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Shore Leave

Belmont Shore
Oct. 4, 2008

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Somewhere back in my past I cultivated a strange habit of visited untested and unusual barbers on my birthday. One of these visits became an hour and a half stay at a friendly barber shop in a small village along the Bosporus, where the Turkish barber sent his boy across the street to fetch apple tea for us. It was a hospitality I had never encountered in all the years of having my hair cut, but one that was perhaps necessary to gain the level of trust required for me to expose my bare throat to a straight-edged razor held in the hands of a man whose language I could not speak.

Perhaps not so exotic -- though no less entertaining -- was my visit on my 46th birthday this year to Jack, who works in a barber-poled shop on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore in Long Beach. Because there were no other customers in the shop, and because his fellow barber had gone out to get them breakfast, Jack's tales of being a seaman in the U.S. Navy during the 1950s took on a colorful edge, painting a lurid picture of all the pleasures of postwar Japan that a young sailor might indulge in and remember some 50 years later. Jack was well into a colorful description of the differences between Japanese and Pakistani women when a policeman walked in to await his turn in the barber chair.

At which point, alas, our conversation turned to the relative merits of cruises versus bus tours.