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Charlie's Perspective by Gator
I have to say it has been one busy year for me. By the way, this is Charlie. You know about me from the Barber and the Lawyer series. Pete has been my barber for almost two years now. I am standing in front of my bathroom mirror after having taken a shower and gotten my flattop to stand up. I use Krew Comb as I love the smell of it and how it keeps my flattop erect. I am on my way to get Pete to give me a freshened-up flattop.
Let me back-track. I became fascinated by barbershops and haircuts when I was younger; I had always liked the thought of going to a traditional barbershop, but my mom had different ideas. As a young kid, she would pack up my brother, sister, and I and take us to her beauty shop. I hated it, but what was a 10-year-old supposed to do? The summer when I was going from middle school to high school, my grandfather told my mom he was taking me on a trip to town with him. I loved going places with him as he was a great influence on my life. The first stop was to pick up some fishing and hunting supplies and then the next stop was to his barbershop. I loved his shop as it was very old fashioned and traditional. He took me to his barbershop every couple of weeks when he would get his haircut. On the first trip with him, there was a state trooper waiting for his cut. My grandfather would be next. The trooper got into the chair and told the barber, "Give me a nice boxy flat, George. While I loved seeing men with a short crisp traditional cut, I had not ever seen a man get a flattop before. I was in awe. I watched George give this man the perfect flat. Crisp edges and a hint of a landing strip with tapered edges. I sat there watching with my mouth opened.
The trooper was finished and getting out of the chair. My grandfather leaned over and whispered, "Charlie, go get in the chair and ask for a flat!" He chuckled. I looked at him and slowly shook my head. "My mother would kill me," I replied. You see, my mother had a notion of how young southern boys should look and having a buzzcut or a flattop was not part of that picture. Grandfather got into the chair for his cut. The trooper walked by me and said, "You know young fellow, a flattop is a great summer cut! You should try it today!" With that he walked on out the door. I about died from embarrassment. Needless to say, I did get a haircut that day, but it was a short regular tapered cut under my grandfather’s direction. He did ask me as George was putting the cape around me if I was sure I did not want a flattop. "No. No, sir," I squeaked out.
I continued that summer going with my grandfather for haircuts. Every two weeks, the state trooper was there getting his flat freshened up. He always spoke with me with, "One day, you will get a flattop, son!" I knew then he was right. I would dream about sitting in the chair and asking a barber to give me a boxy flat. But I was concerned about what others would think. After all, this was the late 1980’s and some guys were wearing flats, but not a lot.
I went to college and still no flattop. I just could not bring myself to get one. I did switch between a longer businessman type cut and a short taper cut. No flattop. I was so nervous. I went and finished law school and landed a job working in a big law firm. I hated working for someone else; I wanted to be my own boss. I decided to strike out on my own and found this university town which needed another lawyer. Most of the lawyers were old geezers getting ready to retire. I quit, packed my stuff, and moved. The smaller town life is good for me as it is less hectic and very relaxed.
After a month or so of getting my office purchased and set up and having a few clients, I realized I needed a haircut in a bad way. My hair was longer than it had been in several months. It was covering my ears and covering my collar. I usually wore a medium length business-man’s type cut; just enough to have my entire ear showing and just touching my shirt collar; think of the Mad Men television show. I did use the Brylcreem on my hair. I usually got a cut about every couple of months when I worked in the big city law firm. The old law firm had an unwritten type of dress code for the males with their hair. They would not allow extreme cuts like a flattop or hair covering the ears and over the collar. I always pushed the limit on the length of my hair.
I was walking through town one Monday and passed by a barber shop. As a young pup, I was always fascinated by the old school, old-style barber shop. That urge about getting my hair cut in an old-style barbershop came back. To be honest with all of you, I had always wanted (well, read "lusted") a flattop. I could now actually get my dream cut if I wanted first became infatuated with a flat one summer. My mother was not happy with those summer cuts, but my dad smiled at my cut.
Here I was now on my own and I could get the haircut of my choice. Or could I? I wondered if this barber at "Peter and Sons Barber Shop" could give a good flattop. There was a sign which said, "We specialize in Military Cuts and Flats! Walk-ins only!" I stared at the sign. Could I? My pants started getting a little tight as I kept thinking about that state trooper. And me sitting in the chair saying, "Give me a flattop please! Keep it boxy looking with a hint of a landing strip!" My mouth got very dry. I needed a drink! Thank God the shop was closed on Monday’s. I peaked in the window to get a good look.
Nice! He had two old Koken barber chairs in black and shiny chrome. The waiting chairs were the old wooden ones. His back-bar was all wood; the tile on the floor was the black and white checkerboard squares. And even better was the white cape with black pinstripes. I love that type of cape. I wonder if the barber wore the old-style barber jacket or not? I might need to walk by the shop tomorrow to check it out.
