Sunday, June 22, 2014
I used to be a haircut snob. My standards were high, and my requirements exacting. Two simple criteria. I passed all the fancy places, ignored the prices...held out for the beacons that signaled like a lighthouse to me; a traditional barber pole with an Italian name on the door. Perhaps there's a romance about it, or maybe I'm just biased, but I believe that some groups just do things better...my tailor is Turkish, my barber Italian, and my ribs are 100% prepared by rednecks!
A few years ago I was forced into a tailspin, and I lost my mind. My barber died. Phil...from Phil's barber shop, with a barber pole. Distraught, I found comfort in a woman - no, not like that! A stylist, instead of a barber, and she's done a fine job over the years. As the years have passed however, I'd become aware of a vast chasm in my life, something missing. One day, about a month ago, it hit me as I passed Dave and Leo's barber shop in my daughters hometown of Waterloo, NY. I've forsaken my standards for convenience. This morning I stopped in.
I'd been there years ago, when we first moved. Leo's the father, straight off the boat. An exceptional barber with the hands of a surgeon and a gift for the art of meaningful small talk that only barbers and Turkish tailors seem to have mastered. I liked Leo, but Dave, his son...Dave hadn't yet found himself, and so I found Phil, then Robin. But today, today was different. I walked in the door and it was like I'd never left despite 19 years. The smell brought me back. Same tile, same ceiling, same signs, same guys, same smell. I sat in a chair and waited, read the paper, looked around and nodded to the few early birds who'd arrived after me as the came in. Everything was the same - almost. I sat in Dave's chair. His head was shaved fairly tight, goatee, earrings...he looked like a man instead of the mullet wearing twenty something I remembered. I'm still not sure about the earrings, but this time he was confident, he'd found himself. With that same surgeons skill, he cut and thinned and talked. He greeted the men who walked in. He asked his dad (you remember Lea, right?) what time a party was this afternoon. When he was done with the scissors, I heard that familiar sound of the shaving cream dispenser, sank deeper into the chair as he applied it to my neck...I missed that feeling...and shaved, instead of clipped the edges of my haircut. Finally, the cloth came off and some barber shop smelling solution was applied to my hair and neck as I breathed an inaudible sigh (I hope). The experience, the smell of the aftershave, the barber pole of stained glass....I felt like I'd just arrived home again after a very long trip.
Too many years ago I convinced myself that that the barber pole didn't matter...I was wrong...