“A little off the sides, add more to the top.”


The disparaging expletive is from my barber, Tommy Thomas.

Tommy, the owner of Thomas Barber Shop, has been cutting my hair for some time now. He is a barber, not a stylist. He doesn’t shampoo, and you have to ask for hair spray. He does, however, shave your neck with a straight razor and finish with a hot towel.

I don’t have a lot of hair. I always thought I looked pretty good in the mirror when I was all spiffed up. That was until I saw a video of myself taken from behind.

“My God I’m bald!”

“And this is a revelation because …”

“You don’t understand; I have no hair on the top of my head.”

“I know.”

“How long have you known?”

“How long have we been married?”

“Do you think other people have noticed?”

“One or two.”

“Why didn’t they say anything?”

“Because it would be the equivalent of telling you that you had a nose.”

There was a time when I went to a hair stylist, a lovely lady I now know was far too well-bred to mention that she was styling air back of my ears. The snip-snip was a palliative to keep me from crying.

When I was growing up the only hair cutting choice was between one of two barber shops. I chose mine based on who gave the best flattop. At my barber shop there were 4 chairs, a row of seats along the opposite wall, magazines, two hat racks, a display of Clubman products, a bowl of candy, a Coke machine and an on-going discussion of sports.

I paid for my haircuts myself rather than take advantage of the free barber at Georgia Military Academy. Charlie was nice enough, but his finished product would often result in comments like “Hey, Johnson! When did you stick your head in a wood chipper?”

When I first walked into Thomas Barber Shop I felt like I had stepped back in time. It has everything my childhood barbershop had, except there were 6 chairs.  But there is a row of seats along the opposite wall, magazines, two hat racks, a display of Clubman products, a bowl of candy, a Coke machine and an on-going discussion of sports.

In an excellent article about the senior Tommy Thomas, who passed away on September 18, 1996, Dave Rubinger said “On Saturday mornings, Thomas Barber Shop is the center of the universe for Buckhead residents.”

There is a steady stream of second generation customers, retired guys, businessmen and other vagrants. There are autographed pictures of everybody but the Aga Kahn, plus high school and college pennants, bumper stickers, and football helmets.

And there is the overriding presence of The Coca-Cola Company.

I learned early on that Thomas Barber Shop is the hair cutter of choice for most senior executives at Coke. Mr. Woodruff got his hair cut there. (If you don’t know who Mr. Woodruff was, there’s no way to explain.) Don Keough and Mutar Kent are regulars.

Last September was the 50th anniversary of Thomas Barber Shop, and Tommy threw a 50th anniversary party. Not only did Mr. Keough show up, the Company issued a commemorative bottle.

One does not use the word “P****” within a thousand yards. Tommy has a straight razor. You don’t. Got it?

Tommy has the last chair, and he cuts a staggering amount of hair. I have never been there when he wasn’t busy.

There is no lack of opinion about any subject, and Tommy knows everybody who’s anybody. He always gives me an excellent haircut, and he’s fast. As for his true skill as a barber, you’ll have to ask someone with hair.

The point of all this? There are things in my life I don’t want to go away … bottled Cokes, cafeterias, dinner on the grounds, back roads, being nice to people, and barber shops.

There’s no place like home.

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is a professional mentalist and mind reader who presents his unique and unforgettable program to conventions, college and universities, sales meetings, private parties, business and civic clubs and more. He has also appeared at the Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta and produces, along with Jerry Farber and Joe M. Turner, Atlanta Magic Night at the Red Light Cafe in Midtown. He is a member of the Psychic Entertainers Association, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Georgia Magic Club,Buckhead Rotary Club and Friends of Jim The Wonder Dog. You can learn more at www.MarkJohnsonSpeaks.com. He is the author of three books: "Living The Dream," the story of the first ten years of FedEx; "Superman, Hairspray, and the Greatest Goat On Earth," a collection of mostly true stories;, and "Yes Ma'am, You're Right: The Essential Rules For Living With A Woman."  Mark's day job is as a freelance writer and communications and marketing consultant. Mark has traveled around the world twice but has never been to Burlington, Vermont. He does not eat beets or chicken livers, and he has never read "Gone With The Wind." He is the only person he knows who was once a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists. He is a fifth generation Atlantan,  the father of three, and the grandfather of five. All offspring are demonstrably perfect. He lives in Smyrna with his wife Rebecca (aka The Goddess) and two dogs: Ferguson, an arrogant Scottish terrier; and, Lola, a Siberian husky who is still trying to figure out what the hell she's doing in Cobb County.