The Shared Experience of Hair Removal

That old pizza parlor down on the corner of Brunning and North Fifth Street is finally being torn down. I asked my barber Christoph — whose shop is just down the road at Fifth and Main — if he knew what was going on. His reply was “All I know is that The Armenians bought that property, and that’s great, because they run a tight ship when it comes to business. I’m glad to have them as neighbors.”

See, that just goes to show you: barbers always have their fingers on the pulse of local business. And they really appreciate the value of having The Armenians in town, the way I do. That makes them swell in my book. I love going to see Christoph.

Let me tell you one thing, son: a real man should have his own barber, who knows him, and takes care of him, the way that Christoph takes care of me.

I know that most fellas either cut their own hair willy-nilly in the shower, or just drive over to the shopping mall and take what they can get from those sassy gum-snapping girls who work at that unisex beauty salon there. But I don’t think of my haircuts as a chore. I think about them as something I look forward to, and so when I get them, I want them to be an experience.

And, boy, does my barber deliver that. Christoph has been cutting hair at the same chair for 43 years, knows how to tell a tale or two, and is completely on top of all the latest news hereabouts. Would I have been all excited to know, or even be aware, that The Armenians were buying the old pizza parlor lot if I hadn’t been in to see Christoph? No sir, not a chance of it.

So you get a solid half hour of good man talk, the latest business news, a real shave, and an eyebrow-nosehair-earhair trim as needed for less than the price of a ticket to a Saturday movie matinee, without popcorn. It’s a bargain.

Every real man should go to a barbershop like that. Think about what my friend Christoph has seen looking out the window of his shop over the past 43 years. Christoph calls Arnold, the other barber in the shop, “the new guy,” because Arnold has only been there 18 years. That’s just amazing in these days when nobody’s loyal to anything, and no one has any darned stick-to-it anymore.

Plus, did I mention that they always have coffee and donuts? They do. It’s great.

I’ve gone to barbershops like this one since I was just a kid. There were two old German barber brothers who had a shop in the village next to my dad’s general store, and everybody called them Herr Hans and Herr Jens. They had cornered the market on old men’s haircuts in the county, and their place was just legendary.

There were these old regulars in there, with tobacco spit dripping down their chins, six days a week, all day, and there was a real brass spittoon for them. There was an old radio with Woody Herman or Harry James or Kay Kyser or something similar playing through a blown speaker with bad reception. Signed photos of race car drivers and 15-year old calendars with pictures of pretty women in bikinis on the walls. All that real man stuff.

They didn’t even ask you how you wanted your hair done, they just cut it the way they thought was best, threw some smelly toilet water on you, and charged you a quarter or so. They’d look at anyone new a bit suspicious at first, but they’d still give everyone one heck of a cut and shave, no questions asked, just so long as you were respectful and said your “pleases” and “thank you, sirs.”

I recommend a visit to a shop like that, for sure, even if you want nothing fancier than “Shave it all off with a number one clipper.” At a real barber, instead of having little plastic doohickeys on the clippers that change the length of the hair that remains, they have actual different size metal blades that they put on.

My barber Christoph has been cutting hair with the same clipper since he opened the shop, 43 years ago. It’s American made, son! It’s all metal, it weighs a ton, and it cuts the heck out of your hair! I know all this because it takes a solid half hour for him to shave my head, and he talks the whole time.

I always leave a generous tip when he’s done, because Christoph earns it, just like Herr Hans and Herr Jens earned it when I was a little fellow, learning what it meant to be a man. The thrill and fear of having some other guy running a bare, six inch-long straight razor blade around your ears and throat is something every real man should experience regularly.

That’s what real manhood is all about, if you ask me: the shared experience of hair removal.

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