I was a regular patron at the Orange Tonsorial in the Marshal Street alley during my time at SU. It was a fantastic little nook that I had up until this point assumed only existed as a piece of nostalgia in what we think we remember from the 50's and 60's.
You have to understand, I'm a child of the suburbs. My haircut routine consisted of going to my mother's salon every two months for the full-on haircare treatment. A high-end haircutting sweatshop, I waited my turn thumbing through back issues of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar before one of the twenty or so women (and one obligatory gay guy, not that I knew that at the time) cutting that day told me to make my way back to the washing station. There, a distracted, disenfranchised twenty-year-old girl washed my hair while wondering whose IROC-Z she'd end up in the back seat of that night. Then I was led over to the cutting station, the mirror peppered photos of the hairstylist's pet, husband and friends. The stylist would make smalltalk with me about school and sports all the while making eye-contact with my mother to make sure my hair was still at an appropriate length and/or look. Then I was wisked away to great my mom and do the head-turn-of-shame as she gave me the once over. While my mother paid, she handed me $3 to give to the stylist and I would walk back to her station begrudgingly as if I was doing the Bataan Death March of Hair Salons, avoiding the many middle-aged women who wanted to make eye contact with me so I would see their smile or appreciate thoughts on my relative cuteness. Then my mother took me to TCBY where I got a medium cup of chocolate with sprinkles.
That's how it pretty much went from age 2 to 16. Well, TCBY didn't come around until I was about 11, so I didn't even get sprinkles half the time.
Then I came to SU. I didn't put much thought into the whole haircut issue, I had bigger fish to fry and exciting foreign beers like Meister Brau to try. So when I decided I needed a haircut, I didn't have the kind of cash on hand that was necessary for the kind of cut I was accustom to. Then I spotted a shady-looking barbershop in an alley. Naturally, it sounded like a good idea.
When I walked in, I knew what I had been missing my whole life. It was grimy but not in a disgusting way, just in that only-men-have-set-foot-in-here-for-the-last-27-years way. As I remember it, there were three chairs for three barbers. That's it. The reservation system I had been used to in my haircutteries? Replaced by a customer honor code, which if broken was punishable by hardened stare and caustic asides the like of which you never wanted to see. And the magazines...OH the magazines. A messy stack of men's magazines from today and years past and...by God...is that a Playboy? From 1993? YES! This can't be a real place, can it?
And all of this was before Duke lathered up the back of my neck and took a straight razor to it.
It was the dawn of a new day for me. The day I learned that the spirit of barbery (barberism? barberians?) lives on today. That there is a place I could always go and look at fifteen-year-old photos of a women's breasts in public with two strangers of either side and no one would think any less of me for it. A place where the back of my neck could feel smoother than a Preston Shumpert three-pointer. Heaven, thy name be Orange Tonsorial.
No TCBY nearby (or Pinkberry if we're adjusting for inflation)...but hey, nobody's perfect.