I Am Los Angeles is a video portrait series created by journalist and filmmaker Joris Debeij, showcasing the unique people and their ideas that make L.A. what it is. KCET Departures will be featuring these videos as part of our continuing coverage of the shifting cultures of Los Angeles.
Welcome to the Freedom Barbershop at the Veterans Affairs campus in West L.A. To many Veterans, this little trailer shop is something akin to an island oasis in the thrashing sea. It is a place where personal burdens, internal pressures, and anxieties gathered from life experience willingly recede, for here is the forgiving company and calming presence of a fellow comrade. Sit in the chair and receive a shave, a haircut, or a few shared jokes. And for the ones who need it, gentle advice flows from a man who dedicates his time to serve to Veterans who proudly served us, but now walk all paths of life. Some of their spirits are still proud, others broken.
Dreamer, they call him, is himself a Veteran, and has an effortlessly strong and tranquil presence that seems to give him the ability to gently wash away his customers' thoughts of the world's troubles. Dreamer believes it's important to give this back to the men and women who served their country. It may seem a little thing, to give a haircut for free or for whatever the customer can afford. From time to time, Dreamer might be paid with a few rumpled bills found in a jacket pocket or with the gift of a rubber band ball. But he has a good heart, and he offers his time and his service while he listens to his customers' stories of past and present day.
At night, Dreamer goes out onto the streets, talking, living and surviving the darker hours of the day with fellow Veterans who live on the streets of West L.A. Dreamer has amassed memories of many men and their stories, which he shares so willingly, so compassionately, and empathetically, you'd think they were his own. We highly recommend a visit to meet Dreamer, and the other brave men sharing a few relaxed moments in his little barbershop on any given day.
Originally published on I Am Los Angeles, 2012.
Check out more video portraits at I Am Los Angeles.