Leather, cracked, split, stuffing bursting out.
He turns the empty chair for you, swiveling on its massive base. It is white enameled iron and chrome, solid enough to double as torture device or electric chair. He brushes an errant scrap of curling hair from the last guy.
Everything is just clean enough so that your immune system can get enough of a workout but not break a sweat.
Ask this guy anything, he'll have an opinion on it. Ask him about anyone and he'll tell you. He'll know because he's the barber. He has stories that covers all the little things in town that no one remembered, like when they put the sidewalks in, when the Navy pulled out, when the each Submarine arrived and departed. He's a spanning encyclopedia of how things were, how they should be, and how we now take them all for granted. He was a historian who never read a history book but taught a class to the back of every head he met.
Gone, closed shop. Headed south where it's warmer. He had a style, a simplicity. "Shorten 'em up?" He'd ask not expecting an answer. He knew what you wanted, what you needed. He made you look good at your promotion board, that's for sure.
I drove around looking for another barber and I saw the Super Cuts sign at the mall. Ten bucks for a cut.
The place was sterile, clean from germs and character. As I took the airy, flimsy chair and felt it shift, I wondered if it could hold me.
The guy took a bit to figure out what I wanted and he did an okay job. I said a high and fade. It was a little low.
I remember in Okinawa Japan on the military bases the barbers were all women. After your hair cut, they stropped their straight edge razors and shaved the back of your neck and the sculp of your ears. She then gave you a one minute shoulder message and scalp rub.
Not at Super cuts.
It was okay, I guess.
I did get a coupon. If I get ten stamps I get a free hair cut.
At least I looked good for my promotion board. And that what counts.