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Ray's Barber Shop True Story by Anthony


As long as I can remember I've always been obsessed with short haircuts, especially shaved heads. Up until first grade or so, my hair was very short. Every other Saturday trips to Ray's Barber Shop were the norm back then. I always spent those Saturday mornings running errands with my dad, and a trip to Ray's was the best and last stop of the day. Back then my dad had what must have been a pretty extreme flattop, even for the early 70's. A classic, razor-shaved horseshoe flat. Ray called my haircut a Princeton, although it was basically completely shorn with the clippers except for a little bump remaining up front. I loved the whole experience. The clippers, hot lather edge shave, the smell of the talc and rubbing my hand up the back of my clipper shaved head. Every time I climbed into the chair Ray would always jokingly ask me if I was ready for a Kojak cut. I knew it was just a joke but always wished it would actually happen.

When I was six or seven those cuts stopped abruptly as some point. I still spent most Saturday mornings with my dad, including trips to Ray's, but I was just watching and waiting while my dad got his hair cut. By that time his flattop was gone and his hair had morphed into a boring business cut. Not even a clipper cut, but a razor cut. Typical for the times I suppose. By now I was getting my haircuts at the unisex shop were it seems everyone else went. Only my dad remained with Ray, who'd been cutting his hair since his college days. Eventually the Saturday morning male bonding stopped, as I had more pressing kid things to do, like hanging out with friends or sports. Five or six years would pass until I set foot in Ray's Barber Shop again.

Fast forward to the summer after sixth grade and my hair was a total mop. It was longer than average, even by late 70's standards. Sort of the sun bleached surfer mop: long, curly and sun-bleached. A bit over my eyes and my ears were invisible. My only hairstyling technique was shaking my head like a wet dog after I got out of the shower or pool. God I loved that hair, even though I was more fascinated with the idea of extreme short cuts, of which a shaved head is the ultimate. At this point in time I never saw a short cut on anyone my age, except one school mate who's father had clipper shaved him the last week of school. Poor kid was mortified and humiliated, but wow, I secretly wished that would happen to me. Fate was about to intervene.

Early one Saturday morning, my dad picked me up after my swim team practice had finished. Instead of heading home he decided I could spend the rest of the morning checking off his errand list. The las stop being Ray's Barber Shop. I had a weird mixture of excitement and anxiety when he said we would be stopping at Ray's. Even though I knew I was just tagging along while my dad got his haircut I had an overwhelming hidden desire to get an extremely short cut like I used to get from Ray.

Just walking in the door at Ray's was a total sensory rush along with a flood of memories. Ray's was a one chair shop and nobody was waiting, so my dad got into the barber chair while I plopped into one of the old red leather waiting chairs. Ray seemed excited to see me, even though my dad told him I wouldn't be getting a haircut. While Ray was working away, my dad commented on how much he missed his flattop and how he was planning on getting one on his fortieth birthday in a few years. I laughed and told my dad mom would kill him if he came home with that flattop.

Ray turned the conversation to me. I was sitting there looking soggy in my sweat shorts and tank top. My mop shaggy and not yet dried. Ray asked me all about how I was enjoying swim team and didn't pass on a chance to let me know most serious swimmers shaved their heads to increase speed. The thought of that was secretly exciting but not something I felt I could ever say out loud. Any type of short cut was simply a non-starter in the late 70's. Maybe I got a little red in the face, but for whatever reason Ray would not let up. He segued into talking about the old Kojak cut, telling me I should go for a Kojak cut for the summer. Feeling a little brave, I said I wouldn't mind having a buzzcut or ordinary crewcut. I couldn't believe that came out of my mouth. My dad spoke up and said my haircuts were handled by mom, and don't get me in any trouble. Ray wasn't backing down, offering to give me a quick "trim" on the house. My dad thanked him and declined.
Finished with my dad's cut, Ray was leaning on the counter as my dad fumbled with the bills in his wallet. Ray patted the back of the chair and told me to hop up and he'd trim me up. Without consulting with dad, I just automatically did as he asked. I hopped in the chair before my dad even knew what was going on. Let's just say Ray seemed eager to get that tissue around my neck and the pinstriped cape fastened.

My dad seemed a little alarmed and taken aback, but he said nothing. He just took a seat in a waiting chair and was silent. He wasn't going to stop whatever was about to happen.

After getting the cape nice and tight, Ray sprayed me with water and spent quite a bit of time combing the mop on my head. He didn't ask about a trim, or if I really wanted a crewcut. He just asked if I was up for that Kojak cut. Joking sarcastically (at least that's what I thought) I said "yeah, sure. Go for it." And with that he fired up the Osters. I was probably more excited than I'd ever been in my life. Excitement mixed with fear. I couldn't believe it, I thought he was actually going to shear my mop into a crewcut.

I was facing away from the mirror, towards the chair my dad was sitting in. I could not believe the piles of hair sliding onto my caped lap as the clippers raced up the side of my head. My dad looked like a deer in the headlights, a frightened deer. What could he say at this point anyway?

The shearing was done in record time and Ray was dusting the strays off my head and ears. I was waiting for the cape to come off when I felt the warm sensation of shaving foam being spread over my head. My mind was spinning out of control at this point and I remained silent. So did my dad. What a new and incredible feeling as the straight razor glided through the lather, removing any trace of stubble. He lathered again and repeated the whole process another two times.

Finely finished, Ray fished my head off with a dusting of talc after taking off the cape. I flew out of the chair and couldn't get to the mirror fast enough. Wow did I love it! I was horrified about what everyone would think, but I couldn't get over the feel. Speaking of horrified, you should have seen the look on my dad's face. We walked quietly to the parking garage across the street and got in the car for the ride home. He apologized and promised he'd try his best to explain how it happened to mom.

Things were a total s**tshow after we arrived home, but it didn't really last that long. When it became apparent that I was enjoying my shaved head, she let it go. I couldn't keep my hands off my head or away from a mirror. I loved it, and so did my swim team friends. Within weeks, it seemed like a distant memory and was at the longish buzz stage. I secretly hoped for another trip to Ray's before summer ended, but knew it wouldn't happen.

Soon summer was over and it would be another five years before I'd sit in Ray's chair again.








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