For approximately 57 of my 60 years, I had no regular barber. The work of maintaining yet another relationship in my already too-full life wasn't worth the occasional lousy haircut. So since I was knee-high to a cockroach, I've seldom gone to the same barber twice.
That changed three years ago--maybe I've mellowed with age--when I met Boris who owns a small shop a block and a half from my apartment on East End Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets.
One of the benefits of the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics is that Jews who were essentially captive in those ancient lands, were able to pick up stakes and emigrate to America--specifically to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, where Boris lives.
Boris speaks gruffly, with a heavily-accented English, but he is a Nijinsky of the shears, clipping me with a virtuosity that would shame Michelangelo into giving up his marble blocks for something less permanent like, say, lime jello. Like Michelangelo chipped away at everything that wasn't David, or Moses, Boris simply cuts away at everything that isn't George, until he is finished.
On Saturday, my hair Medusa-like, I made an appointment for 6PM. He sat me in his leather seat and I made a feeble stab at a conversation.
"You're closed tomorrow," I offered. (I usually come in on Sundays.)
"No," he said sternly, "The girls are here, but I am off. My grandson is having his bris."
"Mazel Tov," I said.
"He is getting his schmeckl trimmed," Boris continued.
Boris found he liked the word schmeckl and proceeded to say it about 14 times in nine seconds.
"His schmeckl is too big, so they have to trim his schmeckl. We are going to his schmeckl party."
I sat in my seat as he began clipping away at my ever-increasing white mane.
"He's gonna get his schmeckl trimmed and he'll never know what hit him," Boris chuckled. "Say bye bye schmeckl."
Finally, Boris got over his amusement with the word schmeckl and got down to the business of my hair. In about 20 minutes, like Livingstone and Stanley, he had macheted back my foliage.
"Good luck, tomorrow," I said, shaking his ham-sized ham as I left.
"I don't need good luck," he answered. "I'm not the one losing my schmeckl."