Saturday, May 28, 2005


When I moved from Des Moines, Iowa to Austin, Texas, I brought with me a head full of back-length dreadlocks. It had taken me about seven years to grow them out to such a length, so I hadn't visited a barbershop in some time. Before my locked days, I spent many an afternoon sitting in the company of other guys awaiting an overdue bald fade. The ambience was always deficient in terms of order or neatness, but that was typical, pretty much expected at any barber shop that I had ever visited. I've only lived in two cities, so excuse my over generalization here, but I've found the black barbershop experience to be awkwardly overcrowded, raucously loud, and about as serene as the grandstands at any sports venue. I realize, a barbershop is not a day spa. You're not there for the hot-stone body massage or a seaweed facial wrap, but I'd be satisfied if sombody'd just occasionally sweep the floor. At least, as of late, thanks to the unacceptable attitudes about smoking, a brotha can get a haircut without courting cancer with the guy sitting next to him.

After moving to Austin, and eventually cutting my locks, I figured I'd be pleasantly surprised by the professional atmosphere of a big-city barbershop. I was disappointed. What I found in Austin was the same as what I had left back home in Des Moines.

This morning, my son and I returned to a barbershop I had promised myself I would never go back to. I had grown tired of their rudeness, their crudeness, the presence of filth on the floor and the walls of this shack-like joint. So why'd I return? I tried other places and found them the same, so I figured, if I have to sit in a dingy shop, I might as well sit in one closest to my home, 'cause gas is two bucks a gallon.

On the floor lay a jumbled salad of sorts, consisting of "good-hair" hair balls, nappy-hair hair balls, dusty-hair hair balls, and greying-hair hair balls. They lay in wait, scattered about, threatening me like a pack of afro-rats, waiting to creepy-crawl across the floor, under my chair, at my feet, their wanderlust brought alive each time the door opens and the wind catches their gaze.

So I sit there and ponder these words:

-Disconcerting:Why do five barbers and nine customers need two boom boxes playing two different tunes and one TV playing ESPN all at the same time?

-Fritter [away]: Why does every person who enters the shop need to stop each barber, already behind schedule, to handshake some "dap"? (Dap, at least that's what we called it back home in Des Moines)

-Social standing: Why is visiting a black barbershop more like watching a fashion show of basketball shoes?

-Style: When did basketball shorts evolve from upper thigh-high boxers to ankle-length dresses.

-Adornments: Are the fingerprints all over the mirrors just a part of the decor?

-Insult: Does the barber really think his Oatis Redding falsetto is worth the price of a haircut?

-Prosperity: How does a barber make any money when it takes them 45 minutes to an hour to cut one head and they charge $8.00?

-Pretension: Do I really want another man - or woman, for that matter (I think barber #5 is really a woman) - clipping my nose hairs?

-Malodorous: If he forgot to brush his teeth this morning, why can't he just shut up?

-Primitive: Why can't he wait to eat his fried chicken until after he's done cutting my hair?

Unrelated thought for the day: The wife had her locks dyed today. She now has honey-bronzed colored locks, like a brotha likes. The son, however, tells her, "I don't like your hair like that." Time to teach the boy about love-bank points, and how not to get and keep a wife.
Word of the day: wanderlust


Friar Tuck said...

Usually just go wherever is cheapest. Local barber (there seem to be more and more women barbers these days) or a Great Clips or something.

Sometimes this whatevers cheapest thing has led me in some strange directions, like haircuting schools in KC where they had not cut caucasian hair before, or in SOCAL where the woman just kept screaming, "I give you clipper cut number five" until I gave in, or the old country duffer that has NASCAR blaring (hate NASCAR).

Getting a haircut is always an adventure.

Christopher M. Beatrice said...

Well me myself just recently started going and getting my hair cut, I had my mom cut it for 25 years. shoot she did a good job and it was free.. Now her arthritus acts up so I turned to the local salon at Wal Mart where I get my oil changed and hair cut in about an hour plus a bite to eat. They do a good job and I get everything done at once. Thank God for Super Wal Marts.

The Gig said...

Would you like to share this with your Uncle Harlan (a local Barber in your home town)? :-)

Positively Cheryl said...

You can get a hairdut for 8 bucks?? Our lowest charging barbers charge 12 bucks here in Denver.

How do you like Austin? I've driven through there on my many trips to San Antonio and Dallas, but now i'm considering moving to Texas and am wondering what the pros and cons are. Recruiters keep telling my hubby that the 'high tech' fields are making a new home in Austin.

Fun post!

Positively Cheryl said...

geez, I meant hair CUT for 8 bucks. Geez. I should really run spellcheck before hitting

Jdid said...

Good or Bad I've actually never experienced the black barber experience. Growing up my dad or one of his friends always cut my hair and on moving I bought a clippers and I have cut my own hair now since 91 or 92.

Luke Cage said...

Hey Don. May I suggest going au'naturelle my brother? I've been hair free since '94, and my experiences at the barber shop helped me get to my most recent and final "hair" style. I'll never grow hair again. Although I will tell you, you're entire post brought back vivid memories of the good ol' barbershop from back in the day! Good one brotha...

princessdominique said...

Loved your post. I too wondered about that *dap* thing. Is it even necessary?

rinda said...

Reminds me I need a haircut myself! What I can't understand is why it costs the same for my husband to get a haircut as for me! He has very little left to cut.

My answer to your proofreading question, a good one, Don, is on my site. I guess I should have left it here, but I'm still dog-paddling in this blog world. Lots of splashing still....good question, BTW.


Positively Cheryl said...

'Imani's Brother' Your Illustrations are outstanding!! I might be able to Poser but you can draw and paint which i've never done well. I draw amazing stick people, Don.

Thank you for the complement and shoutout. To answer your questions: Poser 5 and Poser 6 are far superior to Poser 4. Through outlets like, Renderosity, Poser Pros, 3dCommune, and others people have created textures and morphs that can make these figures look like real people now instead of the mannequins they used to look like.

I did not design her hair, I do that sometimes but this time I used a hair figure I purchased and rendered from Daz3d. If you ever want to share Poser ideas or anything else, just let me know!

Oricon Ailin said...

*LOL* Don!!! This story reminds me of that scene from Coming To America with Eddie Murphy! LOL!!!

Actually, getting my haircut costs me $18. Well, she does wash it and style it afterward. So, I guess it ain't bad. hehe Now, if only me and the fiance would go OUT after I got my hair styled, it would be even better. Most of the time, I come home and just sit in bed and read. But, at least my hair looks good! heheh

Nikki said...

$8 for a haircut? That's a bargain. My boyfriend cuts his own hair, well he has no hair anymore because he prefers to shave it all off, but he'd rather do it himself than to go to a barbershop.

WIP said...

Again, $8, is dirt cheap. Why did you even have to cut the locs off? Wasn't sure how the Texans would receive them [you]? Haircuts around these parts are as follows (from what I've gathered via DH): $15/non-appointment; $20/appt; $10/boys; $+ Tip! And you are right on about the hows of money making and the hourly rate per head. It's ludicrous *in my best Mike Tyson call*.

Dee said...

great post....
I have 2 boys the baby wears braids I do myself but the "teenager" goes to this barber wayyyy on the other side of town...if we don't get there at 8 on saturday WILL take ALL day long!!! There are 3 barbers but he ONLY likes 1!! The most popular,,,,

I just hate walking in there and getting all the STARES....Men looking at me like i'm a "porkchop-sandwich"
What's up with that? I know i'm not the "only" single mom who has to get her son's hair cut....

The Archivist said...

Children are brutally honest. BRUTALLY.

Don't worry, they learn tact.

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