Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Leopold: Barbers of B-Ville

Today's posting will be on the slightly vain and lighter side, as is usually the case when visiting these prototypically friendly barbers.

Since time immemorial, guys going to barbershops results in more than just a lowering of the ears; joking and bantering, watching whatever is flickering on the ever-present TV, swapping political gossip and opinions, and generally having a good time, all qualify as part of the experience.

And so it is with Marty -his father Glenn -and Jess and the newer snippers at the Leopold Barbershop, my sometimes erratic choice back when I was regularly growing hair and caring about how it looked - sorta.

In my own mind, I've always had a problem with unruly hair.
It just has 'a mind of its own'.
People say I should be glad for a full head of thick hair that is still mostly intact.

But, I have seen it another way; not easily managed to look neat and always in place the way mom and other significant women in my life might prefer it.

My answer for unruly hair has been to just whack it off with regularity, like they do in the Navy.
Kind of a crew, or college, cut that doesn't need much attention, but probably makes me look younger than I am -or at least a little shrimpy next to guys with big hair, whether well-groomed or not.

A few years ago, when I was still serving on the City Council, our evening meetings started being filmed for airing on BTV10.
These meetings were then shown periodically during daytime hours.

True to form, the Leopold does flip through TV channels, sometimes stopping on Channel 10.
It doesn't even have to be a slow news day, with few sports events.
The barbers just like to know what's going on in town, and sometimes public meetings can provide an unusual form of 'info-tainment'.

It was during watching one of these meetings that Jess saw my -as-yet- unidentified image on TV and noticed my 'rooster tail' of hair protruding from the back of my head.
He thought it looked a bit comical, and jokingly asked Marty, 'who does that guy's hair?'
To which Marty replied 'we do'.
That's John Watts!

Well, you can imagine what fun the Barbers of B'Ville had with that episode!
They couldn't wait to tell me about it the next time I showed up for a haircut.
And, who knows how many times that story got swapped about?

I thought it was funny as hell, and still do, maybe because it confirmed my own long-held trouble with unruly hair.
Anyway, I'm sharing this bit with readers now because I still have fond memories about it as a funny thing.

But, my 'rooster tail' is only one of several hair quirks I have; cow-licks, crowns, swirls and hair that looks like it wants to be parted on the right, but really prefers being parted on the left - or not at all.
See why I prefer to cut it short?
That also looks a little funny, because that way the somewhat strange scalp-origins of my head of hair are revealed for all to see, but me - unless I use a mirror.

Maybe its better for me to just wear a hat?
But, enough of this vanity; I've lived under this hair for over 70 years and ought to be mature enough to handle the 'problem' -if it really is one.

Since being treated for cancer a few months ago, I've lost most of my hair, which is now growing back slowly.
It's just now reaching the crew cut length that I used t prefer.
Maybe that is why I decided to go back to the Leopold today, to show the barbers how I prefer my hair to look?

No, just kidding guys!
I went back to tell these friendly barbers -face to face - that I was OK, that I am recovering and now getting stronger.
I'm now considered a 'survivor', and they needed to know that.

I know there was concern at the Leopold about my health because a friend told me so.
And, he ought to know because he has been going there regularly for many years longer than me, and enjoying the same brand of camaraderie that I did.

So, I went back and said hello to Marty and the others there, and they were glad to see me looking healthier again.
And, I do feel better, just by doing that!

I know the Leopold folks will spread the word to anybody who cares, and make my job of communicating good news a lot easier.
Thanks, guys!

Don't give up on me as a customer, either.
The hair just keeps growing, and I fully expect the unruliness to make a come-back.

One other funny, and one the Leopold folks seemed to get and appreciate:

An old friend once told me of a time he first visited a 'stylist', which were just beginning to make in-roads into the traditional barbering business.
I can't confirm the trueness of this tale, but it's kinda funny anyway.

Anyway, the stylist began a steady stream of banter, while snipping mostly air.
My friend was used to barbers who used electric razors first to 'lower the ears' before using the scissors to even up the longer hair on top.
Then, they'd finish by using a straight razor to shave the neck, above the ears and sideburns.

That kind of haircut does tend to get your attention!
And, it has a certain predictability about it that stylists can't exactly match.

After a few minutes with the stylist, my friend claimed to have made the following definitive statement:

'Look,I came here for a haircut, not a bunch of small talk and fiddling around with snippers.
That means the only sound I want to hear is the sound of my hair hitting the floor!'

Apparently, that conversation served to end the banter, as well as speed up the actual cutting of hair.
According to my friend, he never intentionally visited a stylist again, as long as a regular barber was available.
And, he always made sure - up-front - what the charges would be.

I suppose something like this story has been told more than once, whether the storyteller actually said what was reported or not.
At least, the sentiment was probably authentic.
And, that's what counts -at least in real barber shops!

Thanks for laughing at my jokes, Leopold!
I'm sure the favor will be returned to me again and again, many times over.

That's the extra stuff that one gets included in the price of a real haircut!