I took a walk this morning into town.
I don’t know if I’d call it a walk; I was multi-tasking on my phone, yacking away through the mic in my earbuds while, at the same time, knocking down as many emails as I could on that iphone screen.
I don’t even know if I knew where I was walking. How I got through crosswalks without even looking up was a miracle.
I walked by the Palisades Barber Shop on Antioch. I was overdue for a haircut on my phone’s nagging to-do list.
I stepped inside. One of the town’s favorite Palisadians, owner Joe Almaraz, invited me to put my phone away and hop in his too-comfy chair.
I took a breath as I sunk in that chair and as he wrapped me in a haircut bib.
Joe’s been the barber there for 59 years. He walks to work everyday from his home in the Palisades. It’s a ‘family-business,’ where next chairs over are for his daughter-in-law Lucy, Lucy’s husband JR, and Joe’s son Tony.
I’d describe the interior design style of the barber shop as “late sixties.” Lots of wood paneling. A flatscreen TV on the wall (that only plays Dodger games) is the only ‘tell’ that Hoss Cartwright from Bonanza isn’t likely to walk in.
While you get a cut in Joe’s chair, you can’t help noticing that every single person that walks by the storefront window smiles and waves to their favorite barber.
You don’t have to tell Joe what kind of cut you want. He knows. And you’re not going to see what your head looks like until he’s done and he spins you around to look in his hand mirror.
But when you do look, you always feel a little cleaner. A little better. About your head and about your heart.
We covered a lot of ground while Joe snipped away. I don’t have a lot to cut. I think he pretends he’s snipping half the time just so we can have a nice chat.
And don’t let his ‘awe-shucks’ air fool you. He’s had everyone in that chair; from Elon Musk, to Tom Hanks, to Buzz Aldrin, to Vin Scully, to Billy Bob Thornton and every politician and celebrity and big shot in-between.
A theme Joe likes to talk about is that he’s drawn to the ‘good old days.’ Of the Palisades. Of America. Of life. Days of family-owned, ‘mom and pops’ in town. Days when phones plugged in the wall and when you couldn’t leave a message. Days when ‘streaming’ had to do with catching a good fish.
And the more Joe talks in that calm, relaxed voice – the deeper you drift back into that bottomless chair and into a hypnotized daze of ‘way back when.’
And then Joe takes off your bib, and up and out you go. It’s not just the bright lights that smack you when you walk outside – it’s the buzz of the street that snaps you back.
Here’s my take-away.
The world’s moving fast, and you gotta keep up. You gotta pay attention. If you don’t, you spin right off the merry-go-round – and there’s nobody there to catch you.
But let’s call it what it is. The merry-go-round is fun. It’s exciting. And I really do love it. And lots of days, I really don’t want to get off.
But, from now on when I do get off, I’m going to look for a chair.
Maybe on a friend’s front porch who I haven’t seen in a while. Maybe a stump on a walk up in the canyon. Maybe in a chair I never knew was even there in my own home.
And when I get up from that chair, I’m gonna look in a mirror. It might be in the eyes of a friend. Or in the river on the creek along the trail. Or in the laughter of my wife.
And who knows who I’ll see in that mirror. But I’m going to guess I’m gonna feel a little cleaner. A little better.
About my head – and about my heart.