I got a haircut today.
I know: “He couldn’t think of anything more interesting?”
But I did have a couple of observations.
The first was that, as much as I love getting my hair cut – I mean, who wouldn’t want what’s basically a half-hour head massage? – I’m always afraid that, if I get it cut too short, this will be the time when it won’t grow back. So, even when getting a cut for something like “The Speakeasy” (and have I mentioned it yet?), I try not to go too short – which means, of course, I have to get it cut more frequently than I’m used to. In my mirror, I watched the two other guys in the shop who were getting trimmed. (Their barbers had them face away from the mirror; mine didn’t, for which I was glad; I prefer to watch the process taking place on my head.) Those guys were easy jobs; short, almost crew, cuts, that their barbers were able to handle by running the clippers up and down their scalps. My barber – Maria – had to make do with scissors (with a little razoring at the end). I do find, though, that, like massage therapists, every barber has his or her little personal techniques or touches. The basics are the same: take a hunk of hair between the index and middle fingers, snip it off, and move on, measuring the uncut hair against the cut. But I always find the individual quirks interesting to note. “Oh, she’s doing that. Huh.”
"Just a little off the top"
I guess frequent haircuts make up for the long period in the late 80s and early 90s when I didn’t get my hair cut at all. Yes, I had hair down to my shoulders – and it was brown in those days, too. In fact, when I finally did get it cut (thanks to a show in grad school), I had to get it done twice. The first was just a pretty significant trim, but turned out not to be good enough, so I had to go to another barber shop a day or two later. And by “barber shop,” I mean barber shop. This was downtown Springfield, Oregon. Springfield was – and probably still is – a displaced town. It really belongs somewhere in Alabama. It’s blue-collar and extremely white and notorious for being a hotbed of Klan activity – and, yes, I mean that Klan. And this barber shop would have been right at home in Birmingham, circa 1964. Not that it was overtly – or even covertly – racist; it was just the kind of place that, in memory, had a lot of wood-paneling, and animal heads, and guns, and magazines like “True Men’s Adventures” with skimpily-dressed women escaping from Nazi prison camps.
But this guy could cut hair. It was one of the three best haircuts I’ve ever had. (The best was at the 3 Aces Barber Shop at 46th and 9th in New York. Here’s their Yelp page.)
How can you not love a barber shop that buys gold?
"3 Aces? I could five."
For most of my life, I’ve had problem hair. Up until that haircut in the 90s, I had a massive wave on the right side of my head. This thing was big enough to have qualified for Mavericks. I hated it (still do), but never realized that if I just combed my hair to let it do what it wanted, rather than what I wanted, we’d both be much happier. Now I just brush it back and say the hell with it. But, back in the 70s, I’d go to a “salon” to get it cut; no plebian, plain-wrap “barber shops” for me. I paid $20 – and that’s in 1974 dollars (my inflation calculator tells me that $95 today) – every six weeks or so to have a woman named Sisu shape my hair into a helmet – a look that I shudder to think of now.
As much as I pooh-poohed them in my youth, now that I’m in my golden years I’ve come to appreciate the comforts of those old-school barbershops, like the one in Springfield or the 3 Aces: Real “barber chairs” (not glorified office chairs); talcum-powder brushes for that clean-up at the end – or, if you’re really lucky, a dab of hot shaving lather behind the ears before the final scrape-off with a cutthroat razor. Some guy with hairy arms, dressed in a smock that snaps up to the neck, who wants to talk about last night’s ball game, or just shuts up, if that’s your preference.
I want to go to there.
The place I went to today – just down the street – offers straight-razors shaves on Saturdays. It’s $25, but I’ve always wanted to have that experience, so maybe I’ll treat myself for my birthday next week.
I just hope the guy’s name isn’t Barker.