Jasper, GA


I’m posting this picture of me and my friend Liz Hepner in 1987 to show the world that I have indeed been the wearer of a mullet, and thus don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to making fun of people with bad hair. In 1987, it was entirely possible to have any kind of hair you wanted, and the only reason I cut my bangs was to keep them out of my eyes. There were no “hair police” around to make me – or anyone else for that matter – feel like I’d just shoved myself into a particular socioeconomic strata, no “Sex in the City” or MTV Fashion Award shows to keep us au courant of today’s styles.

That said, my sojourn here in North Georgia has introduced me to some of the most unfortunate haircuts I have seen in my thirty-six years. Last night, Salem and I went to a local honky tonk called Club 53, where I promptly ordered a Southern Comfort and Coke, something I haven’t done since a night a Spanky’s about ten years ago.

The entire clientele was white, of course, but they were all grinding away on the dance floor while an overhead screen projected hip-hop videos. On cue, the screen lifted up to reveal the house band, and the haircuts therein had to be seen to be believed. I couldn’t get my camera in there, or else you would have been treated to mullets I can only describe as aggressive. The bass player had a crewcut – except for the hair in back went past his ass.

The patrons of Club 53 were an interesting bunch; the women looked great, not overtly cheesy, and seemed to take the fashion of metropolitan cities (or at least Atlanta) seriously. The men, however, like battery technology or cancer research, seemed to be glacial in their forward momentum. Pretty much every guy there would have been perfectly cast in a movie making fun of 1988. I didn’t just see mullets; there were wingbacks, razor-straight cuts over the ears, feathered parts down the middle, and Members Only Jacket-style ponytails. And for some weird reason, I thought I was surely going to get my ass kicked.

The band was playing the Greatest Hits of 1981 (“I Love Rock and Roll,” the Eagles, etc.) and had the dance floor throbbing. Salem told me to look around the room and said, “for every one of you – you know, a sensitive, educated liberal living in the City – there are ten of these people.” And he’s right. Everybody in that dance hall was going to vote Republican, even if Bush himself was discovered to be a child molester. I began to feel the serious pangs of living in a country I didn’t understand. These people don’t look like anyone I know. They’re talking about things I can’t fathom; they are drinking Budweiser and then slapping the ass of their dates on the dance floor.

Suddenly the music stopped, and the band launched into a song that I vaguely knew. It was the last Pink Floyd song to limp onto the charts, the afterthought to their careers. Immediately the dance floor cleared, as the band launched into the serious Math Rock of later Floyd. I mean, they might as well have played Rush. Those patrons who were still sober went back to their booths and stared at the band as if they were playing music from Neptune.

And then it hit me: I knew this band. They were into Dungeons and Dragons and had 20-sided dice in their pockets! They got together as teens and played “2112” and Aldo Nova and listened to the King Biscuit Flower Hour and everyone in junior high school thought they were TOTAL DORKS. Salem bought me another Southern Comfort and Coke, and we stayed another half-hour in this absurd place, because I had traveled so far away from my home to be confronted with the worst haircuts on earth behind a bagful of dry ice, but I was still able to find kinship in utter strangers.