When I asked Tyrone if he ever cut a red-Afro before, he said, “I’m not afraid.” Ray offered that I might be forty when queried during our discussion about gray hair. Tyrone, who’s been at Albany’s Village Barber & Beauty for ten years caught that amount of difference in my reaction and guessed right. Ray noticed me taking the shot to your left. I caught the place in the corner of my eye during a detour in New York’s ancient capital. It’s easy to confuse the Second Avenue neighborhood with the much hallowed and denigrated South End. Tyrone’s from the West end.
What is beauty might be a fair question in this obscure Albany “village”. As Tyrone set me in the big, black middle swiveling chair, Ray pointed to the types of cuts on the far wall, washed out by the pounding Sun that hit this little two story probably built around the turn of the last century. Maybe brick covered by respectable vinyl siding now. The checkered black and white floor could probably hold a dozen patrons on a packed Saturday. This Tuesday afternoon was a “lean and mean” in my words.
As I blearily made out indistinct heads on three sun-washed posters with various styles, I could squint out the “No Profanity” message on the board underneath some product displays on the white slat retail board. Reginald Graham popped in almost exactly as I found out he owned the place for the last seventeen years. Apparently Ray and Tyrone found out that this part-time preacher’s middle name is also Eric. Felt instantly comfortable as Tyrone started up a loud buzzer after strapping me into a white foam(?) collar. Scotti may have used one once or twice in our 27 plus years.
I told these guys about him a bit as Reggie shared the fact that he occasionally preached down at the Columbia County jail. Ray knew Hudson. Tyrone felt we were in what is considered Albany’s South End. Ray left some cheese out too long. Reggie asked if I worked in Albany. I can’t remember if I mentioned my new coaching gig. The shop is on Second and Slingerland.
Towards the end the only thing Scotti kept on the tee-vee was The Movie Channel. It makes sense for customers and barbers a like to have something to occupy the time between customers. On a Tuesday afternoon in Albany Spectrum News told of local flag burning and a funeral. Tyrone recently learned that HW was the youngest pilot on WWII.
I made no mention of the War on Drugs. I stopped talking serious politics with Scotti after he jumped on the T-Wagon too. To be fair, Tyrone and Ray never shared a political opinion either.
I do picture these guys holding court on Saturdays with a shop full of local guys who want to hang out and feel better after their cuts. Tyrone talked about the quality of cut and conversations when I brought my aversion to stop and chops. Ray trimmed his goatee in his big red barb er shirt and camo pants. They jokingly fought about a random clipper repair and stealing styles from each other. For fifteen bucks and a tip it was worth the show. When I promised to come back, Ray pointed down and said “this is the place.” At least in Albany. I wonder if they joked about me afterwards. Cutting the cheese mid-cut.
I didn’t see the owner Reggie again, but he’s running a quality show. When I sat down an elderly lady had returned with a tip she couldn’t leave on her last visit. As I left, Ray sat a young man down at his station. If you visit Google of FB you can see almost universal praise for this shop. A picture of Reggie getting a cut by his son struck me as one of the reasons for the Proverbs 22:6 quote in the front window.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”