I've always been a little uncomfortable in barbershops. Probably because as a kid, it was the first place where my shyness was publicly displayed. For some reason, every Saturday my mom would give me a quarter and send me to "Nate's Barbershop" to get a haircut. That's right. Every Saturday. What the heck can you grow in a week?
Nate's Barbershop was on the corner of 42nd and Mantua Avenue, facing the "Mantua Bar" directly across from the shop. Now that I think of it, this explains why Nate was always drunk. The weekly routine was to give Nate a quarter and ask for the "hustler" (the hair style of the day).
The barbershop was an interesting place for a kid to be hanging around in. Listening in on adult conversation, I'd wonder what some of the laughter was about. I recall hearing them talk about "Maggie red drawers". It could have been a military term, something or someone else. Whatever the case, I laughed along with them because the name was funny.
It was very frustrating to me that in the Barbershop there didn't seem to be a system. If there were three people in the room, after the second person got his haircut, I would clearly be the next in line, but someone would walk through the door and jump in the chair. Now there's seven people in the room and everybody's getting their haircut but me. It was every man for himself. I'd be in the barbershop for several hours before Nate would say, "Let the boy get in the chair. Get up here Mickey."
That was indeed frustrating. On a positive note, I loved listening to the music Nate had playing on the radio. Jazz. Adult music. I'd get lost in the sounds while staring at the comb sterilizer with the blue water. When I finally got to sit in the chair, Nate was pretty drunk. He'd carve my head and send me home. When I got home, my mom would start shouting at me because Nate had messed up my 'head'.
"You go back to Nate and give him this note." "He ain't have
ing my boy walking around looking like a pumpkin. Look at you!" I would have rather been a pumpkin…
After waiting another 2 hours or so , Nate would acknowledge me. He took a look at the note and calmly threw it in the trash. He then gave me a quarter and a hat and shooed me back home. To this day barbershops unnerve me.
The song "The Hair Cut" was a piece I wrote, reminding me of the sounds I'd hear in Nate's Barbershop.
Listen to : The Hair Cut