Monday, August 17, 2009

Big Al goes to a beauty shop! Really.

Debbie Cuts Big Al's hair. All eight of 'em.

MARK’S ARTICLE – Aug 17, 2009 “Big Al stirs up trouble at Debbie and Martha’s”

Where do you get your hair cut? I get mine cut on the carport or in the kitchen, depending on what it’s like outside. That’s ‘cause I live with my barber. I recommend it. Uh, I don’t recommend you live with my barber. You need to find your own. Preferably of the opposite sex. I’m just sayin’.

Big Al doesn’t live with a barber so he has to go to town to get his hair cut. His barbershop of choice is Debbie and Martha’s Hair Salon. Did you get that? Al gets barbered at a beauty shop. What a sissy boy.

Obviously, I’m joking, ‘cause Big Al would beat me up, otherwise. Turns out a lot of guys go to a beauty shop for their haircuts. A few of ‘em even at Debbie and Martha’s last Friday when Al and I were there. I wasn’t there for my hair. I was there at Al’s urging. He said I should do a sequel to an article that appeared in “The Villager” back in September of ’90.

At the time, I was driving down a Farm to Market in East County, when I saw a small sign that read “Debbie’s Family Hair Styling.” I drove right in like I had good sense.

I went in ‘cause I needed a topic for my article. And, I sure got one while listening to Debbie and her clients talk about… Well, everything. And, not much. It was interesting as all get out.

So, two decades later, I found myself back at Debbie’s. Only, she’s long since relocated and renamed. As I mentioned, it’s now “Debbie and Martha’s Hair Salon.” And, it’s located at 900 West Davis in Conroe. It’s just behind the Valero station that’s just east of 45 on 105. Hey, Google the address. I’m bad with directions.

Debbie’s new business partner is Sally. I mean, Martha. Between the two of them, they’ve got 40 years experience styling hair. I think they both started when they were 12. (Just in case, I ever need a free haircut.)

When we arrived, people seemed to take to Al right off the bat. I guess they were taking to him. Maybe I should’ve said they were responding to him. Al can get a response from algae. At one point I thought he and Dorothy were going to get into a real fisticuff. Dorothy is a retired English teacher. The lady was 41 years in the classroom. You don’t mess with a Dorothy.

Big Al and Dorothy go at it. A mysterious orb appears in the background.

I should’ve mentioned that to Al. It wasn’t five minutes before I heard him say, “Hey, you’re talking to me like I’m one of your students!” Al can say mean stuff like that, and people know he’s joking. I say it, and they take a swing at me. Dorothy gave as good as she got. I only had to break 'em apart once.

Al was really the only one stirring up trouble. Everyone else was being nice. I believe it was Carol who said, “I come here for the warmth and friendliness of the place. The hair is just a bonus.”

Al shows up for his little bit of hair and to cause trouble. At one point he got into a fight with Richard. Richard is a 90 year-old ex-golden gloves champ. He would’ve turned pro, but Ann wouldn’t let him. Ann is his wife of 70 years, and the only one who can keep up with the character. Richard told us that his trick for staying married so long was in learning to say “Yes, Honey” and “No, Honey.”

Ann said that there was no trick for her. When she got married her mom told her that if she ever ran home, the door would be locked. So, 70 years later, they’re still together. And, as cute and charming a couple as you’re going to find.

Richard was struck by lightning once. I don’t know if you were aware of that. The experience not only hurt like all get out, but it ruined his new boots. He hated that. And, his mom actually died from a lightning strike that hit her while she was hanging up clothes. I couldn’t keep up with all the stories that man had. He could write a book. A collection of books.

90 year-old Richard delivers a right to the jaw. Big Al was stunned.

Big Al eventually coaxed Richard out of his chair and had him demonstrate some boxing moves. The old man was reluctant, but finally rose to the occasion. After the bout, Al came over and whispered to me, “That old man is stout. He blocked my punch great.” I wasn’t surprised.

Early in our visit, Frances arrived with her great granddaughter. She was here on this particular Friday to get her hair done for her husband’s funeral. Mickey Bowers had finally lost in his struggle with cancer.

Frances said that her husband was involved in the nation’s first atomic tests in Nevada. He had five different episodes of cancer, which Frances thinks were each attributed to his work with the bomb tests.

It was apparent Frances enjoyed talking about her husband. At times the stories cost her some tears. Cost me, too. Listening to her stories made me more than a little self-conscious about all the laughing and carrying on we had been doing. Frances didn’t seem to mind. Might’ve been be a pleasant break from despair.

Leah, Frances’ great-granddaughter, proved mighty hard to draw into the conversations. The li’l doober was shyer than shy. Mostly clinging to her great-grandma.

The talk kept coming from all corners. I could do a whole series of articles on my one outting at Debbie and Martha’s. Time doesn’t allow for mention of the conversations with, uh, let’s see, Bessie, Lucille, Carol, Jim, June and… Who else? There were others.

Oh, I’ve just gotta mention this. Before leaving, Leah, the little shy four-year-old, walked right over and hugged Richard like he was her grandpa. She then came over and hugged me. Shocked my socks off. Oh, I wish someone had taken a photo.

Before she made it out the door, Big Al said, “Hey, Leah, aren’t you forgetting something?” The little princess came over and gave me another hug. She knows who the nicest brother is.

Yes, you can always find a story in a beauty shop… or barbershop. At Debbie and Martha’s, I found the warmth and friendliness that Carol mentioned. Oh, and Leah’s hug? Well, that was a bonus.


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