Perhaps no other business epitomizes modern black life the way a barbershop does.
Barbers counsel men through marital issues and rising property taxes. They're comedians and magicians, able to turn a shabby teen into a suave young man. Their shops, born of necessity, grew over the generations into de facto community centers, especially important in a place as white as Portland.
And for a kid like Alex Stokes.
Stokes, a 25-year-old Portland native, was born at the beginning of the end of the old Albina community as drugs tore through African American neighborhoods and affluent whites discovered the inner city's last cheap real estate.
Stokes' mother struggled with drug addiction. He didn't see much of his father, a barber who lived in California. He watched Portland barbers work and thought he saw something of his own lineage in their craft.
"They gave you more than a haircut," Stokes said. "It was an experience. I always felt better afterward than I did when I came in."
Stokes thought his dream was simple. He wanted to cut hair and create a community. Yet as he perfected his clipper skills and plotted a future, the city around him churned forward. Gentrification, he learned the hard way, isn't one event, but rather a constant and unstoppable pushing of the poor toward the city's edges.
It's a force that put both the barbershops he loved and the one he hoped to start in jeopardy.