Personal Growth as a Career (Reconnection)
Sons always wish that their fathers could be more present throughout their lives. It’s a part of the continuing process and struggle of becoming a man. For some men, there will come a time when they realize that one day, they themselves may also have to be absent for their own children in order to provide a life for them. The relationship that I have with my own father can best be described as a series of seasonal ebbs and flow. In addition to being absent physically while growing up due to the obligations of his career, my dad became absent in a different way as an adult after suffering a TBI following a pretty bad fall down a flight of stairs that wound up being much harder than the heads Bentley men are known for.
My father is a man of many talents, but in the years following his accident, things changed. Dad became less of "dad” and more “Ranger Steve.” Eventually, he left Idaho and I could only watch his life from afar via social media, and it seemed like he was slowly turning into a person that society felt necessary to apologize for. A combat veteran with PTSD exaggerated by a brain injury is not typically described as rational, but I will say one thing with absolute certainty; My dad is, and will always be, one of the most intelligent people I know.
In his own words, he was an army guy, a government guy, a food truck guy, an artist, and now that he’s 55, he’s begun his 5th professional chapter and is currently enrolled in Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colorado. My dad’s path from Idaho to Colorado is littered with a handful of damaged relationships, and as such, I haven’t had a chance to really see my father in almost six years. The last time I saw him had been three years ago when he stopped into town for a few hours during the middle of a trip he was making. He let me cut his hair when I was a new barber, and then we went to the bar my brother worked at so we could all have a beer together. My brother and I called it a unicorn moment, because we were unsure when the next time the three Bentley men would be together again.
It was nice seeing him in person because my dad is not someone who should only exist on the internet or the opposite side of a text message. He’s the person who only ends the conversation because you both realized that three hours disappeared. I would text him on his birthday, randomly sending him a message that I still loved him, but all of our conversations came to a stand still.
But then, back in the beginning of June, my dad had made a post on his instagram about how the city of Boulder had bought rainbow flags for all of the local businesses to display in their windows to kick off Pride. One of the pictures had a barbershop that I immediately recognized from my own feed, Truman Barber Co.
Quick Context - I carry Black Bean Grocery pomade, which is ran by The Pomp. I was introduced to The Pomp while I was in barber school because he made great pomade review videos, and in one of his videos he went to Esquire Barbershop in Chicago to visit Justin Albrecht (@BarberJustin) for a haircut. I was blown away by Justin’s skill so I began following him, and he eventually moved from Chicago to Boulder to work at Truman Barber Co. This is the how I started following a shop full of great barbers two years ago.
I realized that this was an opportunity to start a conversation with my dad, so I messaged him and suggested that he should go in and get a haircut since he lived in the area, and ensured he would get a solid service and have a great conversation, two things that my dad finds a lot of value in. He told me that he already had a barber, but that he had gone in and talked to that shop before. He told me that Justin would be starting his own shop soon, and that if I ever found work down there, I’d have a place to stay.
I honestly thought it was just one of those things. You say something nice so you can perceive to be nice, because we were all raised with one of our parents saying that, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything all.”
I didn’t put too much stock in it, but I opted to do my legwork. I reached out to Truman once they made the announcement they would be hiring barbers and asked if they would have any interest in a traveling barber.
In my mind, I couldn’t justify simply visiting my dad. It’s entirely inconvenient to take vacations when you run an independent business. I have to take time off work to stop earning an income and then additionally spend the money I’m not earning to go somewhere and take care of the reality of that trip’s expense. I wanted to try and shift the original purpose of my trip so I could take joy in a delightful byproduct of a work expense. The shop’s owner, Anthony, was game, so I put in to transfer my Idaho barber license to Colorado. Once all my ducks were in a row, I checked flight prices and messaged my dad.
He wasn’t just playing nice, my trip was a go.
Frontier has two flights a week between Boise and Denver, so my options were incredibly limited. My flight would arrive at 10:40p, and it looked like I was going to be finding my way into town. My dad, who doesn’t own a car, told me that he would take the bus from Boulder to Denver so that he’d be able to meet me at the airport and make sure I got to his apartment. The bus was to leave at 11:20, and was 80 minutes to get to downtown Boulder, so I planned on it being a long day. I finished my appointments in Boise, I barely had enough time to shower and finish packing before my wife dropped me off at the airport.
Seeing my dad for the first time in three years is one of the few moments in life that I couldn’t fake the amount of joy that seeped out of every pore.
