So I used to get my hair cut at John’s Barber Shop up on Route 6. It was a slightly cramped and slightly antique little place off the parking lot, tucked behind the stores that face the road. John was a small energetic barber with an Italian accent and a small staff of sub-barbers, most of them as far as I remember female, John and the staff and many of the customers at least as old as me, maybe even one generation back.
It was a fun place to go for my once-or-twice-a-year haircut, because they would always tease me about the amount to be removed (most of the other male customers being in for short conservative cuts to their lightly oiled black hair), and because it felt like a piece of reality in a way that the Family Salons in Malls never quite did.
(And the one time I got my hair cut at the Family Salon in the Mall and casually told the guy “oh I don’t know, maybe like yours is!”, it was John’s that I went to to have the resulting rat-tail removed. Not that I have any moral objection to the vaguely Hell’s Angel guy I saw in the mirror afterward, but it was profoundly Not Me.)
Eventually John stopped being there very often, and the sign changed to “John and Frank’s” I think it was. And now the sign is just “Frank’s”, and I like to think that John is retired with good wine and lots of Italian grandchildren running about.
Frank is a young guy, maybe thirty, tall and thin, vaguely Russian, but not the pale Caucasian Russian; something darker and hardier. He’s expanded the place, put in nice wood flooring, a glass-fronted case with plants in pots on top and containing some random Salon supplies that no one ever looks at, a rack of old magazines, a refurbished Ms. Pac-Man game, and some extra chairs.
Today as I’m sitting there watching the little boy have his hair cut (“Just him”, I said as we came in, “mine’s still short”, and everyone laughed because they tease me about my hair here still), there are three of them working: Frank, and a shorter guy, maybe Italian (one of John’s grandchildren?), with a buzzcut and a Yankee’s cap worn backwards, and a big muscular chocolate-brown guy with a shaven head and tattoos on his upper arms. Frank is doing the little boy’s hair. Even though he’s having it cut so short that M will be surprised when we get home, it’s still the longest cut I see them give anyone while we’re there. Everyone else is buzzcuts, or shaven sides with a modern not-Mohawk in the center, or something along those lines. (I don’t remember ever seeing a woman in the place since it stopped being John’s.)
It still feels more real-life than the Mall, and everyone is joshing and “how are ya man”ning each other, and being all “I can’t believe we had snow, I was pissed off!” and “You get caught with a suspended license it’s worse than not having a license at all, that’s crazy shit, bro”. I’m sitting with my iPad reading Charlie Stross and listening to Chicks on Speed and electronica on my bluetooth earphones (when I sit up and stretch Frank says “Wake up! You’re playing with that thing too much, is why”, meaning the iPad), and the TV on the wall in one corner is showing soccer as I think it usually is (more evidence that Frank is some sort of European, or maybe just that it’s the XXIst Century now).
And I put a quarter into the M&Ms-for-charity machine, and it gives me a nice handful of good old-fashioned milk-chocolate M&Ms.
Frank always charges us extra, I think, because the little boy and I never come in until our hair is longer than any other four of his customers ever let theirs get between them. But it’s probably no more than the Mall, and it’s more interesting.
On the way out, I say that I’ll be back once my hair’s long, and they laugh.