"He who makes a beast of himself takes away the pain of being a man" ó Richard Nixon
It was sometime around eleven p.m. on an otherwise anonymous night in January of 1993 that we shaved Ed's head, shaved it clean.
Special Ed Ward ceased to exist.
From that moment on - until a few weeks later when Murdock stripped the title from him in a fit of angular rage - he was Gar, a mythical figure cloaked in mystery. The proof was his pate, which was all the proof you needed to know that the man had become, willingly, a Freak of Nature. It was no accident. Ed was dead, and in his place had come a howler monkey. I wasn't present for the ceremony. I didn't have to be. Even now I can recall it vivdly, and the sound of the lightly-humming razor skipping over Ed's bare skin could be heard ten miles away, across the Bay in Lower San Francisco, where I crouched above the Ninja Stronghold, waiting for some leaf to fall.
Affadavit by Chris Mills of Berkeley, California, aka "Binky" and sworn before God on this day, February 17, 1992: Shaving his skull...it was like some weird, completely unambiguous sexual thrill, a sort of bedrock deviant erogeny that I had never, to that point, either given or received. It was like a poor man's heroin, that ritual....They were chanting, something about Alice, and her shoes, and Ed was squirming in his seat, a towel wrapped around his naked neck. I brought the appliance against his skin and felt the tingle of anticipation flood out from the young man's groin upward, even onto the hand that was preparing his fate. I didn't know where to begin, I felt like a kid in a candy store! That's when the lizards appeared and told me to go ahead with it. I was drunk, sure, but hell, I enjoyed it. What can I say. I started with the sides, thinking if nothing else I'd give him a Vanilla Ice cut and leave it at that. Every slice of the razor brought a whirling maelstrom of whoops and giggles from the assembly. Doc was there, toying with his Nerve machine. He looked a little uneasy, as if power were being usurped here, maybe it was. I was in control, my hand upon the wheel. Ed gave a whimper and looked up at me with pleading eyes and I could not stand it any longer and I dove in with the electric cutter and took off his eyebrows in a stroke, a single stroke. You'd have to know Ed; a rather plainish, tow-headed youth from Ohio, he fairly reeked of Americana. This man will work with wheat, you'd think...his destiny. My hand quivered a bit, and I decided to get it over with as quickly as possible. My knees were shaking! One, two, three passes on the scalp and I'd removed all but a few tenacious tufts of boyhair. A few more instants with the setting switched to fine fixed that and then his head was completely smooth...bald like a monk's. "Paint it!" breathed Ed, who had suddenly become deformed and unmarked at the same time. He looked like Kurtz, and I was an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to deliver a bill. "What?" I gasped, thinking the moment had come and gone; "Paint...what?" His jaws worked but no sound came from his thin lips. "Red!" shouted a voice from the crowd. Murdock smiled. He stood up and pulled a spraycan from his leather hood jacket. "Fireplug red." He handed me the can. I looked at Ed, who seemed to be gritting his teeth. His cheek twitched uncontrollably. I paused...
The first thing to be done, obviously, after I heard the good news, was to exploit the bugger for cheap laughs. I thought about taking him down to the Regal Show World on Market St. and paying the dancers to sexually excite his dermis on videotape. I ruled that one out for logistical reasons, but it was not long after
that when Murdock called me, frenzy-drunk on ether, and insisted that his bald friend be allowed to participate in what he called "greening" experiments in his Richmond laboratory. He jabbered incoherently about "small, incandescant pugil sticks," and a dwarf with clubfeet. "Snap out of it!" I screamed through the phone. "There's a story here somewhere."
"You're probably right," he said. "Let's take him to Coit Tower!" I knew what that would mean; an ugly tale laced with deli meat and violent, fiery crashes, but I had another idea, one which involved less direct harm. I told him I would call him back in an hour, and I went off to do some preliminary scouting for the scenario. I called him back and pitched my angle. We would go with the Mysterious Visitor story. Directly below my feet lays the San Francisco Ninja Academy, which is affiliated, in some horrible way, with the United States Ninja Team. It's good protection
from criminals, but to get it I have to deal with horrible noise and the near-constant cacaphony of frenzied little children banging sticks against each other's heads. I had mentioned this in an earlier memo to the Doctor:
Tonight I listened to thirty or forty 11-year-olds shout obscene, filthy curses at their Ninja instructors...they got all riled up and proceeded to tear the shit out of a straw practice dummy that looked like George Bush...it got so loud and intense down there I thought someone had started a blood feud, or maybe one of the kids had accidentally torn the heart out of his practice partner, so I went down there with the Chemical Billy, prepared to stop whatever terrible fracas I was sure was going on. But by the time I got down to the Shop and looked through the door, they were eating huge chunks of raw meat with their fists...Dinner Time at the Ninja School, and I was the only white person for blocks.
