Blue jean and flannel smiles sit on the low brick wall framing the sidewalk, a howdy and hey ya'll handy for the next person that graces the doorstep. Tendrils of smoke ring the candy cane sign in a blue haze, shrouding what is beyond the door in mystery.
Jingle jangle, chipped gold bells hanging on the door, tied up in last years Christmas ribbon announce our presence to the cabal within. Pure essence of man pushes across our pores in a warm wave, a blend of hair tonic and blue liquid from the jar they float the combs in to keep them sterile.
This is where boys become men, in a maroon leather swivel chair.
Stories pass down across the ages, world politics are solved as a straight razors lick the stubble from your chin. Men talk man talk, unashamed, as clumps of hair mingle on the yellow green flecked linoleum around the base of the chair, gathering sins confessed, until Richard limps across the room on the artificial leg that carried him back from Nam' and sweeps them up, like grace.
Mr. Brown was the first man to cut my hair. He also was the first to cut my sons, dressed in a blue shirt, reminiscent of something out of a medical ward. His scissors fall into an easy rhythm lulling you to sleep, taking all your burdens with a dollop of warm shave cream slathering across your face.
These days, I cut my own hair with clippers and a mirror. Mostly I do alright. On days I don't I just shave it all down to soft prickly stubble. Its just hair, it will grow back. Sometimes as I run my fingers across my freshly shorn head, I wish all mistakes could be fixed as easy, sacrificing a little vanity on the bathroom floor, swept away and deposited in a trash can.
Every once in a while, I like to revisit the barber, putting my life in their hands as they massage my neck with the shave cream, then stretch it with their sure fingers and run the sharp edge across my throat. There is nothing like that feeling after a wet shave, it makes you a new man.
And as I watch Richard sweep the hair in the red metal dust pan, it reminds me of the grace I sometimes forget to give myself.