We talked and got caught up the entire time from meeting at the baggage claim to the hour and a half bus trip, and the 10 minute walk from the bus station to his apartment. Once we got to his apartment, we talked until 2am, and it was at that point that I realized, “Oh shit, this is a work trip, and I need to cut in the morning.”
I wake up at 6am the next morning, mostly because I don’t know what it is to relax. That’s typically what winds up happening when I’m not home, I get up before the sun to get the most out of my time in a new area. Fortunately enough, my dad has a similar schedule, so we took his dog, buddy, on a walk around the neighborhood he lives in. Within fifteen minutes, we were at the house that Mork & Mindy was based out of. My dad knows how much Robin Williams has impacted my life, his suicide is the reason I decided to face my own depression head on, so it was great to have him take me there as one of the first introductions to the town. We detour from the neighborhood to the world famous Pearl Street, and he shows me how to get to Truman.
I’m realizing that my dad has turned into an urbanite, and the VA has him housed in a location that doesn’t require him to have a car. He lived a paltry three blocks away from Truman, which is on one end of Boulder’s downtown pedestrian mall, that houses literally any and every kind of store you could hope to run across. I was excited to get into the shop to meet everyone, but I was running on fumes and needed food, but more importantly, coffee.
Boulder is a foodie town, and being who I am, I love being an adventurous eater whenever I’m outside of Boise. The school that my dad is enrolled in is known as being one of the top culinary programs in America, with an emphasis on farm to table, and they produce a lot of great chefs that open amazing restaurants in the area, so I knew early on that I wanted to experience as many of the options we had available in the small amount of time we had together. Our first breakfast started with one of my dad’s favorite locally owned and operated restaurants, Foolish Craig’s. They’re mostly known for their crepes, so I went with the Duxelles. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was glad that I opted for something to fill my up.
While dad and I were enjoying a delightful morning on the patio, Truman’s owner, Anthony, saw us from across the street and ran over to introduce himself. First impressions were made and I let him know I was going to get my stuff over as soon as my delicious breakfast was done.
Coffee was gone and I made my way over to the shop.
I was introduced to a slender, incredibly well lit 6 chair shop that had a phenomenal location with constant in and out traffic. On top of that, I was in a room with five amazing barbers that I didn’t manage.
That realization that all of my self imposed expectations of being a shop owner are gone was a weight lifted off my shoulders. In this place, I am nobody to nobody. I am simply a barber getting to do what I love with a bunch of guys doing the same thing.
It was an incredible experience to learn how much more I needed to learn. They were damn good, and they were damn fast, and they had to be. Their service menu was expansive to cater to the largest audience possible. Not every guy wants all of the niceties that traditional barbering offers. Some guys prefer the convenience of in an out, and the other guys don’t mind paying a little extra for the extra treatments. As an entrepreneur, I was impressed by the fluid motion of a brilliant business model in action.
I have no shame in saying it, I was intimidated when I first walked in that morning. It was my first time in someone else’s house as a guest, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep up, but at some point throughout the day, I lowered my guard and realized I just get to have fun with this, it was probably around the time I got coffee from The Laughing Goat.
All of the barbers in the shop, Asher, Cole, Ben, Adam, Josh, treated me like I had been there from day one. I lost track of time and apparently my dad had come in at three separate times and watched me work. I realized it was 7pm and I had been there since 9am. Chase was going to give me so much shit when I get home; he always jokes how I never work that hard since I only do 10-4 back home. Apparently I only know how to work hard when I’m on vacation. Like I said earlier, I don’t know how to relax. I said goodnight to the guys and we went off to get my first meal since breakfast.
During his last haircut back home at The Barber Story, one of my friends, Brock, had told me that I had to check out The Post Brewing Co. while I was in town. I told my dad that it was the only suggestion I was given so it was the one I wanted to go see. “That’s fine but we need to hurry. My buddy, Chance, is playing and I want you to check him out. You’ll love him!”
Pearl St. in Boulder is world famous for their street performers, and experiencing them live is something worth seeing at least once in your life. My dad lives blocks away from constant live entertainment, so he spends a lot of his time getting to know the people behind the entertainment around the places he frequents.
Chance lives in an RV by choice, much like my father used to, and rocks guitar harder than you do. He does it dressed like Obi Wan, surrounded by toys from the 90’s, and he’ll play anything from Game of Thrones to Van Halen. Chance is letting every kid know that you can be anything you want to be when you grow up, because he makes his entire living entertaining others. Decades of playing guitar as a hobby has created a path to make a living doing the thing he loves the absolute most.
