight to see. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
I wasn’t all that crazy about the pulse-quickening beat, the unintelligible, throat-searing vocals that were one part scream and one part growl or the overwhelming volume. Capitol Punishment called themselves “peace punks,” and they frequently railed from the stage against the mayhem to little avail.
So one night in the mid-1980s, my friend Tony and I went to see Idiot Flesh, a band comprised of friends of his from Oakland. Not my kind of music by any stretch, but I went along anyway to Club Fred, a tavern about a block from my house in the Tower District. I don’t remember the name of the band that opened for Idiot Flesh, but their show included a head shaving ritual. Punks who wanted to be skinheads were the only people with shaved heads in those days — bald heads were a real oddity worn only by the most committed. Fashions change, I guess.
So right in the middle of their set, the band announced to loud cheers it was time to shave heads, and they offered to clear-cut any and all interested domes.
Sure enough, somebody got up on stage, and while the lead singer danced with the clippers, the rest of the band led the audience in this eerie, foot-stomping chant, “Shave that head! Shave that head! Shave that head!” Then they kicked the hair from the stage onto the dance floor.
I still have hair as I write this, but I’ve already moved on. In fact, I’m contemplating hats styles and sunscreen right now.
Thanks again to everyone for your support. I just pray someday someone somewhere will benefit from our actions. Shaving my head seems a very, very small price to pay for such a benefit.
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