Henry the Barber
By ice rivers
Just as dogs were once wolves, barbers were once doctors.
I remember going to the doctor before I remember going to the barber. Perhaps this is why I was afraid to go to the barber as a child.
My father took me for my first hair cut.
He took me to Henry.....the neighborhood barber. Henry cut everybody's hair in the East Side of the eighteenth ward. He had been cutting my father's hair since my Dad had come back home after his time in the Phillipines during WW 2.
When I saw Henry in his white smock, I didn't want to enter his shop. I was afraid that it would hurt. My father reassured me that it wouldn't hurt but he had told me the same thing the last time we went to the doctor's office.
It had hurt.
I was comparing smock to smock while standing between the barber poles. Henry, in his momentarily empty shop must have seen the terror outside on the sidewalk. Pretty sure my father had been telling Henry about me every two weeks when he sat in Henry's chair to get his trim.
Henry stepped outside his door.
"Vinnie is this big boy your son?"
"Yeah, Henry he is"
" Nice to meet you, son. Your Dad is so proud of you."
Henry shook my hand and before I knew it, I was sitting in his chair.
Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that Henry was authentically moved as he must have recalled my father as a boy sitting in the same chair that I was sitting. Pretty sure he had been concerned about my father during the war and happy when "Vinnie" had returned. Pretty sure a lot of neighborhood guys who went to war never returned to Henry's chair. Pretty sure he had known about my Mom's pregnancy. Pretty sure my father had sat in this chair the day that I was born. Pretty sure Henry had smoked one of the celebratory cigars. Pretty sure, they had discussed well in advance. what kind of haircut I would get this first sitting and what my mood would be.
Henry was more ready than I.
He gave me the same kind of haircut my father had been getting for years.
It was called a GI.
Henry had cut many a GI. He was good at them. He didn't hurt me one tiny bit.
I liked that.
I would return to Henry's shop for many years always getting the GI.
Always feeling relieved and connected.
Pretty much up until the Beatles hit, when I stopped getting haircuts for a long time.
Every once in awhile I would walk past Henry's shop but I didn't want to visit. I was kinda guilty that I wasn't seeing him regularly anymore. He hadn't done anything wrong.
I don't think many people were seeing him regularly anymore.
I went to college.
Whenever I came home, I cruised past Henry's shop until Thanksgiving. The shop was gone. Salons were destroying barber shops. Henry had sold his shop and according to rumor had moved to Florida.
The neighborhood had changed as well and was on it's way to dangerville. Neighborhood kids were getting GI's courtesy of Uncle Sam and heading to Nam.
People were getting hurt.
The barber poles were fading memories.
I still hated doctor's which almost killed me 40 years later.
I never forgot the day that my Dad told me the truth.
He told me that it wouldn't hurt.
Barbers were no longer doctors.