One of the "instructors" came outside and had a smoke with me. His eyes were very strange...no pupils, only whites to them, I thought, until I realized that he was wearing VouDou Glasses...he was trying to Hypnotize me, Doc! He offered to give me "lessons," if I wanted, and I laughed nervously and backed away down the sidewalk. Later I went up to my roof deck and watched all the feral children file out of the doors and walk down the street in a blood frenzy. They kept jumping up on car roofs and leaving big dents in them...they were all wearing Raider jackets and
The point here is that I was already mentally prepared for some kind of ugliness having to do with my downstairs neighbors. What better way to stir the pot, I thought, then to introduce into this vile equation a newly-bald-headed
emigrant from Ohio. "His name is Gar," I told Murdock, calmly ticking off the plan point by point. "He's a visitor, from Sumatra. He's never seen this country before. Back home he's a big champion of some rare form of competitive flying kick karate." Murdock was clearly interested.
"Yes! We'll dress him up in a loose-fitting robe, with his name spelled out on the back in spangles: GAR!!"
"Right. And we're his handlers. He doesn't speak English, of course."
"Of course not," Murdock said, his voice high with joy, "Speaking would only require too much mental effort, which his brain is not prepared for!"
"Exactly," I said. "I'm a photographer from Kickboxing World magazine - they're big back East - and you...you're his Sponsor, an American priest from the Dominican, your name is Santo...."
And so the plan fell into place. All I had to do was bait the Ninja Master into coughing up free lessons for the "privilege" of getting written up in the big Right Coast specialty journal, "sold in all the finer sporting goods stores in the Tri- State Area," as I pointed out. Ed quickly agreed. He had no real choice. There's not much a human can do with a shiny bald head painted fireplug red but pull pranks on Filipino Martial Arts schools. I met with Manuel a few days later. Manny runs half of the school, the karate part. He seemed amenable and even believed me when I told him I was a freelancer, but he said I would have to talk to Haru, the VouDou Doctor, who oversaw the Ninja section. Haru turned out to be an impossible bugger to meet, despite the fact that he lived with his wife and young
son in the apartment right under me. For several days I would hear him washing one of his vintage, brightly-painted Volkswagens on the curb downstairs, and when I would hurry down to have a word with him, he would be gone, or maybe I would catch a quick glimpse of his Marine buzz sliding cat-like behind a closing garage door.
Also, it became increasingly apparent that we would get Ed killed, or at least Damaged, quite significantly. Some things about Haru disturbed me, and still do. There's a limit to just how much you can fuck with people and not have them figure out what kind of gibber you're festooning them with. That's okay. It makes things interesting. But it's another kind of problem entirely when you work up a cloud of evil mojo, of your own creation, at your toes, 24 hours a day.
It's not Manuel per se, but I think the Voudou Doctor has something to do with this. He was outside hosing down the sidewalks again (he does this every day at noon; the water had a suspicious reddish tint to it), and he just stared at
me. It's not a good thing to be stared at by the Doctor...Manny says he lost an arm in the War for Independence, but three years later, while he was adjusting a u-joint on a '67 Impala, it just grew back out again, at lightning speeds! And
you know how I feel about people who can regenerate lost limbs. They scare me, to be honest, because I think I might be one of them sometimes. It didn't grow completely right, though...it's only about half as long as a regular human arm, but Manny just laughed and said, "It's getting stronger every day!"...The point is this: right now I don't know if we're going to get the free lessons or not. Manny says he wants to "meet" Gar, and give him a few simple "tests." I starting to wonder if we should subject Ed to this or not. Maybe it would be just as good to take the
bald-headed wonder around town and photograph him at various tourist spots; far less risk of danger, and I'm talking about for us, as well. Hell, we're his Handlers...if he slips up during the "training," they'll turn on us like FIRE
NEWTS! P.S. -- I'm almost POSITIVE Manuel is involved with the Medellin people. He has a human HAND for a paperweight, with a a pinky ring still attached.
So in the end, we chickened out. I just couldn't conscience it. Murdock reluctantly agreed and we settled on a safer, alternative outing for the Walking Freak Show. This time, we'd take him to Golden Gate Park and parade him around, ostensibly to met his fans, but we just wanted to take pictures of it. We set up a time and agreed to meet at the nearest BART station.