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Thursday, May. 30, 2002
Just got back from the barbershop.

Now, understand, I've been patronizing the same guys for upwards of 30 years. It's not as though it's intentional, they just happen to be about the only barbers in this area. The ones with hot lather dispensers and straight razors and clippers that squeak.

I forgave them for adding women as barbers. This happened about 10 years ago. And yes ladies, lest you begin to cry foul about my apparent sexism, I understand that men cutting women's hair is not taboo, that it has been going on for a lot longer than any of us have been alive to protest it. I even grew sort of fond of having a woman cut my hair, it was a nice change of pace to have someone take their time and not be in there all hedge trimming and going for the quick buck like men tend to do with hair, as a rule.

Like Ralph does.

Ralph is a 50-something guy who hasn't been out of the barbering business since he was 18. This does not necessarily mean that he ever learned how to cut hair in the first place.

He, in fact, is the one to be avoided. He was the last choice of the walk in customer back when the barbershop had only men doing the cutting. I've seen actual grown-ups peer through the glass to see if Ralph was the only one available to cut their hair and duck back down the alley at a furious pace. Now that there are two women and Ralph doing the trimming, you'd think he'd have all the geriatric and grumpy old timer's he could handle coming in and setting down for a bit of ear lowering.

Nope. They'd rather go to the women.

Such was the case today. I had limited time and hair that was beginning to come to a luxurious, Samson like growth. I took my chances and peeked in the barbershop.

Ralph. Somnambulant in the chair. Jeez.

"Ralph, I want a summer cut, got me? Stuffs too long and it's time for a good shearing. Think of me as your sheep, Ralph."

Which is a very dangerous thing to say in any case but I thought it might give him some artistic direction.

He was very business like. Got right to it. Ralph can zip through a dozen customers in an hour and pile up profits for the store like nobody else but the victims all look as though they strolled through a recent cyclone. He likes to trim the front of my head first (so that several clumps fall into my eyes and nose, causing me to close down all orifices and hope for the best). He likes to spray mysterious liquids onto the newly shorn locks which have holding tendencies. As in Fiberglas hardener. He spends a fair amount of time sharpening his razor for the all important neck trim, which is a cause for fear on my behalf as he usually finds the latest mosquito bite bump and lays it open with a hot lather flourish. Whipping off the sheet from my lap, he managed to choke me into blindness with another cloud of hair, as I groped for my wallet and withdrew the first bill I came across. I imagine he gets a fair amount of tips that way.

Ralph prefers, as senior barber, to choose his own television programming. Today's selection was Gilligan's Island, a fine and light hearted affair for the removal of hair follicles. They played the theme song and when they got to the proper moment, I sang right along.

"It's primitive as can be…"

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