When I first moved to the area in 1991 I wore a flattop. I know that is hard for some to believe, what with me being bald for the past 12 years or so but once upon a time I had enough hair on top to wear a respectable auburn flattop. I complimented the look with a moustache.
Maintaining a flattop is a bit of a chore. If you go too long without getting it cut it starts to look all out of proportion and then you’re just a few short steps from parachute pants and exclaiming “Yo Hammer don’t hurt ’em”, so when I got settled in these parts I had to find a barber that could execute the precision my flattop required.
After a couple of missteps and bad haircuts, I finally found a barber that could do the job well. The barbershop is a standalone unit located on a side street downtown; it’s flanked by two empty buildings. There are two chairs but only one barber. The other chair was Sam’s station but he had passed away a couple of years before I discovered the shop. The front chair belongs to Carm, a jovial older Italian man. He’s tall and thin, his name has many vowels. I thought of him as “older” back in 1991, I still think of him as “older” today, 17 years later.
Carm is a pleasant man. I’ve never heard him speak ill of anyone. His shop is populated by all sorts of men; workers from the state and county office building, lawyers and police officers and construction crews getting cleaned up for the weekend. While not overly busy, I suppose he does a respectable business. I sometimes wonder when he’ll retire.
Though my visits to Carm became more sporadic as time marched on and my hair vacated my head, he has always remembered various stops along my career path: radio DJ, restaurant co-owner, computer man. I was last in his shop in August 2006 where he carved out my first incarnation of the “wide” moustache that I wear from time to time. He is located close my work and occasionally I’ll pass by on a wild attempt to get some exercise during my lunch hour. He always waves and smiles.
During my last visit to the shop I noticed that he had slowed down a little bit. I mean, he’s getting on in his years and that’s to be expected. I noticed two winters ago there was a sign in the window saying that he’d be closed for a few weeks due to illness. He came back and resumed his schedule a short while later, I’d still pass by and wave. He’d wave back.
Carm’s shop is still open today. Since that bout with illness I decided to drive by on my way home from work once in a while to see if the shop is still open. I have little reason to go into the shop: I don’t have much hair on my head and I wear a beard most of the time. I’d glance in the big window as I passed by and occasionally see him sleeping in the barber chair closest to the window; the task of reading the newspaper apparently turned into an afternoon nap that probably went a little longer than expected. So I developed the habit of giving a quick little beep on the car horn in an effort to remind him that it was quitting time. I’d then go around the block again to see if he woke up. By the time I went by the shop again, I’d see him stirring and making motions to close up for the day.
I don’t know if Carm knows what wakes him up on the days he falls asleep reading the newspaper near quittin’ time but I don’t think I’m doing any harm. His shop is one little piece of Americana in this fast paced world that I cherish.
Here’s a picture I snapped the last time I was in his chair. It was August 2006.