Trying To Get To You

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Barbershop Wisdom

I go to a barber shop downstairs from my apartment. The man that runs the place and cuts (what’s left of) my hair is this really nice 25 year-old Russian-Jewish émigré who came to the U.S. in the early 90’s after the Soviet Union disbanded. Usually, he’s got WKTU on the radio, a dance/techno station that I don’t like at all, but I don’t complain and I keep giving him the business because I want to support him.

Today, he had a new gadget in the shop; a 25-inch flat screen TV that was playing a DVD of videos by EuroTechnoPop artists. If each video hadn’t featured a strikingly beautiful and exotic looking woman, I would have been seriously annoyed, as I was not into the music at all and was thinking, "How can anyone listen to this shit?"

I assumed that since he was from Russia, his taste gravitated solely the stuff that was playing in his shop. I assumed incorrectly. He said, “I listen to everything; hip-hop, dance and techno.” But he told me that his real passion was for hip-hop, and proceeded to go into a detailed analysis of who’s hot in the game now (he’s a G-Unit junkie and thinks they’re going to keep ruling) and who’s not (he thinks Bad Boy is totally over), amongst others. I asked him who his favorite artists were, and he said “Jay-Z, Biggie and Tupac” with a tone of reverence that in my life experience people said, “The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.”

He asked me what I listened to and I told him that while I listen to “everything” as well (although my definition of “everything” was different from his), I’m a big rock fan. He kind of shook his head. “I can’t get into rock,” he said. “Do you want to know why? Because I didn’t grow up with it. When I got to New York when I was 13, the first thing I heard was hip-hop and from there I got into techno and dance. But I grew up with hip-hop. I do like a little Pink Floyd though.”

"I grew up with..." I’m not sure if I’ve heard a better explanation as to why someone’s into what they’re into. So many people think that because they love something, that there’s something objectively true or right about it. I know I used to be that way – I literally thought that my taste was superior to that of others, even to the extent that some genres of music were morally superior to others. But I know now that was just arrogance on my part. People love the music that they grew up with. Some people's passion for music calls them to look for new (or old) sounds and artists their whole lives (music geeks like me), and others, well, they just love the stuff they grew up with.

The music discussion ended at the same time my haircut did. I tipped my barber about 40% and left the shop with some current EuroDancePop hitting running ‘round my head. And it didn’t bother me; once I stopped thinking that it was all "shit," I realized that the song had a pretty good hook.

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