Barber poleBy Michael Kress

Lorenzo retired. He was my barber.

This is not another story about big chains squeezing out the little guy, nor is it a lament for the only person who could do justice to my hair; his shop remains open, run by others, and virtually anyone can give me my standard, conservative men’s cut. No, this is a story of a human connection severed, one small, infrequent, and hardly close relationship ended.

But I am still sad.

Lorenzo was friendly, in the barber kind of way, which is to say he was always chatty and sweet without actually saying a whole lot. We talked about the weather–always the weather–and upcoming holidays and vacation plans (usually mine, not his). He cut my hair just like I like it, without my needing to prompt or remind him, did it quickly, and sent me on my way. He was always smiling, never distracted, and worked, and spoke, with a certain confidence and comfort that always suggested to me that he was, despite the propensity for empty weather talk, a man who was interesting, with strong opinions colorfully asserted. Or maybe that’s just all in my head, my imagining a person that didn’t exist. Still, the occasional–very few–times I needed to wait for him, I’d sometimes hear him carrying on more of a conversation with his client than he ever had with me; somehow, he and I were perfectly happy to chat about the rain or sun, the hot or cold, and more or less leave it at that.

I said up top that anyone can do my hair, but Sergio ended up being no replacement for Lorenzo. He took twice as much time to seemingly leave my hair twice as long as Lorenzo used to. And for a few harrowing minutes in there, he was talking on the phone while snipping my hair. Near my ear. There should be laws against such things.

Even the atmosphere of the place changed. I always loved the incongruousness of the TV blaring “Live with Regis and Kelly” in a traditional men’s barber shop, and the Playboy magazines scattered amongst the outdated Time and People editions. Today, the TV was gone and soft rock played, too loudly, from some speakers. I didn’t see any Playboys, so maybe not all change is bad. And the price, thankfully, is the same, $16, up from $15 a year or so ago. The price hike was emotional for me, too, even if it hardly impacted my budget.

At least Sergio talked about the weather. Then again, today in New York, that’s about all anyone is talking about. And he certainly lacked the energy and joy, the gusto, with which Lorenzo would dissect the day’s atmospherics, reminisce about yesterday’s, and predict tomorrows’s. Sergio, was matter of fact, and grumbly, about the beautiful snow blanketing our city.

I miss Lorenzo. He disappeared without a word, though it has been a while since my last cut. I wish I’d gone in last week, or the week before, to catch him one last time before he hung up his shears. There was some good weather to discuss then, and maybe, just maybe, he would have told me about his retirement and let me wish him well.

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