My barber, Dave, nods at us as we walk in. Neither his conversation nor his scissors pause. My four youngest boys hustle to the toy box in the back room. Many of the toys are old or broken. Looking at the scramble for them though, you would think they were gold doubloons. My older three boys were more reserved in public. When these last four get comfortable somewhere, they resemble a litter of poorly trained beagles – howling randomly, jumping on each other, and pretending they cannot hear their master’s commands. I avoid yelling across the room. It makes me look out of control and does not work anyway. Just as with young pups, orders growled in close proximity are more effective.
The boys are quiet for now, so I am free to listen in on any of the conversations.
Our turn comes quickly. I have the squirmy, ticklish ones go first. I distract the squirmer while the barber fastens the cape. Sometimes Lamaze breathing is required for the kid, the barber, and me. But they usually settle down after a moment or two. The haircuts go smoothly. Then it is my turn. I enjoy getting my hair cut, always have. I climb into the chair, but before Dave can ask me, “What are we doing today?” a sucker dispute erupts. Like freshly-shorn boys from time immemorial, the boys receive a Dum-Dum sucker after their haircut. The importance of the sucker to the boys cannot be overstated. It is not a treat; it is a hard-earned prize. Its value to the barber and parents is also significant. The promise of a sucker has lured many a wary boy onto a chair, and has calmed many wiggly ones.
The boys are arguing about who has the best sucker. One brags about his grape sucker, but a brother says that grape tastes like medicine. Another praises his root beer sucker. Five-year-old Daniel asks me to taste his sucker and tell him if his red sucker is strawberry or cotton candy, he cannot tell. I decline the taste test, but declare it must be strawberry because cotton candy suckers are light blue. The argument peters out before a conclusion is reached.
I tell Dave I want “the usual.” Even though I have had the same basic haircut for the fifteen years I have been going to Longview, Dave confirms what the usual is – one half inch off everywhere, no clippers. I tell Dave that I like the new sign outside the shop. The sign is the latest part of Longview’s multi-year remodeling. But this is no ordinary project. Instead of updating the furniture, lighting, and televisions from its ‘70s and ‘80s hodge-podge look, Dave is going for a vintage ‘30s and ‘40s feel. The three large televisions are gone. Well, one was moved to the back room for those who just cannot do without. The original glass wall in front has been uncovered to let in natural light. The fiberglass waiting chairs have been replaced by seats from the now-demolished Clintonville Theater. But not everything is retro. The shop has over 1300 Facebook likes, and the sign-in sheet is streamed live on the Longview website.
Dave cuts hair as quickly as he talks, so my turn is soon over. Another haircut under our belts, I pay the man, round up the pack and head for home.
The next time you visit Longview, tell Dave, Nick, Jeremy, Merry, Chan, or Rob that Randy sent you.