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Friday, Nov. 22, 2002 - 10:54 a.m.

(Nose-hair) Shave and a haircut (and an eyebrow trim and a forehead shave and a neck massage), two bits

After at least 10 years of having my hair cut by a guy named Frank — either the one in Fair Haven or the one in the student center at Notre Dame — some guy named either Tony Kim or Seung K. Lee, I think, cut my hair this morning.

Wanting to have it done before Thanksgiving, not knowing if I'd be able to make it down to Fair Haven before then and also fearing that, with the short week next week, barbers up here might be closed on Monday or Wednesday or all three days, I went to the barber shop on Anderson Ave. in Cliffside on my way to work. I walked in at 9:20 to find Tony and his wife sitting on the waiting bench, waiting for a customer.

"Good morning!" I exclaimed cheerfully, taking even myself by surprise.

"Haircut?" Tony asked. I answered and he pointed me to the chair closest to the back of the row of five or six. His wife stood up and, as he put a towel across the back of my shoulders, she held out the strip of gauze or tape or whatever it is that barbers wrap around your neck to prevent hairs from getting down your shirt. Then she sat down and stared at me the entire time I was there.

I'm not sure what his name was. The window said "Tony Kim," and a sign on the mirror said "TONY SPECIAL — SHAVE + BARBER = $25." But the certificate certifying Tony as a barber was made out to "Seung K. Lee." Well, I'm assuming it's "Seung." A 3 1/2-by-5-inch framed photo of a sonogram (I'm assuming it's their grandchild, because they looked to be in their 50s, at least) covered part of the first name. The top half of a capital "S" was clear, as was the "g" at the end. There was enough space in between for an "e-u-n." There was a Seung Lee on the BlueClaws this season, and I've seen that name in a few other places. It must be the John Smith of Korea. That is if this Seung Tony Kim Lee is Korean. He might be some other nationality. But that doesn't matter.

This was the most thorough haircut I've ever had. I told him I don't want it too short and to taper it. He, like any good barber, said fine. Then he went at it. The actual cutting of my hair was nothing different from what I've had before. But when he automatically took the comb to my eyebrows to trim them, I knew this was a full-service haircut. Notre Dame Frank would ask if I wanted my eyebrows trimmed, but I don't remember if he used a comb each time. But it didn't stop there. When he pulled out the electric razor for the sideburns, he didn't stop there. He shaved between my eyebrows to prevent me from emulating Salma Hayek emulating Frida Kahlo, as I've been attempting for three weeks now. Then — and this caught me off guard — he stuck a corner of the razor up each nostril to trim the nosehairs. I almost sneezed.

It was around this time that his wife — maybe she's the Kim in the grand scheme of the business — set a small plastic bottle of a mocha-colored drink down on the counter with a straw sticking out the top. I didn't recognize it as a drink at first, or a straw, and was wondering if he was going to wax something without warning. Before removing the apron covering me, he spent about 30 seconds vigorously rubbing my head to shake all the loose hairs out. Later, back in the car, I ran my fingers through my hair looking for any casualties, and found none. That's the first time I've ever had a haircut and not had stray hairs falling all over me the rest of the day.

He unhooked the apron from around my neck and Kim sprang into action again, removing it, shaking it out and folding it neatly and placing it on a bar on the chair. After already wiping my face with a towel to remove any stray hairs, Tony next wiped me down with a sponge. He then used what seemed like a tiny lint roller to rip the hairs from the base of my neck. Either he felt me squirming or sensed that this method wasn't working, because he abandoned the fly paper and went for the razor again. But again, he did not stop with my neck. This time, he shaved my forehead. Until today, I thought my forehead was one of the few areas of my body that didn't grow any hair.

Before removing the towel from the back of my shoulders, Tony dug his hands into my neck and shoulders, giving me a vigorous massage. At times, his large hand would wrap its fingers around my neck and I had a moment of clarity in which I knew how Ralphie Cifaretto must've felt, being strangled by Tony.

It wasn't over yet. Needing to comb out my mussed-up hair, Tony started to do just that, then asked about where to part it. He then stuck the comb there and went for the hair dryer so that he could meticulously sculpt my hair into a conformed helmet. I was so groomed I felt like a mobster.

As I got up from the chair, Tony handed me the drink on the counter and insisted I drink from it. Afraid it was some sort of coffee concoction and unable to read the Korean writing on the bottle, I prepared myself for the bitterness. Instead, I got sweet, sweet chocolate milk. Only I had just brushed my teeth, so it did taste a little weird.

I paid the 12 bucks plus a $3 tip for his thoroughness, shook Tony's hand, and put on my jacket and walked out, a mere 20 minutes after walking in. If that. Could've been 15. And I'd put a quarter in the meter for an extra hour when it already had 35 minutes on it. I figured I might have to wait a little bit, and if I was there 40 minutes, I'd rather spend a quarter for five minutes than 30 bucks for a ticket. I've seen the parking authority cruising the strip in their covered carts before. I didn't want to become another victim.

When I walked into work, Dylan and Alyssa noticed right away. "Did you get your hair cut last night?" Alyssa asked.

"Yeah, when did you have time for that?" Dylan added, knowing that I had gotten out at 8:30 last night. I explained I went this morning.

"That's very productive of you," Alyssa said.

"Imus just called The Bachelor legalized prostitution," I told her for no reason other than that I'd just heard them talking about it and she was a big fan of the show.

A few minutes later, I saw Casey in the cafeteria. We chatted for a few minutes and I got in on the special mac-n-cheese order from the deli later today. I then told her some of my barbershop experiences. "You got your hair cut?" she asked, confused. "Was this supposed to be some sort of surprise?"

"No,"I said, "I just wanted to get it done before next weekend and I decided to go this morning."

"Oh," she replied. "I just thought you shaved this morning." Which I did. "You do look very groomed though."

Groomed, indeed.

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