We find our way to The Post and I find myself facing a new contestant in my quest for the perfect Chicken & Waffles. The food came out shockingly quick, and while my dad’s fried chicken was perfect (as always), my C&W was more heavily weighted on a good chicken to balance a ‘meh’ waffle. It really wasn’t as bad as that probably reads, it was delicious fried chicken and the service was top notch. I’ve just been spoiled by having immediate access to Waffle Me Up, the current standing champion in my quest for the perfect Chicken & Waffles. I would say, however, that The Post’s entry to the competition took Solid out of my top 3 spot.
We finish up with dinner and my dad takes me to Native Roots where I get set up for a weekend in the mile high state. Surprise, surprise, I enjoy herbal remedies whenever I find myself in a legal situation. My opinion will always be that I find it entirely ridiculous that Idaho continues to remain one of the final holdouts in recognizing prohibition as the best solution for a viable tax solution to increase the quality of statewide infrastructure, and Idaho citizens should vote accordingly. But I digress……..
I had been running on adrenaline and coffee while also on my feet for the majority of the day, so we were ready to call it a night. We walk the few blocks back to my dad’s apartment, where we spend the rest of the night enjoying the recent purchase on the patio talking about our lives in the past three years, facing and coping with our personal demons, my childhood and what he was actually did as an instructor for the Army Rangers while we were in Georgia, his role as a deputy commandant at the NCO Academy during our time in Hawaii, and what his role was within the newly developed TSA that was formed in the wake of his retirement.
Earlier, when I said my dad is one of the most intelligent people I know, I meant it. After 20 years of an enlisted career that began with combat and ended with a long series of being responsible for training the Army’s greatest, my dad found himself in a unique position when he received his retirement orders in August of 2001. We were all set to move to Idaho, where my mom was from, that upcoming winter. When 9/11 happened, my dad was one foot out the door when he was asked to stay in and re-enlist. He found a better use of his skills within a new government agency, the Department of Homeland Security. They had developed a new branch, known as the Transportation Security Administration, and my dad would be responsible for going throughout all of the airports in the United States, educating on the new processes of and converting private security forces to what we now know to be the TSA airport security screeners. He later moved into a national role based outside of the Pentagon before moving back to Idaho to end that portion of his career with the government.
This is a guy with some stories to tell, but I looked at my phone and realized we had talked our stories until 1am again. I have work in the morning.
My dad is set up in a pretty unique bachelor’s apartment and he has a fairly regular daily routine. I slept in a little and woke up closer to 6:15 just as my dad was going on his morning walk with Buddy. I now had the information that my dad got out of school at 1:30, and after his bus ride back downtown, he could be at the shop by 2:00. I didn’t want to miss out on actually getting to see Pearl St. during it’s most active time by working even more than I do back home, so I blocked my schedule out after his appointment at 2:00. I figure I’d end the day cutting my dad’s hair before we could go and hang out and actually get a chance to see the town on a Friday night.
Once he got back from his morning walk, I told him that I wanted to make some new memories and try some places that he’s never gone before. We started our day at Snooze, a Colorado based restaurant that has branched out into multiple locations throughout the southwest. My dad was never a fan of their chain feel, but the morning prior I had noticed that their patio didn’t have a single empty table. With only their coffee coming from Guatemala, and their Maple Syrup hailing from Vermont, all of their ingredients at the Boulder location are sourced from the state of Colorado, and they really take Colorado based food to heart. The meal started when the server came over and greeted us with coffee and a “pickle,” which meant they were surprising us with a complimentary Peachy Keen pancake. Think of the most amazing pancake you ever had, and then throw that memory in the dirt. Super fluffy with a slight toffee chew from the brûlée, the peach and marscapone cream hit me right in the soft spot because I’m a sucker for just about anything peach. Blame the state of Georgia.
My half order of Lox & Latke Benny, along with my Breakfast Pot Pie showed up. Today was destined to be another long one on my feet, so I actively made a decision to get the day started out proper. The benny was perfectly poached eggs on top of lox, capers and onions, nestled on top of their house potato cake. The petite salad threw me off as a breakfast side, but it worked really well with the meal, and it was nice to get some greens early in the day, considering I wasn’t going to eat again until tonight. The star of the meal was the breakfast pot pie. It was more like a deconstructed biscuits and gravy, only it was a sausage gravy sitting inside of a puff pastry bowl. It made a classic breakfast dish significantly less heavy, but entirely satisfying.
