I don’t know about you, but I love visiting barbershops.
Some people have a thing for bathrooms. I know people who have to use the bathroom wherever they are. They’re simply fascinated with trying out different facilities.
But for me, it’s the barbershop. Everywhere I go, I seemingly need a haircut.
I’ve tried the barber at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. (very good); MGM Grand in Las Vegas (expensive but great view, if you get my drift); the oldest barber shop in all of Toronto (good haircut, bad shave); John’s Tonsorial in South Amboy, N.J. (by far the best barber who ever laid scissors/buzzer on my locks); and even the gorgeous women of John Allan Salon for Men in Manhattan — where they not only cut your hair but also offer manicures, shoe shines and massages as they serve beer and cappuccinos.
And, yes, the stylists are not only pretty good at what they do, they’re also gorgeous, which for a salon catering to men is a genius business model.
But of all the hair salons I’ve been to throughout the country, whether they be in malls, on Main Street or on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, I find the neighborhood barbershops to be the best.
There’s no pretense.
The people waiting for their turn in the chair usually are friendlier than the patrons who go to the expensive salons. To me, a barber shop is synonymous with practicality, especially for men who get buzz cuts twice a month — spending 11 bucks at the barber is a lot better than $30 or more at the “salon.”
That’s not to suggest that I have anything against salons. I don’t. The majority of the people who work in salons do excellent work.
But there is something romantic about the barbershop. And whenever I’m there, I always learn something about life.
Whether it’s a philosophical discussion with the barber/owner, who has seen it all in his (usually) decades of cutting hair in the same shop, or watching the fathers come in with their sons and the single moms with the young man of her house for that monthly cut — there’s always a lesson in the haircut — about family, community and America.
The barbershop might be the last true all-American business, where if the owner is a good barber, he can make his own hours, close shop for vacations, teach his trade to an apprentice he can one day hand the business down to and still make a good living without working 100 hours a week.
The barber doesn’t need a pager, BlackBerry, cell phone or any VPN back to the office computer from anywhere in the world. Imagine that.
I also love how most old-time barbers are not afraid to tell the kids in their shop to behave, because most likely they yelled at the kids' father when granddad brought his son in for a haircut.
Déjà vu all over again.
If you think tough love and discipline can only be found in the military, visit your local barbershop and see if any of the kids waiting their turn get out of line.
Last weekend, one little man put his feet up on one of the chairs, and my barber didn’t hesitate to say “son, get your feet off the chair.”
The admonishing reminded me of when I was young and my parents wouldn’t hesitate to discipline me in public. Embarrassment goes a long way toward making sure kids behave.
Sadly, these days, parents aren’t too concerned with disciplining their kids.
That’s because they’re usually too busy playing video games and downloading music, and looking for someone to blame for their kids’ poor performance (the teacher, the coach), or something, like red ink on graded papers (traumatic).
Oh well, there’s not much we’re going to be able to do about Oblivion parents, except hope that their kids find a good barber in their neighborhood, someone who’s been there for years and who can teach them a little something about life, every time they need a haircut.