As the departure date for the sail home gets closer it was time for a haircut. So I took Sweet Pea into the dinghy dock and walked up the hill to the local barber shop.
I first met Tanza, the Rasta barber, three years ago during my first voyage to the Virgin Islands. When I walked into his shop this past January he remembered me, my boat, my kids, Gayle, the whole shebang. I can’t even remember what I did last week. I guess he has cut my hair three or four times this trip.
I have always enjoyed going to his place of business. There are usually other customers there. I’m mostly quiet and just listen. Churches and barbershops are, in many ways I think, the center of gravity for social interaction in the black community. I have always been made to feel welcome at both places. There is a lot to learn there if you listen, especially about the local culture. I enjoy listening to the back and forth that takes place between the customers and in this case Tanza. The conversation can cover a wide range of topics from politics to sports to daily life to things best left unsaid here. Sometimes, there is so much laughter you’d think you were watching a stand up routine. Though not often, I am occasionally invited into the conversation. It’s a real privilege when it happens.
I am pretty well traveled and reasonably knowledgeable about a lot of things that go on in the world but sitting in Tanza’s shop and listening as the conversation sometimes turns serious—usually about the state of world—I am reminded how much I don’t know. I am also reminded of the wisdom of Tip ONeill’s famous quote, “All politics is local.” It’s as true in St Thomas as it is in Boston or Atlanta or in Swansboro.
Though I love meeting other sailors, it’s the locals that really expand my world and remind me of the humanness common to us all.