“I don’t want you to write about us on your blog or your Facebook. We don’t care about that. We’re not here for fame or glory or whatever. We’re all about haircuts.”
It’s a Wednesday in the summer of 2010 and Eric Cavizo is on a roll as he breaks out a pair of scissors and starts cutting into the mop of hair on top of my head. He’s always on a roll. The proprietor of Brick’s Barbershop in Portland, OR. is not a man of few words.
Some barbers make small talk about the weather or sports but that day Eric was in the mood to talk about life, the universe and everything. This was my first trip to Brick’s and, over a year later, I can still remember the conversation vividly, seeing as how it was one of the strangest in my entire life. After giving a businessman a trim and lecturing him on the benefits of eyebrow waxing, it was my turn. I hopped into the barber’s chair and Eric asked me what I knew about astrophysics.
Brick’s Barbershop first opened its doors in the spring of 2009. Despite its far-flung location on Barbur Boulevard in what’s considered the outer rim of Portland, it quickly earned a reputation as the city’s craziest and coolest place to get a haircut. In addition to being a skilled barber and authority on numerous subjects, Eric’s a brilliant self-marketer. When he learned that the Greek Cusina, a popular downtown eatery, was about to close its doors, he quickly swooped in to rent “Sporticus,” the large, inflatible octopus that once hung over the entrance. It now sits on the barbershop’s roof. Eric offers patrons complimentary beers and, when business is slow, waves at passing traffic while dressed in a chicken suit.
His back story is equally off-kilter. Prior to moving to Portland, Eric was homeless for a spell before landing a gig as a Captain Morgan promoter. He toured bars and clubs around the country with a group of “Morganettes” while dressed in a pirate costume. While cutting my hair, he explained the pecking-order of world’s Captain Morgans. “I was the second-stringer,” he told me. “I took all the gigs the National Captain Morgan couldn’t handle. He got all the parades and high-publicity events. There’s also the World Captain Morgan that gets to go to Australia and Europe. You can bet that he never goes home alone.”
Eric’s fiance, Chelsey Rae, strolled in from lunch , her head completely shaved. Apparently, they had decided to put together a “Barbershop Menu” featuring photos of all the haircuts they offered. None of their friends were willing to go bald so she volunteered. As a result, they were planning to dress up in V for Vendetta costumes that Halloween.
I was in the chair for all of 15 minutes but, in that time, I managed to hear a good chunk of Eric’s life story and his thoughts on the mysteries of the universe. The most interesting theory he offered: that eyes are the gateways to the soul and that Americans, because they refuse to wax their eyebrows, are cutting themselves off from one another. “Americans look angry all the time,” he told me. “Because of these hairy things over their eyes that block all the light from reaching them.”
He offered me a free eyebrow wax and, well, how could I refuse? While Chelsea cut another customer’s hair, Eric led me over to a sink, had me close my eyes and covered my eyebrows in hot goop. With the precision of Zorro, he cut away at the hairs and removed another clump with paper. “There you go, ” he said afterward. “You got a girlfriend or a wife? If you don’t, you will by the end of the week, I’m willing to bet on it.”
I felt like I’d stepped off a Tilt-to-Whirl as I headed back to my car. I returned a few months later and again in the spring of 2011. On my last visit, Eric and Chelsea told me about the cabin they had just purchased in Washington and their new pot-bellied pig. “It’s like having a baby,” Eric said. “Actually, I’d rather live with a baby. When a scared pig wakes up in the middle of the night, their cries are like knives in your ear.” Good to know.
Over the past year, I’ve recommended Brick’s to several friends and colleagues but they’ve all balked. As odd as it might sound, the only person who has gone is my 60 year old father, who loves the place. He’s now a regular customer. On his last trip, Eric said they had to give up the pig (“too noisy and we were always too busy for him”) and that they may relocate the shop to north Portland in order to be closer to home.
Eric, if you’re out there reading this, sorry man. I had to blog about the place. I just had to.