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April 23, 2005

The Smartest Barbershop in the LA

Yesterday Ford cut the shizzle out of my head.

I was sitting at home, minding my own business and surfing around the news when I came upon this video from the LA Times. This was about barbershop politics and according to Steve Lopez, and now me, Tolliver's is the best.

So since I'm heading up to Santa Clara next week - hey, maybe I can hang out with George and A. - I decided to get my do did. For me, that means a straight razor in the hands of a black man at least 15 years older than I. So I braved the Friday traffic and commenced to commute the necessary miles from my homey beach digs to where the homies hang at Florence and Western.

I don't know the neighborhood very well over near Horace Mann Jr. High, and it was a completely frustrating experience trying to find a real Bank of America so I could avoid some gas station ATM fees. But I managed to find the joint itself without any problems. The big American flag was right prominent on the old blue storefront on Florence just east of Western.

Now I felt a little twinge heading in, because this constitutes a betrayal of Nick at Shelton's. As it is, I only get my head professionally shaved for special occasions and including this (which isn't actually so special) it has only been twice this year. Nick has been my barber for over 15 years even if I only see him once or twice a year. It's not like the old days when I actually kept my hair nicely. Well I might as well go there. You see, blackfolks can look at me and see the redbone in me. I'm a reddish brown and my hair is straight at the roots. The hair on my arms is rather wispy. These are things that will let a good black barber know some things about how he has to approach my head. For example, I would never get BBs in the back of my head - there are no kitchens in my family even though we are not high yellow. If you don't understand this lingo, then maybe Fantastic Sams is for you, but for me, I got to go where old black men understand a few things. Nick has never cut me wrong and I was feeling him when I crossed into Tolliver's shop.

One of the things I have never finished was my guide to all the black barbershops in Los Angeles. Now is probably a good time to do it even though I started it in 1986. Odd because I just drove past Mr. Johnson's the other day hanging with Lee. Johnson was a boxer and had a 170 pounds on the bench press in the front window of his shop on 11th Avenue and Jefferson. He used to grip my head with massive hands and just rip those clippers across. Johnson was a he-man barber and he gave severe military clips that were cheap and rough around the edges. He wouldn't finesse the fade, but he was quick and you didn't have to sit around all day waiting. He had black and white pictures of famous and not so famous boxers all over his wall. I haven't been to Johnson's since 88, but I see that the salon behind him did a good business, and his building has a fairly extraordinary mural.

It's settled, I'm going to do this. Starting next week.

In the meantime, all memories of barbershops past and present are intermingled with the feeling of stepping into a new one. The thing I remember about Tollivers with the greatest intimacy however were the two long black floormats. You see six of us got into a putting contest. Rico started it. He's the big guy in the brown three piece suit who's a 25 year veteran of the Sherrifs department. He's got classic white on the sides of his head, just like all the police commissioners they put on TV, and yes he has brown shoes.

Anyway, I had a classic black barbershop time and a great cut. Next time however, I'm going to buzz myself down a little bit more so that Ford doesn't have to sharpen his blade so much next time.

Posted by mbowen at April 23, 2005 08:52 PM

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Cobb, what's up with your trackbacks, I have been trying to send you some linky love Bro.

Posted by: David Anderson at April 24, 2005 11:28 AM

When doing the LA Marathon I passed alot of those barbershops, particularly on Crenshaw.

Friendly people there offering all sorts of encouragement.

Won't be able to use your guide since I am white but will read with interest anyway.

Posted by: Flap at April 24, 2005 02:49 PM

Now that figures, since I got 3.16 comments are finally working pretty much like I want them to, and now trackbacks are wack. Go figure.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 24, 2005 09:36 PM