Originally written this summer, in the days leading up to my marriage to a wonderful woman.
So today I got my haircut. A long overdue errand which rendered me looking more like my driver’s license (taken during a particularly lazy and long-hair growing effort in college) and less like the sleek, sexy, fiancé, to be married in less than a month man who I am.
And I had a thought as I was attempting to communicate to Donna, a nice but nearly impossible to understand Asian woman who was cutting my hair how much the hair cutting experience has changed since I was growing up. I grew up in a small town where there were two barbers. I went to one, Potter’s Barber Shop, religiously. The fellow who owned and ran the place was named Mark Brennan (I believe, his last name wasn’t Potter as everyone in town assumed who did not know him).
I went to his shop from an early age. I was taken there by my parents at first then starting going on my own not only because it was familiar to me. But I loved the atmosphere. Mark was a jovial man and loved to talk sports. I’d listen to the old timer’s talk about the Redskins and the Orioles (this was long after the Washington Senators and long before the Washington Nationals). As I grew I’d interject and we’d shoot the breeze about sports. Local, college, professional. It didn’t matter.
It was great fun and great banter. Later in life when I was middle school I did a little bit of work for Mark. You see, he also started running a sports card business out of the shop. And I helped kids with cards from the case, and rang up customers for cards as he cut hair. He paid me in cards since I was completely hooked on them at that point and clearly didn’t have a good understanding of money.
But I was happy and he was happy to have me since he could focus on hair while I sold cards and when we needed his advice, he would pause, provide it, and keep on cutting. I loved my first job there. I was always excited to come home with my new packs of cards and see what gems were hidden inside.
That was part of the fun of card collecting as a boy. You never knew who you were going to get in a pack of cards. What rookie card would one day become valuable. What special edition card you’d get a hold of. Who you could find, then trade to a friend for a card you wanted. I was a big Karl Malone fan. Partially because we shared a name but mostly because I just loved the way he played. He was a big man who had a soft touch. He could pound the boards just as easily as he could hit the 20′ jumper. I loved to watch him play with John Stockton, The two of them were magic on the court.
This all hit me today as I was sitting in the chair, surrounded by women in curlers, a cacophony of voices young and old, and the din of a hair salon. And I thought back to that simpler time and simpler place. Three chairs. One case of cards off to the side. A couple different boxes of cards lining the back wall, a tiny bathroom, small coat rack and about a half-dozen chairs and benches along with a generous selection of magazines to read or thumb through.
I miss those hair cuts with Mark. Shooting the breeze about the upcoming football season. Looking at the row of autographed pictures he had from the various Redskins and other professional athletes he had met. I feel like that was a simpler time in a simpler place not too far away from where I am now. A mere 60 miles to the west. Over a mountain and into a sleepy little country town.