“Don’t touch the hair…I would rather keep bleeding.”

“Don’t touch the hair…I would rather keep bleeding.”

My son has been taking Taekwondo for a few months now, and really enjoys it.  Recently he was invited to join the leadership program.  As part of the leadership program, the students are allowed to start training with weapons.  The first one wasn’t so bad – a Jahng Bong – essential a long wooden staff.  He had a lot of fun learning to use it.  Last night we went to a seminar to introduce the new weapon for the next cycle – a Gum Do.  Sounds fun, right?  Well – for those that don’t speak Korean – the Gum Do is a sword.  At first I thought – that’s really cool, my son is going to learn to use a sword.  Then I thought – holy crap, my son is going to learn to use a sword. What were we thinking when we agreed to weapons training?

That set my mind to work – no one ever offered to teach me swordplay when I was nine.  Would I have been responsible enough to learn swordplay at that age?  Would I have been responsible enough to learn swordplay at any age?  What kind of injuries would I have inflicted on my parents, my friends, my brother, and myself?  (I realized that perhaps one of the best decisions my parents ever made was making sure I was never in a situation where someone could ask them, within earshot of me – “would your son like to learn to use a sword?”)   I began to worry about my son’s well being, with a sword in the house.  After all, I had trouble enough with just the normal things around the house when I was a kid – things like bicycles, grills, skateboards, floors, and spray paint.   I can’t imagine the carnage a sword would have wrought. I managed to accrue three major head wounds in my childhood with nary a sword in sight.  It wasn’t pretty.

It was a Gusher!
My first major head wound came at day care.  When I was around 6 or 7, my parents owned a record store – so I spent summers in day care.  During the school year I would just come hang out at the store after school, but I think having me and my younger brother there all day during the summer was more than my mom could handle.

I don’t remember much about that record store, but I do remember this – we sold “Star Wars” figures.  The “Star Wars” phenomenon was in full swing, and my parents decided to carry the Kenner line of action figures in the store.  They were popular with the kids, and they sold them right up until they decided to close the store.  For years after the store closed, we had a few cases of unopened figures in our attic.  I never gave them much thought.

Shortly after I graduated from college, I began collecting “Star Wars” action figures, and eagerly went to my parents’ house one afternoon to see about the figures in the attic.  They informed me that they had sold them years before at a yard sale.  I was mortified.  (For the non-geeks in the audience, my parents had sold THOUSANDS of dollars worth of unopened action figures at a yard sale for a few bucks.)  It was a dark day for me – and something that I’ve never forgiven them for.  But I digress – that’s a story for another time.

One afternoon at day care, the teachers decided to take us over to the Baptist church’s gym to ride skateboards.  The thing was – they would not allow us to ride them in the way they were meant to be ridden.    We were forbidden from standing on them.  The only thing that we could do was lay down on them, flat on our stomachs, and propel ourselves around the gym floor like maniac surfers fleeing from a great white off the coast of Florida.

Everything was going great at first.  With a little imagination, you could pretend that you were Superman, flying above Metropolis, without a care in the world.  I was engrossed in visions of sailing among the buildings when I looked to the side and saw a pair of Buster Browns headed my way.  One of the other kids had decided to do his best Bizzarro Superman impression and was flying backwards on his skateboard.  His shoes collided with my forehead, full force, and propelled me off of the skateboard and directly on to the gym floor.  I won’t lie – it hurt.  It hurt a lot.  I cupped my hand over my left eye, let out a yelp, then sprang up and went to see one of the teachers.

When I found the teacher, she was chatting with one of the other teachers and really didn’t seem to notice me at first.  I stood for a second, and then realized that the throbbing in my head was not getting better, so I interrupted her conversation.

“I hit my head,” I said rather calmly.

She looked at me, clearly annoyed at the interruption.

“Let me see,” she snipped.

It was at this point that I learned something very important about myself.  Evidently, my hands have the ability to hermetically seal themselves to my face when enough pressure is applied.  I had grabbed my head immediately after hitting the floor and gone straight to the teacher.  When I dropped my hands, it was like the final scene in “Carrie”.  I had collected ALL of the blood from the wound in my cupped hand, and it was now pouring down my face – splattering both the floor and the teacher’s shoes.  I heard her make a little “urmph” noise in the back of her throat, and then she quickly covered her mouth with both hands.  Through clenched teeth she said – “Oh my” – then grabbed my hand and shuttled me out the door and upstairs to the church.

My mother was called, and I was rushed to the doctor.  It was my first experience with stitches, and I didn’t enjoy it one bit.  I don’t know how they cleaned all of the blood off of the gym floor, but the next day at day care, I was very popular.  Recounting the tale for the other classes, I had the instant credibility that a boy can only get from wearing a cast or having stitches.  One of my friends summed it up best when asked what it was like.  “It was a gusher” he beamed.  Oh my, indeed.

