But Oliver’s Barber Shop, used in the Purple Rose of Cairo, is suddenly gone.
It had two huge, perfect 1930s windows, filled with plants and flags and signs. It was, in its own funky way, a set piece, literally. I loved everything about it and even did a watercolor painting of it about six years ago, framed it and gave it to my sweetie for Christmas. Oddly, the brick around those windows remains a lighter beige, painted for the movie to look more photogenic.
But the barber shop (now a trendy hair salon) is gone for good and I’m in shock and in mourning. I will miss that window, in its ancient messiness, terribly.
I love old things and their patina of age, doors whose paint is alligatored and faded, porcelain that is crazed with a thousand tiny cracks, silver a little banged up, textiles worn thin by someone else’s skin. I can’t explain its hold on me, the ancient. Maybe because it helps me feel anchored by centuries past, not adrift in a world of noise, plastic and neon.
We tend to photograph the unusual and the special: births, christenings, graduations, weddings — but not the quotidian. We’re too busy or assume the things we love about our neighborhoods, our cities and towns and rural landscapes, will always be there.
The disappearance of Oliver’s was a great wake-up call.
I love their posts because hearing other women describe their lives in a country other than the one in which they were raised helps me feel less foreign. I live only a nine-hour drive away from my hometown and a six-hour drive to the border, but sometimes it feels very far away.
I love it — I stare north up the Hudson River to astonishingly beautiful views, can enjoy all the things Manhattan has to offer and have a town so charming its main street has been featured in several films, like The Good Shepherd and The Preacher’s Wife and Mona Lisa Smile.
But even after all these years, I still sometimes feel foreign. I love Thanksgiving — family, friends, gratitude, pumpkin pie — but am left cold by the insane commercialism of Black Friday. (Although Canada, and others, has instead the commercial insanity of Boxing Day sales, which have nothing to do with sports.)
I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, although I can sing the national anthem. I now know what a “do-over” and a “Hail Mary pass” and “step up to the plate” mean — all these sports references! I know that New Yorkers stand “on line” and that ordering a “double, double” (two sugars, two milks in coffee) or a bloody Caesar (a cocktail) here will elicit only blank stares.
It’s easy enough to memorize the number of senators or why there are so many stars or stripes in the U.S. flag. It’s much more challenging to play cultural catch-up!
But I never (thank Heaven) had to write the SATs nor freak out over which college to attend and whether or not it was affordable — I attended the University of Toronto whose annual cost (no, this is not missing a zero) was $660 my first year. It now still costs only $5,000 a year for Canadian residents.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe, as I keep a running video in my head of what life might have been like had I stayed in Canada. Of course, there’s no way to know, is there?
I visit Canada up to six times a year, as my parents live there (in separate provinces), as well as dear friends going back decades. Every time, someone asks if or when I’ll move back. With a green card, I can only leave the U.S. for year at a time, so it would take an amazing job offer to lure me north, and for the moment, none is forthcoming.
In my adolescence, I lived in Cuernavaca, Mexico for four months and, at 25, lived in Paris for 10 months. In Mexico, men hissed at me on the street and in buses, two words: juerita and fuerita: little blondie and little foreigner. My very appearance marked me as foreign with my waist-length blond hair and pale skin.
Both experiences changed forever how I saw the world and my place in it; once you’ve made the break away from everything you know, you discover how adaptable you are. You find kind people live everywhere and realize that you can thrive many time zones away from where you’ve always felt best understood.
Have you ever lived outside your native land? Did you enjoy it?