I finish my coffee, and my dad and I part our ways for the morning. It’s kind of a funny role reversal when you stop to think about it. Usually, its the fathers that have to take time off of work to see their kids when they get out of school, but we never really did things like most families.
I get back into the shop and have a stacked day for the entire time I’m there. Day two was even more fun because I wound up coming into the shop already relaxed and I started to find my groove in the shop. It was in that comfort that I started to understand what was different in this shop. At The Barber Story, we typically hang out and talk with our clients very casually. We intentionally take our time because we are working on our own time, and we can afford to have a slower pace to prevent burning the candle from both ends.. It’s a large difference between the culture of a lease station shop and a commission shop. Those guys cut with intent and purpose because there are always people walking through the front door and waiting for them to let them get on with their days.
My dad shows up at 2, and I finally get a proper opportunity to show him how I make my living. He heads home to shower up, and I clean up the station as I say goodbye to everyone at the shop.
I cannot state my appreciation to Truman Barber Co. for opening their doors and allowing me to be a part of their home for a weekend. I never would have had a chance to fly out and see my dad if it wasn’t for an industry filled with amazing people, and this shop is full of some of the most talented and kind individuals it has to offer.
This picture captures the atmosphere of that shop perfectly, barbers having fun taking care of their community.
As I’m walking back to my dad’s apartment, I notice a Warby Parker store on the same street my dad lives on. I was introduced to the company by one of my clients last year, and both my regular prescriptions as well as my prescription sunglasses are from them. I LOVE Warby Parker, and the only bummer about their try at home program is that you can only do 5 at a time, and they don’t have all frames available. BUT THIS WAS A STORE! I get to try on ALL of the things. I’m perfectly aware that I shouldn’t have this much excitement for glasses, but trust me, it was exciting to get validation that I would be able to see what worked best for me from trying on all of their options. I’m terrified of contacts, and I have only recently been able to afford to start taking care of myself again, so finally getting rid of my birth control glasses will always be a happy memory to me, largely in part to the affordable nature of Warby Parker.
After adding a few favorite frames to my customer profile that I’d be able to order back home, I met up with my dad and we decided to trek the 10 blocks to check out Justin’s shop.
This proved to be a terrible idea in the heat and humidity. While the conversation for 10 blocks was great in banter and dialogue, by the time I got to the shop I was working up a decent sweat and was severely short of breath because I don’t walk nearly as much as my dad does, although apparently I walk much faster than the old man can keep up with.
I introduced myself briefly to Justin and Nick as I checked out the shop. I love seeing how other owners decorate their shops, it becomes the creative outlet of that individual put into a physical space. Justin’s shop was incredibly simple in design, and it was very clean in execution, just like the haircuts the shop provides. The atmosphere was much more calm than the shop I had just spent the past two days at, much more like the atmosphere I have back home. I was told to check out the art gallery in the bathroom, and it’s something you shouldn’t miss. I decided not to take pictures of the dozens of framed pieces from the same artist, because experiencing it in person is what makes the trip to Good Barbers worth the visit.
Real life experiences are something that Instagram will never capture.
I wish I had the time to chat and talk shop, but they were both working, and I had 10 blocks pf heat and humidity to face again, so we got started on the rest of our walking.
We finally make our way to the pedestrian mall, and I am introduced first hand to the experience that is the hustle and bustle of a thriving urban area on a downtown Friday night. My dad walked me over to an area with a dozen food options and asks what I’m in the mood for. He makes a few suggestions, and as soon as he says German, my ears perked up. I hadn’t had authentic German in a while, so we decided to go there.
Some of the best meals come from creativity in the kitchen. If I have no problems with the menu, I will regularly try new places by ordering “Literally anything the kitchen wants to introduce me to on the menu.” I like to trust chefs to do what they do best and see what happens. Typically, I end up happy, but this wasn’t one of those moments. We waited close to 15 minutes at the bar before the server finally brings over some water and gives us menus. I ask the girl to have the kitchen give me whatever they would like, and she responds with, “I’m going to need more to go off of than that.”
“What kind of entree?”
“I don’t know, a schnitzel.”
“What kind of schnitzel do you want?”
