Haircuts......

.... last week The Family decided that it would be best if we lunched in Ennis, a town only 15 minutes drive from where we were staying.......and everyone agreed.....

.... we'd been in Ennis earlier in the week, and had enjoyed ourselves for the afternoon..... but after having visited Limerick and Galway on the two prior days- both bigger-ish cities - it seemed like a trip back to a smaller town would refresh our love of the Original Irish just a bit.... and so the die were cast....... (not that there is anything wrong with the larger towns in Ireland, of course..... it's just that the smaller towns appealed more to our collective tastes...we all being parochial types ourselves...)

.... anyway, I am rambling...... and I bring this up only because it has stuck with me for the better part of ten days now.... and since it doesn't seem to be readying itself to leave any time soon, I'd best get it off my chest now before it morphs into something that will remain unshakable for the rest of my life..........

.... after wandering around Ennis for an hour or so, I decided that I needed a haircut....... did I really need a haircut?..... no, not really, I guess....... but it was the appearance of things that needed adjustment, I guess, not a mere clipping of hairs........ besides, I knew that I would be back home soon (three days hence), and figured that I should look my best when returning home........

.... in any case, I wandered around the village in search of a barber......... and after dodging the ubiquitous noon-time Catholic Schoolgirls in their sweaters, ties, and plaid skirts, I finally found what I was searching for in a close not far from the ruined abbey....... a shabby sign that simply said, "gentleman's barber"......

.... I opened the old door and was immediately met with a set of steps that led up to a second-floor, one-room Victorian-era space that housed an old Irish barber, three pump-chairs, an ancient well-worn church pew for the waiting customers, and a tarnished ceramic sink....

.... it was odd...... the spindly old guy took one look at me and my two-week old crew cut and said, "are you sure that you need a haircut, sonny?".......

... I slipped off my old fleece jacket, straightened my shirt, and sat down..... "oh yes, sir...... I definitely need a haircut..... you should see the folks that I am rooming with this holiday!........ do your best, sir....... can you tell from how I look now how my normal barber cuts me?"......

..... "aye", he said...... "you have a remarkable cowlick in the back.... but he has cut is quite short and in just the right angle to hide it...... and you have quite a big one in the front as well, it appears........ but again, he has hidden it quite well......... so do you just want me to trim you up, then?"....

..... "yes, sir.... just a trimming up will do....and it was not a "he", but a "she" who normally cuts my hair."....

..... "Good god, man," he stammered as he reached for his comb and scissors, "you let a WOMAN cut your hair?"......

.... he said those words with a twinkle in his eyes - as if he were trying to draw me somehow out into conversation......... I simply smiled and nodded my head as he began his work.........

..... we talked and talked...... sports and history, mostly........ nothing that might cause too much discomfort for either he or I..... no religion.... no politics..... just geography, as if it were an afterthought...... and sports and history.... but I have mentioned that already......

.... and then I asked him the most simple of questions......

.... I asked him how long he had been a barber...

...... the question itself seemed so benign that I never really threw much weight into it when it left my lips, but his answer blew me away........

..... "ahhhhh", the old man said, "I reckon that I have been cutting hair here in Ennis for 56 years......... 57 years next week, I reckon....... when The War started I was a young man..... and after The War I went over to London for a few years looking for work...... but with all the service men arriving back, there was no work to be had......... England was hammered...... and so was Ireland, I guess......... so after a few years of living over there, I came home and started working here...... in Ennis........ Mr. Shanahan had cut hair here since 1875....... and when he died I had saved enough money to buy out his locale....... and I have been here ever since....... "

..... I sat there for the rest of the half-hour that it took him to finish my meager haircut just letting all of what he said sink in........

.... and now, a week later, I really don't think that the magnitude of what he said to me has truly sunk in just yet........ but it IS starting to........

..... 56 years........ good god........ 56 years of walking up the same flight of stairs to the one-room barbershop...... to stand in the same place, day after day, and prune the everyday Irishman.... day, after day, after day....... after day....... for 56 years..... it just blows my mind.......

