A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 79: Best Haircut There Ever Was

September 14th · 3 Comments

I brought my shaggy head to a cutter; my hair hasn’t seen a blade since I arrived here, and it shows. Typically I go to a chatty, Paul Mitchell kind of hair salon, but this time I went to a barber. The experience evoked a Big Apple brand of nostalgia.

Chelsea Barbers has three wood-and-chrome barberchairs and men who wait their turn while thumbing through magazines. No superfluous chit-chat. The air carries the scent of methol and the quiet snipping of scissors. My barber Carlos wears a white smock. I half-expect Cary Grant to walk through the door, in black and white and brilliantine, and ask Carlos to turn the radio to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

This happens frequently in New York, these moments of not quite knowing when I am.

Looking up at the towers on Broadway and imagining tickertape fluttering out of the sky (Charles Lindbergh, 1927.) Picturing Frank Sinatra emerging from a revolving door on Park Avenue, fedora and all. Passing a rumpled guy in an olive coat in the West Village and doing a double-take: was that Paul Simon from the album cover for “Bridge Over Troubled Water”?

I have seen too many movies and read too many books about New York to be able to distinguish the New York I see from the New York of my imagination.

When he was done cutting, Carlos reached for a box on the counter that dispensed warm shaving cream. He trimmed my sideburns with a straight-edge, then took a hot towel and draped it over my face. When the towel came off my pores were so open I shone like a hothouse tomato.

I paid him $30 with a $5 tip. What I really wanted to do, though, wanted to flip him two bits.

Tags: Sights & Scenes · Why I Love This Town

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Erica // Sep 14, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Whoa! What a coinky-dink! I was just watching “King of the Hill” (which I never watch) and it was an episode with- you guessed it- an old school barber in a white smock.

  • 2 anne // Sep 16, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Are you kidding me? Chelsea Barbers?
    Astor Place (if you recall my directive)
    has been around since 1947 has 75 chairs
    and Valentino is cheaper and better.
    You deserve a beat down with one of those pickles.

  • 3 admin // Sep 17, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Fair enough, Anne. I expect to be hopping around the NY haircut scene quite a bit this year. Keep an eye out as my ‘do gets longer…

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