Village Barber & Beauty

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.”




BLoCkchAin Barber

Barbara Sitcer & Sandy Fix have been running Credible Cuts for three years at 911 Main St, Niverville NY. It’s three doors down from me. It was a great start for this little project. Don’t let that picture to your right fool you (see below), Barbara Sitcer gives a credible cut.  Turns out she started working for Scotti, my dead barber.

I was able to share a few memories with Barbara about my old barber as she put me in the seat and gave me a shampoo! Scotti once asked me if I washed my hair one of those visits. My affirmative might have been a white lie after a particularly long weekend. He washed my hair once (?) all those years. Most guys (that I know) don’t go for it. Here I am though going for it.

We’re both almost the same age and have two kids. As I sat in the cutting chair of their very cozy shop (a white walls and black leather vibe) and explained the closeness of the relationship with your barber. In this case, stylist? Fancy for me. I deserved it this visit. A new location (albeit three doors down) and feel.

We settled into an interesting conversation about the value of trades versus college nowadays. A real Mike Roe moment. Listened to a kid Rowe talked about once, a welder in North Dakota perhaps. He  made a one hundred dollars an hour and paid for his house with cash. She’s pleased her sons are both doing so well in life.

Barbara didn’t blow dry my cut as that first photo attests. I was self conscious enough tucking in front of the sign for the selfie at the beginning. I hate selfies, this is harder than I imagined. I’ll go back and see Barbara and Sandy again, even though I’m not big on little yappy dogs. I understand the old ladies probably love it.

That was about two weeks ago. I’m due for another cut soon.

Main Street Barber: A Eulogy

I woke yesterday thinking I really needed a haircut. For over 25 years that thought has been an automatic in the course of things. Just stop by my barber in the Village of Kinderhook (NY) in my daily travels … git ‘r done. He died last October. I can’t do that anymore. Next week is Thanksgiving, well over a month after my friend, Angelo Scott confided in me he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He passed before his oncology appointment at the V.A., I haven’t had a haircut since.

My father-in-law and son have. The latter has been going to Scotti his short 16 years and the former knew him for most of his long and prosperous life. My son has to get his haircut as a part of the dress code of a former military academy. My father-in-law has been blessed with a crop of hair that should be the envy of any middle-aged man who’s hair has thinned or has departed all together. I’ll likely visit Scotti’s relatives, who still maintain a practice on that other Main St., now that Scotti is gone. That’s where my father-in-law goes now. Some Guy (wink).

You might say that my hair is unique, to say the least (see below).

Scotti never balked at my wild twenty-something Orange Afro when I first started going to him. His uncle Frank was in the biz on that other Main St. and he had to be in his nineties before health issues made his tenure a tenuous terror to visitors from a far. It was a pretty easy cut, even for Frank’s unsteady hands. He once cried, “I need you Red!”, when I stopped to greet a friend getting the service. I like to think the ease of my hair cut furthered my conversations with Scotti over the years. But he was a pro, I don’t know how he handled others.

I know Scotti was in the army sometime after the Korean police action and before the Vietnam intervention. He got me started in my first business in 1995. A retail computer store. A college buddy working with me the first week snorted about the stereo type you can imagine for a second or third generation Italian American. I loved Scotti’s almost open, plain (?), Hawaiian shirts. Vikings have hairy chests too.  My hair is very dry.

He was above us for three years before we moved across the street to a bigger place. We watched the nineties go by in a magical village that had everything . . .  a bank, a bagel shop, lawyers, retail, pharmacy, real estate, a corporate office over the post office. A book store and a rock shop didn’t even round out the other fascinating businesses tucked in historic barns or epic modern places in the hills. I played a character in a noir novel when I shut the shop door and went up the steps to the Old Dutch Inn, a veritable Cheers. It used to have so much more over the years, yeah . . .  Ichabod Crane stuff.

As the years went by, we reminisced about the time I got him to put his coffee down and have a catch with the FEDEX guy on the melting lawn of the House of History.  Everyone played football behind that place back in my day, back in his. Every once in a while, when I was in a raging moment at the Old Dutch Inn,  I’d often look across the dim lit room full of music, people and cheer. There was Scotti suddenly, having a quick chat and drink. I think he got up earlier than I did in those days. He just smiled and shook his head at those antics. He never stayed long.

After he came out of the Bagel Shop he’d toss what seemed a third of a steaming cup of coffee into a snow bank in his black trench coat if it was below freezing. While we were banging our heads on modems, memory and constant manic needs of the general public, he was kind of kicked back. Watching the village life and the tee-vee. Who ever came into to chat. He must have known everyone. While he didn’t mind winning on the horses, he was just giving the average guy a service that allowed them to come and clean up their rotten face or head. The hang over stories must have been incredible. I’ve heard many.

This story will continue. I need a new barber and refuse to go to a stop and chop. I’m going to visit my main streets and see what I find. I’m no longer not sleeping at night, because something in my sub-conscious says you are now forced to change something that has always been there. For my Haircut it was Scotti. I’ll share the parts of him I knew and I’m sure many will share with me. It’s just a matter of time.

Thanks for stopping by . . . I’ll let you know where I stop by, here and again.

I found a place today.