In one of my first posts, I mentioned Steven the Barber. I met him at Lincoln Barbers in 2012. He gave a great haircut, and when I wanted to splurge a little, an old-fashioned hot towel shave. A month after Jake’s passing, with the conclusion of the shloshim, the 30 day mourning period, I went to see Steven. During that 30 days it is customary not to shave or cut your hair, so by that time, I had a full beard. While we were talking he asked about Jake, who he knew and whose hair he had cut on a few occasions. When I told him what had happened and that Jake was 24 years old, he got very quiet and murmured, “that’s how old I am.” We spent the rest of the time in near silence other than him mumbling, “We’re gonna make Ed Colman look like a million bucks.” He took great care while shaving me, and when I went to pay him, he refused to take any money. “This one’s on me”, he said. It was a small kindness that had a great impact at the time.
A few months later, Steven left Lincoln and with a partner, opened his own shop on Wilshire, Active Barbers. As soon as he opened, I went for a haircut to support him. I guess I could be called a charter customer. I wouldn’t get my hair cut any where else. We always talk about his business, his progress, how he is doing. He has an interesting history, not the most sterling from what I can surmise, and he has made a successful life for himself in spite of a difficult beginning. If you look closely, you can see him in the mirror. The shop rarely looks like this now, it is always busy.
These are photos of the barber shop in which Jake got his last haircut – Monday, December 16, 2013. T and I were visiting him in Palm Springs. We took him for the haircut and dinner. It was the last time we visited. I snapped these pictures while I waited for him. You can see him through the window in the upper left and lower right photos getting one of the worst haircuts ever. I could never make up my mind which of the pictures I should select, so I am including all of them. We had a lovely visit. He was living in his own apartment with a roommate, had a job prospect lined up at a local restaurant, seemed like he was doing well. Less than two weeks later, we got the dreadful news of his passing.
I think I like the large one in the upper left. It has all the elements. Empty chairs, inside and out waiting places, someone waiting, Jake, and a slightly skewed perspective. Little did I know that this is one of the last photographs I would take of my son. I have taken thousands of them throughout his life, but none as poignant. We returned home the next day. I would speak with him during the ensuing weeks, would text, but I would never see him again.
Located along my half-mile stretch of Lincoln Blvd, Spring Nail spa sits in a long brick building that houses 5 businesses (from north to south): the barbershop, Thai massage parlor, Spring Nail, Sally Beauty Supply, and We the People, a legal services company. Sally is in what used to be our neighborhood Radio Shack. When RS decamped, it bummed us out immeasurably. Jake always had some electronic project or other going, and having a store full of tools, components, wires, and switches only two blocks away was a godsend. Sadly, Radio Shack closed a few years ago and now the shelves are filled with hair care products, makeup, nail polish, brushes and all the accoutrements necessary to maintain one’s beauty.
I drop into Spring from time to time for the $25 mani-pedi special. Mostly for special events like New Years, birthdays, and occasionally when I just feel the need to have someone cut my toenails for me. Buff sometimes, no polish. Like most manicure salons in Los Angeles, this is owned and run by Vietnamese. The large flat-screen TV is always tuned to a Viet channel, and the manicurists converse in the sing-song language. Twenty-five bucks (Monday to Wednesday) is a pretty good deal, and I am usually the only man sitting in the large spa chairs, feet soaking while the massage chair rollers travel up and down my back. I have been back often enough that they know me now, and they always smile when I walk in. I have yet to see anyone waiting in these chairs.
I have captioned this Barber Shop, San Juan Capistrano, but the truth is, I don’t really know where it is. It might have something to do with Jake, some place we took him, or maybe not. It is a blank. The date stamp on the photo is September 4, 2013 11:55 AM. It is definitely Southern California, note the palm trees outside. There is a Keurig machine on the table, and a magazine, so wherever this is, expect to wait long enough to have a cup of coffee and read a bit. The window is south-east facing as this is late morning sunlight. I particularly like the glowy quality of light behind the chairs, and the graphics of the image. Maybe I’ll remember and update. For now, it is just a nice image.
Lincoln Blvd. is a street that could be anywhere. A strip of fast food restaurants, psychics, cheap motels, and liquor stores, it is replicated endlessly across the country. My particular slice of this uniquely American landscape runs from Venice Blvd. to Washington Blvd. All of the above are within a few blocks as well as a veterinarian, an art supply store, car wash, shoe repair, pawn shop, day care, bicycle shop, a couple of used car lots, nail salons, gas station, 7-11 strip mall, legal document service (wills, divorces, incorporations), beauty supply, car rental, Jewish synagogue, Catholic church, Chinese fast food, Thai restaurant, Italian restaurant, Indian restaurant, gluten-free bakery, donut shop, drug store, payday check cashing, wireless telephones, a post office box business, sewing machine and vacuum repair, Thai massage, mixed martial arts studio, car stereo, smog check, locksmith, tattoo parlor, and a marijuana dispensary; truly a cross-section of our culture. And a barbershop.
Everybody needs to get their hair cut. By April, I was well into the waiting room project, and began to look for these spaces, and the best photograph, rather than having the image come upon me. I took several shots of these chairs from different angles before deciding on this one. Lincoln Barbers is a no-frills place with cinder block walls and a concrete floor. Most of the barbers are young Latino men, many with tattooed necks and close-shaven heads. Three years ago, the haircuts were cheap, and you could get an old-fashioned hot towel shave for 15 bucks. My guy, Steven, was a polite 24-year old who gave me a great haircut. You can see him in the mirror with his back turned. I began going to Lincoln when I worked down the street the year before, and liked the experience so I continued to patronize them. I took Jake there a couple of times, and he hit it off with Steven, who was the same age. Jake wasn’t with me this day, it was just another haircut. I got to know Steven a little, he had overcome some adversity to get to where he was, and his dream was to open his own shop. He had plans to do so, and told me about them right after I took this shot. I have more to say about Steven in a later post, so stay tuned.