My barber tells me stories


My barber has his shop on the fourth floor of an old office building on the corner of Dorrance and Weybosset in downtown Providence, which is the local version of Broadway and 42nd, or maybe Hollywood and Vine.



He is short and wears glasses perched low on his nose, like a librarian. He recently grew a mustache, which is actually very cute on him, but I don’t dare tell him so. He has one of those perfect Rhode Island accents that I cannot replicate. When I try to imitate him, I put my glasses low down on my nose and raise my eyebrows and say, in my deepest rumbliest Ben Affleck / Matt Damon South Boston voice (which is close enough): “No kiddin’?



He is an expert at small talk. He’s been doing it, after all, for over forty years. When he’s not talking, he’s humming to himself.  And, like all real Rhode Islanders, he wants information. He wants to know who owns what, and who’s going out of business, and what’s going on in City Hall and the State House, and who’s paying who off.  I tell him the little I know, and he gives me back my money’s worth.



He was very worked up last week. “I tell ya,” he said, using the clippers around my neck, “I’ve been doing this for forty years, and this never happened before. Two guys in here, this morning, waiting for haircuts. And they start arguing about politics, Democrat, Republican, Obama this, economy that. And now they’re yellin’. And the guy in the next office over, the mortgage guy, comes in to tell them to shut up, he can’t do business with all the noise. And one of the guys arguin’ goes through the roof all over again, he’s yellin’ at the guy from next door. I thought I was gonna have to call the cops!”



He was pretty keyed up by this, let me tell you. But I could tell he’d sort of enjoyed it. It gave him something to talk about.



But this was the best thing he said:



I knew he’s a racing aficionado, so I asked him about the upcoming Belmont Stakes. He looked wise, and sly. “Well, you know,” he said, “it’s a long race. If you ask me, I think that other horse is gonna win.”



I didn’t ask him what he meant by that. I didn’t need to. I thought his answer was just perfect as it was.



And you know what? He was right.  That other horse did win.



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