I switched barber shops recently. I had been going to a little place on “historic” Tennyson Street, a trendy little area a few miles from my place that is rapidly being redeveloped in to something that will one day no longer be historic, just a bunch of expensive little boxes full of people who have no clue about the history of the area. At least they have a Natural Grocers, although I’m sure many locals miss the bowling alley that was razed to make room for all those vitamins and healthy food choices.
Chuck’s Barber Shop has been a fixture on Tennyson Street since some time in the 50’s, if I recall correctly. (Not that I was there back then, just that I read about it somewhere.?) Chuck still worked there when I first came to town. He was an old amiable guy, very slight with a hunched over posture that made me wonder how he was still cutting hair after all these years. He was nice, a very non-judgemental gentleman – given the era he came from – and considering all of the man buns, piercings and tattoos prevalent in the area today. He lorded over his three chair shop in a grandfatherly fashion, supported by an ever revolving cast of tonsorial artists. I can actually say that I looked forward to my visits every month or so, reminding me somewhat of my childhood, complete with the handheld massagers I wrongly assumed had gone by the wayside.
Chuck retired a while back and leased the shop to one of his employees, Dan. Dan promptly put a nail shop in the back, run by his wife, and the whole operation went downhill. The last several times I went in Dan was cutting hair by himself, frantically trying to keep up with all of the customers. He even enlisting his wife to run interference, at one point she was doing the neck massages on customers prior to them even getting their hair cut. This was basically a tactic to stall while Dan finished up with his current customer. The drop off in service was annoying to the extent that I decided to take my business elsewhere.
Bert’s Edgewater Barber Shop is only a few blocks from my house. I had driven by it on numerous occasions, even before I discovered Chuck’s, and for some reason I was intimidated to stop in. I decided to give it a try and stopped by one afternoon. There was one barber on duty, the co-owner – Dan by coincidence – and one customer in the chair. I immediately struck up a conversation with both – something that did not ordinarily happen at Chuck’s – and enjoyed a rather pleasant experience. Dan was quite conversational and I was happy to see that his prices were about 20% lower than what I had been paying. I left quite pleased and promising to return.
I was getting a bit shaggy and stopped by Bert’s again this week. Bert has retired by the way, selling the business to Dan and his brother. I noticed several cars in front of the business when I pulled up and hoped that the wait was not too long. I pushed the door open and upon entering I saw Dan – working solo again – with a customer in the chair and one waiting. Dan looked up and recognized me, calling out a greeting. I responded in kind and the waiting customer, who appeared to have been dozing, jumped in his seat. I apologized for startling him, everyone laughed, and I took a seat. Dan quickly finished with his customer and motioned for the next one.
The man I had startled got up and made his way to the chair. He looked as if he might be a painter, sleeveless white shirt and white pants with the look of a work outfit. He was slim, longish hair with a bald spot and a longish untrimmed beard. Once he sat in the chair the conversation with Dan turned to the recent hail storm – one of the worst in many years in this area – and the progress he was making in getting his roof repaired. He then mentioned that he was looking forward to the Winter Park Jazz Festival this weekend.
My ears perked up. I asked him who was playing and he went on at length about the various musicians. I admitted that I was not a big jazz fan although I was familiar with the pedigrees of several of the musicians, people they had played with previously. We began talking about bands we liked and various concerts we had seen recently. He mentioned that he had gone to the King Crimson show two weeks ago, a show that I very nearly went to myself. He told me that it was fantastic, which only made me want to kick myself for not going. We talked excitedly as we shared mutual interests, going on about King Crimson, Wishbone Ash, The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule and others. We ended up talking about Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stephens and his affiliation with two other well regarded musicians, drummer Terry Bozzio and bassist Tony Levin. I admitted that though I had heard of that collaboration I was not familiar with their music. He assured me it was good stuff.
Dan finished up and as the man rose to go we both shook hands and commented on how much we enjoyed the conversation. I introduced myself and he did the same, telling me his name was Art. He then walked out and I jumped in the chair and Dan said something to the effect of “Wow, you guys sure know a lot about music. I don’t know 90% of the bands you were talking about.” I told him that music was my passion and that I had seen quite a few shows in my day. A new customer entered and the conversation turned back to the hail storm, then legal weed, naming rights for Sports Authority Field now that Sports Authority is no longer in business, and how the sports team owners are ripping off the cities, tax payers and consumers with their big stadium deals. Typical barber shop stuff, except for the weed, I guess.
Just as Dan was about to finish up the door opened and Art walked in. He had a CD in his hand and as he approached me he held it out and said “Bozzio, Levin, Stephens. This is really good!” I replied “Is this for me?” He nodded yes and handed it too me. I thanked him and he was on his way. Dan and I were both a bit surprised. Art had been gone long enough that he had obviously gone home to get the CD, a homemade burn that was dated 2009. I paid Dan and left, thinking to myself that the whole experience had made my day. Two men who did not know each other bonding in the moment over the love of common musical interests. Two men who had probably passed each other at the grocery store – Edgewater is a small neighborhood – on numerous occasions.
I popped it in the CD player as soon as I got in the car and, sure enough, it is some good stuff. I hope Art enjoys the Winter Park Jazz Festival and if I happen to see him at King Soopers or some other local place I will definitely say hello and let him know how much I like the music. Simple pleasures truly are the best.