When I started writing this column 25 years ago, I often talked about my barber. It was my barber who developed the haircut frequency metric for predicting turning points in the economic cycle. My barber was also an expert on child rearing, getting along with the wife, horse racing, garlic and just about everything worth knowing. He was one smart cookie.
Over the years I've had several tonsorial wizards, and they were all men. It wasn't until we moved back to California in 1993 that the barber in my town happened to be a woman. She and her partner Len ran an old-fashioned barber shop--nothing fancy, a decent haircut and warm conversation. When Lenny retired, she took over the business and persuaded a neighbor who was a grandmother and retired surgical nurse to go to barber school and join the business.
The two gals had the shop open six days a week and one evening. They split the work so that each of them worked about four days. Getting a haircut was wonderful--a connection with life as it was meant to be, an opportunity to catch up on what was going on in town and share stories of children, vacations and the like with the folks waiting in line.
Last week, I got the sad news that my barber is retiring. She's had an interesting go at business, but it always got in the way of sailing, bicycling, golf or travel. Turns out all her life she has dreamed about living on a boat in San Francisco Bay one day, and now it's time to do it.
I don't know if she won the lottery, came into an inheritance or cashed in her portfolio, but she bought a 55-foot yacht, which she will park in Sausalito, and will move on board in February. A newly acquired Vespa will be her local transportation. Her partner, who is turning 70, will also retire in a few months to spend more time with her grandchildren and her art.
My tonsorial wizards' customers will be lost without these wonderful women's warmth and upbeat view of life. It was magical: Somehow you just felt better when you left their shop than you did when you came in. And it had nothing to do with the look of the haircut.
Life is beautiful indeed.