Tales From the Clipped, New York, New Me by Clip Tales
Wandering the streets of Manhattan, looking in the window of as many barber shops as I could was great fun. I had heard about so many of them and was looking forward to seeing tham and choosing just the right one for my New York haircut.
The Royal was a traditional shop with large, squared-off club-style barber chairs of which there were four. But the nmaes of the barbers I had heard about weren`t there. They all seemed to be giving OK cuts, but nothing apecial. I moved on. Astor Place was next on my list. So many guys had told me to go there. Well, it sure was fun to watch for a while. The shop was one flight down from the street. Enetring, there must have been twenty or more chairs... and many n more customers waiting to get clipped. One by one they took to the chair of the next available barber. From there on, the fun stopped. They cut quickly...a haircut couldnt have lasted for more than five minutes and many of the guys, whether they were leaving it a little longer or getting clipper- shaved just didnt look super great. More importantly, none of them looked like they were truly enjoying the experience...just getting a quick haircut. That wasn`t the haircut experience I wanted...and I only had one New York haircut I could get.
Just two blocks away from the Astor, I happened upon the Atlas Barber School. Hey, I sure never intended to get a barber school cut as THE ONE. But something drew me inside. Sure the price was an attraction...$5 bucks for a haircut, but it was also the whole atmosphere. Traditional all the way, it seems like it had been in existence for decades. And many of the barbers seemed so eager to cut. One downside...there were some women barbers in the shop... a major turn off for me, but I entered just to watch and make some inquiries.
I told the manager (or I think he was the manager) that a $5.00 cut was a great deal...if they did a good job.
He immediately said, `well, if you think that`s a good deal, why dont you visit our second shop just around the corner on ninth street. The cuts there are only $4.00.`
`But why the differnet price,` I said if it`s the same school and the barbers have equal ability and trianing?`
`oh, it`s just cause real estate is cheaper on the side road so what we save on rent, we pass on to our customers...plus since it gets less foot traffic, we offer a deal to guys who go there.`
The prospect of a $4.00 haircut was very tempting. I walked arund the corner and peeked in the window. There were fewer barber, which was great, and not one was a woman. Hey, so far, so good. As I was looking through the window, I was waved in by a young, handsome Latino barber. I opened the door just to say hello and told hime I was just waiting for a friend. He looked at me and said, `Hey, you need a haircut man, so why not wait for your friend in my chair. That`s a better use of your time instead of just standing on the corner.` I really had no intelligent answer for him, so I slolwly approached and took a seat. He started to cape me up. He kind of struggled with the cape. He didn`t have the flair of someone who had had the practice.
`How long have you been cutting hair?` I asked. `Oh, it`s been a few weeks now,` he said. `A few weeks! Maybe I should wait for somebody with more experience, I gasped.` `Hey man, you`re in my chair and I can clip you, no problem, so dont rank on me. That only makes me angry.` `Oops,` I said silently, what the heck am I gonna do now. I looked around for a manager or head teacher. All I saw were three other guys, leaning up against there chairs, not a customer in any of them, and all looking as young and new and fresh as Pepe...the name that was right above the chair in which i felt so trapped.
`Maybe I`ll just get a little clean up on the neck and ears,` I said, figuring that would be the best way to avoid a catastrophic haircut.`
`Relax man,` said Pepe. You got alot of hair up there and you might as well get your moneys worth.`
Before I could respond, he picked up his clippers, pushed my head foreward and went to work. He buzzed the hair on the back of my neck...pushing the clippers high up the back to what felt like halfway up the back of my head. And he just kept repeating the action over and over again.
`Hey, Pepe,` I asked, `how many haircuts have you given?`
`You`ll be my seventh,` he said, `lucky number seven.`
`Bbbuuuttt, wwheeree`s your tteaacher I stammered.
`oh, he spends most of his time aorund the corner at the main shop, but he trusts us and he stops in every once in a while to check our work.`
`Huh?` `Get me outta here man.
Pepe responded, `I gotta cut alot of heads in oreder to graduate and I dont get that much business. You are in my chair and I need to do this cut...so just sit still, will yah?`
I felt dead in the water. But, at the sme time, it was meeting alot of my criteria my New York haircut. A traditional shop...check! An exciting experience...check! Not knowing exactly what I`d end up with...check! A barber that was taking his time...check! ...and a tingling sensation all over me...and a swelling in my pants...triple check!
I decided to relax and get into the cut. Each pass of the clippers felt great. So it was a litle uneven. So it was shorter than I wanted. So you could see the scissor chops on the top sides of my head. It didn`t matter. It all just felt so great...and, having spent only $4.00 bucks, I could visit the shop on Christopher Street that i was afraid to go to `cause I was warned that they only gave real short cuts. Hey, after Pepe`s clip job, all I could get next WAS A REAL SHORT CUT.
Two New York haircuts...within my budget, and the second cut just as exciting as the first cause of the great story I got to tell to my Christopher Street barber and the glee he felt in `FIXING` the damage. I`m practically sporting a clippershave...but I`d do it all again in a New York minute.