[![barber college by vistavision @ flickr]]
We are smack in the middle of a heck of a travelling ten days. Left Chattanooga where we had Christmas for Glasgow where we had New Years via Atlanta (shuttle), London (plane), and Edinburgh (rental car). Then down to L’s farm in Southwest corner of Scotland. Then up to Edinburgh for a nap then to Den Haag via Amsterdam (plane and train). Thursday I trek down to Hargeisa via Zurich, Dubai, and Berbera.
Since I only have a very limited time here in the Hague before I return to Hargeisa, today I had to go get my haircut. I had been in the states for a few months and L wasn’t sure about the state of my hair upon arriving for the Christmas celebrations. The current outlook was grim at any rate. I had purposely delayed getting it cut (and my beard closely trimmed) because I am sometimes incredibly neglgent at life but also because I quite like my Turkish barber here in the Hague.
One thing I am learning about myself is how important patronage is. When I view it through the lens of community formation, patronage becomes exceedingly important to me. The word patron is a funny word. Reconciling medieval notions of artists who had patrons with more modern exclamatories of “don’t patronize me” leaves quite an imterpretive swath. Yet, the patronage I mean I to give someone your business more or less on a regular basis. Sometimes it is an exclusive arrangement; sometimes not. In others words I mean it in the same sense as to become a regular.
Some of the difficulties of living a nomad’s life are eased by assembling small pockets of communities where you are known. But communities, are living things and thereby require engagement in order to survive and to thrive. If you don’t participate in and engage with your communities the linkages between you and them whither. Sometimes it takes an extraordinarily long time for the connections to whither – as I found upon a trip to visit old, grand friends in September after too long apart. Sometimes it doesn’t take long at all for connections to whither – as I found out upon numerous trips to the same Panera where they never once gave me a singular look of recognition.
When the barber was almost ready for me, one of his partners walked in and asked me into his chair. I politely refused the earliest available barber for my guy. My guy speals not a lick of English and I not a lick of Dutch. So we have said very little to one another besides yes / no and some serious sign language. And yet, I feel (perhaps it is one sided) that we have a connection. When I saw me walk in there was a look of recognition on his face. Perhaps he’s just a good actor, but either way it made me feel quite happy to be a known commodity instead of an unknown commodity briefly flitting into and out of existence.
When I first sat in his chair on our first meeting, he looked at my hair for a second, realized I didn’t speak Dutch and then just grabbed some of my hair indicated a length, I said no, he went shorter, I said yes. That was it until the end when I smiled and rubbed my chin. He used his finger and thumb to indicate short, medium, or long. I said medium with my fingers. Then I gave him the money and went on my way happier for the nice relax and small nap I had gotten while at the barber. Many like to go to their barbers for the news and gossip. I like to go to close my eyes and have a bit of relax. To turn my brain off for a split second. After that first cut, when L saw it, she said it was the best cut I had received in ages. This sealed the deal. So now I am his customer.
I have been a few times since that first time and every time I enjoy the ridiculous Turkish sappy pop songs and the fifties traditional decorating scheme with its marble and glass shelves and perfume bottles and potted plants and overall uptown Manhattan feel circa 1950. But also I get a really great haircut. So now I am willing to get a bit feral in order to wait till I can get back to the Hague to see my barber.
This is a pretty normal way of living ones life it seems to me. Most people I know have a favorite haircutter. It is a funny profession in that way. So universal. It should be known as the fourth or fifth oldest profession. Every community on earth has a barber shop and for a vast majority of the communities the barber shop is a hub of the community. A gathering point for gossip and discussion. A place which did not require the time or effort that a pub required. A place which you never know who you would run into. I like that even if I cannot gossip about who recently married whom at my barber shop, that I can at least walk in and he knows what to do.
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