My barber retired some 5 five years ago at the age of 85. He had been my barber since I was five years old, so we’d had nearly 45 years together. I’ve spent the last five years trying to find a replacement, finally latching onto a Cretan gentleman of a sprightly age (around 70) who I figured was good for maybe 15 more years. But it was not to be. A few months ago he informed me that his wife was insisting that he retire and that they spend winters in Greece. It was back on the barber trail for me.

I found an excellent lady barber a couple months ago. Then her schedule became very erratic and I discovered that she had been ill with a brain tumor (she’s mid-’40’s). She returned to work and seemed O.K. and quite chipper, but as of late the shop is always closed and there’s no sign on the door letting clients know what’s happening…I fear the worst.

I’ve tried a number of so-called barbers in the meantime, but they’re generally “hair-stylists” and disdain the barberly arts of shaving the neck and trimming the eyebrows, ears, and nose. The last one said that his salon no longer used straight razors but that I was welcome to drop by for a free neck-cleaning in between haircuts. All for $30. No thanks. Considering that I’m almost bald, most of my hair is on my neck, eyebrows, ears, and nose!

Thanks to a referral from my friend Don, a long-time West Island resident and man of distinction, I was able to access his barber of 35 years. My policy now is to just say, “I trust your experience, do whatever you think is best” when they ask me how I want my hair cut. This gives a pretty good insight into their philosophy and working style.

Let me say, I’ve finally met a real pro barber. Here’s how he works:

1. He cuts hair with scissors, not with the electric trimmer that most new-style lazy barbers and stylists seem to prefer.

2. He doesn’t chit-chat too much, asking a few simple questions and letting the customer take the lead in deciding just how much conversation he wants. Some barbers are incessant chatterboxes and God help you if they find out you’re in the health field.

3. He uses a straight razor and hot lather to clean up the neck and sideburns.

4. He trims the eyebrows and any other facial orifice that needs it.

5. He does not have a ponytail, earring, nor does he wear skin-tight black pants, a shirt open to the navel with chest-hairs in flagranti, and he doesn’t sport any large religious medallions or chains around his neck or wrist.

6. He charges a reasonable fee ($22)

I figure he’s about 65 although he looks much younger and is slim and appears in good health. I’m hoping for at least 10 more years from him. Next visit, I will however ask him for a doctor’s note that he is in good health….the stress of replacing my barber is killing me.