Saturday, June 25, 2005

groomed like a sheep, i am

It hasn’t turned out to be that kind of weekend—no “all Skynyrd, shirtless in the yard with domestic beer and arsenal of clichéd sports talk ready for the neighbors" kind of weekend that I had envisioned. The wife is out of town for the day and her absent vehicle would’ve been a sufficient excuse for me to skip out on the neighborhood block party, were the party actually occurring. I was mistaken. A second glance at the hard-hitting and informative neighborhood newsletter clearly places said block party towards the end of July.

I still got the buzz cut. I showed up on square a little earlier than usual to swing by the Three Ten pipe shop and re-load on their whiskey blend tobacco before deciding against it. I have to smoke outside and it is too hot to smoke outside, even late at night. Todd A says that it is hotter than a whore on nickel night and I believe him.

My barbershop sits in a former department store on the Murfreesboro Square and I always get there early to listen in on conversations, thumb through the latest National Geographic, and generally soak up the atmosphere. The building itself is at least a century old and the tiled floor looks to pre-date World War II. There are pink walls and wallpaper that clashes with floor and I doubt that any time in history would claim them, though I would guess the mid-eighties. From November to February my barber fills the front display windows with his collection of model trains that constantly run in a figure eight through model towns and little plastic trees, and you can watch the kids stop and press their faces against the glass while you get your haircut. These kids have videogames and all kinds of distraction devices that I am unaware of or just oblivious to, yet they are just as fascinated as the kids who likely pressed their faces against that same glass some seventy years ago for similar displays. That is why I pay for a haircut I could do myself.

Back when I was in college I would get my hair cut at a cheaper place across the square. The barber there could have easily been in his seventies or older, and I still see him walking downtown between his house and barbershop sometimes. He wears a suit and tie to work and always shaves the back of your neck with a strait razor. He lathers it first and then sharpens the razor on a leather strip off to the side, just enough in the periphery for one to wonder about his arthritis. Back then I got the “Ivy League #2” cut, and its tapered nature allowed a prominent role for the razor. When the haircut was over he would run an electric massager across my back for the most awkward thirty seconds one could imagine. It is good customer service, I suppose, but one can never really become accustomed to a senior citizen touching them with a vibrating appliance and then paying them for it. I always left a little nicked-up, bleeding, and embarrassed, but it was a good haircut and one he had probably been doing since the Roosevelt administration.

When I was really poor in college I would go to the barber school for a four-dollar haircut. It invariably looked like a two-dollar haircut and also left me bleeding a bit. I am less welcoming of that sort of thing when it comes from a high school dropout with an electric razor.

I have never been to a chain barbershop. When I was growing up the same lady cut my hair from grade school to college, even after I moved to Tennessee. When I was in Knoxville I got my hair cut by this Vietnam veteran biker guy with long gray hair, tattoos, and the constant stench of smoke and layered sweat. He actually chain smoked while giving you the haircut and conversed with the vocabulary one would expect from a war veteran and biker. If I went in on weekdays he would have Days of Our Lives on the TV set and would comment on the characters while he smoked and cut hair. That is why I kept coming back.

Every barber has really been the same though. We have our one conversation and the visitations are spaced out enough to allow having it over and over again. Some barbers talk about the weather or Jesus or tell you a dirty joke, but you know you’ll hear the same thing the next time you walk in, as if you were just doing multiple takes of the same scene until director got one he liked.

The conversation that my current barber and I have subconsciously chosen is “lawn mowing and other assorted yard work”. We will even discuss it in the dead of winter for some reason. Politics and other things creep in for a mention here or there, but yard work is our zone and in it we are comfortable. That is where we were today. There was a hell of a cedar bucket out there to tackle, but we let it alone. Those wounds are too fresh. When the bastards are caught we will have something to discuss, and discuss it we will. We may even scan the room for womenfolk and throw in a four-letter word on the subject if we are not found to be in mixed company.

That is why I get my haircut.

Also, it is good to have someone else to blame for the way it looks.


Blogger Wally Bangs said...

The electric massager barber - it has to be Tip Top Barber Shop. I was there Saturday morning getting a trim. I usually get my hair cut by what I assume is the old guy's son who always seems like he's had one too many coffees.
The best shop in the 'boro was Drake's, but I don't think it's open anymore.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

It was indeed Tip Top. The guy's son cut my hair a couple of times a few years back and did a really good job. I was going to start using him all the time but he wound up in jail.

It may not be the coffee that makes him that way.

5:01 PM  
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