I decided to continue to The Depot to get dinner and a drink. The Depot was a bar and grill in town which served good food. I spent way too much time eating there. I walked in and sat at the bar. Corey was the bartender on duty. He always kept his hair cut very short. I had to ask who gave him his haircuts. We chatted about a lot of things. I was finishing dinner and Corey brought me another beer. "Hey Corey, I know this is a strange question to ask, but…" "Go ahead, man. I work in a bar where nothing is strange!" "Who cuts your hair?" I asked. Corey smiled at me. "So you’re needing a cut huh?" "Well, yes. It is about time for me. I have gone at least 3 months without one." "You’ve got two options, Charlie. One is the University Barber Shop on the east end of town further away from campus. The other option is Pete’s Barber better known as Peter and Sons." "Which one do you go to?" "I always go to see Pete." He gives a better cut and is reasonable in his prices." "I walked by there and saw he does military cuts and flattops." "He does. He gives all the ROTC guys cuts. He isn’t afraid to use the clippers and go short!" "Like yours, Corey?" He laughed hard. "I’ve got to tell you; Pete can be an a**hole at times. If he thinks you are going to hesitate about going shorter, he will go shorter. He has done that to me often. This last cut, he gave me a #2 on top and razor shaved my sides." "Oh wow!" "Yup. He surprised the fool out of me one week and lathered me up and shaved down my sides and back! He asked and I told me I was not sure. He did it anyhow. I haven’t gone long again!" Corey laughed and went to take care of other customers.
Well, that decided it for me. I would have to walk by Peter’s shop and check him out. I walked back to my office, got in my car, and drove home thinking about how I would approach the barber shop. One of my concerns is always changing my hair. I would love to get a flattop, but I was also concerned with how I would look. What would happen if he went too short? Well, I would do my usual cell phone trick where I would set up a fake incoming phone call and then leave telling the barber I would be back later on. I watched television and eventually went to bed thinking about a possible haircut this week. I knew I would not ask for a flat. I would go with a short regular tapered cut. I might eventually work my way into getting a flattop.
I did not make it to the shop on Tuesday as planned. So, Thursday afternoon the office was slow. I told my para legal that I was going out for a while and to call if he needed me. I wandered to Pete’s shop and walked in. I had set my phone alarm to ring as if I had an incoming call. There was one guy in the chair, and I saw Corey waiting for his cut. We nodded at each other. I sat down. Pete spoke to me. "Welcome. It will be a short while if you don’t mind." "I’ve got time to wait," I replied. I looked around at the shop. I loved what I saw; all the old barer type tools and other stuff you could buy. What I fell in love with was Pete himself. He sported a short flattop. Shaved sides, a pronounced landing strip, and his top was standing so erect you could land a plane on the landing strip. Pete finished the college guy’s cut and took off the cape. Corey asked if I wanted to jump ahead of him. I said no that I could wait. Some more banter. Pete asked Corey if he wanted a flattop to which he adamantly replied no. Damn! I was hoping to see a flattop from the barber. He had finished Corey’s sides and my alarm went off. I told Pete that I’d be back later on. I did not say when I’d be back though. The cell went off at a good time. I was way too nervous to stay around waiting on a cut.
Later that day, I was at the Depot again having dinner and a drink in the bar area. In walks Pete and sits beside me. I was so nervous but was in awe of his flat. It was one of the best that I had scene. Corey walks over to Pete. "Hey, Pete. Good to see you tonight." "Thanks, Sport. I need a beer like really quick!" He turns to me and says, "Hey, man. I’m Pete of Peter and Son’s Barber Shop. Have we met?" I about choked on my food but recovered quickly. "Hey, Pete. I’m Charles. Charlie to my friends though." We shook hands. I continued. "I kinda met you earlier at your shop. I was the one who came in, but my phone rang, and I had to leave for a business call." "That was you? You said you would be back, but you never came back." He had that sarcastic tone in his voice which was followed by a huge smile. "Well, sorry about that Pete. You know how business goes." "I do at that. So what do you do?" "I’m the new lawyer in town." "Good to officially meet you. So when you are coming back to my shop to get that mop cut?" I shrugged my shoulders and asked, "What are your slow days?"