After I say chicken, she takes my dad’s order and walks off. Both of us got bad vibes about her attitude, so I yelled over the bar to cancel our order and we left after we drank our waters. I’m not going to waste time on a reunion trip with crappy experiences. We leave and I tell him that two clients at Truman had told me that I needed to try a restaurant called The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. He had heard of it, even went to school with a few people who were working in the kitchen, but had never had an opportunity to go eat there. Perfect, we get to try two new places together in the same day.
This was a phenomenal experience, from first impressions to final bites. The building was breathtaking. It was originally built in Tajikistan by artisans from 1987-1990, it was then disassembled, sent to Boulder, and reassembled in all of its prior glory. The patio gave us a peaceful environment to enjoy the scenery and continue our ongoing conversation of how life had been. We started the meal out with Mango Bruschetta, and I enjoyed a pot of white tea alongside my Persian Tamarind Salmon. When I asked the server what she would recommend for the desert, she suggested the Manjar crepe because it was a different kind of sweetness than how we started the meal out.
Trading a bad experience for a better experience only requires recognizing the situation and actively deciding you are worth better. The teahouse was easily a more enjoyable meal that didn’t feel heavy, yet still left us feeling satisfied. Good thing, considering how much more walking was in our immediate future.
We start to walk around the pedestrian mall, and there are street performers everywhere. Want to get your tarot read? Want to have a poem written about you? Want to watch a guy juggle flaming bowling pins from an oversized unicycle? There’s something for everyone, they just ask that you support street theater for their efforts.
Dad had seen my interest in hats and told me that Boulder had an upscale hat shop, Goorin Bros. I had never heard of them, but apparently this is the haberdasher preferred by Walter White’s alter ego in Breaking Bad. I had already bought two fedoras earlier that day, what’s one more?
Everyone has a fetish, and ever since my trip to Portland, I’m finding mine in wide brim hats. I try on a dozen different styles and finally convince myself that I need to go home with the Trumpet Blues. It was the first hat that I tried on, and it was the hat that I kept coming back to. Going into a proper haberdasher is a lot like Harry Potter going into Ollivander’s wand shop for the first time. You’re there for a while trying to figure things out until finally, the right hat chooses you, and once the decision has been made there is no compromise that can be made. You either get that hat or you leave empty handed.
I’ve had my retail splurge, and now I find myself being taken off to be introduced to one of dad’s watering holes, Oskar Blues. He introduces me to the servers that know him by name, and I’m asked what I think about Boulder. I say it reminds me of a cleaner Boise, and I didn't realize that could exist. Word gets out that I’ve never heard of Dale’s Pale Ale before, so before I can say anything, the server comes back to the table with two pints in hand and says, “The first round is on the house, welcome to Boulder.”
I take a few sips, and put it down once I get about half way through it. It’s a great beer, but I’m still working on moderation. I’m also not going to turn down a beer with my dad.. The conversation that started 36 hours prior continues, until finally, we decide to go back to try and get a decent night sleep. We walk past the store that screams my wife all over it, and I tell my dad that I want to check out the farmer’s market in the morning so I can try to something for Hailie shop before we catch the bus for my flight back home.
We make it back to his patio, and the conversation continues. We talked about second amendment rights in Boulder, and how the city had passed an assault weapons ban recently. Idaho is a huge firearm advocate state, and this concept of infringing on civil liberty was incredibly foreign to me. My dad served his country with a firearm in his hand. I learned how to use firearms through the Boy Scouts (back when my dad was a troop master), and I have always had a healthy respect for firearms growing up, as they were one of the few constitutional rights we had uniquely as Americans.
The debate for firearms will continue long after my opinion is known, but I will say this. I firmly believe that removing specific types of tools will do nothing to prevent violent crime, and I believe an outright ban will lead to a battle fought between those with bullets and those without. I believe the type of gun reform that we need to look into are longer waiting periods to allow for more thorough background screenings, removing peer to peer sales loopholes, and implementing mandatory mental health screenings. As a society, we need to ensure we can prevent tragedy while still respecting the constitutional rights to hobbyists, competition shooters, the hunting community, in addition to those who purchase for home defense. I fall into the hobbyist and home defense category, mostly because I pay attention to the fact that there is more than a fair share of crazy outside of my own doorstep.
