There’s been a lot of talk about the videos in this week’s Amazing Strangers page. YouTube commenters are makin’ threats, arguments about Free Hugs, and I even have some apologizing to do! I guess this means that Union’s back in business.
There’s this guy from Union Square whom, I’ve realized, terrifies me to the bone. He terrifies me so much that I’m not even sure I want to write about him. But it’s impossible for me to ignore, considering I see him everywhere I go (Union Sq, East Village, even just now walking in front of my window at the Astor Place Starbucks).
And this fear is not because he’s some big scary guy who I think’ll kick my ass if he sees me talking shit. My fear is based on something he exposes about the human condition, and the inescapable traps we create for ourselves, and voluntarily allow ourselves to cook in, until it’s too late.
I used to call this guy the “Free Hugs Lurker,” because he always lurks around a few feet away from the Free Hugs kids wherever they are at the park. He doesn’t carry a sign or anything. He just lurks in their vicinity. Anyhow his new name, his real one that’s obviously going to stick, is “Hairplugs.” And his name is Hairplugs because he’s clearly your average middle age man with male pattern baldness who’s gone and gotten one treatment of hairplugs, and then stopped before it was finished. So what he’s ended up with is a perfectly measured grid of hairplugs plugged into the top of his scalp, but clearly not enough of them, so you can see exactly what’s going on, and it’s hideous.
But the scariest part hasn’t happened yet. Because what happened last week was one of the Free Hugs kids, the one who tore his shirt off and was yelling “Where are my bedbugs, homey?!?!“ came up to me and told me basically that he saw the video I made of him, he finally got the joke, laughed and called me an asshole for making him look stupid and all that, but he was fine with it.
He did however want to know, for real, what really was the problem I have with Free Hugs. I brought up the Free Hugs Lurker and pointed out how odd and creepy I thought it was that“grown men like this hung around all you kids every day, following you around the park, lurking.” And I specifically asked him what was up with that particular guy. “What do you think of that guy hanging around all the time, just there lurking in the background with you kids?”
At first he just explained, “Oh, that guy. Yeah, he’s a nice guy…” and all that bullshit, but then he told me he once asked the Lurker “Yo, what’s up with your hair? Why don’t you just shave your head?”
And the Lurker responded,“They’re hairplugs, and I could only afford the one treatment. I paid too much for it to shave them off.”
And that, my friends, is the line that sent chills up my spine.
I’ve seriously laid awake a few times since then trying to absorb that self-inflicted prison sentence.
Just before I started writing this about him, he walked by the window in front of me. He was wearing his awful Terminator sungalesses, marching straight ahead. As he strode away, he pulled a comb out from his back pocket and ran it over his pitiful scalp several times.
I see him every day sitting by himself with those shades on staring straight ahead. Just staring. And I know the undigestible reality he’s doing battle with on the fringes of his ego. It’s the sort of thoughts that make one shake ones head “No” while walking down the street alone.
If you’re beyond curious to see Hairplugs, he can be seen lurking in the Sunday Stroll through Union video at about 1:11 on the far left in the green shirt. He’s pointing me out the the Free Hugs Nazi to, in some way or another, find his purpose in life.
He sometimes shaves the sides of his head (the part that’ll grow back) in an attempt to disguise everything that’s going on. And, at least to me, he vividly sums up the ugliness the Free Huggers attract, while simultaneously illustrating the jailcell we’re all so willing to build for ourselves if we let it, brick by brick. No take-backs.