Over the next couple of weeks, I would stop in Pete’s shop and leave shortly before it was turned to get a haircut. I noticed that Pete’s flat always looked perfect like it was cut every day. So who cut the barber’s flat so perfectly? I had stopped at Pete’s this afternoon and then left again. I went to the Depot for dinner and in strolls Pete. "I get the feeling you don’t like how I cut hair, Sport." I looked at him. "Why do you say that, Pete?" "Well, your cell phone always rings right before you are to get in my chair. Or, I think you are afraid of getting those precious locks of yours cut. Which is it?" Wow! He had me pegged! How could I answer him? "To be honest with you Pete, work is keeping me busy. My para will forward the calls to my cell and I have to take them. You know as well as I do that being a one-man small business is tough." Pete was quiet and just looked at me. "You’ve got a point, Counselor. However, one day, you will sit in my chair and get skinned." I swallowed hard knowing he was going to make that happen. We talked about other things as we ate; I kept my focus on Pete’s flattop. I wanted one badly.
That night when I got home, I sat down in front of the television. How could I tell Pete what my hang up really was? For years I have wanted a flat, but was afraid to get one? I was afraid of the change and what people would say. Plus, going that short scared the fool out of me. I had never had such an extreme haircut before. I know that my grandfather always was trying to get me to get a flat that summer when I saw the state trooper getting skinned. Too many decisions!
I went to bed and had one dream after another all centered on me sitting in a barber chair and getting a flattop. Some flattops were boxy, and others were high and tight. I even dreamed I had gotten a horseshoe flat just like Pete’s! Good golly! I woke up in the morning and decided that I would call Pete’s bluff. I would sit in his chair and get my hair cut. I would ask for a nicely tapered business cut.
The next day was a Thursday which Pete claimed was a slow day for him. I walked to his shop close to closing time. Damn! He had closed early! I walked to the Depot and saw him sitting at the bar eating. "Hey barber man! You closed early! I was coming for a haircut today!" Pete choked on his food. "You’re pulling my leg, right, Counselor?" I smiled and said, "No. I am serious." "Well, darn. I can go back and open the shop for you." "I can wait until tomorrow, Pete." I sat down to eat. I had committed myself to a cut. The butterflies had started.
Friday! I was worn out. It had been a rough day in the office. I picked up my cell phone, sent everyone (Ha! Just my para legal!) home and closed the office. I wandered up the sidewalk towards Pete’s Barber. As I walked, I saw him sitting on the bench in front of the shop. I had committed myself to a cut last night. I was so nervous about this cut. Pete was leaning up against the building with his eyes closed. I walked up and said, "You got time for one more cut, Barber man?" He cracked open one eye and said, "Damn straight, Counselor!" He got up, grabbed my arm, and led me inside his shop. "Have a seat in the throne!" He laughed and quickly got the cape put around me. He then put out his hand. "Let me have it, Counselor." I looked at him quizzically. "What?" "Your cell phone. I don’t allow customers to talk on the phone when I cut their hair." I reached into my shirt pocket and handed over my cell. He smiled. "Now, you can relax and enjoy getting a haircut from me."
"How short you going to cut it?" I asked. Pete replied, "It’s coming off your ears and a tapered back with some stubble left. A zero around the edges. I can’t have the lawyers in town think I’m slipping on giving a short cut!" He fired up his Osters and went to town. I do not remember ever seeing that much hair fall into my lap! I think he was purposely aiming for my lap. I have to say that once the hair started coming off, my pants got hard under the cape and I closed my eyes so I can enjoy the experience of having Pete cut my hair.
I have to say that Pete was not shy about using his clippers. He would place my head where he wanted it and keep his free hand on my head. It felt like he was palming a basketball. I liked his aggressiveness of cutting my hair and with being, literally, a hands-on barber. Pete started on my right side by pushing my head almost to my left shoulder and running the clippers up. I opened my eyes and saw a lot of hair coming off. The clippers had been placed at the bottom of my sideburn and he zipped off everything almost to the crown. I gasped. My hair hadn’t been this short ever! Next, he continued around my head to the back, put the clippers at the bottom of my nape and zipped off everything. and took the clippers up past the occipital bone. He moved on to the left side still holding onto my head and pushing it in the direction he wanted it to go. I do like aggressive barbers like Pete and the idea that I was not able to see a mirror as he was cutting.
I don’t remember much about the rest of my first cut from Pete. I do remember him saying that my next cut from him would be a flattop! Say what?? A flattop? Why would he tell me that? I knew at that point that I would have to talk with Pete about getting a flattop. My mouth went dry and I had a hard time swallowing my spit. Why did he think I wanted a flattop? To be honest with myself, I really did want a flattop, but I had not told Pete that. I had asked Corey about Pete’s flat, and I wondered if Corey and Pete had talked? They were friends as I gathered that from their banter both in the shop and at the Depot. What was I going to do?
