Getting Buzzed

Barber Shop in Richardson, Texas (circa 1920). Image: Wikimedia

I absolutely shutter when I visualize three or four mature gentlemen, sitting on a park bench, flicking peanuts at tree rats, recounting their glory days of virility and accomplishment. Fortunately for me, my friends live in other towns and states, so it’s unlikely I’d become a willing participant in the aforementioned visual. Second to my music studies, I’d say my bimonthly visits to my barber, let’s call him Sam (sorry Sam), are coveted social excursions much like when seeking marital advice from a bartender before the serious drinking crowd arrives.

When the warm months arrive to test my mental and physiological resolve, I like #2 buzz cuts, as contrasted with #3 buzz cuts during my creative months of fall, winter, and spring. Sam operates a single-chair barber shop with three waiting chairs against the sidewalk window. Sam has fingers like sausages, which are too big to finger his nose for gooey morsels but more than adequate to be the artist that he is with comb and clippers. While Fox News babes adjust their short skirts and move their lips on the muted TV, country music fills the shop with the likes of Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, George Strait, Johnny Paycheck, Barbara Mandrell, Patsy Cline, and other classic crooners courtesy of a playlist from yours truly (I also slipped in some Marshall Tucker and The Outlaws).

Sam knows I don’t like sitting with my back to the sidewalk window so I sit in his desk chair. Since I sit at his desk, I feel obliged to answer the phone. I let it ring five times to simulate the time it takes Sam, having to put down the tools of his trade, to hobble over to answer the phone. “Sam’s barber shop, Sam speaking,” I say in my best Sam personification (Sam allows me do this with amusement). “It’s Frank,” I announce to Sam, but he waves me off with clippers in his right hand, so Frank and I reignite a long-standing conversation about ancient alien astronaut theories and Bigfoot sightings in McMinnville.

Sam’s obviously more engrossed in the one-sided conversation that he’s hearing than the path his power clippers are taking on the head underneath his hands, the ones with the sausage fingers. I pause Frank’s story about seeing aliens during the Korean War to tell him Sam just sheared a wide swath of hair off the thirty-something dude in the chair. Not amused by either ancient alien astronaut theories or Sam’s misguided power clippers, the thirty-something dude powers up his mouth, telling Sam to pay attention to his haircut and not the absurdity of ancient aliens.

I hear Frank asking for clarification as to what is transpiring, so I explain that the dude in the chair is dismissive of ancient alien astronaut theorists and demands that Sam focus his attention on trimming his hair. Frank rents the studio apartment above Sam’s shop, and I hear him thumping down the stairs. Frank tends to give the wrong first impression of geezer-dom and this instance is without exception, for Frank appears before us dressed in a tank top, boxer shorts, and black oxford shoes.

“What the fuck is this,” comes from the mouth of the coiffed hair. Sam is doing all he can to maintain his laughter from escalating into full-on beer-belly hysterics. I step into my “The Negotiator” character, focusing my attention on the freshly coiffed hair, presenting to him my most sincere George Carlin expression of sympathetic concern. I introduce Frank as a decorated war veteran who wore the uniform for so long that he promised himself he’d live out his remaining years in t-shirts and boxers. I ceremonially extend my right arm to Coiffed Hair, intimating for his introduction.

Coiffed Hair calls himself Gerald, to which Franks says, “That’s a great geezer name.” Sam, Frank, and I laugh in unison and invite Gerald along for food and drink at Fontaine’s Tavern. Gerald is initially reluctant to join us, but Sam told him if he didn’t he’d have to leave the shop with a runway strip down the middle of his head. Sam gives Gerald a #3 buzz cut to salvage what was left of his hair.

Gerald sits down in the desk chair while Sam gives me a #3 buzz. Frank comes back downstairs fully clothed. The phone rings, Gerald picks it up after a few rings and gruffly says, “Sam’s barber shop, Sam speaking.” Our interest piqued, Gerald mumbles yes and no, nodding his head up and down, and ending the phone conversation with, “Yes, dear.” Gerald puts the phone back in its cradle, giggles like a girl, and tells Sam if he stays out too late with his geezer buddies, he’ll have to sleep in the camper tonight. Sam’s wife is a good sport.

With that behind us, the four of us headed down to Billy Fontaine’s place. A good time was had by all, and us three geezers reveled in the stories of virility and accomplishment from Gerald, our young companion and geezer in training.