My Dad was an Administrative Law Judge and United States Marine Corps veteran. He was a no-nonsense kind of guy.
Dad wore his hair high and tight, devoured history books, and had little patience for gossip and small talk.
Despite the fact that we lived in a fine neighborhood in Silicon Valley, Dad had zero interest in keeping up with the Joneses or trying to impress anyone.
He had a Lincoln Continental parked in his garage, but preferred to drive around in his beat up, 1964 Valiant.
Our neighbors were surgeons, entrepreneurs, wealthy computer engineers and top business executives. They drove BMW’s and threw fancy wine parties that Dad mostly skipped.
He was happiest at home. Reading, clearing brush on the hillside, and enjoying his family.
There were, however, two men whose company Dad relished. Because, as he once told me, they were authentic, ethical, unpretentious, decent men.
One was a local paver who often did work in the neighborhood. He was a hard working man who shared Dad’s love of history. The two would enjoy iced teas and talk for hours about things like Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, and the Habsburg Monarchy.
The other guy, and probably Dad’s favorite, was his barber, Pat.
A cut above
Some men just seem to figure life out. While the rest of us are competing, worrying, clawing, backstabbing and chasing the prize of the moment, some men walk a different path. A quieter path. They bypass our frenetic, “full catastrophe living” (to borrow from Jon Kabat-Zinn).
Such was the case with my Dad’s barber, Pat. He was a slender, short man who owned a small, vintage barber shop in town. Opening the door to his shop, you’d hear the dangling bell as it clanked against the glass.
Inside, there were three of those old barber chairs. You know, the ones with puffy seats, armrests, and those big, metal foot pedals.
Pat had combs suspended in jars filled with mystery blue liquid. There were various electric clippers, hot towels, a small TV (with the game on), and various sports magazines strewn about the waiting area.
After a haircut, Pat would liberally powder your face with a big, soft brush. Then, for the kids, he’d hand out Bazooka Joe bubble gum.
I thought Pat’s barber shop was cool, but I wasn’t old enough to appreciate what my Dad admired most about Pat.
The magic of memories
Dad once told me that Pat was the most down to earth, authentic, wise, well adjusted man he knew. Pat loved people and conversation, and his work was the perfect forum for both.
Over time, I picked up pieces of conversations. Usually, Dad telling Mom about his visits to the barber shop, and what he and Pat talked about. Dad always seemed to learn something new, or receive sage advice, when he visited Pat.
Rather than list Pat’s gems of wisdom, I think it would be fun to hear from Pat himself. He may be long gone now, but the magic of memories and a few cartoons are a fine way to pay homage to him. And share some of his life lessons.
Let’s call the following little vignettes “Your Cartoon Guide to the Best Life Ever.” Starring Pat, the barber!
Hi, Pat. Wow, it’s great to see you again! Yeah, I’m a blogger now. I was in law enforcement for over 26 years, but decided to retire early and dive into my art and writing. You know, take the path less traveled and all that.
Anyway, I’m not hard up for material. Dad had so many great stories about your wit and wisdom. I was hoping you could share some of it with my audience?
Seven barber shop tips
Always give a person an out when you’re winning an argument.
Sure, it’s great to have the upper hand and win an argument, but at what cost? Have you really changed the other person’s mind, or just crushed their spirt?
People have a tendency to hold their opinions too close to the vest. They’re emotionally invested. Watch for this in yourself. General Colin Powell has a great quote about this.
“Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position fails, your ego goes with it.” — General Colin Powell
A buzz cut is better than a buzzed brain.
The high road of good grooming, exercise, education and achievement trumps the low road of bars, booze, drugs and the regret of not reaching ones potential.
Sure, an occasional beer or drink can be one of life’s pleasures. So long as it doesn’t become the daily default, or unhealthy addiction.
Also, grooming is about self respect. It shows that you have the personal discipline to keep yourself, and your house, career and life, in order.
Sweep before closing.
Don’t put things off until tomorrow. You’ll only open the door to your shop and have to start the day with a mess. That sets the tone for the rest of your day. Possibly, the rest of your life. So, first take care of the stuff you don’t like doing. Then, you can enjoy the stuff you do like doing.
The fool chatters while the wise man listens.
I let customers tell their stories and share their experiences. You can’t possibly live all their lives for them, so why not shut up and take advantage of their experiences. Before long, you’ll learn a great deal.
A piece of bubble gum is an investment.
Give a kid a smile, a laugh and a piece of bubble gum. That kid will leave your shop with a smile and bit of joy in his or her heart.
That joy might translate into a hug for a parent or support for a friend. Little investments spread grace. They can change the world.
Keep regular hours, and know when to close.
Otherwise, the customers will run your life. Set a productive schedule for your work, preferably around the hours you are the most energetic or creative. Rest, renewal and time for our passions. That’s how we keep coming back and doing our best work.
Criticize ideas, but not someone’s appearance.
I’ll argue about sports and spar over politics, but I’ll never put someone down over their appearance. Sooner or later, all of our bodies will fail us.
Hair falls out and grows back in all the wrong places. Flesh sags. Wrinkles deepen. Joints break down like old car parts.
But beneath the carnage of time, the human soul remains, as beautiful as ever. Remember to honor that.
Thanks, Pat, for everything. And when you see my Dad, tell him I love him.
Before you go
I’m John P. Weiss, fine artist and writer. Get on my free email list here to receive the latest artwork and writing.