Last summer my dad ended up in the hospital. For most of the summer he was unable to move most of his body. He had something called Gilliam-Barre Syndrome. Basically it makes your body stop moving and in most cases, it eventually goes away. In the meantime though, you need to be monitored in case it spreads to something important like your lungs. And then you have to go to physical therapy to learn to move again. It’s not fun.
I was explaining all of this to my barber, Pete Lira last summer. After making sure my dad’s prognosis wasn’t fatal, Pete’s first question was, “Who is cutting his hair?” It was honestly something I hadn’t thought of. Sure, my dad had been in the hospital for a month and his hair and beard were getting very scruffy looking, but the only reason I’d brought it up to Pete was just to make conversation.
It turned out that my dad’s barber kept meaning to come up but hadn’t. This was no good to Pete. The following week, Pete came with me to the rehab section of St. Joseph’s hospital. He’d brought the tools of his trade and suddenly my dad was looking a lot better. The only payment Pete would accept for this gesture was a bottle of whiskey that I was more than happy to supply.
This wasn’t just a haircut for my dad. This was the turning point in my dad’s recovery. The haircut and shave made him feel better and as a result he was better. And the thing that made this most amazing to me was that when I’ve talked to Pete about it, he just says, “It needed to be done.”
Pete’s place is called Thee Barber Shop. I’ve never asked him why. ‘Thee’ sounds like something old and in a lot of ways, Thee Barber Shop is exactly that. It’s been my opinion for a while now that the best time to be a white American heterosexual male was in the early 50’s. There were Men’s Clubs and Men did what they wanted and the future looked so bright that it was almost easy to ignore the injustices that were being done to just about anyone who wasn’t a white heterosexual male in America. As times have moved on, things have become more equal, sure. And that’s great, but what’s been lost is the idea of something men do. Thee Barber Shop is a place for Men to get their hair cut.
I’m not one for salons. I don’t want to walk into a place where fully half of the shop is a shampoo and hairspray store. I don’t want some twenty-year old blonde to flirt with me as she gives me the exact same haircut she gave the last five guys she flirted with. I don’t want someone to flirt with me while she cuts my hair. I want someone to flirt with me because of my hair cut.
Pete Lira has been cutting hair for forty years and the last few of those years, have been in downtown Tacoma. He’s a national champion. And he’s a great guy whose hair cuts cost less than $25. And the most amazing thing about him is also the one thing I think needs to change: You can usually get a hair cut the same day you call. Personally, I don’t get it. A guy like Pete should be booked up for the next week or so, but he’s not.
I’ve sent a lot of people Pete’s way and every one of them has said that his haircuts were the best they’d ever had. A few weeks ago, Pete gave me something he’d written about being a barber and asked me to set up a quick website for him, so I did. He also asked me to put something on there telling you to tell him ‘Jack sent me’ if you end up calling him. Personally, I couldn’t care less about the credit. I just want him to get more business and be as successful as he should be. And if he ever asks me why, I’ll just say, “It needed to be done.”
Thee Barber Shop
2501 East D Street, Tacoma WA 98421
Pete’s page: http://petelira.spaces.live.com/