on place and memory

The habitué of the typical third place thus enjoys a richness of human contact that is denied the timid, the bigoted, the pretentious, and others who choose to insulate themselves from human variety. – Ray Oldenburg

Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place immediately reminded me of barbershop I grew up going to in New York. I loved that place and spent much of my adulthood trying unsuccessfully to find a similar experience. Mr. Dykes, the shop’s owner then, was full-on old-school – a heavy, older man in thick-soled black shoes with dark trousers and white barber’s shirt. His son, Junior had such a cackle of a laugh that you couldn’t help but start laughing yourself when you heard it. And Junior laughed a lot. I think there was a television there but can’t recall anybody paying much attention to it.

Everyone called my barber the Rev. To this day, I have no idea what Rev’s real name was and also have a hard time believing he was a reverend. After going away to college, Rev began calling me the Professor. He would ask me how school was going and kid about how difficult it was to cut my hair when my father first brought me in as a child. But he also always asked how my brothers were doing and would bring me up to speed on what happening in the neighborhood. After a few minutes, one picked up on the topic of discussion and if you were a regular you participated whether you wanted to or not.

I’m not overly nostalgic but I miss the vibe of that barbershop. I can’t really say I’ve found anyplace similar. But I’ll keep searching because for me, human variety and engaged interaction with others – who I might know only by their name – is a good thing.

The Library is a recurring series on the books that confirm, challenge or otherwise inform the Peopled Places point of view.


The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community

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