Me versus the laws of physics
My second major head wound (really more of a face wound), came when I was 9 or 10 years old.  When I was a kid, we rode bikes.  Not BMX dirt bikes – just bikes.  We didn’t have Razor scooters or rollerblades.  Scooters were something your little sister rode, and if you wanted to skate you did it indoors, and at the skating rink, with traditional skates. We rode bikes.  All day.  All over the neighborhood, we rode.  We raced through the trails in the woods at the end of our street.  We had contests to see who could lay down the longest skid marks, or who could kick up the biggest cloud sliding though the dirt spot at the bottom of our hill.  We built ramps and took turns seeing who could jump the most kids, laid out in a row at the base of the ramp like old cars waiting for Evel Kenivel. (That’s also something for another post – I can’t believe we were allowed to jump neighborhood kids in increasingly large numbers, like some bicycle equivalent of “That’s Incredible” – all we were missing were the TV cameras and Fran Tarkenton).  Suffice it to say, I spent a good part of my childhood on a bike.

When each day was done, we had to store our bikes for the night.  We didn’t have a basement or a garage, so my dad had a storage building put out in the backyard.  It was known to all in the neighborhood simply as –  “the building”.  We stored everything in the building – the lawnmower, the grill, random boxes, dad’s tools – and our bikes.   The building sat about 2 feet off the ground on blocks, to make sure that the moisture stayed out.  Because of this, my dad built a ramp leading up to the door.  It made it easier to get things like the lawnmower out for use.  It also made it easier to get the bikes in and out.

On one particular spring day, I decided that it was time that I took the plunge and rode my bike up in to the building instead of pushing it.  I had gotten a new bike recently, one that was still a little too big, and I was full of bravado and confidence.  So, after my mom called us in for dinner, I pedaled as fast as I could up the driveway, through the backyard, and up the ramp in to the building.

It was at this point that two very important laws of nature came in to effect – gravity and inertia.  As I mentioned, I was pedaling up hill and in to the building.  By the time I got to the building, I was a little winded, and decided to coast up the ramp.  Unfortunately for me, all of the inertia that I had built up bled away just as I reached the apex of the ramp – halfway in the building, and halfway out.  For one brief, shining moment, I was perfectly balanced there at the top of the ramp.  It was a great feeling – just like the first time you felt your dad let go of the bike and you pedaled off on your own.  I was perfectly in balance with the universe – I was a king.

As I mentioned – this was a new bike, and I couldn’t quite reach the ground while on it.  While I was exalting in my oneness with the universe, gravity decided to reassert itself and I started to tip precariously to the right.  I had a brief thought that I could catch myself on the way down – no harm done – but that was not meant to be.  My foot missed the lip of the door, catching nothing but air, and failing to arrest my fall.  As I continued to go over in slow motion, I saw the charcoal grill rising rapidly to meet me.  This was an old Weber grill, with the adjustable grill pan inside – knobs on the outside to set the depth.  Those knobs were held in place by a very thin, and very dangerous piece of metal.  I fell directly in to it and sliced good size gash in to my cheek, just below the corner of my mouth.

I let out a wail like my arm had been torn off – and believe me, it hurt.  My mom came out to grab me, and called my grandfather to come and take us to the emergency room.  The whole ride there, I begged them not to make me get stitches.  I was going to be in a school play in a few weeks, and I was convinced that stitches would not only hurt like hell – they would also irrevocably harm my ability to appear on stage in the school cafeteria.  Having had stitches once before, I was not a fan.  I’ve always been a pretty persuasive person, so I somehow convinced not only my mom and grandfather not to give me stitches – I convinced the ER doctor as well.  He cleaned me up, closed the wound with what I thought was a rather girly sounding “butterfly bandage”, and sent us on our way.

I’m happy to say that my appearance in the school play was a smashing success.  I healed quite nicely and the resulting scar is neatly hidden by my goatee these days.  Still, it was sobering experience for me back then, and it was a while before I would brave the ramp to the building again on my bike.  The neighborhood kid jumping contests continued unabated.

Don’t touch the hair – I would rather keep bleeding
My third head wound didn’t find me until I was in high school.  It was by far the most painful – both during the incident and afterwards.  To really understand the afterwards, though, you need to know a little about who I was in high school.

