A city only the rich can afford to live in.

I got my haircut yesterday at the place where I have been getting my haircut for decades.

When I got my first haircut there it had two chairs. Joe, the owner, had one. A Mexican lady paid Joe to have the other.

I paid ten bucks for a haircut. If I felt extravagant I would also get a hot-towel straight razor shave for another ten bucks.

The barber shop, like my neighborhood, has changed. The Mexican lady is long gone. Joe’s grown kid has now joined the business and the place has five chairs. The clientele is mostly young guys who seem to require complicated haircuts that take longer.

My haircut is done with a clipper and is about as simple as you can get. It takes about as long as it takes Joe to tell me how aging has affected him and what vegetables he is growing in his backyard. He might include a recipe for dandelion greens. He is always trying to convince me to go to this Chinese seafood all-you-can-eat buffet on the north west side.

I have given up trying to explain why there is no chance in the world I am eating seafood at an all-you-can eat Chinese buffet.

My haircut is now thirty bucks and I no longer even think about getting the shave for another thirty. A note at the bottom of the price board warns that haircuts will go up to $35 in July.

It is July

Like everything else in the neighborhood, the price of a haircut is also going up.

I don’t give this much thought because when I’m done I usually just pay what Joe asks and add a hefty tip.

I want a good relationship with the guy who holds the clippers

Yesterday nearly every chair was filled with a guy waiting for a complicated haircut. But Joe has his own private and diminishing list of old men. So whenever we come (no appointments are taken), Joe waves us to his chair when it opens up and we jump to the head of the line.

Old age and retirement has its privileges.

Yesterday I got in the chair, took off my pork pie hat and threw my hearing aids and glasses into it.  Joe set it aside.

Joe always has an old VHS tape of some horror movie playing on the TV set. Without my hearing aids and glasses I cannot see exactly what is going on or hear what passes for dialogue.

Yesterday Sam walked in right after me.

I’ll call him Sam because I don’t know his actual name but he is also a member of the old man club, only he is eight years older than me and has been in the neighborhood since the mid-sixties.

He has his hearing aids on but he still doesn’t hear so good and since I wasn’t wearing mine, our conversation got a little loud and the rest of the young guys who are waiting got a little silent.

We talk about the changes in the neighborhood, of course, and the changes in the city.

The word “gentrification” never came up.

But we agree that the city has been turned into a place that only the ultra rich can afford.

He couldn’t afford to buy a home in the neighborhood now, he says. Not here or anywhere in the city.

He asked if I remember the old F and Z, a long-gone country bar on Milwaukee Avenue. Which I do. They had great local bands.

The F and Z became the Baron Rojo and then a doctor’s office.

It was where Anne and I went on our first date.

Sam then went on to list a whole bunch of other bars that are also long-gone and which I didn’t remember. Sam went into detail about several of the the brawls that used to break out.

He used the term “crackers” to describe the participants in one of the brawls.

I laughed to myself since I haven’t heard the term “cracker” to describe white guys from a white guy in many years.

Hey. Happy Fourth.



11 thoughts on “A city only the rich can afford to live in.

  1. I like this story however, it is not evidence against gentrification. $35 today is only slightly more than the equivalent of $10 in 1980. Using the inflation calculator at

    ten dollars in 1980 is equivalent to $29.71 today.

    I also have used the same barber for the last 25 years and she has rarely raised prices, which means that her standard of living has gone down due to inflation. A year or so ago I told her that she should raise her prices but she didn’t feel like she could so I gave her a raise on my own. Until more of us are willing to actually pay prices that will provide living wages too many will fall further down the economic ladder.

    1. This was not intended as evidence for anything other than evidence that I get a haircut at the same barber for years. But I do disagree with your conclusion. The growth in the number of millions of Americans living below the actual poverty line is not the fault of those who pay $35 for a haircut. It is the result of an income gap unheard of anywhere else in the industrialized world. For most poor and middle class people, daily life and daily needs have become unaffordable while the income of the ultra rich is indefensible.

      1. I’m agreeing with you about the income gap but addressing that in any meaningful way requires that everyone pay more, much more, for things like haircuts, food, lawn service, teaching, and much less for CEOs, Movie stars, sports stars…

    2. I am afraid we are all going to be paying higher prices very soon, as Trump’s trade wars heat up. It won’t help most of us, and especially those struggling small businesses and farmers that are barely treading water now. China has now put a large tariff on corn and soybeans from the US, but not from other countries. This has caused a sudden drop in corn and soybean prices that is now lower then what it costs the farmer to grow it. As farmers lose money, they stop buying and local businesses (including the barbers) get less income. This could spiral down into a recession, which would be bad for all of us, except some 1%ers who will make fortunes buying foreclosed homes and farms for a few cents on the dollar. The rest of us will lose, our standard of living will go down a step on the ladder. Those already on the bottom step will fall off and end up moving into a relative’s attic or basement.
      My wife has cut my hair and I have fixed her cars, for many decades. We were just barely able to pay our bills as it was, let alone now being retired. With my earned social security being stolen by WEP/GPO, the at home haircuts and car maintenance will have to continue.

  2. My barber is gorgeous and gives me a better haircut than any shop to which I’ve been.. And the price is unbelievably cheap–in fact, it is free. That’s because my wife cuts my hair.

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