The Barber from Brooklyn

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A funny thing happened as we were leaving New York City. We had a bit of time to kill before we were due to arrive at Wendy's place so we decided to go for a drive, and as Manhattan is not a very conducive place to just "go for a drive" we headed across the Brooklyn Bridge and into Brooklyn. We had no particular place we were going, we were basically just following our nose and seeing where we ended up.

Well, we ended up in a place called Flatbush, a suburban area of Brooklyn. There appeared to be a few interesting looking clothes shops along the main street so I suggested to Donna that we stop and have a look around. After parking the car, we went for a saunter down the main street where we began to realise that we were pretty much the only white folk around. Everyone else - all the people on the streets, the shopkeepers, everyone - were all African American. Now, I pretty much take people as I find them, so being in a "black" part of town didn't strike me a particularly big deal. The people we spoke with were certainly friendly enough, we had lunch in a local store and we generally enjoyed our time there.

But here's the funny part... Donna had been at Alex for a while to get a haircut, so when we returned to the car and noticed there was a barber shop across the road, she started coaxing Alex again to go get a haircut. Al eventually gave in to the pressure and off we all went to the barber shop.

Well, I suppose we should probably have expected that if you are in a black part of Brooklyn then you ought to expect the black barber's clientele would be pretty much all black guys. We all sat there in the shop - four skinny white dudes - waiting for Alex to get his turn. As we waited, a steady stream of young black guys wandered in and out of the shop, highfiving the barbers, saying stuff like "yo, wassup ma man!" and checking out the glass cabinet of Nike Air shoes on display at the back of the shop. It felt a bit like being in an episode of Good Times. As well as checking out all the people coming and going, we also watched those in front of us get their haircuts, and it struck me that a lot of African American men get their hair cut in a fairly similar way - very, very short with the clippers, trimmed right up close to the hairline, and often with very funky little sideburns or beards. Not only that, but it occurred to me that because the Barber - a nice enough fella by the name of Louie - cut his clients hair in pretty much the same way all the time that this was pretty much the only style he really knew how to cut. Fair enough I guess.

So when our shaggy-headed Alex finally got his turn, and Donna bounded up to Louie to say, "if you could just thin it out a little, don't lose too much off the length", he just kind of looked at her blankly. You could tell he was trying to figure out just how he was going to do this, what tools he'd need to do it, and why the hell these white honkies were in his shop anyway.

Louie left the shop for a couple of minutes and came back with a couple of extra combs and cutters - I think he must have run over to the women's hairdressing shop across the street and asked them what he needed. :-) Anyway, he did a mighty fine job on Alex's head, including the same trimmed hairline and funky sideburns that the rest of his customers got (take a close look at the photo above and check out the wannabe sideburns made out of adolescent bumfluff). I guess when you do something the same way over and over it's pretty hard to break the paradigm. We refer to it as Alex's "black dude" haircut. Yo, Alex, wassup ma man?

Louie handed us a couple of business cards as we left and said he'd see us next time. And you know, maybe if Brooklyn wasn't so far away he just might.

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