Friday, December 30, 2011

One Last Thanks For The Best Barber In The World

This isnt a eulogy, though it feels like it a bit. No one has died. And anyway, I'm not very good at writing eulogies, despite the sad fact that I've had to write more than my share given my age. And I certainly have never written one for someone who's still living.

But here we go.


Los Angeles is home to me, and I find it a friendly town. I continue to have deep, meaningful friendships from the little suburb in which I was raised, including with some of the other authors on this blog. Since moving back to Los Angeles for good right before the millenium, I've been able to make new friends based more in the heart of the city. I'm fortunate to have an eclectic group surrounding me, mixing creative and business types, young and old, single folk and family-types. I have found Los Angeles to be a pretty easy place to make friends.

But I understand that Los Angeles isn't the most friendly, approachable place for a lot of people. We cocoon ourselves in our automobiles, shuttling from home to work without other human contact. Our neighborhoods sometimes change from block to block but the differences are sometimes stark and pronounced. Angelenos are friendly folk, but there's also a slight superficiality about it all, which might be due to the sunshine or the pretty people or the laid-back atmosphere or even the entertainment industry itself. I've always joked that the difference between New York City and Los Angeles is that in LA they say hi to you walking down the street but don't mean it, whereas in NY they don't say hi to you at all.

Anyway, I appreciate that despite all the smiles and sunshine, that this can be a lonely town.


Now, think about those times when you actually meet someone new out here. Not someone from work, or from church, or from beach volleyball class, or even from traffic school. Someone outside your normal circle, with whom you have a conversation that goes beyond pickup lines and shallow small-talk.

And now think about someone whom you might see regularly, every three to four weeks or so. It's a pretty limited set of people, right? In fact, I can't think of more than a handful of people who would qualify for that screen. But one of those people might be your barber. At least for me, every three weeks, I'm sitting with the same guy, spending 45 minutes of time together in conversation, as he tries to fix my disaster of a Chia Pet hairdo.

Now, the guy who has cut my hair for the last decade isn't just a good barber, he's a fascinating and deeply compelling human being. He's a really worldly guy whose interests and knowledge bases transcend norms and cultures and strata. He reads the New York Times as fervently as LA Weekly and TMZ. He got me hooked on the Battlestar Galactica (the re-imagined TV series). He goes to Burning Man and camps (for real) and does things that are beyond my limitations and constraints, and I enjoy learning about these experiences from him.

I really enjoy seeing Dennis, which is why I have driven way the hell out of my way to come see him on a regular basis, despite job and house and life changes in the interim. And over the duration of the last decade, of course, he's gotten to know about me as well: my kids, my interests, my love of the Dodgers and of baseball in general. I sure as hell know that I'm not all that interesting, but I think I'm nice enough, and my barber feigns interest at least for 45 minutes.

So the relationship can stop there, and in most cases, it normally does. Except a couple of years ago (yes, I'm really late in writing about this on the blog), my barber did something that was incredibly cool.

He drove back to Kansas to help move his elderly mom out of their family house and into a home. In the course of this effort, he was cleaning out the house and preparing it to be sold, and he came upon some old magazines. So he brought them back with him all the way to California, and out of the blue one day, he gave them to me.

And they are absolute treasures.

I kinda had a feeling that I had a pretty cool barber, but this--this was just awesome. They are really cool artifacts of baseball history that are a pleasure to read and admire. And the old Sports Illustrated--the baseball issue after the year the Dodgers won the World Series--is chock full of old-time advertisements (as well as a Roy Campanella interview) that is truly awesome.

I was speechless. It is a truly generous gift that really blew me away. And it reflected to me how cool it was that what could be a purely transactional engagement became a truly personal relationship. The fact that he got to know me that well, and thought of me so much as to lug a pile of old rags back 1500 miles in the chance that I might appreciate them (which I do; they are displayed on my living room bookcase at home), was just as cool to me as the items themselves. You see, you can meet cool people in LA.

And I have the best barber in the world.


So the reason for this eulogy-of-sorts is that my barber is leaving LA to go return to Hawaii, where he lived some of his life and where he wants to return. It's a great move for him; when he talks about going back, you can see the sparkle in his eye and you can tell how excited he is, almost like he's ready and he knows the right time is now. I remember feeling that way about coming back to Los Angeles after spending some time in other cities, just knowing that the time was finally right. And it's personally energizing to see him so fired up for the impending move.

Now it's a bummer for me. My barber has seen me gray (literally); he's been cutting my hair for so long. And it will suck to find someone else (if you've got any suggestions near Hollywood, let me know).

But it has been wonderful knowing my barber over the last ten years or so, and though I'll miss our monthly conversations, I'm excited for him in his next adventure. And I'm truly appreciative of his friendship, and generosity, over the last decade.

Thanks, Dennis. And best of luck to you in Hawaii!


Dusty Baker said...

Saved reading this until I could really concentrate on it. Well said, Sax. I love reading old magazines and even perusing the ads; the ads provide such an historic lens through which to understand a place in time.

What was the gist of the Campanella interview?

Fred's Brim said...

Good stuff, Saxy!
And this gives you a good excuse to visit Hawaii a couple of times a year, even if it means having to grow a mane

susie said...

Great article and fitting tribute to a wonderful man that I am proud to call my friend. I am happy for his new journey. Happy and excited through the tears.