Until I hit the road, I’d had my hair cut by the same Cambodian woman for more than 20 years. I guess I’m a creature of habit. Or someone told me once that I had “Asian hair” and needed an Asian stylist to manage it. Someone was impressionable in their youth. Anyway, she and I both grew into our Middle Ages together at 4-6 week intervals more or less. There were lapses in fidelity. She’d shift shops and not have my number. I would be on vacation and get a trim.
Now, I’m away and I’ve grown shaggy twice with no where to turn. This caused some distress
Next door to my accommodations in DC is a place called Eden Center billed as the largest Vietnamese shopping center on the East Coast. And it is quite impressive. If you’re looking for Pho or fresh squeezed cane juice or Asian groceries, this is the place to find it. Even the parking lanes have Vietnamese street names. On Saturdays and Sundays the place is packed.
My ingrained belief that I have asian hair lead me down a side entrance to a small shop with some open chairs. I enquired about a haircut and was pointed to an end chair where a small man was seated.
I’ve been there two times now. I call him Rex because that’s the name on the shop window. It’s not his shop though. He has a chair toward the back where he’s found 6 days a week. He says he’ll cut hair until his wife retires.
The man is older. He told me last time he was 72. He does fine with Asian hair. He told me he’s been cutting hair since 1979 when she emigrated here. He was an officer in the South Vietnamese Army and was convicted and imprisoned after the war for something like 7 years.
I like him because he reminds me of my dad.
Slight build. Artificially black hair long past practicality Wire frame glasses with black temples. His crisp white short sleeved shirts with stuff in the pockets. His accented english is different,. He’s soft spoken with not a lot to say, so when he says something it seems important.
Like my dad, he pays meticulous attention to detail. It seems he cuts hair one follicle at a time. His mannerisms are the same when he inserts a new razor blade or brushes the hair off my neck. The deliberateness that frustrated me as a kid, in Rex, I can see my dad cleaning a camera lens or chopping up vegetables for a meal or carefully pouring molten lead into a pinewood derby car we made.
It was my father’s birthday the last time I went. He would have been 81. Sitting quietly and watching. A vietnamese soap opera playing in the background. It was a good day to feel that connection.