My dad told me about the one gun shop in Boulder, and I told him we would add it to the list of things to check out on my final day in town. The conversation continued into the value of a space force, Elon Musk with his mission to Mars, Jeff Bezos with his mission to privatize the Moon, and how my brother’s son will grow up in a world where career aspirations could be something entirely foreign to all of us. The conversation would have continued, but once again, it was late, and I needed sleep.
I don’t have any obligations today outside of people watching, so I slept in (my definition) until 7. I start breakfast with a handful of cookies and a cup of coffee to prepare for the walk around Boulder’s Saturday market. My dad and I had spent the prior night talking a lot about gun culture and the difference between the freedom I was accustomed to in Idaho and what he personally experienced as a constitutionalist/libertarian in Boulder. We make out plan to check out the single gun shop in the area, but we needed to get some real food before we started anything.
Going to culinary school, there had been a handful of restaurants that my dad had been paying close attention to, much like I pay attention to barbershops throughout the northwest. Mateo was a farm to table restaurant about two blocks from his apartment, and he had been talking it up for the entire time I had been in town.
The mateo breakfast (that’s what the menu item is called) values simplicity over everything else. If you are going to do something simple, you better make it damn good, and they hit the nail on the head with perfectly executed simplicity. Two perfectly poached eggs over medium, rosti potatoes, a morning salad, and a few pieces of tender belly bacon that was so delicate that the pork fat rendered in your finger tips at body temperature. This was the single most delicious breakfast of my recent travels.
We start our trek to Gunsport, and upon walking in, I’m immediately transported to the feeling of a gun shop in Garden City that recently closed down. It was definitely a “good ‘ol boys” kind of shop, with the old guys hanging out in the corner, probably waiting for shit to go down so they’ll be ready with all of the guns and ammo they would ever need when the apocalypse happens. Being the tattooed hipster looking individual I know that I am, I’m accustomed to the stares I get walking into these shops back home, but the tension was so much more tangible in this place before I had a chance to talk to any of the guys from behind the counter. As soon as my dad said the words, “My son is from Idaho,” it was like there was a collective sigh of relief from the store, and we just started talking about the Sig 320 that I currently carry. I thought he would be interested in seeing that I was carrying the new standard sidearm of the US Army, because if it’s good enough for the branch my dad served in, it’s good enough for me. I showed my dad the compact Sig 365 that I’m looking at getting into, and we briefly talked 2nd amendment politics in Boulder with the guy helping me out from the other side of the counter.
After the brief visit with conservative values nestled in the midst of a liberal movement, we make our way to the farmer’s market. My dad detours and takes us through one of Boulder’s newly developed community parks. in 2013, there was an incredible amount of flooding that made national news, and the damage done to the city was nothing short of significant. Millions of federal dollars went into the rebuilding process, and what is left is a beautiful greenbelt that is entirely friendly to pedestrians, bikers, and has a built in plan for flood prevention.
We finally arrived at the farmer’s market, which is situated around the block surrounding the Dushanbe Teahouse, as well as the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s a great place for people watching, but it’s also a great marketing opportunity for all of the farm to table restaurants that sell their farm’s produce. The culture of farm to table in this community is entirely transparent in all of the restaurants we visited on Pearl St. It’s a focus of the town’s food culture, and I really do mean it when I say that it is EVERYWHERE. To be blunt, I find it to be capitalism in its purist form, and it’s entirely interesting to watch how strangers revel in it. I don’t say that with any negativity, I have no problem with capitalism, it’s the basis of our nation and it allows me to have lifestyle that I personally value. What I love though, is finding how creative people can get to make the most out of what they have to offer, and F2T offers a lot of different avenues to explore as a business model.
With all of the available avenues to explore, the farmer’s market also had a great section of pop up food vendors. I find a couple college kids hanging around a stand called Bao Bao, and my dad tells me that their setup reminded him a lot of the time he spent in Thailand, so we decided to give them a shot. The filling was good, but college kids will typically have room to improve in their skills, and they just needed to figure out how to make the buns less dense before serving them. Regardless, during the process of waiting for our food, I caught a moment of my dad in his most natural state, being the person who sparks up a conversation with complete strangers.
Throughout the trip, my dad introduced me as his son to all of the members of the service community he has gotten to know throughout his time in Boulder. My dad has always had this skill, I remember it from growing up in Hawaii and it never left him. He seems to love getting to know the people that enhance his own life. Now that my career has me in the midst of the service industry, it made me realize how many of the shop’s clients that do the same thing. The Thomas family, YETI Abides, Barbarian James, quite honestly, the list goes on and on with local people supporting local businesses. Having that tangible relationship helps you understand the value of where your money goes, and it’s why I am a huge advocate of the shop small, shop local movement.
