Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: Barber Shops

A Barber To The Roots
  
 
A male barber cut my hair the other day. I couldn’t remember the last time such a thing happened. 

I always got my hair cut by a male barber for the first 20-plus years of my life. Where else would I have gotten my hair cut? The Curl ‘n Chat Beauty Salon? 

“Hi, Beatrice, see what you can do about these split ends, and did you hear t he latest about the Bobbitts? Talk about taking a little off the top.” 

But at some point during my 20s, somebody – a woman, I’m certain – convinced me I shouldn’t go to a barbershop anymore to get my hair cut. I should go to a stylist instead. 

So I did. The primary difference between a barber and a stylist, most of whom were women, is that the magazines in the stylists’ shops were mostly for women, too, and the stylist charged about three times what the barber used to. 

But I kept going to stylists. Somehow, I guess I thought to go back to a barber would be like going back to wearing Old Spice. 

The stylist would have an assistant shampoo my hair, first, and then the stylist would, well, style. Barber-cutting, I also noticed, doesn’t take as long as styling. 

I had a stylist ask me once, “What kind of statement are you trying to make with your hair?” 

I didn’t know how to answer that. 

The barber used to forgo the shampoo unless you asked for one, and hair didn’t make statements back then. It just sort of sat there on the top of your head in utter silence, especially after the barber had cut it so short about all it could have done was recite the military swearing-in oath. 

It’s sort of a long story how I got back to a barber for my latest haircut. Let’s say only there was a convenience factor involved. 

The barber’s name was Jack Smith. He has a shop in Atlanta’s Airport Hilton. Jack Smith did a great job on my hair. He cut it the length I like, just touching the ears. He nailed those sideburns that always creep down my cheek when I haven’t had a haircut in a while. 

When he finished, I looked into a mirror and my hair looked just as good or better than it did after all those expensive stylings I’ve had. 

Vidal Sassoon, his own self, probably couldn’t do a lot with my cowlick mop, but that’s beside the point. 

The point is, it was a nostalgic comfort being back at the hands of a barber. The things I’ve done in my life to please women, I thought, and I laughed recalling my old barber at home who used to douse on a little Old Spice after my haircut, and say “Now, you smell like a boy dog.” 

One more thing about Jack Smith, the barber, and my haircut. 

Jack Smith didn’t turn out to be just Jack Smith. He was the Jack Smith I used to watch pitch for the baseball team that reared me, the old minor league Atlanta Crackers. 

THAT Jack Smith. Hard to believe. There I was getting a haircut from a barber who was also a boyhood idol. 

In the year 1960, when I was 13, Jack was a relief pitcher for Atlanta’s Dodger farm team that won the Southern Association’s pennant. 

We remembered some of his teammates together. Big Jim Koranda. Jim Williams. Pete Richert. Poochie Hartsfield. Tim Harkness. 

Jack later made it three seasons in the big leagues. 

“But that was when it was a sport, not a business,” he laughed, a way of saying he didn’t qualify for a pension. 

Jack said the fear of flying drove him out of baseball, and he’s been cutting hair ever since. 

I finally go back to a barber after all these years and he turns out to be THAT Jack Smith. 

“I like your haircut,” Dedra said to me later. 

She probably wouldn’t have understood if I had tried to explain it wasn’t just a haircut. It had been, as a matter of fact, at least a temporary settling of my restless soul.

1 Response to “Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: Barber Shops”


  1. 1 OldDawg55 May 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Lewis nailed it, as always. How many of us have, after a long hesitation, wandered into a “beauty shop” to have our haircut. My first experience was being escorted by my wife to “her” stylist and she stood by making corrective remarks on how my hair was to be done. Having spent most of my life with “Military” haircuts, I now had some hair atop my head and my wife wanted it styled. I admit the stylist spent twice the time my regular barber did at the chore but in the end, you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken s***, so the only differnce, really, was $16 versus $7.50…plus my wife pointed out that a tip was offered to a stylist. All that and I didn’t get any conversation about football or politics during the ordeal..but I did learn a great deal about some city leaders that I hadn’t heard before. I envy Grizzard with Jack Smith and conversation about some of the same guys I recall from yesteryear..as usual it brought about a sad reminder of the loss of a great writer and a damn good dawg!


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