I grew up in the 80’s and was a huge Hair Metal fan.  Growing up in the south at the time, I was one of the VERY few guys who had long hair and an earring at my school.  It just wasn’t done – but I was going to be a rock star, so I decided that I needed to look the part.  If you didn’t live through the 80’s and all that was hair metal, it’s hard to explain the symbiotic relationship between the heavy metal music of the day and Aquanet hairspray.  Aquanet was THE hairspray of choice for serious glam metal aficionados.  I worked for years to grow out my hair and then learned to style it in just such a way that – had the call come from Poison that they needed a keyboard player – I could have been on stage the next night, no additional styling necessary.  With the right amount of time and hairspray, I was a good 4-5 inches taller in high school.  I was very attached to my hair.

Now that you have the context, join me one afternoon in the backyard with my best friends and my brother.  My parents were at work and I have absolutely no idea what all of us were doing at my house that day.  Nevertheless – there we were, outside on the deck, goofing off.   The sun was out, it was summer, and we didn’t have a care in the world.

At this point, I had to go out in to the yard for some reason – I’m not sure why.  As I was walking out into the yard, one of my friends was overcome with the absolutely certain knowledge that the one thing I needed most, while standing out in the yard, was a can of spray paint.  Don’t ask me why this knowledge was imparted to him at that particular instant – the Lord works in mysterious ways.  Not being one to question the voice of the Almighty, he picked up a can of black spray paint from the porch and tossed it my way.

As I said, the Lord works in mysterious ways.  To prove that point, the Lord mysteriously forgot to include me in the plan to relocate the spray paint to my vicinity.  As my friend fulfilled his destiny and let fly the can, he realized that I was unaware of the object hurtling towards me.  Being a good friend, he decided to helpfully call out my name and alert me to the incoming gift.  As he yelled my name, I looked up.  I wasn’t sure what he wanted, but I didn’t expect that it was to injure me.  I felt a sharp pain on the top of my head and heard a sound that could best be described as the sound a watermelon would make if it were struck with a golf club.  You’ve always heard about people seeing stars when they are hit in the head?  Well – I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely true.  I saw stars AND little dancing elephants in front of my face.  A full can of spray paint to the head hurts – take my word for it.

As you can imagine, the blood started to flow immediately.  My friends and my brother freaked out a bit.  I walked back over to the deck and sent my brother inside to get a towel for my head.  When he returned with one of Mom’s good white towels, I somehow had the presence of mind to send him back in for one of our ratty old towels instead.  Someone called my mom at work and it wasn’t long before she came tearing up the driveway.  She quickly hustled me into the car and off to the doctor.

When we got there, I knew that I was likely in for stitches again – but this time it was different.  First, this was my first major head wound not located on my face.  It was on the top of my head.  Second, as I mentioned, I had a full head of painstakingly grown and groomed heavy metal hair.  I had watched enough “M.A.S.H” on TV to know that they were likely going to want to shave around the wound a bit to make it easier to stitch back together.  That thought terrified me to no end.  It simply was not an option.  It couldn’t happen.  Sure enough, the doctor came in, took one look at the wound –

“You’re going to need stitches.  I’ll have the nurse come in to trim around the wound”, he said.

My heart skipped a beat.  I looked him square in the eye and put every ounce of authority and seriousness that my 16 year-old self could muster into my voice.

“Don’t touch the hair,” I said.

He paused for a moment – impressed by my directness no doubt – and looked me back in the eye.

“Don’t touch the hair?”

“Don’t touch the hair”, I said.  “I would rather keep bleeding.”

“Fine”, he said and went out to get a suture kit.

I was relieved beyond measure.  I had headed off social disaster and kept my signature locks intact.  He came back in, gave my mom a glance, and then proceeded to stitch me up.  Had I been a little more mature, or a little more aware, I would have understood that the look on his face was not one of admiration for my forthrightness, but of wry amusement.  He knew something that I didn’t know about what was going to come my way in a week or so.

One last thing I should mention about my hair.  At this point in my young life, I had decided that having long hair was not enough.  I had decided that I would be much more cool if I dyed it jet-black.  So that’s what I did.  Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx had nothing on me – my hair was so black it was almost blue.  Here’s the thing, though, that you don’t think about when confronting your family doctor about your course of wound treatment – stitches are also black.  Really, really, black.  So black they are almost blue.

When I came back a week later to have the stitches removed, my friendly family doctor took great pleasure in plucking away at my wound with his tweezers.

“Is this a stitch?”



“Nope, looks like that was a hair.  Let’s see – is this a stitch?”

It was sadistic, and painful and cruel on his part – and I’m sure that he enjoyed every moment of it.  Still, through the tears, all I could think about was the inevitable call I would receive to join Poison on the road.  That day might have been painful – but I was still ready for rock stardom – hair and all.

© 2010, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.

2 Replies to ““Don’t touch the hair…I would rather keep bleeding.””

  1. Loved this, especially the last one. I still see you in my mind with your jet black hair. You were the King back then!


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