On the road again, and back in Rennes, I buckled under the weight of my own vanity and paid a frivolous amount of money to a male French hairstylist in a flamboyant pink scarf to shave my head and beard. When language failed us- which was immediately- I pointed to my passport photo, passed my fist over my head and chin, and said, “buzzzzzzzzzz.” He nodded and obliged. When busking ones way across a large landmass with very little in the way of financial reserves, it’s probably bad policy to spend money just to feel good about the way you look. There will be time for looking sharp and trimmed when you aren’t schlepping your home around on your back like a turtle with a gaddam 50 lbs. shell. Still, when it was done it was done, and I felt little if any buyer’s remorse. I felt sleek and in control, like an otter at a junior high school swim meet. I hadn’t busked in a few days , just played around some small village bars and parties for my new friends, and I was missing the ring of the cobblestones. I found a lively corner and went to work.
Here’s the thing about the haircut: apparently it made me more approachable. I wasn’t counting, but I’d swear the tips came much more frequently, the passers by lingered longer, the kiddos smiled more and flinched less. I was offered two paying bar gigs, and a nice college girl took me out for a drink after my set. Maybe there’s something to be said of a busker making the effort to differentiate himself from a rabid, gibbering bum, even if the difference is only skin deep.
Of course, there is a flip side to appearing approachable and unbumlike, which is that the bums you are now more unlike also find you more approachable. A couple of street kids loitering in a grocery store parking lot with about 4 disconsolate looking dogs tied to the guardrail hit me up for some cash, “for my dogs.” I told them no, pointed to my rucksack and explained that I wasn’t exactly railing gold dust myself. My dog was 6 time zones away and presumably well fed. I walked off, but made it only a few steps before circling back and into the grocery store. There can be no peace for the Dog Hearted people when they know that some place close by dogs are disconsolate and hungry. I bought a box of bone shaped dog treats and a 5 piece package of au pain chocolate, a French pastry that robs me of all self restraint. I went back to the street kids, giving them the box of treats and one pastry per kid. Then I devoured the remaining 3 pieces like a hungry, well-groomed dog. I had a sweet little farm vacation and now I’m back in circulation. This morning, almost on a whim, I changed my intended course by a couple thousand miles. Stay tuned; I’ll tell you about it.