Barber shops are special places. I love hanging out at the barber shop.
I’m not talking about "stylists" where you get your hair washed (even if you just washed it at home) and you sip herbal tea while you wait for your hair to be "styled."
No, I’m talking about old-school barber shops, where folks of all ages share stories, anecdotes, talk junk, and give advice while they wait for a cut.
That’s the way it is at Pete the Barber’s shop in downtown Detroit. Pete is 76 years old and has been cutting hair since he was in his 20s. He once told me he’ll only retire when he dies. I hope that’s true. I’ve been going to him for over 10 years now and I dread the day he lays down his clippers.
Some people have charisma. Some people command respect because of size or strength. Some people are just so darn good at what they do that everyone likes them. Pete the Barber is all three. In fact, Pete made such an impression on one of his customers that it ended up with Pete being a lunch guest at the White House back when Clinton was President (that’s a long story for another blog).
Anyway, one day I was sitting in his shop and there was an old man getting his hair cut. He and Pete were talking about this and that when the topic of crime came up. The old man asked Pete if he still had the “club” the old man gave Pete over 30 years ago. Pete reached behind a counter and pulled out a monstrosity of a club – it was actually a couple of 2x4s with nails and other sharp objects sticking out of it. It looked like something out of Mad Max.
Then the old man and Pete told me their story.
See, the old man was actually a retired Detroit Police Sergeant. Well, one day back in 1967, the Detroit Police Sergeant was getting his hair cut when “a huge crazy guy, gosh he was probably six-foot-five and 250 pounds” kicked Pete’s glass front door in. The Sergeant jumped out of the barber’s chair and he and Pete went outside to see what this crazy nut’s problem was. The crazy big guy suddenly hauled off and socked the Sergeant right in the mouth. He went down for the count. What Pete did next may have saved the Sergeant’s life.
The crazy big guy then charged Pete. What the crazy big guy didn’t know was the Pete was a former green beret in the Greek National Army and he had done some hard combat time fighting in the Greek Civil War of the late 1940s. Pete, who fought armed communists during the war, wasn’t about to let some crazy unarmed nut take him down. So when the guy charged, Pete blocked his punch, kneed him in the groin and knocked the guy out with a blow to the head. It was over in a second.
Now, while this is all happening, two undercover Detroit Police officers just happened to be walking across the street and saw the fight. They didn’t know what was going on and they charged across the street and one of them tried to grab Pete to break up the fight. Pete thought the undercover cops were friends of the big crazy guy. So when the undercover cop grabbed him to break up the fight, Pete knocked him out with one punch. The other cop of course then pulled his gun out and told Pete he was a cop and to freeze and all that stuff. Pete yelled at him for not announcing he and his partner were cops, and then proceeded to explain what happened.
When it was all said and done, two policemen and the crazy guy who started the fight were out cold and the barber was standing. That is one tough barber.
I’ll end this with a salute to people like Pete. People who love doing their job and who do it well. People who fight for the causes they believe in. People who back up their friends in times of trouble. People with integrity and honor.
That to me is the DIFF.