Posted by paulrivas on:
Now that I'm living deeper in Goleta than I've ever lived in my 30 years in Santa Barbara, I've been frequenting my favorite Goleta joints more than usual and discovering new neighborhood favorites. I've been in the Mercury Lounge more times in the last month than I had previously since returning to Santa Barbara at Christmas.
Last Thursday, finding myself in downtown Goleta and needing a haircut, I make a bee-line for Goleta Barbers, which I had passed by on a previous trip to the Paperback Alley and identified as the perfect neighborhood barber shop. (Rivas Cultural Services refers to the area around Hollister Avenue between Kellogg and Fairview as "Downtown Goleta", not "Old Town Goleta".) Goleta Barbers is not Fairview Barbers. Fairview Barbers was a white man's barber shop in the Fairview shopping center. Goleta Barbers is a brown man's barber shop on Hollister, a few doors up from the Paperback Alley.
It was 5:15 when I walked in and saw the sign saying the place closed at 6:00. Both barbers were busy and there were at least two guys waiting for haircuts, but I decided to take a chance on the barbers not wanting to turn down last-minute customers, and sat down. One of the guys waiting - the only white guy in the place - turned out to be none other than Jeremy Anderson, my third grade classmate. Each of us was genuinely glad to see the other, despite the fact that we probably only ever really exchanged words on a few occasions throughout elementary, junior high and high school. When Jeremy got off the chair, he extracted some well crumpled bills from his the right front pocket of his blue Dickies, turned to the barber, and said, "Thanks for cutting my hair, homes."
The only guy who came in after me, and validated my already questionably late arrival, was Hector Guerrero, who is bros with Ray Lopez, who is my friend Bubba's sister Kara's husband. We hadn't seen each other in years either, and Goleta Barbers provided the perfect space for a catch-up conversation between two Santa Barbara locals who never really had much to do with each other due to being several years apart in age, despite being good friends of the famous Robison family.
In addition to the barbers and paying customers, there were also a few high school kids hanging out that afternoon. These guys seemed to be happy in their daily routine of passing a few free hours at the barber shop, chilling with their bros and occasionally hopping into a barber chair for a free touch-up during any breaks in the paid action. These guys all had shaved heads. They had shaved heads, and they were getting haircuts. This made me feel soft. My hair was longer than anyone's in the shop, as I knew it would remain even after my turn in the chair. (Hector's hair looked sillier than mine, but only because he'd insisted on maintaining a combing regimen that had proven to be incompatible with his current hairdo, grown-out as it was.) I imagined the others in the room classifying me as the least hard in the room, due to the length of my hair. I also assumed they were more curious about me than anything, being that I'd never been there before but walked in sure that I'd come to the right place. In my mind, I proved my worthiness as an honorable local customer by being a lifelong schoolmate of the only white guy in the room, and being a long-lost associate of the Mexican-American most in need of a haircut in the whole place. It was a very Rivas Cultural Services moment.
Rivas Cultural Services backs the Goleta Barbers. They're a friendly, accommodating bunch of barbers who obviously take tremendous pride in their trade, as well as tremendous pride in the role they play in the community.