I keep a list* of mundane things that fascinate me – like garbage cans, car washes, laundromats, parking garages. And barber shops.

After my dad became too frail to drive, one of my tasks was to take him to the barber shop, a two-chair operation where one of the barbers was even older than my dad; they were both as deaf as a stump but they seemed content as they carried on parallel yet unrelated conversations, like this actual one I overheard:

Barber: It’s cool today.
My dad: Yes, I’m feeling a little better.

The haircut was eight bucks. My dad paid with a twenty, and the barber gave him a ten and two ones as change. My dad handed him the ones as a tip; the barber took both ones and handed one of them back. It was a complicated financial transaction and took very nearly as long as the haircut had.

Usually, though, the younger barber cut my dad’s hair and his kindnesses toward my dad – holding the door, helping him in and out of chair, walking him out to the car – always made me emotional. As the days in assisted living moved on, eventually going to the barber was the single thing left from my dad’s old life. And then one day, I took him for a haircut and the place was dark; the door was locked and the phone was out of service. I felt so bad for my dad: just like that, with no warning, that single thing from before was gone. And we didn’t know what had happened.

I did find out a few months later, through one of those coincidences that happen in a town like Lubbock. Over lunch with a work friend, I happened to mention that later that day I was taking my dad to get a haircut but we were having to go to a new barbershop, and I told her the story of the vanishing barber. She said, “Edward? Oh, he died!” He was in a relationship with one of her employees and he’d died suddenly, after a Thanksgiving lunch. I never told my dad – I couldn’t bring myself to tell him any more bad news than what I already had to deliver on a regular basis.

And then when he passed away, my friend from work and the barber’s girlfriend both came to the funeral.

Of course none of this has anything at all to do with today’s photo. But it was on my mind…

Brownwood, Texas
photographed 5.23.2020

*An actual list, on the door in my studio. In case I forget.

Posted on June 11, 2020, in Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. That reminiscence is both sad and beautiful at the same time. It was very thoughtful of the younger barber and too bad he wasn’t able to continue the business.

    I haven’t gone to a barber in years. No, I am not challenging Billy Gibbons, I do my own. Don’t even need a bowl…there’s not a whole lot to work with. And I just lost the beard to make the required mask fit better and snugglier. But when I did I don’t remember there being a sink for every chair. If my hair wasn’t clean it took the dirt to the floor with it. When I was a practicing hippie with shoulder blade length hair, I decided to get a new do. This was at a time when most people did not like my kind. As I walked into a local hair cutlery, the barber looked, waved his straight razor in my direction, and told me to get the hell out of his shop. I fulfilled his request.


  2. A nice story that is close to my heart. Thanks.


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