Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Narcoleptic Barber

The other day I saw a man doze off in a high swivel chair, and the sight suddenly lifted my heart for the future.

He was a barber of Italian origins who, along with two others like him and a peppy Korean lady, runs an old-fashioned shop downtown in the zippy suburb where my grandkids live--nothing but haircuts and for cash.

I was there for bimonthly shearing after a farcical week in the hospital, emerging to find that living in my own home was in the past and I would be part of an "extended family" with my descendants whom I love but who have their own lives to lead without a decrepit grandfather  to keep tripping over.  That sleeping barber gave me some hope that,  even so,  the world of my own childhood and beyond still existed in some small corners of today.

That evening, I was in the high-school auditorium to watch my grandson take part in a futuristic debate about skills needed by a global 21st  century citizen and how to achieve them locally. Teams of students had prepared comprehensive plans for their own school and its infrastructure, teaching methods, technology and funding--and they were defending them with great skill against a questioning panel of town officials.

The future was here, and I was in it. To cushion the shock, I am  moving part-time to "Empire Falls," an America in Richard Russo's head with space for the past as well as ceaseless motion ahead.

I'll send postcards.


Anonymous said...

I bet a lot of your followers are envious of your lucky grandchildren. Thanks for the images you paint.

Harley King said...

I wish you well on your new adventure. I hope I continue to see you post columns. I appreciate your sense of history.

Anonymous said...

I was recently layed off from a job where I worked for many years. After a month I was hired (contrary to the conventional wisdom that layed off fifty-somethings will never work again) by a company, where the president told me "we have a lot of young people...we need to hire some older ones."

Old and young under one roof? Not such a bad idea, is it?

By the way, looking sharp in the new profile photo!