Off North Road

Moving or not

By Russell Hoxsie - October 4, 2007

This week I finally got to Bert's Barber Shop where Phil, Wayne, and Bethany hang out to cut hair. The atmosphere is always friendly; occasional gossip is passed along among clients and barbers. Phil is famous for starting a conversation about local politics hoping to hear opposite sides on the same question, perhaps stirring up a little heat in the process. I wonder what this morning will be like.

"Mornin,' Doc," Phil's words ring out especially loud and generous as I open the door. Things seem quiet today. I'm feeling anxious and pulled in all directions this week since we've started planning for a move to winter quarters in Vineyard Haven for a change. We're growing old and less comfortable, isolated up-Island and worrying about loss of electricity, stormy weather, and the problem of failing eyesight driving up and down North Road. I hope I'll feel better by the end of today; my straggly sparse hair will be shorn to a smooth carpet, albeit of thin threads.

Several waiting clients turn heads to see who comes in. My wait for a chair is unusually short, another good omen, and, as I get seated with a barber sheet spread over me, someone out of my vision yells, "Well, there's old man Hoxsie." I seem to have been accepted into the fold this Friday morning. The haircut buzzing begins and Phil welcomes another client with a gruff statement about the newcomer's failing skills on the basketball floor at the regional high school.

Another man sits at a chair by the door. "Why, it's Owen Rabbit," he says. Wayne the barber across the room speaks up with a mildly defamatory remark about Rabbit. Then Phil joins in, "Remember the fiasco when Coach took us to Boston and kept our best players on the bench too long?" The heat is rising. Then Owen mentions the two Sylvia brothers and how great they had performed in the old days. By this time, I realize all these guys are old enough to be grandfathers and are reliving their high school days, not those from the senior day care center.

Around and around goes the insulting happy jamboree at the barber's, when I say quietly to Phil, "You know, I think this is one of the few barber shops in the country that can attract at least half of their high school basketball team mates and a bench-full of second stringers within stone's throw of Main Street on a moment's notice on a random date in the year." Most kids these days have long moved away from their original home surroundings, especially here on an island but universally all over the country. Chicagoans move to Arizona. New Englanders move en masse to the southern states, etc, etc. Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays bring out enormous caravans of families on the move along the by-ways and flyways just to re-establish family ties and make some effort of reclaiming happy memories of days gone by.

Phil remains quiet for a few short minutes, then whispers to me: "That's an original thing you just said, Doc. You ought to write about this morning's haircut." His whisper has prompted the subject for this week's piece.

I look to "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language" for a definition of the word "move." I'm not surprised it requires ten inches of tiny print to define the word in a column continued on two pages. The first definition in Heritage hardly fits the complications of moving which we have begun. I look further for usages and find "to march as an army, to follow some specified course, to move one's household, to set astir, agitate, shake up... and to arouse." Now they are getting to the point, I think and look some more. Aha! John Maynard Keynes says it best, "We have been moved already beyond endurance, and need rest." Moving is okay if you can stand it!

I've tried to narrate one of the gem-experiences of life on this small Island where families often stay together and share several generations of experience on the same street or nearby in the same neighborhood or town. Our new rental house for the winter has a couple of extra bedrooms and we may begin to re-connect with some of our own family we don't see often enough or with walks I made with Freckles and Lilly, my long absent canine walking companions from our previous residence in Vineyard Haven. In fact, we have already started the process. Our kids will be on hand to help move our belongings and set up our new abode. "Moving is okay if you can stand it." Now to summon endurance and some rest!