by Rory Corcoran, Editor in Chief
I have been frequenting David’s Barber Shop for the past 8 years. It doesn’t offer a good haircut, but it provides a unique cultural flavor that keeps me coming back. It’s a small shop tucked away inside a brick building on a quiet side street in Oceanside, New York.
David, the shop’s proprietor, is a Russian-Jewish immigrant. He is severely restrained in expression and speech but can command his domain on the strength of one chilling and terrifying glance. His tightly tailored European shirts reveal the body of a man who has indulged in all of the spoils his success has afforded him. His neck and wrists are adorned with splendiferous jewelry, and he compulsively checks out the window for his Mercedes CL, the manifestation of his pride.
A telephone hangs on the wall next to David’s barber chair, and it will occasionally ring in the middle of a haircut. This is my favorite time. David’s phone manner is unwaveringly harsh, and callers are often berated by a torrent of Russian expletives that clank off his tongue.
I like to imagine that David is an underboss in the Russian mob, and that he is ordering the head of an enemy to be presented to him inside a jar of blue barbicide. Sometimes I wish that David would ask me to kill someone for him. I would. But, other times I like to imagine that David suspects I can understand Russian, and that I have infiltrated his shop to spy him. It’s thrilling when I think that he’s caught on to me, and I lay vulnerably in his barber’s chair at the mercy of his razor blade. Suffice it to say that when I leave his shop, I am more appreciative to be alive than when I entered.
The majority of David’s verbal abuse is reserved for his mistress and fellow haircutter, Sher. Sher is attractive and dresses like a Russian prostitute. Her make-up is heavily layered upon her deeply set eyes, but there is something very warm about her. One day, I entered the shop and found Sher working alone. This would be a rare opportunity for me to candidly pick her brain without being under the cloak of David’s watchful eye. Without forethought, I tossed out a lame compliment about her beauty, which I immediately regretted. Surprisingly, she was flattered, and I felt slightly less inappropriate. As she cut my hair, I probed her about how she had come to work at David’s shop. She told me that she had attended elementary school with David in Russia, and that they happened to run into each other years later after they had both immigrated to the United States. I had already learned more from Sher in ten minutes than I had learned from David in five years. Our conversation was uninhibited, borderline flirtatious, and totally outside the realm of what was acceptable under David’s roof.