Thinking About Lasts & Firsts

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” Author John Banville

In life, we tend to celebrate “firsts”.
First birthdays, first steps, first words, our first car, first job, first home.
I’ve been thinking about “lasts” lately.
Recently, I got my last haircut from Karyn Premock at Rex’s Hair Salon.
I’ve been going to Karyn for probably 15 years or more. Every five weeks for a decade and a half and last week marked the last cut.

After “retiring” three years ago with a great party at 5th Avenue Grill, Karyn hung around until she sold her house in Lake Ida and built a new one in Tennessee.
She’s famous around these parts, with a client list of well known locals. She held on to a few of us after she “retired” and I was lucky to be one of the fortunate few. But now it’s over. Karyn is moving on.

I remember my first haircut at Rex’s which was located just off Atlantic Avenue in those days.
I was on the City Commission and I kept hearing all of these rumors about goings on at the city. When I asked people where they were hearing such things a great many said Rex’s. So I figured I’d go there out of self defense and also to learn what people in town were talking about.

Then and now, Rex’s was like a community water cooler and if you wanted to get a pulse on the town you had to go there.
My wife Diane was already a client and she recommended Karyn. I’ve been there ever since.

I’m going to stay too, even now that Karyn is gone. I’m going to move over to Rex’s chair. I’ve grown to love the place and I don’t want to go anywhere else.
A guy needs some continuity in these fast paced times.

But I have to say I was emotional when I hugged Karyn after the last hair cut. We didn’t say goodbye, we said ‘see you soon’.

I’m sure we will see her again but it was emotional nonetheless.
We have shared a lot over the years. Our talks  included gossip, politics, news, stories about our families, movies we’ve seen, people we know and life in general.
So you grow close. You become friends. And then one day, you get your last cut and things change forever. Isn’t that life?

I felt the same way a few months back when I traveled home to Stony Brook, N.Y. and visited all of my personal landmarks.
I remember moving day when we settled into 22 Moss Hill Place, but I honestly don’t remember the last time I left that house. I’m pretty sure I didn’t realize it would be the last time.
Because if I had, I would have savored the experience instead of bounding into my car and driving off.
Isn’t that life too?

Rushing from place to place, marking firsts, a few key anniversaries and special occasions but rarely recognizing transitions or endings.

Recently, after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, I decided to donate to HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), the Jewish organization that so offended the shooter because they help refugees coming to America.
I mentioned the organization to my dad and he told me that HIAS had helped my grandfather when he immigrated from Russia in 1920.
I didn’t know that and I felt a surge of emotion at the news. I absolutely adored my grandfather, he was my first hero, and the connection moved me.

And I was reminded that I didn’t realize at the time that when I went away to college it would be the last time I would ever see my grandfather.

He passed while I was in school in Oswego, N.Y.
There’s obvious lessons here. To be conscious and aware and present and appreciative and “woke” as they say these days.
And it’s all true. It’s good to be all of these things.
It’s also important to understand that life is change. Life is transitions. And life should be appreciated and savored.

When I walked into Rex’s for the first time all those years ago, much younger, idealistic, full of excitement for my city and in the middle of the action in town, I didn’t realize I would make a friend, that I would enjoy years of conversation and laughs in a great barber shop and that I would see friends enjoy the same experience.

Cut after cut, year after year, until the last snip.


  1. Norman Perkel says

    I cannot agree more, life is change. It’s going to whether you do something about it or not, so it’s good to live in the present because it’s just that, a gift. Enjoying that gift that is life is so important, but has sadly been diluted in this world of click based social media. The human element has been eroded as personal face to face experiences become fewer and fewer with the advent of the latest telephone based app. contemporaneously diminishing the “firsts” of life.

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