Four months after I got my haircut by the man from Uzbekistan, I went for a haircut in a newly opened place a few blocks from my house, an offshoot of a barbershop a mile away where I had previously gone. I was immediately disappointed when I walked in. I saw the prices. The new shop charged more than the old one–$27 compared to $20. This was slightly above my borderline for what I am willing to pay, but I was already inside, and there was no waiting time, so I went ahead. (pun?)
The haircutter was a handsome, young man born in Albania. His family seemed to have had some money. His grandfather had owned an Albanian textile factory but lost it in “the war.” The war. I did not know what he was talking about. My mind went searching, coming up empty, but somehow, I learned as he talked that he meant an Albanian war with Serbia in the 1990s. The way he talked, it sounded as if Albania was still recovering from those events, but without much specificity he also talked about the corruption of Albania, which he conceded held it back. His family still lived there, but he did not seem particularly attached to Albania and had no intention of returning except for a visit. He was much more committed to bringing his brother over to the States.
He had learned his quite good English from watching movies. He was fascinated with Hollywood and wanted to get to California. It was not clear if he was dreaming of some role in the movie industry or whether he just wanted the beaches, the sun, the hills, and the canyons. I am not sure that he had thought much beyond getting to Melrose Place or Santa Monica Boulevard.
He lived in the Bronx. This surprised me because it is a goodly distance from the shop, but he told me that he lived in a neighborhood where most of the Albanians in New York live, a place that was formerly solidly Italian. And, thus, I learned a bit more about New York, an inexhaustible topic.
Five months later I got the hair cut again. Old joke. A baseball manager, whose team is not doing well, takes a chair in the barbershop. The barber asks, “How would you like it cut?” The manager replies, “In silence. Total silence.” And that was my feeling when I last got my hair cut at that place a mile from my house. I was not in the mood for talking. I used the time to close my eyes, count my breaths, and meditate. A barber chair is a surprisingly good seat for that.
Soon, however, my hair will even offend me again enough to do something about it, but, of course, this is a time of “social distancing.” And although I worry about these small businesses and all the workers who probably work from paycheck to paycheck and from tip to tip, I won’t be going to a barbershop. Instead, I will ask the spouse to give me a trim. She is quite good at it. (I admit a conflict here. She edits this blog, and I am grateful. She makes it better and helps cut down the too many mistakes I would otherwise make. So, she will read this. But that is not the reason that I praise her haircutting ability. I swear and affirm that she really and truly does a good, excellent, amazing job trimming my hair.) She, however, is not, like those other haircutters, a first generation American to learn from. On the other hand, her roots (pun?) are from Alabama. That’s alien enough to me so that she might have some amusing, informative stories as she snips.