For the first few months after I moved back to Texas, I got my hair cut at an Austin barber shop. It’s a family run place — the father and two of his sons own and operate it. The sons are in their 30s or so; the father may be in his 60s. Like many business owners around Austin, the owners of this barber shop are Hispanic.
I haven’t been there in a while, as it’s pretty far from where I live now. I used to go there because it was the first place I found around town, because they give a great no-nonsense man’s haircut, and because the sons are hilarious. They are constantly joking around with each other, joking with the customers, and just having fun. It’s like getting free entertainment while you get your hair cut. Although I used to worry a little that if they made me laugh too hard I would end up moving at the wrong time and mess up their work.
So I was in the shop in mid April, a few years back. I’m in the chair nearest the door as one of the sons is cutting my hair. Another man is in one of the other chairs, and the other son was cutting his hair. The father was around but I don’t think he was cutting anyone’s hair. There were a couple of guys waiting their turn, sitting in a line of chairs that extended from the area just inside the door. Typical barber shop set-up.
An older white man comes in, he seemed be someone that the father and sons knew pretty well.
The newcomer asks the nearest son, “So, are you excited about Cinco de Mayo?”
The sons laughed and the one nearest the door said, “Cinco de Mayo? Not really, man.” He kept cutting my hair.
The older man persisted: “Aren’t you excited about Cinco de Mayo? What are you planning to do to celebrate?”
The sons laughed again. The guys in the chairs near the door laughed too. The brothers kind of looked at each other, shrugged, and the one nearest the door said “Cinco de Mayo? Man, we celebrate the Fourth of July!” They laughed again. “I can’t wait for that! We’ll go to the parades, have some bar-be-cue, see some fireworks, drink some beer. Best day of the year!”
The newcomer just wouldn’t have it. He asked, again, “But aren’t you excited about Cinco de Mayo? It’s coming up! What are you and your family doing?”
Now the son nearest the door was a little bit angry, but he and his brother both laughed it off. “I told you, we celebrate the Fourth of July! My family has been in Texas forever. I’m from Lampasas, man! We’re not ‘Mexican-American’ or any other thing like that, we’re Americans! Fourth. Of. Ju. Ly. Not Cinco de Mayo.” Lampasas is northwest of Austin, near Killeen.
The newcomer finally seemed to give up. He started to sit down in one of the chairs by the door to wait his turn, but then seemed to change his mind, and he left.
The brothers just chuckled, and the one cutting my hair muttered “Cinco de Mayo? Whatever. We’re Americans. I’m from Lampasas.”
Then he asked me what I planned to do on Fourth of July. I told him that his plans sounded pretty good to me. Especially the bar-be-cue.