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Milton the Barber

Milton the Barber

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader December 7, 2011.)

The waiting area at Headlinerz Barbershop on El Cajon Boulevard looks like a swank doctor’s office. In one corner of the spacious room, five men wait on a leather-cushioned, L-shaped bench. The black, laquered floors shine. A six-foot-tall magazine rack stands to one side of the bench, filled with issues of Jet, Men’s Journal, Ebony, Car and Driver. The Hangover plays on a flatscreen television hung high on the wall.

Although Milton, the shop’s 42-year-old owner and head barber, is expecting me, he rolls his eyes when I enter. Waving an electric razor in my direction for emphasis, he gives me his list of rules.

Rules one and two:

“Don’t take my picture,” he says. “I don’t like my picture taken. And no recording.” He shakes his head, apparently appalled that I would even attempt such a thing. “You can’t record in the ’hood.”

A broad-shouldered athletic kid sitting at the empty station next to Milton’s shakes his head, too.No recording.

At the sight of my notebook and pen, Milton again rolls his eyes. “Guess I’d better watch what I say,” he says. “I don’t want to be in the Reader as Asshole of the Year.”

(To continue reading, click here.)