.... years ago I was told by a boss of mine that most modern people change jobs every three to six years......... the days of the "cradle to the grave" job at Ford Motor Company was a thing of the past........ and that everyone changes, moves, upgrades, downsizes, or gets pretty well fed-up after a few years and makes a Major Life Change..........

.... at the time that he told me that?..... well, I thought he was nuts........ but meeting my Irish Barber has given me a bit of a chance to examine my life again........

.... I am 36 years old, and I have never worked in the same job for more than six years......

..... as a kid I worked as an apprentice to a carpenter after school....... at 17, I joined the US Marines and served for 5 years...... at 22 I started working for a IT firm in Scotland and worked there for five years....... at 27 I landed a job with the Department of Trade and Industry with the UK government and worked there until I moved back to the States.... once in the States, I worked as an IT manager for a manufacturing company for five years........... three, four, five, six......... three, four, five, six.......... is that really the norm?.......

....... he has been on my mind all week - that spindly, pale-skinned little barber in Ennis - and I do not know whether to pity him or admire him...... I truly don't......... perhaps I should do a bit of both?.......

...... 56 years of walking up the same flight of steps...... good god, can you imagine?........

.... at this moment, I certainly can't........ but there are parts of me that wish that I could........ I talked to him as he cut my hair and I felt that there was something wrong with me..... something broken..... something missing......... and there are parts of me that YEARN to understand just how that man could walk up those same steps every morning for 56 years........

.... Ireland, folks...... even the bloody haircuts cause you to lose your mind if you aren't careful....

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Home....

.... tired, sore, and ready for sleep - but home...... photos to come shortly of the various places & things that I've experienced over the past few days.......

..... but Ireland?..... Ireland is just a hunk of land much like many others..... there were hints of Scotland occasionally...... and yes, there were parts of it that were quite unique..... but really?...... Ireland is Ireland because of The People......

..... never have I visited a place more laden with characters, poets, musicians, psychotics, mystics, entertaining drunkards, and unintentional comedians than when I have visited The Emerald Isle......

.... Ireland is just a bonny piece of land..... but The Irish?..... they're dizzying in the ways that they can stun you....

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Surreal....

..... of all the places that I have ever visited, Ireland is the most surreal......

..... and of course, I mean that in the best possible way......

.... we don't want to call down the fury of the local leprechauns down on us, now do we?......

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Chocolate......

..... although I have been in Country for the past three days, I have refrained from partaking of The Irish Drink until today........

.... and today - the 250th anniversary of its creation - I had my first pint of Guinness with this afternoon's meal....... photographs to follow....... roasted lamb, a pint of Guinness, mashed potatoes, and boiled carrots.........

.... followed by a chocolate fudge cake that would knock your socks off........ good god, nothing goes together like coffee and chocolate cake.........

..... of course, I really didn't order it for ME, per se...... but after it arrived - the only lonely dessert at our table - it didn't take long for nine spoons to appear out of nowhere and make short work of that cute little delight..........

....... I was already out in the parking lot smoking Camels by the time the cream and chocolate sauce gave up their tasty little ghosts..........

..... what a day.....

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Pike....

.... safe and sound in the mild, damp, gently entangling arms of Clare, folks.... County Clare, that is...... so far the weather has been mild and misty with occasional rain......

.... dined last night in Bunratty - across from the castle - at an inn built in 1620..... the pub must have changed hands a few times since then as it is now called "Durty Nelly's"......

..... the owner of the property dropped by just before evening meal yesterday and suggested that I use the kayak to explore his lake tomorrow if the weather cooperates...... soooo, that may be the plan for the day.... evidently the lake is inhabited by "ancient pike" that are such a menace to the local gosling population that the owner has taken to shooting them with a rifle instead of fishing for them.....

... damn, it'd suck to capsize a kayak and get eaten by an ancient Irish pike...... what a way to go, eh?......

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Gone....

.... got a flight to catch, people....... and hey, it should be an interesting trip... I hear that they have a pet donkey roaming the compound.......

.... Ireland.... good lord, you can't make this stuff up.....

... y'all play nice!...

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