I decided to keep going to Pete’s shop. We got along well, and he kept my hair on the short side, but still a nice tight taper. I was still thinking that he would surprise me by giving me a flattop. To be honest, I have to admit to myself that I loved seeing Pete with his fresh horseshoe flat. As much as I admired his flat, I knew that was too severe for my own flat. I couldn’t go that short especially with the shaved sides.
A few months had passed. I visited Pete once a month. I did go home to see my grandfather as it was his birthday. I had a special bond with him, and I missed not being closer to him. When I saw my grandfather, the first thing he did was shake my hand then turn me around to look at my haircut. "Well, looks like you finally found a decent barber, Charles." I was always "Charles" to him as he is definitely old school. He made me feel special that way. "Granddad, what do you mean?" "Well, Charles, I can finally see your ears and the nape of your neck. No hair flopping on your collar." I chuckled as I knew he was correct. Pete had taken my hair as short as that summer when my grandfather took me to the barber. "Tell me, Charles, when are you finally going to go all the way?" "Sir? All the way? What do you mean?" "To finally get that flattop you’ve always wanted." I blushed. "I’m not sure what you mean, sir. This is like the cut I used to get with you." "Ahh, Charles. You are kidding yourself. I remember that look in your eyes when you saw the state trooper get his flat." By this time, we sat out on the sun porch of my parents’ house. I took a deep breath. "Well, sir, I am not sure if I can go that far. You know, court appearances, etc." "I call that B.S. Charles. You’re a man now and you present yourself by a certain air." "But my parents, sir. Especially mom." My grandfather laughed heartily. "Charles, I would say that my daughter was a formidable factor in your life as was your father. However, who is now paying the bills in your house? And it is time to become your own man and decide what you want." "Yes, sir."
"Tell me this and be honest with me. Do you want a flattop?" I swallowed hard. He knew me so well. "Yes, sir, I do. But. . ." "There are no ‘buts’ in life, Charles. Either you want one or not. If you do, find a barber who can and will cut a good flattop and just do it." "Actually, sir, the barber that gave me this cut specializes in flattops according to his shop window." "Does he do a good job?" "I believe so, sir. I have walked in the shop while he is tightening up his own flat. He sports a high and tight shaved horseshoe flat." My grandfather leaned back in the chair and broke into his very familiar big smile with dimples. "So, what are you waiting on then, Charles?" I paused. "My nerves to actually tell Pete that I want a flattop." "Do I need to come up there and take you to the barber myself?" I stared blankly at him. "You wouldn’t do that would you?" "And why not, Charles?" "I’d be so embarrassed if you did that." "Well then, you know what to do." Yes, sir, I do." With that, our flattop conversation ended.
I was back at home. I saw Pete to tell him about my conversation with my grandfather. I also had to go see Pete to give me another cut. He gave me a high regulation cut. Way shorter than ever before. It kind of worried me, but made me think that I really was ready to get a flattop. What surprised me was that very few comments were made the next day at work or in the courthouse. On the way to the Depot, I stopped by Pete’s to tell him about my day. He rubbed the stubble on the back of my head. As we talked, he grabbed my arm and started to push me toward the barber chair. "Pete, what are you doing?"
"Something I should have done a long time ago, Charlie. Sit and think about what your granddad said." Oh s**t! Pete had beat me to the punch! It was flattop time! Needless to say, I was given my very first flattop compliments of Pete. As I sat in the chair and looked at my reflection, I immediately fell in love with the look. I saw Pete with a big smile on his face. "Finally, you have the cut you have drooled over for however many years it has been, Charlie. What do you think?" Pete can be such an ass. Also, sarcasm is his middle name.
"I’m not sure." I had to bring him back down to earth. I let the thought linger out there for a few minutes. Pete’s face fell. "You don’t like it?" He sounded heart broken. I started to smile then I laughed out loud. "I love it! How could I not?" "Time to go eat, my friend," said Pete. "My treat!" "You’re on!"
Fast forward to today. Like I said at the beginning, it has almost been a two-year journey of getting a flattop cut. I go every two weeks to see Pete. I tried going once a month, then tried three weeks, and finally settled on two weeks much due to Pete’s prodding. I have to say Pete gives me the best flattop ever! My sides are skinned down to a 000 blade with a slight bevel. The landing strip is down to a single 0 blade and Pete always shaves around my ears and my nape. Every so often Pete gets carried away and gives me a 00000 cut on my sides; this happens when I miss a week for a cut. But then again what Pete does not tell anyone is that he has taught me how to give him his high and tight horseshoe flat with razor shaved sides and back. I give him his cut every week after the shop closes. Maybe one day, the clippers will slip, and I will give Pete a nice Marine high and tight with a number 1 on top and shaved sides. Who knows?