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March 18, 2005

To protest a disagreeable work assignment, I went on a grooming boycott for five weeks. I still showered, usually, but went without shaving.

Granted, this was about as mature as the time in college when I "protested" a particularly boring professor by not studying for his final. This will teach him! But this time it worked. Awareness was raised. Concessions were made.

To celebrate a return to my old schedule, I indulged in a professional shave, my first.

My barber is a throwback, the classic white man's barber. He is not a stylist. He runs a barbershop, not a salon, and for $13 you get exactly what you came for: a straight eye for the straight guy. Bad jokes are told, baseball wisdom is exchanged, the weather is bemoaned.

There are Maxims and Stuffs among the magazines, and I'm sure a guy could get something racier if he asked for it, but there's never any need: There are never more than two customers there, and the wait is never long. Usually when I arrive my barber is waiting in the chair smoking a cigarette, or there is a note on the door saying he's out to lunch and will be back by 3.

As I sat with a hot towel wrapped around my face, my nose sticking out like a periscope, I wondered how much longer this place would last. It can't be much longer, and I file it and other white-man barbershops with the many civic institutions -- bowling alleys, corner hardware stores, hot dog stands -- that are fading away as my city changes. Surely this location will soon be a bank or gourmet grocery or -- deep, mournful sigh -- a salon.

For the record: A shave and haircut? 232 bits, plus a 32-bit tip.

Photos taken: March 17-18, 2005