But now it was getting close to the time for me to catch the bus back to Denver. I needed to grab something for Hailie, and I couldn’t find anything at the market, so I told him that I wanted to go to the shop I had seen the night prior with a dinosaur in the front window along with the words “Geodes, Crystals, Fossils, Gemstone Jewelry.” Basically, it was a store that was designed specifically for my wife.
I grab my wife a few crystals for her collection, and I FaceTime her to induce her rage fueled jealousy. The store was called Nature’s Own, and they specialized in high end earth based collectibles. While I showed her around the store, I found my dad staring at a poster, taking in all of the information. He tells me, “This is the entire history of our planet and species reduced to a single image that children can understand. Imagine how difficult it must have been to conceptualize, but how much value it offers.”
We made our way back to the apartment, and the final walk through Pearl St. made me realize how much I miss having my dad around. He will always be the guy that wants to introduce his son to the things that he loves, and I will always be the guy who loves listening to what my dad has to say, even when we don’t agree politically or philosophically.
Relationships should never be all or nothing, that mindset only serves to drive a divide in the midst of something that has the potential to be far more tangible. Of all of the experiences I was able to have in Colorado, the one that I walked away from with the most enjoyment was the simple time we spent having conversations on his back patio. No facebook, no social media, no polarized outbursts on a single topic, just two people talking and sharing ideas. This is what the first amendment and civil discourse should be about. We can disagree on a portion of our views, coexist in the same space, and continue to find value in one another. It’s more than just a father and his son, it’s American values.
I will miss that patio until I get to visit it at another time.
We arrive at the bus station just before 2, and we spend the next hour on the bus on my dad’s iPad. He shows me a lot of the tools that he uses for his creative process, some of which I had already been familiar with, so I showed him the techniques I use in the same tools. We kept the conversation going all the way up to the airport.
Once we make it, I joke with him and ask if he knows anything about the tunnels underneath the Denver airport.
“Dude….They are crazy. Most airports have tunnel systems underneath them, and I’ve been in most of them. It’s just a faster way for government officials to get from one place to another without the foot traffic of travelers, but Denver is something different all together.”
He tells me he can spot an airport bar from a mile away, so we spent our last few minutes together sharing a beer and finishing the weekend’s conversation. With only 30 minutes before my flight boards, it was finally time for me to make my way through the security checkpoint and tell my dad goodbye.
And just like that, the trip to Boulder was over. On my way to the gate, I ran into one of my mom’s friends that I used to cut when I was still at the salon, before her family moved to Tunisia. We chatted while we waited for the flight to take us back to Boise, until finally my exhaustion took over and I slept almost the entire way home.
A lot of what my father did during my childhood remained a mystery to me until this weekend. My father did a great job both in protecting his country, as well as protecting his children from the knowledge of what his role required out of him. It was never something he needed to apologize for, that’s the point of a volunteer military service, he did what he did of his own accord. He was good at what he did, and made a career out of training others how to be like him. Above all else, my father raised me up to to have the one quality he values above all others, leadership. “Ranger’s Lead the Way.” This man taught me that the best way to inspire others is to do what others do.
Above all other things he has taught me, this is the one principle I use as my North Star. At no point in my career have I ever told someone to do something I wasn’t willing to first do myself, and I recently talked with a client about how when you own a business, there is literally nothing below your pay grade. It took longer than what I would have preferred, but I finally got to a point where I could learn who my dad was by spending real quality time with the man he has always been. I had to take off my own ideas of who my father was, so I could understand that Ranger Steve was always my dad.
I realized on the plane home that the content of our conversation was never meant to be shared with the outside world. The details would be lost on those who were never a part of our experience, and if we’re anything, we are unapologetically unapologetic men who refuse to apologize for the people we are. This was a time for us.
The barbering community is one of the most amazing things to find yourself in the midst of. It has allowed me the opportunity to begin relationships with strangers all over the country, find inspiration, and begin to know the people behind the faces and haircuts on instagram. I cannot say it enough, I will forever be grateful to Anthony and the team at Truman for giving me an opportunity to make sure that I can still be involved in my dad’s life. They are all amazing barbers, living in an amazing city, all with their own stories to share.
I hope to see them take a visit up to Boise to hear their opinions of the place I call home.