I think I’d could do Bantu knots. They’re cool. I’m not a dreadlock kind of guy even though a Rasta once told me, “It’s in the air. It’s in the water. Smoke and see God”. Once Ingrid braided my hair like that, I think. Maybe it was just random small braids but I loved it. Worked great with my dashiki, bell bottom jeans and light blue suede hat with the yellow stitching. I couldn’t wait to show my older sister and rushed over to her house right after the last braid. She loved it. My mom told me I looked like picaninny. She would. She was very “colored”.
Nowadays, I’m shaved, not bald. There’s a difference. Okay, I’m laughing at that, but at more than 10 years with a shaved head, I’m not going back. A pair of clippers and 5-10 minutes a week. I can certainly live with that. So, I haven’t got a hair line. I haven’t got any hair and that suits me. I use to sport a small Afro and that was cool, but it was work.
As a young man, I would go to “George’s Barber Shop” on 167th Street near Jordan L. Mott J.H.S. on a regular to get hooked up. I remember when he told me he was moving the shop about 5 blocks west of his current location. I made a note of it because a good barber is a treasure. I went to George for my next haircut. He had a spiffy spot and was now west of the Grand Concourse, just past Jerome Avenue. He didn’t change neighborhoods so he didn’t change clients much, but there were several new faces waiting. George, the owner, cut my hair. He hadn’t always cut my hair, but I was an adult now, okay, a young man, and one of the shop regulars. Other people got the other guys; the younger barbers, the apprentices and the guys that learned to cut hair in prison.
There was comfort with a barber that knew your head. You knew you were in good hands and he was going to make you look good, certainly at least, to your standards.
He finished and flashed the mirror around and waited for me to give a small nod of approval before he unbuttoned the apron. He carefully swung it to the side so the cut hair wouldn’t fall in my lap and brushed my neck and my shoulders. He said, “that will be . . . The haircut cost me twice what he usually charged. He must have caught the look on my face, so he pointed to the price list on the mirror and jabbed a thumb towards the back of the shop. “Man, I got to pay for them chairs.” George said. I hadn’t noticed earlier but there were a couple of beauty shop type chairs in the back. Someone was washing someone else’s hair and a woman was giving a guy a manicure. The only thing that went on in the back of his old shop was some TV watching, some card playing and some drinking.
I dug into my other pocket for $5. That was my usual tip but my haircut now cost me twice as much. I wasn’t crazy about barber shop colognes but for a twice the price haircut, I let him put some on. Outside, I looked up at the sign that flashed “George’s Unisex Den”. It certainly wasn’t the red and blue trimmed white sign that said, “George’s Barber Shop.” Same barber, same haircut, twice the price. Damn.